If you mention a hardship, say you don’t want special treatment (even if you really do).

Those who read scholarship essays and choose winners know this: there’s a fine line between a story of a person overcoming a hardship and a “sob story.” We think one of the differentiating factors is when the writer, either directly or indirectly, suggests that they do not want special treatment or consideration because of their situation. Is this true? Well, probably not – otherwise they wouldn’t have mentioned the hardship at all. But practically speaking, the act of explaining a hardship while at the same time stating you want no sympathy is a nice way to protect yourself from the perception of a “sob story.”

And remember once again: The key to winning a scholarship on the strength of an essay about hardships is the part where you turn it around and talk about how you’ve overcome/are overcoming the hardships and are on your way to meeting your goals. Pay attention here — I’m talking about two different things: overcoming the hardships, and moving on toward other goals. You may have overcome the hardships (congrats!) but may also be sitting there with no goals after having freshly overcome these hardships. That’s not gonna cut it. We want a story of overcoming the hardships and movement toward a goal. That’s what you need to win the contest with what we refer to as a “hardship essay.”

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