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How to write a winning essay for the Sustainability Scholarship

How to write a winning essay for the Sustainability Scholarship - The Ultimate Guide by finduddannelse.dk's Scholarship Committee

Are you interested in applying for our €5000 Sustainability Scholarship? And do you want to know how to get noticed, and how to up the quality of your application? That’s awesome! On this page, we have summarized the most essential take-aways from what we learned, reviewing over 3.600 applications. We therefore present you: How to write a winning essay for our scholarship - The Ultimate Guide, by finduddannelse.dk’s Scholarship Committee.


First things first

There are specific things that you have to put in your essay, in order for you to be considered as a potential winner-candidate. These are the ‘need to haves’, and are usually the first thing we check for, when we initiate the first round of culling.

These ‘need to haves’ are also the first things we are going to look at in this guide. Further down, you will also be able to read more into detail about the ‘nice to haves’.

But don’t get us wrong. 

Both the ‘need to’- and the ‘nice to’ haves play a major role in the selection process, as they paint a picture of who you are, what your aspirations are and how much work you have put into your application.

With that said, let’s dig in!


Contents

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Need to haves

Nice to haves

Key take-aways

Begin your application


Rules are rules (‘need to haves’)

Don’t skip them. Common errors we come across are typically that essays either are too long or too short, they aren’t answering the provided questions, they are written in a language other than english or danish, or simply that they don’t live up to what is expected of someone who has completed an undergraduate degree.

Don’t risk getting skipped because your essay is too long or because you wanted to mention something that wasn’t 100% relevant for your application. Cut the chase, get to the point and only bring the most important things that highlight your motivation, education and/or personal profile as a match to our ideal candidate!

It is also important that you submit your application in due time, that you are considered eligible to apply, and that you upload the required documents.

Fulfill the essay requirements by answering these three questions

As stated on our scholarship application platform, you have to answer three questions regarding your future place of study, in order for us to properly assess your application.

All three questions are equally important, and are designed to provide us with sufficient information to pick our top-10 finalists. The three questions are as follows:


1. What motivated you to choose this particular study program? 

Make sure you clearly state what your motivation for choosing the particular program is. Ideally, not only why you are interested in the study program, but also how it will help forwarding sustainable solutions in the future, how it connects to your personal story with climate encounters etc. We value honesty and candid motivations.


Time for an example! Daivie, one of the top-10 finalists for the 2021 scholarship, wrote:

"The quest to find progressive solutions for the Development versus Sustainability dilemma has guided my interests towards reducing the environmental impact of urban areas. My personal experience with a natural disaster has consequently shaped my academic and professional pursuits since I was nine. [...] My motivation to ardently tackle urban climate change issues lies in the fact that even today, fifteen years later, I can close my eyes and picture it: Students (including myself) and teachers stranded overnight in school, no electricity, city-wide telecom outages, and short-term food insecurity. When we managed to leave the next day, the attempt to walk all the way home involved wading through polluted floodwater. We walked through chest-high floodwater polluted by overflowing sewers, dead rodents, and contaminated trash. That day I witnessed, first-hand, where unchecked urbanization at the cost of our planet had led us. 

I aim to study climate-related issues surrounding urban development and mitigation strategies for smart cities. Integrating sustainable solutions with urban growth is a viable path to address these issues and is my research focus at the Yale School of the Environment. One important reason I picked this field of study is to address the data gap for the collective impact of smart, sustainable cities."

There are several reasons why we like this motivation. To begin with, her foundation for seeking sustainable solutions is grounded in a sincere and upright motivation. It goes without saying that experiencing hardship at such young age can be traumatizing, yet it also builds character. Although it is based on tragic circumstances, Daivie uses this prior experience to funnel the negative energy into making positive changes for not only herself, but also for the people around her. Thus, it tells us that Daivie's motivation stems from something lodged deep within her, making it clear that this is more than merely an application to help finance her education. It is also an application to help her make actual and positive environmental change.

