Let’s face it. Like most students, you’re more likely to enjoy watching paint dry than writing an essay. That’s what often makes applying for scholarships tedious. In most cases, scholarships need you to submit well-written essays. No-Essay Scholarships, in contrast, seem like an appealing option, especially for students who aren’t super-confident with their writing.
But what are these no-essay scholarships? And how do they even work?
Most collect your personal information for marketing purposes: You enter your information and stand a chance to win scholarship money. Does that mean you should ignore them completely? Or is there a way to leverage them?
In this article, we’ll explore scholarships without essays, their legitimacy, and whether they’re worth spending time on.
No-essay scholarships are college scholarships that don’t require you to submit an essay to apply. Unlike traditional merit-based and need-based financial aid, no-essay scholarships are usually not awarded based on achievements or financial need. Instead, they’re often awarded through sweepstakes. These usually require you to fill in some information and then pray you’re lucky enough to win.
Here’s what these scholarships usually require:
- Contact information (usually an email address)
- Some form of official identification
- A copy of your most recent high school or college transcript
Besides these, some no-essay scholarships also require additional steps, such as the submission of a project, resume, or CV, answering a quiz, creating an account or profile on the scholarship site, etc.
No-essay scholarships are usually intended for high school students aiming for college, though some are awarded to students already enrolled in higher education. They may have very different eligibility criteria, even if an essay isn’t a requirement. Based on how they’re awarded, there are certain distinct types of no-essay scholarships.
Sweepstakes / Monthly No-Essay Scholarships
Probably the most common form of no-essay scholarships, awards in the form of sweepstakes are often quite similar to raffles or lottery rolls. They are usually offered by private organizations, non-profits, or third-party sites. It’s important to understand how the organization offering the award is able to do so for free—and be wary of potential scams. In most cases, they collect information, like your email address, for marketing purposes.
In some cases, scholarships may be offered monthly, prompting you to create a profile to take part in monthly scholarship drawings. Among the most popular is the “Be Bold” No-Essay Scholarship. “Be Bold” requires students to create a profile on Bold.org to apply, where they can showcase their goals and achievements. The scholarships are awarded to students whose profiles are deemed “most bold”, each month. Some scholarships offered by Tallo are also awarded monthly.
Usually, sweepstakes tend to be small scholarships that offer a few thousand dollars, but if you’ve verified that they’re legit, they may be worth applying for.
Competitions and Creative Projects
Some no-essay scholarships involve competitions to decide the winners. These scholarships usually have specific criteria and are either judged by a panel or through polls.
The Stuck At Prom Scholarships are a fun example of this, requiring applicants to create and model prom attire primarily made from Duck® Brand Duct Tape.
Some scholarships focus on students with artistic or creative talents, such as filmmaking, photography, or graphic design. These awards encourage students to submit creative projects, which are then judged based on various criteria.
Doodle for Google is a no-essay scholarship in the form of an annual art contest open to students in grades K-12. Students are invited to create their own Google Doodle for the chance to win some great scholarships and have their doodles featured on Google.com as well.
Some scholarships may be awarded as part-time internships, in which financial aid is provided to eligible students, who must complete an internship to maintain their eligibility.
For example: The CIA’s Undergraduate Scholarship Program. The scholarship recipients of this program attend an accredited college/university on a full-time basis and work during summer breaks at the Agency.
Community Service Scholarships
Just being a genuinely good person can sometimes help you win scholarships. If you love volunteering and helping your community, it’s worth exploring no-essay scholarships for community service.
Easy Scholarships from DoSomething.org include several awards for deserving students for specific community service contributions.
No-Essay Scholarships with Specific Eligibility Requirements
Certain no-essay awards are offered to students who meet specific criteria, based on age, gender, chosen major, financial need, location, or belonging to certain minority communities. In some cases, this kind of scholarship may be offered by colleges or universities to students who meet specific criteria.
Though there’s no essay requirement, these scholarships aren’t always “easy scholarships.” They may have varying criteria, sometimes requiring a short statement or video message, in addition to the requirements mentioned earlier.
Realistically, they can be quite slim, especially if there are no additional requirements.
The fact that there’s no essay makes it easy to apply for such scholarships. But this can prove to be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that it usually doesn’t take too much extra effort to apply. The curse is that your chances of winning may be slim to none, especially for scholarships offered through sweepstakes. The easy nature of these scholarships usually means there’ll be tons of applicants, lowering your odds.
