General Tips for Writing an Effective Personal Statement
The above advice is largely drawn from the H. Truman Scholarship Foundation website.
- Be absolutely honest. Don't overstate accomplishments, claim credit for what should be shared, imply something other than the truth, nor propose a graduate study plan or ambitions only for the competition.
- Be yourself. In a "blind reading" (e.g., your name removed) of your application with other good applications, your family and your teachers would identify you. The set of responses to these items ought to be one that only you can write.
- Make it interesting. Consider having an approach that introduces some pertinent unusual features of you or your experiences to reveal your unique individuality and to help distinguish you from the other candidates.
- Avoid undue repetition. Don't make the personal statement a narrative description of all of your activities on your resume. Highlight the most important.
- Answer the questions concretely and specifically. You should have precise, well-focused answers responsive to the prompt. Depth is better than breadth.
- Engage the reader quickly. Have intriguing or compelling opening and closing sentences in your narrative.
- Be current. If you cite statistics or political developments or provocative writings, they should be up to date. Be careful about examples from high school days or early childhood.
- Understand the goal of the personal statement. The main goal of the written material is to get an invitation to the interview and to present some lines of questioning. An outstanding personal statement won't win a scholarship for you . . . but a poorly prepared one will deny you the chance to interview for the scholarship.
- Maintain a sharp focus. Have precise responses to each item. Don't try to share every interest, every societal concern, every accomplishment, every ambition, every passion.
- Dealing with major challenges. If discrimination, poverty, family breakdown, severe illness or another problem beyond your control has been a major factor in your development and the establishment of your ambitions, write about it. Avoid playing for sympathy.
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