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I am applying for a university scholarship program, and as part of the application I have to write some essays but I don't understand what they want exactly in the first essay. The question is written like this:

Household information and Statement of Need

Describe the challenges you have faced in your path to education until this point. Please include the following:

  • Who has supported your academic achievements until now? (financially and/or other)

  • Which challenges did you overcome during your secondary education?

So my question is: when they ask "Which challenges did you overcome during your secondary education?" are they only asking about financial issues/challenges or also other kind of challenges?

Is it OK if I talk about family problems(non financial) that have negatively affected some moments of my education?

I would like also to ask if anyone could give me a link to an article or some other other online resource that has tips to writing a good essay, I have already googled but I can't find anything very useful.

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    It says "financially and/or other", which means that it can be financial or can be otherwise (or both). – Dave Clarke Nov 11 '14 at 14:30
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They're leaving the question open-ended intentionally. They will use your answer to judge whether you're a good fit for the school's culture.

Generally when you see questions like this for things like admissions essays or in interviews, the interviewer wants to give you an honest and complete answer. You can discuss any kinds of challenges here, be they personal, financial, or strictly academic, but only bring the challenge up if the way you responded to it either taught you something or reflects a positive character trait.

The goal for your essay should be to show the reader why you deserve the scholarship or why you are most likely to use that money in a better way than another recipient might be. Because of this, keep in mind the kind of scholarship it is. If it's a minority scholarship, for example, remember that the scholarship is, at its core, designed to help underprivileged kids have the opportunity to go to school, and those kinds of scholarships are especially relevant to bright kids with decent test scores who come from places with limited academic resources or families with low income. That kind of situation might give you all sorts of stuff to talk about, from disrespectful kids and xenophobic teachers to insufficient access to technology and school supplies. If you can show that you faced some or all of these kinds of challenges but still got a 29 on your ACT (because you worked hard and applied yourself, naturally), the Minority Office might be more impressed with your application. Review the mission statement of the department that will be receiving the recommendation before writing it, and always tweak essays for other departments before you send out the letters.

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It's hard to know for certain without knowing more about the particular scholarship that you are applying for, but many scholarships are designed to very specifically target particularly disadvantaged students and try to turn them into success stories. If you, for example, faced discrimination and prejudice, or other institutional barriers, that would likely be an excellent thing to talk about, as this is the sort of problem that many scholarships are designed to help mitigate. If it is a more personal thing, e.g., you had an older brother who you just didn't get along with, that may not be as compelling a narrative.

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