Writing Personal Statements
What is a Personal Statement?
Personal statements provide you with an opportunity to craft your own narrative, share your story: where you came from, who you are, what your dreams are for the future, and how the nationally competitive award to which you are applying will assist you in fulfilling your future educational and/or career goals. As stated on the Bryn Mawr Fellowship Page, a personal statement is your introduction to a selection committee. It determines whether you are invited to interview; and if selected as a finalist, interview questions will be based on this material. It is the heart of your application.
8 Quick Tips for Writing Your Personal Statement
- Do Your Homework. Before beginning your personal statement, make sure you have researched the award or program for which you are applying. Be familiar with the mission and goals of the program to which you are applying, and then determine if your dreams for your future and current set of experiences align with them. You want to make sure that you are applying for awards that seem to fit.
- Schedule an Appointment. If you are considering applying for any nationally competitive award, you should make an appointment with the Fellowships Director to discuss the award, your interests and approach to drafting your personal statement.
- Read the Directions and Expectations. Many awards outline their personal statement expectations, which may serve as a springboard for your first draft. They may also have strict guidelines for word count or page limits, so make sure you pay attention.
- Consider Your Story. When applying for nationally competitive awards, personal statements offer a unique opportunity for you to showcase who you are, where you come from, and your dreams for the future. Utilize it. Take some time to brainstorm different experiences that have shaped who you are today. Provide specific examples that point to the type of person that you are and what is pulling you to apply for this particular award.
- Review Examples. In reading examples of personal statements when possible, you can become familiar with the appropriate tone.
- Start Writing. Now that you are fully prepared, its time for you to begin crafting your personal statement. Similar to essays that you have written in the past, your personal statement should have an intriguing introduction, hearty body and compelling conclusion.
- Get Feedback. Once you think you have a working draft of your personal statement, make an appointment with a trusted faculty advisor, or a writing consultant at the Fredrick Meijer Center for Writing for feedback.
- It's a Process. Writing a personal statement is a challenging task that takes time to develop. You should be prepared to go through many drafts and should have different people look at your personal statement as it evolves. Make sure you allow ample time to create and fine-tune the masterpiece that is YOUR STORY.
Writing a personal statement is a process that requires attention to detail, chances to reflect and dig deep inside yourself, ask for help and above all, know yourself and aligning who you are with a dream worth pursuing. The Office of Fellowships is here to assist you along your journey.
Written by Amanda Clark
Summer 2011 Special Projects Assistant, Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships
Additional Resources for Writing Personal Statements
- Rhodes Scholars speak about the personal essay and the application process
- Writing Personal Statements Online by Joe Schall
- "Helping Students To Tell Their Stories" by James Lang, The Chronicle of Higher Education
- Purdue OWL: Writing the Personal Statement
- Writing Resources - Personal Statement - Hamilton College
- Personal Statement Recommendations - NYU