Writing the Personal Statement

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Tips for Writing the Personal Statement

  • Read the prompt. Several times. Make notes on it. Write out the question as you understand it. When you give your personal statement to others to look over, make sure they have the prompt. Following directions is important here.
  • List the characteristics the scholarship/grad school is looking for. Direct your response toward these characteristics. Think about ways you demonstrate that you’ve got what they are looking for. Use this to make sure that you are staying on topic.
  • Not sure what to write about? Ask people who know you well. Your parents, friends, teachers, and employers may remember instances where you have demonstrated certain qualities. Use these people as resources, (though, with the exception of teachers and employers, not references!)
  • Show, don’t tell. Don’t just tell that you are a hard worker; illustrate this by showing us examples of times when you demonstrated this. Explaining about all the work you did to organize a recycling campaign at your school is much more convincing than just saying, “I work really hard.”
  • Strike the right tone. Be confident but not arrogant, humble but not self-deprecating. Does this sound like a hard line to walk? It is! You want to sound sure of yourself, but you don’t want to sound as though you are over-inflating your self-worth. This is where it helps to ask someone else to read over your personal statement
  • The writing always counts. Even if the prompt says that they are mostly concerned with getting to know you, they can’t get to know you unless they can understand what you are saying about yourself. Most jobs require applicants to communicate with others, and most scholarships tend to reward this behavior because people who can communicate well will usually do well. Be sure that whatever you are turning in is well written
  • Read, Rewrite, Revise. Repeat. Read what you’ve written – out loud. This is the best way to catch grammatical errors. Give your statement to other people to read, and always consider their suggestions, even if you don’t agree. (If more than one person gives you the same advice – you should probably take it!). Rewrite what you’ve written. This means that you should allow yourself the time to write several drafts. After you’ve settled on your final draft, revise. It’s hard to convince someone you are serious when what you’ve written is filled with grammatical errors.

For more help, check out: Writing Personal Statements

Resources for Personal Statement Writing

The following resources are great sites for getting help in writing personal statements.

Writing the Personal Statement

Writing Personal Statements Online is a great (free!) resource for you to take advantage of, whether you are in the process of applying to graduate school, a national fellowship, or both. This site offers advice on graduate school, on crafting the personal statement, and also on writing personal statements for specific national fellowships.

This is an extremely valuable resource that all students interested in graduate school and/or national fellowships should use.