Personal Statement

Dance sculpture in front of FPAC

Perhaps the most critical part of your application for nationally competitive awards is the personal statement. Your success hinges on it for scholarships like the Marshall, Rhodes, and Gates Cambridge. Typically around 1000 words, your personal statement should connect past and present experiences with your future goals. 

Your personal statement must present a clear, logically developed, well-illustrated set of points. This statement must be a unified whole, rather than a string of observations. Tailor your statement to its audience (faculty members, business people, and experts in the area defined by the scholarship).

Use the first person

Most scholarship essays expect you to talk about personal experience, so use the first-person ("I"). Tell your story and convey your character, personality, values, and experiences. Strong scholarship essays are both critically astute and deeply personal.

Choose content based on your academic and career goals

What drives you? What unique and interesting experiences have influenced you as a student and thinker? Make sure the connections between your statement and academic goals are apparent and justifiable.

Find your voice

Write in a clear, engaging style, and avoid jargon and convoluted prose. Be honest, positive, and upbeat.

Grab the reader’s attention

A well-considered opening line is important. Be sure that each topic sentence makes a point or lays out an idea that is developed and illustrated by the paragraph that follows. Allow a reader to follow your argument by reading only those first sentences.

Give your essay momentum, growing in interest and importance

Create a thread that connects different parts of the essay -- an idea or image that unites the essay as a whole.

Pull ideas together with your final paragraph

Your final sentence should be specific and visionary, rather than just a summary.

Review our examples of successful statements

Our office is happy to provide students with examples of personal statements. Please contact our office at to schedule an appointment. Remember—these essays represent countless reviews and rewrites.

Seek feedback and support

Revise frequently and bring your statement to our office frequently for us to review.