Writing a Personal Statement

A personal statement provides an opportunity for an applicant to speak about himself or herself. Some scholarships require a response to a specific question or questions while others are seeking general, comprehensive statements. Regardless of what committees are seeking, personal essays should be a compelling statement about you and your interests.

Getting Started

Successful personal statements require multiple drafts. It is important to begin writing well in advance of the scholarship deadlines. Consider the following questions when you begin writing your statement: Why have you made the choices you have in your life? What are your future plans? How will you achieve your goals? Why is this scholarship right for you and how it does it fit in your scholarly plan? It will help to look at your transcript. Think about the courses that you have loved and those that have challenged you at a high level. How did your course work develop your interests? Ask yourself the same questions about the organizations in which you have chosen to be a member and the service activities you have pursued.  You want to carefully consider the most important points you wish to convey in your essay because the length is generally limited, frequently to one page.

What to Include

Make your opening remarks imaginative and creative, something unique to you. Think about the central theme of your statement and create a hook that entices committee members to keep reading.

Create a picture of yourself using concrete examples and strive for depth rather than breadth. The personal statement should tell a story to make the reader want to know more about you. Provide the reader with insights into what drive you. If you distinguish yourself through an individual story, you will make your application memorable.

Answer the questions that are asked. Demonstrate that you are able to express your thoughts in a clear, logical manner.

What to Avoid

Statements should tell a story of your individuality. Therefore, you should express original thoughts, avoiding any cliches. Find an angle that makes your statement lively and different.

Do not make your statement into a laundry list of achievements. Applicants for any of these awards are highly qualified.

Avoid jargon and specialized vocabulary. Write your statement with the mindset that the scholarship committee involves someone who has no experience in your field. When you revise your statment, have someone outside your field read it to make sure all of your points are easily understood.


Allow a variety of people (faculty advisors, fellow students, the Writing Center) to read your essay and provide you with feedback. Ask mentors, friends, and parents if the statement truly reflects who you are and if it defines where you want to go and why.

Ask your recommenders to read and revise your statement before they submit letters on your behalf. This will allow the recommender to better understand your interests and goals. They will be able to spot areas that need improvement that may have escaped you before.

You may also submit your essays and personal statement to the Office of External Scholarships for feedback.