Personal Statements

Getting Started with Scholarship Essays

You love to learn and for most of your life you’ve been the smart one. Guess what? From now on, that’s the norm for the applicant pools when you’re applying for an award. To stand out in a crowd of smart, interesting people, you have to:

Be Bold: Don’t suffer from Midwestern modesty. Share your accomplishments and ambitions.

Be Specific: When scholarship committees read through a hundred applications at a go, the students they remember are the ones with rich, specific details in their essays.

Be Authentic: Don’t guess about what the scholarship committee “wants;” this is the sure way to write an essay just like all the others. They are putting a lot of time and money into the students who win this award, and they want to make sure that each recipient is someone who will contribute to the program, not just someone who wants a prize. You have to trust that you are unique and demonstrate what personal qualities you will bring to the experience.

Other tips:

  • The classic: show, don’t tell!
  • Don’t waste words on “givens.”
  • Focus on the positive.
  • Be clear and straight-forward in style.
  • Expect to write multiple drafts.
  • Follow directions!

Get Feedback

Feedback is crucial when it comes to personal statements. At a minimum, ask someone to proofread your application. You should also ask trusted advisors for constructive criticism. The Office of Fellowships staff members specialize in helping students with scholarship applications. Email the Office of Fellowships at, or connect with us on Teams to schedule an appointment.

Additional Resources

Chapter 2: Generating Detail for Personal Statements - Writing Personal Statements Online

Chapter 5: Personal Statements and Application Essays for National Scholarships - Writing Personal Statements Online