Student Academic Grants and Awards

Application Process: Personal Statements

Most national fellowship applications require a personal statement or autobiographical essay. This is a critical component of your application, and it is, in fact, the most difficult part to write. At first students don't believe this. Several weeks later, they sit shamefacedly looking at the few tepid sentences they have managed to compose about themselves, and say: "I had no idea!"

Your biggest obstacle to writing an effective personal statement is the way you think. Not what you think; how you think. When you write an essay for class, you sift through scholarly publications, journal articles and statistics; you arrange, collate, and analyze. You construct an argument with objective, verifiable data.

The personal statement comes from inside you, passionate and gutsy. Its composition is organic, a natural growth dictated by an obscure, internal logic. You don't "make it up"; instead, you listen. You "get it down."

Read on for more words of wisdom, including advice from former Scholars, Foundation representatives, and members of scholarship selection committees.

To see sample personal statements, visit individual program descriptions, such as Fulbright, Udall, Marshall, etc.