By Mel Beasley, CSB Marketing Assistant
As we creep into the second month of the year, it’s time to stop procrastinating those scholarship applications. Many scholarship opportunities will close in March for the 2019 fall semester, so it’s a good time to think about those essays. It can be challenging to sit down and reflect on our personal lives as many essay prompts ask students to explore particular events or moments in their lives, but there is a formulaic method to these kinds of essays. One thing that can help you stay focused in your writing is developing a strong, focused thesis for your narrative.
Yes - even though scholarship essays are often personal narrative or reflective essays about your life, you still have to form a thesis for the essay. This can come as a surprise to many applicants and is oftentimes the cause for writer’s block.
Here are some tips on developing a thesis for your scholarship essay.
What’s A Personal Narrative, Anyway?
Unlike the typical academic essay that you’ve probably written a million times over during your school career, a personal narrative avoids the traditional shape of what you might think of as an essay. Instead of facts, citations, footnotes, etc., the narrative or reflective essay will take the shape of a story. Just as novels have a clear purpose for the story, your narrative must state a clear purpose—a thesis. In this kind of essay, you can have fun by exploring plot, characters, and even include some dialogue.
How to Shape the Thesis for a Narrative
Let’s start by exploring how we might tackle a sample scholarship essay prompt. Let’s say our prompt is as follows: “What’s the most difficult challenge you’ve ever faced? How did you handle it?” First, you want to do some personal reflecting to decide on what challenge you would like to write about. Consider jotting down some of the major elements of the story. This will act as an outline for your as you develop the frame of your narrative. Here’s an example of a fictional challenge of my own.
Challenge: The day my cat got stuck in a tree, and I had no choice but to overcome my fear of heights by climbing up to save him.
Introduction starts by sharing how I have a crippling fear of heights (i.e. where that fear developed). Include thesis.
Share how I have missed out on fun with friends because of my fear of heights.
Discuss how my cat disappears and I discover her in a tree.
Build tension by showing how there is no other option but for me to overcome my fear and scale the tree to save him.
Internal struggle as I scale the tree, save the cat, and save the proverbial day.
Conclude with a reflection about how the moment shaped me.
Okay, so obviously this “challenge” is ridiculous, but it serves as a great example for how to shape your own narrative. So now that you’ve gotten down a basic outline of your story, you can consider how you might shape the thesis for your personal narrative. What I came up with for this ridiculous scenario is as follows:
“The day I saved Mr. Blackens from the backyard oak tree was the day I became a man.”
Yes, this is over-dramatic, but it serves our purpose. Your thesis and personal narrative doesn’t have to be complicated. The same way you’d tell the story to a friend is the same way you should tell it in your narrative (save the bad grammar and slang). Simply put, sum up your story and the result in one simple sentence, and place it as the last sentence in your first paragraph. Planning out your personal narrative in this way will help you keep your essay organized and focused on the prompt.
If you have any questions about this blog or writing in general, feel free to comment or visit the university learning center for one-on-one tutoring help.