Personal statement (scholarship)

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1 Personal statements for a scholarship

1.1 Guidelines

A personal statement for a scholarship or fellowship application is a sort of intellectual or academic autobiography, which explains some of the following points, depending on the type of scholarship:

  1. What specific area you are interested in studying or researching
  2. What has attracted you to your area of interest
  3. The specific influences that have shaped your intellectual and personal talents, abilities, skill, and interests
  4. Meaningful intellectual, academic, and/or personal experiences that have helped you develop as a person and potential scholar
  5. Why you have good potential in your studies and career
  6. What you plan to do 5-10 years from now
  7. How this scholarship opportunity will help you get there

A personal statement focuses on academic talents and experiences, but it can also discuss personal details if they are relevant. It should focus on your college experiences and plans, but for a newer undergraduate student (e.g., freshman or sophomore), high school experiences may be relevant, too. It should avoid making general statements that anyone else could say, but something more unique and interesting about you, and you should be able to back up such statements (e.g., it should not just state that you are a diligent student, unless you can be more specific and give some interesting examples). It should not just provide a mundane list of personal accomplishments or experiences, but it should focus on a few examples or experiences that are interesting and that say something interesting about you. Overall, it should be the type of essay that would make a scholarship committee interested in you as a person.

To get started on a personal statement, think about the following, and start writing about them:# The unique characteristics, experiences, interests, and talents that you have

  1. Something that you are passionate about or that you particularly care about
  2. Your specific dreams and goals
  3. What you have been doing to bring about your goals
  4. What you have been doing to develop your interests and things that you care about
  5. Important experiences that have changed you – as long as they are unique and interesting

For example, you could discuss a particular life goal, or a specific (and fairly realistic) dream of yours, and what you have been doing to develop yourself and/or to realize that goal. Avoid common, mundane examples (e.g., "I am a very diligent student, because I studied really hard for that test, and then after three attempts, I got a very good score" – unless there is something much more profound that you could say about it). Below are a couple of fictional examples.

2 Options

There are several types of scholarships, and you can tailor your personal statement accordingly. You will nonetheless need to convince committee members of your scholastic strengths and potential.

  • Merit-based: An award based on past or current academic achievement
  • Need-based: An award based mainly on financial needs that you can prove, as well as justification for giving it to you based on your potential or academic strengths
  • Improvement-based: An award based mainly on how well you have improved academically

3 Caveats

If you discuss your past before college, keep it appropriately brief and focused. Discussion of childhood events or events before high school should be especially brief and focused. Discussion of high school events should also be reasonably brief, concise and focused. If you discuss past difficulties, you should focus more on the positive, such as your positive outcomes, rather than dwelling too much on the difficulty. For example, many of you suffered greatly due to the CSAT ( 수능 ), and these difficulties may be familiar to those on the scholarship committee who read your application. Nonetheless, the part about your difficulties should be short (e.g., in 1-2 two sentences you can explain how greatly you suffered, e.g., depression and anxiety), and you should avoid uninteresting descriptions of how you studied hard for it (you studied until midnight every night at the library), unless it is really unique. You mainly want to focus on your positive outcomes, achievements, or how you grew as a result, and then move on.

3.1 Informal example

Scholarship Committee Members:
I would like to apply for the XYZ Scholarship, as my interests, goals, and strong motivation indicate that I have a strong potential in my future, and these factors would make me an ideal candidate for your scholarship. Concise, direct intro & thesis statement
I overcame strong limitations of my family background that would have prevented most students from entering a good university. My family was poor and uneducated, and I was never encouraged to study. However, I always possessed a strong self-motivation to study on my own – not for school requirements, but simply because I enjoyed learning. I overcame some of the deficiencies of my education from schools in our small town by studying hard to make up for what I did not learn in the classroom, and by my own strength was able to enter advanced courses in my high school. My diligence continued to pay off, such that I was accepted into this fine university with freshman scholarships, while many of my classmates and family members never got so far. Overcoming adversity
In high school, I started to develop an interest in foreign languages, and this interest blossomed in college, when I had the opportunity to take many different language courses. At first, this was merely an intellectual interest, but this soon developed into more of a personal passion. I accompanied a group of friends on a trip to several African countries one summer, and encountered not only a wonderful array of multiple languages, ethnicities and cultures in every place we visited, but also great poverty and social problems that broke my heart and touched me in a very personal way. With my language skills, I was also able to communicate with some of the local people that I met and developed a personal bond and attachment to those people and cultures. Academic interests
After pondering these experiences for the past year, I have come to realize that I had much to learn from them, as well as much that I could contribute to them. I believe that I could use my language talents to teach English and other academic skills to the youth of those nations. For them, a good education would be the best means of escaping the endless cycle of poverty and despair. This would be the ideal use of my talents, and the most rewarding thing that I could do. Passions, goals, and working to realize them
So I decided to do a second major in English education, in addition to my current linguistics major. This will add another year to my studies, but this will allow me to obtain a teaching certificate, so that I will be qualified to teach English and other subjects in Africa. I may pursue a two-year master's degree afterwards in the same field, so that I can qualify for college as well as high school teaching. My plans are to then join an NGO, move to Africa, and work as an educator and social worker to help alleviate poverty and social problems.
Because my plans require more undergraduate study time than what I previously planned, this scholarship would be very helpful to realize my dreams. It would not only help me with my dreams, but to help African children – children who currently cannot dream of an education and good jobs, but who could have new dreams and realize them, with the help of qualified educators like myself.