In an attempt to pass time during a COVID lockdown, I started bingeing on YouTube and kept a playlist of my favorite tunes on repeat. Many of which are Shawn Mendes’ must-plays like “Stitches,” “Nothing Holding Me Back,” “Mercy,” and “Senorita” – that spicy duet he sang with Camila Cabello.

YouTube must have gotten the hint because it promptly recommended a short documentary of Shawn Mendes to me. Being the sucker that I am, I dropped everything and watched it immediately. It’s only about 15 minutes but I found it incredibly inspiring with lots of interesting stories about Shawn’s life pre and post-debut.

In fact, it was so uplifting it got me wondering what story Shawn Mendes would write about if he ever applied to a college scholarship. I know it’s a nerdy thought and he would never need it in real life with all the money that he’s earning.

But if he ever did, what stories should he write about? What advice would I give him to help him write a killer scholarship essay? And more importantly, what can we all learn from Shawn Mendes’ story?

Instead of sitting here and dreaming away at this possibility, I decided to run with the idea and see what I could come up with.

DISCLAIMER: I based the majority of this hypothetical scholarship on research I conducted on Shawn Mendes’ life. But since I wasn’t able to directly interview Shawn Mendes (maybe one day I will though!), I don’t know how accurate everything is. So take everything for a grain of salt! I am only writing this for educational purposes.

Suggested Essay Structure

Before I dive in to share my tips on how to write this scholarship essay, I would advise Shawn Mendes (and anyone else that has a unique story to share) to use this outline to structure your essay. I don’t have enough time to go through each section individually to explain how you should write them, but this outline should help guide you through the writing process.

Tip 1: Pick a Worthy Challenge to Write About

For those of you who don’t know Shawn Mendes, he has had an incredible number of achievements under his belt even though he is still in his early 20s. Not only did he debut as a recording artist at age 15, but his debut single, “Life of the Party” also came in at number 24 on the Billboard 100 Singles Chart – making him the youngest artist to land a debut single in the Top 25.

All of Shawn Mendes’ achievements, however, also came at a huge cost. None of his successes came easily. He taught himself how to play the guitar by watching YouTube videos and he practiced until his fingers bled and he lost his voice.

 But the greatest challenge that I think Shawn has faced is his struggles with anxiety. Not only has he had to grapple with severe anxiety early in his career, but he’s also had to learn how to contend with it while being in the spotlight. Lyrics from Shawn Mendes’ song, “In My Blood” actually gives an intimate look into how he felt like when he first started struggling with anxiety and how he never gave up.

Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in
Sometimes I feel like giving up
No medicine is strong enough
Someone help me
I’m crawling in my skin
Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t. It isn’t in my blood.

Shawn Mendes, In My Blood

Tip 2: Describe your challenges and how you choose to deal with them

Now that we have picked a worthy challenge to write about, I would advise Shawn Mendes to take the time to describe the obstacles he faced and then explain how he overcame them.

The only kicker is that Shawn is going to have very limited space to write his scholarship essay (500-700 words) which means that he is unlikely to have enough space to give a step-by-step account of how he overcame his anxiety. In which case, Shawn should just focus on explaining the key decision(s) he made in battling anxiety.

For example, Shawn can write parts of his essay like this:

My proudest achievement is when I overcome my severe anxiety at the beginning of my budding music career.

Right before one of the biggest performances of my life, intense feelings of anxiety gripped me.

 What if I’m not good enough? What if my new songs aren’t good enough? What will my fan think? Everyone’s standards are so high. Everyone expects so much out of me. What if I fail and disappoint them? I want to be an incredible artist, but will I ever be good enough?

Even though I was just about to release my third album and should be celebrating, my insecurities were eating me up from inside. And all the walls around me felt like they were caving in – leaving me feeling trapped and helpless. I was desperate — desperate for the pain to stop, and to feel okay again. I was so desperate that for a moment, I contemplated giving up.

 But just at that moment, old memories resurfaced in my mind. I didn’t know I could play the guitar until I searched for videos on YouTube and learned on my own. I didn’t know I could develop a loyal following of fans until I uploaded my own music covers on YouTube. I also didn’t know that I could write songs until I tried and even managed to release an album that reached become number one on all the charts in 77 countries.

I didn’t know I could until I tried. And I’m not going to know unless I try to overcome my self-doubt and anxiety. I refuse to allow it to define me. It just isn’t in my blood.

Tip 3: End Your Essay by Reiterating the Lessons that You Learned

The last tip I have for Shawn Mendes is to end his scholarship essay by shedding light on the key lesson(s) that he learned through this experience and the impact of his decisions. He can write something like this:

With that, I started a long road to recovery from my anxiety disorder which including engaging in regular therapy and becoming increasingly open and transparent about my struggles. Eventually, I was able to regain control over my own life. But most importantly, I learned that “not every performance can be perfect and the reason that people support me is because that’s me not because it’s perfect.”

And there you have it! I hope this was useful for you because it was a ton of fun for me. Leave me a comment if you would like me to write another for your favorite celebrity!


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    Own work photograph of Shawn Mendes in 2017 by Josiah VanDien is licensed under  Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

    Shawn Mendes at The Queen’s Birthday Party by Raph_PH is licensed under  Creative CommonsAttribution 2.0 Generic

    Shawn Mendes at The Queen’s Birthday Party by Raph_PH is licensed under  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

    “Shawn Mendes at the 2019 American Music Awards” by Cosmopolitan UK is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.