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The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Personal Statements for Scholarship

By Maria

If you are applying for scholarship you’ll certainly find useful this personal story I’ll share. In my case, aside from writing a personal statement for my scholarship applications, I had to also include few additional short statements and project proposals. There was a lot of writing to be done. I did not want to ruin my chances of getting a scholarship, so I decided to start preparing a few months early, and wisely used the available time to get all the information needed to create a compelling personal statement that would impress the members of the committee. What I noticed is that though the requirements may vary from scholarship to scholarship, there are certain guidelines that are valid for every personal statement. Here’s what you can and cannot do when you write your personal statement for scholarship:

Do…

Make your personal statement about you. Tell a story that will make the committee members want to meet you in person. Every viable candidate now has a high GPA and impressive recommendations. It’s what you put in the personal statement that makes the whole difference. You should write it in a way that those who personally know you would be certain that you’ve written it, and those who don’t know you would be able to conclude that you are a truly unique person. Keep this thought in mind; it helped me a lot.

Include your accomplishments but show more of your personal side. Write about what matters to you, what you care for most deeply, and what you’ve done in the past few years to further this dream or passion. Describe some of your  characteristics or actions that make you unique and interesting, or some significant learning experience you had in your life. Make sure your personal statement conveys a clear and thoughtful image of you as a person who has apparent interests, ideas, achievements, motivations, and goals.

As always, keep things simple. Welcome the reader into your life and goals, and stick to your theme or purpose, unifying the ideas and information that you’ve presented. Use simple words and language you would naturally use if you were writing a thoughtful and intelligent letter to some friend or trusted mentor. Include specific names, references, and illustrations to help the members of the committee remember you and your application.

Concentrate on your strengths and stay positive. If you can’t avoid a certain negative subject, focus on sharing what you’ve learned from that experience and how it applies to your future. Include concrete examples that illustrate the main points you want to make and show your strengths. You need to overcome your modesty if you want to write a compelling personal statement.

Don’t…

Don’t write to impress the members of the committee; they’ve really seen it all. Use the personal statement to show the committee why you care about the things you care about, what motivates and inspires you, and help them understand how your specific accomplishments have shaped you.

Avoid cliché, empty words, stock phrases, and sentences that absolutely anyone can write. Stick to facts, reflections, thoughts, or experiences of your own. Also, don’t overwrite your personal statement by listing all activities, awards, accomplishments, or experiences you’ve ever had. Focus on the ones that most influenced your development and goals and meant the most to you.

Don’t be too general or abstract when writing your personal statement. You should get your readers closer to you, not distance them by using vague expressions or abstractions in your personal statement. Don’t be too general, but also don’t go overboard in details about yourself or a particular point. Keep your writing succinct and relevant, and don’t try to be funny – you can never be certain whether the committee members will get the joke, and that’s one thing you don’t want to risk.

These guidelines helped me get the scholarship. I hope they’ll help you too. 🙂

Maria is a recent college graduate and a writer for education portal online.

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