Every personal statement has the same goal: to persuade the university admissions office that you deserve a place.
Sometimes the personal statement is called an application essay or a statement of purpose. The name may change, but the goal remains the same: persuasion.
It may only be requested at the end of the application process, but you should never treat the personal statement as an afterthought. Your personal statement is critical to your application for three reasons:
1. It sets you apart from the competition
When applying to top-ranked universities - the Ivy Leagues and Oxbridges - it isn’t enough simply to meet the requirements for English, GPA, or exam results. Every year, thousands of students who meet all of these requirements are rejected. There just aren’t enough places for all the students who qualify. That’s where the personal statement really counts. It’s your chance to explain why you should be selected ahead of the rest, based on your past work, volunteering, or your sincere passion for the subject.
2. It explains your reason for applying
Universities care a lot about drop-out rates (hint: it affects their ranking) so they want to know your reason for applying. They want to see evidence of your interest in the subject and your commitment to completing the course. Justifying your decision to apply is also important if there’s something different about your application. Maybe you’re older. Maybe you’re transferring from another course. Maybe you don’t meet one of the requirements for entry. Use the personal statement to explain what led you to apply and how you will work extra hard or bring extra value to the course if selected.
3. It shows evidence of good writing and thinking skills
The people who read your personal statement and make the final decision on your application are the same people who’ll be teaching you on the course. Therefore, the personal statement is an indication of the kind of writing they can expect to receive from you over the next few years. Your personal statement will be viewed negatively if it’s lazily or poorly written, or it appears to be copied from another source. But it will be regarded positively if it shows an appreciation of how to write formally, but with enough originality to make it interesting for the reader.
Now that you understand the importance of the personal statement, read on for an explanation of the different statement types, common questions concerning personal statements, and advice on how to get expert feedback on your own personal statement.
There’s no need to write a new essay for every application. Just learn to reuse them!
In my last blog post, I mentioned “personal statements” and the fact that yours can be reused to apply for many scholarships. Now, I’m going to attempt to get you all pumped about the fact that you could apply for dozens of scholarships and only have to write one essay. Here is how the essay writing broke down in my case.
I applied for 350 scholarships and wrote a total of 5 essays. Allow me to repeat that:
350 Scholarships = 5 Essays Written
This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you efficiently apply for a ton of scholarships. You’ve just got to write one killer essay and find other scholarships that ask for the same essay topic. I’ll help you out by divulging the most common scholarship essay topic. It’s the personal statement.
THE PERSONAL STATEMENT
The personal statement comes in two forms. It can either be labeled as a personal statement (for example, please submit a 500 word personal statement) or it could be in the form of a career goals prompt (for example, please submit a 500 word essay on your career goals). Believe it or not, these two directions are asking for the exact same stuff. I almost exclusively look for the words “personal statement” or “career goals” in a scholarship application because it’s the easiest essay to write and reuse. Fortunately, these are also the most common scholarship essay questions. Ignore all of the other fluff in the essay prompt about leadership skills, motivation, and whatever other descriptors they request. If you follow my formula, then those aspects should come out in the essay naturally.
To write a winning scholarship essay simply focus on your story and how it relates to your passion
If your passion is something other than what the scholarship stands for, then we’ll have to tweak the essay a bit. I’ll write more about editing your essay templates later in this series, for now, let’s focus on writing the template essay.
Below, I have listed all of the components that an amazing personal statement essay needs to include. In the next post, I’ll go over each part in more detail.
PARTS OF A PERSONAL STATEMENT
All essays have to have an opening. As I mentioned in the previous post, you should have a story in mind that you would like to tell. Allude to that story here and give a brief overview of what you are going to talk about.
The next couple of paragraphs should focus on your story and how it has shaped you to be the person that you are today. Lay it on thick.
You should have one paragraph which acts as a transition from your story to your goals. Here is where you talk about what studying X or pursuing a career in Y means to you and how you plan on achieving it.
Close it all off with a reminder of who you are (your story) and what you hope to accomplish (your goals) and drop a sentence or two about what it would mean to win this particular scholarship.
Once you write that, there really isn’t anything standing between you and hundreds of scholarship applications.
The next post in my How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay series will elaborate on each of the parts described above, with examples from real winning scholarship essays.
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