Still, if they do not require too much undue effort, and if they are offered through legitimate sources, applying may be worth a shot. But you need to remember that most of these scholarships may use your personal information for marketing, so you may get unwanted emails that clutter your inbox.
The first thing to do before applying for any no-essay scholarship is to ensure that the scholarship is genuine, and not a scam. Here are two questions you should ask before starting the application process for any no-essay scholarships:
Who is offering them?
Most non-essay or easy scholarships are offered by private organizations, companies, non-profits, colleges and universities, local communities, and sometimes government bodies.
It is important to know where the funds come from. Ensure that you do not have to pay any fees to apply. The only costs you might incur will be on postage stamps, since you may have to mail documents as part of the process. Knowing and verifying who is offering the awards is an important step you should take before applying. It’s safest to focus on awards that are offered by recognized organizations, or that provide clear, verifiable information about their sources.
What information do they need instead of the essay?
For no-essay scholarships, it’s important to see what is expected of you instead of an essay. Here’s a list of potential requirements that you may need to provide for no-essay scholarships:
- Email Address (or similar contact information)
- Proof of Enrollment or Acceptance
- Proof of Citizenship or Residency
- CV or Resume
- Letters of Recommendation
- Portfolio or Showcase of Skills
- Personal Statement or Short Answers
- Submissions (for contests or project-based awards)
Of these, an email address is basic, usually required so that you receive timely updates (but note that they may use it for marketing purposes). But when asked for letters of recommendation, portfolios, personal statements, or short answers, you should think a bit about the return on investment. If the award is small, with only a slim chance of winning, it may not be worth it to create an entire portfolio or creative project specifically for the award. But if it’s a $10,000 no-essay scholarship that only requires you to provide transcripts and a recommendation letter, it may be worth a shot.
Gauge how long it will take to provide the requirements and compare it with your chances of winning. And as with everything else in the world of college financial aid, be cautious!
You should report any potential scholarship scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at reportfraud.ftc.gov, or the National Fraud Information Center (NFIC), and file a complaint with your state attorney general.
Once you’ve verified that the no-essay scholarship is legitimate, there are really just 2 steps you need to ensure an efficient application process:
- Create a Separate Inbox
Setting up a dedicated email inbox, just for your scholarship applications is the best way to stay organized. This ensures that important updates and notifications related to your no-essay scholarship applications don’t get lost in the shuffle of your regular emails. You could even go a step further and create a temporary inbox so that your personal contact information remains safe. Just ensure that the inbox doesn’t expire before the scholarships are awarded.
- Use a Tracking Sheet
If you’ve decided to apply for multiple scholarships, you should create a tracking sheet. This will help you stay on top of deadlines and announcement dates. Create a document or sheet that lists each no-essay scholarship you’re applying for, along with its specific deadlines and when winners are expected to be announced. This visual aid ensures you never miss a crucial date and allows you to manage your applications efficiently.
Here’s a super-simple example:
|No-Essay Scholarship 1
|No-Essay Scholarship 2
|No-Essay Scholarship 3
Applying for no-essay scholarships can be an easy way to potentially obtain some extra money for college. While the amount awarded may be smaller compared to traditional scholarships, the time and effort required for the application process are minimal. It all depends on your personal circumstances and the potential ‘return on investment.’ If you have the time and the eligibility, applying for these scholarships could be worth it.
Many no-essay scholarships are legitimate and easy to apply for. But the odds of winning, and the possibility of scams mean that you should be cautious while applying.
If you’ve identified a couple of legitimate no-essay scholarships, it may be a good idea to apply for a couple of them to improve your chances. But focus more on awards that require you to showcase your skills and achievements. Or those that are awarded for financial need, if you’re likely eligible for them. Play to your strengths and ensure you’re investing your time where it matters most.
By balancing enthusiasm with caution, you can take advantage of no-essay scholarships for a smoother journey toward financial aid. So, explore with care, apply smartly, and pave the way for a brighter academic future.
Often, yes. While there may be potential scams, there are a good number of legitimate no-essay scholarships or easy scholarships that can be worth applying for. Ensure that you research each scholarship thoroughly before applying.
Be cautious of scholarships that require upfront fees, promise guaranteed wins, or lack clear eligibility criteria. Legitimate scholarships should be transparent and free to apply for.
Ensure your application aligns with the scholarship’s criteria, provide accurate (and compelling) information, and submit all required documents by the deadline.