When you are applying for scholarships and fellowships, there’s going to be competition. There may be hundreds if not thousands of applications. Applicants will have similar grades and work/volunteer experience. In order to have a chance at winning the scholarship or fellowship, you have to do something powerful.
You have to tell your story.
There’s only one you. And because there’s only one you, you have certain skills and ideas that only you can bring to the table. Your story is what sets you apart from the other candidates. Your story tells the panelist your personal trajectory of how you got to where you are today. It shares your strengths, weaknesses, and challenges. It shows who you are as a person. Your story is powerful and uniquely tailored to you.
It lets the panelist know whether or not you’re the right fit for their scholarship or fellowship.
These personal anecdotes should not be generic. They should be attention-grabbing and eye-opening. From one of my essays, I opened up with an experience I had when I was studying in India.
Searching for food, a monkey jumped onto the seat in front of me in an overcrowded bus. Chaos erupted as other passengers and I flung our belongings towards this intruder, successfully scaring our unwanted guest out a window. This was one of many unforgettable moments during my semester in India—an experience that transformed my life.
When you begin to tell your story in a personal statement, it should be a moment that grabs the reader’s attention and stays with the reader. It should help your essay stand out.
This is the time to add rich detail. Take a look at a paragraph that I wrote for my fellowship application.
I could have just said I taught for a year in Spain. Or I am adaptable, open to know cultures, or can speak Spanish. Instead, I wrote:
… After college, without knowing a soul, I moved to Alcalá de Henares, where few spoke
English. There, I taught in a bilingual elementary school and made lifelong friends with
Spaniards who taught me how to make dishes such as tortilla española. Over long meals, we
talked about many topics including the latest T.V. shows which helped me gain fluency in Spanish.
In this example, the reader knows more information than I moved to Spain and taught there for a year. I painted a picture. From this paragraph, the reader can understand:
I’m adventurous and adaptable: After college, without knowing a soul, I moved to Alcalá de Henares, where few spoke English.
I’m open to new cultures and good at interpersonal communication: I taught in a bilingual elementary school and made lifelong friends with Spaniards who taught me how to make dishes such as tortilla española.
I can speak another language: Over long meals, we talked about many topics including the latest T.V. shows which helped me gain fluency in Spanish.
tell your motivations for applying, professional experiences (including volunteer), and interests. Be sure to include moments that have helped you get to the point of applying for the fellowship.
You want to think about the big picture…the major milestones. You probably will have a word limit, and even if you did not, you do not want to bore your reader. It’s okay not to include every detail.
If you’re writing your personal statement and you find it sounding scholarly or academic, you may want to edit.
Your story may even include what you plan to do in the future if you are awarded the fellowship/ scholarship.
Although you might include personal obstacles or challenges (ultimately, you want to include how you overcame them) you do not want to beg or tell why you are more qualified than other applicants. You should focus on you and your accomplishments.
It should be a place you showcase your written communication skills. It should be organized and without grammar or spelling mistakes. It should flow easily. Before you turn it in, be sure to proofread and read it out loud.
Work with a faculty member or visit your school’s scholarship office. They will know how to draft proper stories for scholarships and fellowships.
To visit the source referenced in this blog post, click here