It therefore also checks some of our other boxes: The element of storytelling present adds another layer to the text, the focus on creating positive change for more than her just herself, and her ambitious and clear-cut goals as to why, where and how makes it stand out from the crowd.  


2. How is your program going to help you fight/alleviate the impact of climate change? 

Not only do we want to support career dreams, we also want to make the scholarship matter. There then needs to be a somewhat obvious connection between your chosen program and the benefits for the environmental challenges.

You can, however, persuade us . Say, you are a law student. Law isn’t necessarily connected to fighting climate change the same way e.g Environmental Engineering is. It can, however, depending on your focus!  Pursuing a career of law means that you can alleviate climate changes through sustainability-minded legislation, which also is part of the solution in the climate-change puzzle.

We therefore urge you to apply for our Sustainability Scholarship, even if your chosen master isn't as obviously sustainability-oriented as other master’s programmes. It all comes down to your motivation and your ability to show us how it will pave the way for sustainability!


Let’s take an example from Patricia, a top-10 finalist for the 2021 scholarship:

The University’s focus on diversity and racial justice, decolonizing law, and feminist leadership will support my growth as a feminist planetary health leader who will harness the power of law and policy to break down unjust structures and systems, promote the inclusion of marginalized people and communities, and nurture sustainable and widespread change in my country and the world.

This highlights that the chosen master in Health, Law and Society will be used to nurture sustainable solutions and to initiate positive change for not only the applicant herself, but also for people around her.


To take another example: Cameron, another top-10 finalist, illustrates how seemingly unrelated master's degrees (such as his chosen program in Global Migrations & Social Justice) can be pursued with a green purpose:

"Even if our sustainability efforts are successful, within the next few decades we are likely to see a new type of migration internationally which. Whilst remaining optimistic that things can be turned around, the hour is becoming late such that we need to think pragmatically and prepare for the worst. We are likely to start seeing climate refugees; people fleeing parts of the world that have become inhospitable due to such things as poor crop yields, and increasing severity and frequency of natural disasters. Tragically, those projected to be worse affected tend to be in the poorest parts of the world, meaning that bordering provinces and countries will not be able to sustain the sudden influxes of refugees. This could create additional humanitarian crises such as famines or mass civil unrest."

Taking on a humanitarian angle, Cameron effectively displays the link between Global Migrations & Social Justice, and how his education will alleviate the effects of climate change for numerous people.


3. Overall, how do you think education and the fight against climate change are connected?

At finduddannelse.dk our goal is to help as many people as possible to find the right education, so that they can pursue their dream career within a topic they are passionate about. Directly translated, find uddannelse means find education. Therefore, we are naturally interested in how you think education and the fight against climate change are connected.

We are very aware about the power of education, as it nourishes environments where people make educated decisions. Decisions that matter! 

Don’t forget to submit an essay that is between 500-700 words. Anything above or below will be disqualified!


As Arielle, one of our top-10 applicants put it: 

The importance of empowered consumers, educated about the devastating impact of climate change and equipped with the tools and knowledge to address this, cannot be underestimated. I strongly believe that education, legislation and activism go hand-in- hand [...]  To me, [the mentioned experience] demonstrates the potential impact of education in the fight against climate change; social action is a powerful tool that can be used to influence markets and policy, and by encouraging consumers to vote with their wallets and ballots, systemic change can be achieved.”


You passed the minimum - now stand out from the crowd! (‘nice to haves’)

This section will highlight some of the observations we made from assessing thousands of applications, and are meant as guidelines for you to consider, when writing your application.

There is no I in team

Although you are applying for the scholarship on behalf of yourself and perhaps on behalf of forwarding your career, this is not what we are mainly interested in. For, in our sense, global climate change is an issue that requires a joint and collaborative effort. So focus on how your contribution will not only be beneficial for you, but also how it will support the greater cause.

Of course, we want to hear about you. Writing an application should be centered around you. But the difference between a mediocre and a good application is also the ability to transcend the text to evolve around a bigger purpose than you

Fighting global climate change isn’t something any of us can do alone. The task ahead requires us to collaborate with each other in order to overcome the challenges. Therefore we urge you to focus on how your education will make you able to also influence the environment and people around you.


