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5 tips on writing a scholarship essay about leadership

Examples of leadership: Academic writing
Leadership skills are a common selection criteria for many scholarships, which makes it essential that you know how to provide examples of leadership that would help you clinch a coveted award. Source: Marc Wattrelot/AFP

Are you planning on studying abroad? Securing a scholarship will help you achieve that dream for free, but you’ll need to get through one hurdle first: the scholarship essay. Leadership skills are a common selection criteria for many scholarships, which makes it essential that you know how to provide examples of leadership that would help you clinch a coveted award.

So how can you wow the admissions committee with a winning scholarship essay? Here are some examples of leadership skills you can demonstrate in your application for a master’s level scholarship.

5 examples of leadership skills to highlight in your scholarship essay

Highlight the extent of your leadership

Using the STAR (situation, task, action, result) method to demonstrate your leadership skills can help substantiate your ability to propel change or lead.

Here’s a TL;DR of what the STAR method entails:

  • Situation: Briefly describe a context
  • Task: Outline your task
  • Action: What action did you take
  • Result: What was the positive outcome

For instance, were you a student ambassador who worked with a wide variety of people? Are you an active volunteer who is able to solve problems and identify needs as they come along? Think of an example from your life and summarise it using the STAR method.

State the reasons for getting involved in a leadership role

Do you lead a community project? Are you a manager at the company you work for? What inspired you to get involved in a leadership role?

Have you always gravitated towards a leadership position and have consistently made an impact?

This is important to highlight to the scholarship decision-makers to assess your sincerity and passion in your desired pursuit.

State the obstacles you faced and how you overcame them

Have you participated in a community-based project or outreach programme? Have you organised or were involved in a fundraising project? Think back to a time when you got involved with trying to mitigate or alleviate issues facing your community, school or family and the ideas and actions you took to achieve your intended goals.

Ensure that you outline the measures taken to alleviate the problems you identified. For example, you may have noticed that there is underwhelming participation of female students in STEM-related courses at your local university.

You identify that this is an issue that you can leverage to encourage female participation in the STEM fields. Your next course of action would involve writing a letter to your university’s admissions team, suggesting that you would like to start a club or organisation centred on female empowerment and participation in the STEM fields.

The obstacle lies in getting female students on campus to participate in such programmes. This can be done by advocating for present-day female engineers, scientists and those involved in the technology sector, which encourages female students to see a bright prospect in their future should they follow the footsteps of other female influencers in the STEM fields.

This is just a hypothetical example of how you can demonstrate leadership by addressing obstacles and showing examples of how you overcome them. It’s important that you demonstrate strong evidence of your leadership qualities as well as relevant examples.

How did your leadership skills help you grow as a person and leader?

Some believe that leaders are born not made, while others think the contrary.

In your scholarship essay, it would be helpful to explain how your leadership roles have helped you grow as a person, from teaching you new lessons to presenting numerous personal growth opportunities.

Ensure that you demonstrate a true understanding of what leadership is. For instance, you lead by your actions and not by the title that has been given to you. You lead by working alongside others in creating change and not by merely barking orders at people.

 How will your leadership skills impact your future?

The admissions committee will likely be looking for a candidate who is a future leader and influencer in their respective countries.

It helps to think about the leadership roles you’ve held, and how they have, for instance, changed your outlook on life, how you interact with people, or even galvanised you to create positive change in your community, which can affect your long-term career goals.

In QS, Hayley Capp, winner of the 2013 QS Leadership Scholarship, also encourages students to tell the judges if they plan to continue being involved in their particular leadership activity in the future.