To help you earn a scholarship to go abroad and become a changemaker, we’ve put together 8 tips to help you write a strong project proposal essay for the AFS Project: Change Scholarships.

Project: Change invites 8th – 12th grade U.S. students to create a project proposal that works toward at least one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in one of 8 AFS Global Prep countries. One student will receive a full scholarship and two students will receive $2,000 partial awards!

In addition to our essay writing advice, we have many resources available, including project examples, country and goal-focused research, changemaker guides and stories, and more. From your first brainstorm to the moment you hit “apply,” here’s how you can create an inspiring proposal:

Choose a Goal and Applicable Country

Consider the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Which Goal(s) are particularly meaningful to you? Pick at least one goal and explore its obstacles and progress in the 8 listed AFS Global Prep countries. Focus on one country and start looking into how the Goal(s) you’ve chosen can be advanced there.

Ask yourself: Am I passionate about this goal and does it need help in this country?


For this step, you’ll want to do some basic research. It’s possible the solutions you’re thinking of have already been implemented extensively. You can learn from these other attempts to reach the goal and overcome barriers or problems they faced. Push yourself to learn from and think beyond what’s been done before! Check out the Project: Change website for in-depth country statistics and further resources to explore each issue area. You can click on each Goal or Country to learn more, identify needs, and look for solutions. (You can also do a simple Google search, but check that the sources you find are reliable.)

Ask yourself: Am I adding new ideas that work with, or go beyond, existing solutions?

Remember, Project: Change is less about fully solving an issue than it is about learning the skills of changemaking—listening to the needs of a community and working with a community to solve them. It’s likely that the project you propose would change entirely once you landed in country, based on the needs and feedback of that community. Inclusive collaboration with community stakeholders is key to sustainable international development.

Brainstorm and Free Write

Once you have researched your goal and applicable country, it’s time to brainstorm some ideas! Create a brainstorm web with your goal and country written in the center of the page, then begin thinking about the types of projects you could do to advance the SDGs in each of the countries you’ve researched.

Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and don’t stop writing. You might surprise yourself with the ideas you come up with!

Ask yourself: What solutions can you propose that will connect your chosen UN goal to your chosen country?

Get Feedback

Don’t stress about your ideas being perfect just yet.

For now, pick the ideas from your brainstorm notes that you feel have the most potential, originality, and creativity, and show them to a trusted friend, parent, or teacher. They might be able to give you some helpful feedback and new ideas to make your project even better. Other people can spot things in your writing that you might not see at first.

Ask yourself: Have I developed a unique take on this issue?

Summarize your Idea

To make sure you have a clear picture of your project idea, you’ll want to be able to summarize it in 1 or 2 sentences. This is often referred to as a thesis statement.

Ask yourself: If I only had 15 seconds to communicate my idea with someone, what would I say to convey the essential message?

Write that First Draft

You’ve done tons of research and you’ve honed your idea down to a specific, manageable project. Now it’s time to think about how you’ll explain it to the judges of the contest!

Sit down and write your essay. Get your ideas down first, then work out all the kinks. For tips on starting the writing process, check out the Purdue Online Writing Lab.

If you have trouble getting yourself focused, set a timer (start with 30 minutes) and don’t move until the timer goes off. Before long, you’ll be focused on crafting the perfect description of your project.

Take a Step Back, then Revise

Sometimes, a piece of writing needs a day or two to breathe. Take a break from writing and let your ideas percolate for a bit—you might be surprised by what and when inspiration strikes if you give some time and space to your creative process. Getting some distance from your writing can help you adopt a more discerning editorial perspective or see a way around some writer’s block.

Once you have a draft of your essay, show it to your favorite teacher and get some more critical feedback. Listen to their comments and decide how you want to adjust your project. Then revise, read it out loud to yourself, and finalize.

Ask yourself: Is my solution S.M.A.R.T.? Is it Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely?

Enter Your Proposal

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for! Submit your Project: Change proposal essay!

Remember, your project proposal must answer both of the following prompts in 500 – max 1500 words:

  • Choose one to three of the Sustainable Development Goals for your project proposal. Why are you passionate about meeting your chosen goal(s)? If you have chosen more than one goal, explain how they are related.
  • What project would you propose to help meet your chosen goal(s) in one of the AFS Project: Change Countries? Explain how your project relates to the Goal(s) you chose and how it would impact communities in the country you chose.

Now that you have the steps to develop your proposal, we can’t wait to see your creativity, empathy, and research in action. Remember, the deadline to submit your Project: Change Scholarship essay is January 15, 2020!

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to get a scholarship to go abroad and learn about working collaboratively with communities to make a lasting impact!

Apply for the Project: Change Scholarships