To take an example, let's look at Daniel, a top-10 finalist in the 2021 Sustainability Scholarship:

"To begin with, education creates awareness and extends the knowledge needed to reduce future risks. Two of the most critical issues today, and which will continue to be so in the future, are water and sanitation. As it is forecast that climate change will affect water availability, its quality and demand in the coming years, putting the well-being and public health of thousands of people around the world at risk. Therefore, WHO has even estimated that more than 48.000 children will die from diarrhea in 2030 due to climate change and water scarcity.

For this reason, in order to help increase access to safe water and sanitation and to protect the environment from continuing to be polluted, I want to pursue a master’s degree in Urban Water and Sanitation with a specialization in sanitary engineering at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, which is the largest international water education facility in the world, located in the Netherlands.

[…] studying at this institution will not only mean acquiring technical knowledge, but will also allow me to create connections with other water leaders from different parts of the world who seek the transformation of their communities. In this sense, through a sharing of knowledge and experiences, we may become replicators of information in our communities, which will allow more people to have the ability to prepare for the negative impacts of climate change. This is a high priority matter, because the damages are more severe when people are not prepared to face a situation. Without going too far, we experienced it in my country, Colombia, in 2020 when Hurricane Iota affected 98% of the infrastructure of Providencia Island, putting at risk the access to water and energy of its inhabitants, who were not prepared for an event of this magnitude."

Daniel manages to make his effort to revolve around something bigger than himself. Especially the latter paragraph that highlights collaboration and working together in a joint effort  speaks to the very core of how to write a winning essay. 


We cherish uniqueness

Have you experienced hardship that ignited your sustainability spark? Or have you volunteered in eco-friendly organizations, projects or initiatives? Let us know!

Take the time to write your essay. Make sure we can feel the person behind the essay. With thousands of applicants, you have to make an effort to stand out from the crowd and to grab our attention. 

In the 2021 Sustainability Scholarship, we had to pick from over 3.600 applicants. It quickly became apparent who actually put some thought into their application and wrote their own original content. Applicants who obviously Googled ‘education and climate change’, and merely copy-pasted the answer, used a citation or the whole content from the top-hit were generally discarded. We want YOUR thoughts and we want to feel YOUR passion.

Research and Googling is fine, as long as you stick to your own original content. Because odds are that other people did that same Google-search as you. So if you use a citation from the top Google-hit, no matter the quality of the citation, it makes us question the amount of effort you put into your essay, and perhaps also whether you actually put together the application yourself.

So don’t make us doubt whether your content is original or merely a copy-paste job, because we value unique opinions, beliefs and true passion about sustainability.


Be bold and ambitious

Forget your insecurities and go for the home run! Don’t be afraid to underline what your qualities are and how you plan on using them to fight climate change. Make it clear to us that you are the perfect candidate, and why.

As mentioned before, we want the scholarship to actually make a difference, of course for you as a person, but perhaps more importantly also for the environment. True passion often spark ambitious goals, and in our opinion, the challenges of climate change require ambitious people, projects and ideas.

A clear, ambitious motivation as to why you chose the program and what you want to do with it is therefore a big plus.


To take an example: Betty, one of our top-10 finalists, sets an example of how you can show your ambitions with your chosen programme: 

"Living in the UK as a Hongkonger was another motivator for choosing my programme. I hope to continue immersing myself in Britain’s multicultural society, increasing my global awareness. Embodying this in my impact, I will be able to ensure my projects are inclusive for all. With women of colour underrepresented in STEM and the fight against climate change, I am motivated to pursue my programme to represent people like me, acting as a role model and demonstrating to young people there are no limits to what can be achieved."

With Betty's intention to step in as a role model to inspire others shows us her ambitions and devotion to the program. 


