How to Stand Out: Your Personal Statement
The personal statement prevails as one of the most common elements of a scholarship application. If the scholarship committee doesn’t ask for a general personal statement, they may ask you to write about a specific subject, such as why you need and deserve the scholarship, your future plans and goals, challenges and obstacles you’ve overcome, why education is important to you, all of these combined, or anything else that the scholarship committee deems important in selecting the winners. Whether you are asked to write a general personal statement, to write about one of the specific topics mentioned above, or to write about a totally different topic, one thing is for sure: you need to make yourself stand out from the crowd!
Because scholarship committees can receive hundreds and even thousands of scholarship applications, it’s essential to make sure your application is unique and memorable. Your personal statement is an excellent vehicle to do just that. It’s one of the only places in a scholarship application where you have the freedom to write more than just straight information and showcase your personality. Here are some tips to get you off on the right foot.
Start with a bang. Make sure the first sentence and/or paragraph of your statement is an attention-getter and offers a great first impression of you.
Sell yourself. Give the scholarship committee some awesome reasons why you are a great choice for a scholarship winner. Don’t be modest; be proud of your achievements.
Tell the truth. Be honest. Write in your own voice and don’t try to make yourself sound smarter with complex words. You don’t want your essay to sound fake.
Don’t be cliché. Avoid using bland words and overused statements that the committee will have already read over and over in other statements. Find unique ways to express your thoughts. Incorporate senses and emotions. Remember, you want to be memorable.
Write actively. Avoid using passive tense. Write in first-person. Use action verbs and be direct with your statements and assertions, especially when referring to your accomplishments.
Be optimistic. Even though you may have encountered hardships and overcome adversity, your goal is not to make the scholarship committee feel sorry for you. Instead, demonstrate how you are a worthy scholarship recipient by explaining how your past experiences helped to make you who you are today, and that you have what it takes to succeed in school and in your future career.
Tailor your statement. Don’t use the same personal statement for every scholarship; tailor it for each scholarship you apply to so it fits the qualifications appropriately.
Make connections. Every scholarship is established for a reason. Read the story behind the scholarship and find out why it was established. Then, in your personal statement, draw connections between yourself and the scholarship background or purpose to show why you would be a perfect recipient.
Follow the directions. Thoroughly read the directions and make sure you’re following them to a T. Be sure you’re appropriately answering the question(s) or addressing the topic(s) that the scholarship committee specified. Stay within any given word or page limits and follow all technical specifications, such as double-spacing and margin settings.
Proofread it. When you are done with the first draft of your statement, proofread it to make sure there are no errors. Spell and grammar check features available in word processors might not catch everything, so don’t rely solely on them. Ask a friend, a parent, a teacher, a guidance counselor, or someone else to look over it for you. In addition to spotting errors, they can also make suggestions for any improvements.
A personal statement can be the difference between winning and losing a scholarship. Now that you know what it takes to make yours amazing, you have a much better chance of winning the scholarships of your dreams.
Purdue Online Writing Lab: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/642/01/
UC Denver Scholarship Resource Office: http://www.ucdenver.edu/student-services/resources/Scholarships/ScholarshipProcess/Pages/index.aspx