Writing Personal Statements | University of Portland

Writing Personal Statements

Before you begin writing the personal statement, you must be able to answer the following questions, even if they are not directly answered in the essay:

  • Why me?
  • Why now?
  • Why country/school x?
  • Where am I going and how does this award fit into that plan?
  • What difference will it make?

As you write drafts of the personal statement, keep these general principles in mind:

  • The people reading the scholarship applications have read thousands and can sense when someone is genuine. Don't try to pass off a version of yourself that is not accurate.
  • To these people, you are a piece of paper. You have to figure out your hook: what will make them pause and look at your application carefully? In preparation, spend lots of time thinking and writing about who you are.
  • They want to see a trajectory to your life, the manner in which all aspects of your recent past point to a future that they are willing to help you attain by giving you a scholarship. Keep that in mind as you consider summer internships, etc.
  • They also want to see evidence of commitment to the path you have identified as your trajectory and to your desire to make a difference in the world.
  • If the grant focuses on leadership, remember that evidence of leadership is not simply serving as an officer of an organization. You must demonstrate initiatives you have taken and the results. Follow the STAR method: Summary, Target, Action, Results.

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