Another example is Meghan, a top-10 candidate for our 2021 Sustainability Scholarship, who had enough of the negative effects of modern lifestyle on the environment and therefore decided to try to become a climate leader:

"Many events in my life have accumulated to catalyze my desire to become a climate leader working to create profitable and scalable solutions at the intersection of business, technology, and the environment. Hiking on melting glaciers in New Zealand, scuba diving amidst dying coral in Australia, sunbathing on plastic-lined beaches in Thailand, and consulting at a gold mine where I witnessed the magnitude of displaced earth, the toxicity of chemicals left in tailing ponds, and the immense resources required for operations. I experienced the harmful repercussions of the human footprint firsthand and became determined to make a difference. [...] To reach my goals of being a climate leader I knew I needed to not only build a credible business background but also a strong technical foundation to enable me to envision and critically evaluate green solutions. This led me to the joint MBA and Master of Science in Environment and Resources at Stanford."


Make it easy on the eye

Perhaps one of the most neglected perspectives in the 2021 applications. Try to put yourself in our shoes - how would we best find what we are looking for? If you have something you want to make sure we see, why not highlight it through layout, design and creativity?

Use graphics, layout and make it easy for us to find what we are searching for. A text filled with 3 different fonts, no headlines or generally inconsistent layout will usually be discarded in the initial rounds of the selection process, regardless of the actual content. Remember that headlines and subheadings are great tools to guide the reader.

Adding creativity to your essay adds another dimension that might favor you - just make sure that the ‘need to haves’ are easily found! And remember that we expect applications from people who completed an undergraduate degree - your text needs to reflect that.


Let’s take an example:

Write a winning essay Sustainability Scholarship layout example

Barry, this year’s winner, used his layout cleverly to make us find what we were searching for. He included the questions in his subheadings and divided the text into sections with each section serving a clear purpose. This illustrates the power of setting up a good structure and sticking to it.


We love a good story

Storytelling is not a necessity, but who doesn’t like being told a good story? Have you had any unique experiences that you want to share? Or do you master the arts of storytelling? Use it!

Something we noticed was that generally, applicants who used storytelling as part of their essay made it far into the selection process.

So don't be afraid to release your inner writer. Although we cherish a good overview and structure to quickly find what we are looking for, we also value people who are willing to go the extra mile. This is where storytelling comes in play. Because handing in a well composed and well written essay shows us dedication and might favor you!


Another reason why we like Barry's essay, was because of his ability to paint a vivid picture, that set the scene and introduced us to his motivation for environmental projects:

"Born and raised on a small island off the Coast of Ireland along the Wild Atlantic Way, I have grown-up immersed in some of the country’s most spectacular wildlife spectacles. With a rural community of scientists and environmentalists, and a vast wilderness at my front door - it was inevitable that I would become mesmerized by the natural world in all its glory. However, I’ve also witnessed first-hand, the accelerating loss of biodiversity and the alternation of ecological patterns resulting from climate change. My generation has grown up with the consequences of environmental problems being at the forefront of the media. Seeing the complexities of how a growing human population impacts the natural world. It is through this perspective which has sparked my ultimate goal of pursuing a lifelong career dedicated to Climate Change."


Key take-aways

We are so thankful for the many applications and for all the attention towards sustainability and our scholarship. Here are the summarized key take-aways:

  • Follow the rules: Write your essay in danish or english, and make it maximum 500-700 words. Answer the three questions and hand in in due time. Make sure you are eligible to apply and that you upload the required documents.
  • Make yourself stand out from the crowd: Use clever layout and stick with it. Make it easy for us to navigate and find what we are looking for. Focus on your chosen master’s degree and how it benefits you, the climate and the people around you too.
  • Be candid, passionate and bold: We cherish unique stories, storytelling and ambitious goals.

Are you ready to embark on your journey in sustainability? Apply for our Sustainability Scholarship, and get the best possible start!


Thank you for reading and best of luck with your essay!

Apply for next year's scholarship


  Finalists & Winner 2021 | Winner 2021Top 10 Finalists 2021

Senest opdateret: 01 jun 2021

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