Essay Strategies

Read the prompt carefully

The biggest mistake we see early on is a failure to address all parts of the prompt.

Embrace drafting

No one writes a great essay in one draft. No one. How many drafts you write is up to you, but we recommend that you allow yourself time to work through at least 4 drafts.

Produce original material

There are many sample essays out there, but remember that UC’s Student Code of Conduct with regard to plagiarism still applies here. Certainly, unless your are applying for the Rhodes or Mitchell Scholarships, you should seek out feedback on your essays (including ideas for improvement and minor editorial suggestions). But no one else should be writing portions of your essay for you, nor should you take material from someone else’s writing.

Seek feedback

Unless the scholarship expressly forbids it, you should get feedback on your essays. Take advantage of the following resources:

  • NCA. We strongly encourage you to send at least one draft of your materials to NCA before officially submitting them. If you want feedback, email your essays in a Word document to NCA. 
  • Faculty/staff. Faculty and staff make great readers! Indeed, NCA requests that you designate a specialist reader for any project/research proposal. Provide any reader with the essay prompts and a synopsis of the scholarship’s aims. 
  • Academic Writing Center. UC’s Writing Center is another great resource. Make sure you take the prompts with you, in addition to your essays.

*This is not an exhaustive or universal list. An award may ask for something beyond these basics, or a modification on these basics, so you should carefully note what is required of you.