Personal Statement

What is the personal statement?

Many applications for research opportunities require a personal statement. This is an opportunity for you to show your critical thinking skills in a creative format. It is where you get to add your voice to the mix of materials that reviewers see when you apply for fellowships. Use the personal statement to highlight positive aspects about yourself that may not be apparent in other parts of your application.

The personal statement is your place to ask and answer questions about your past, present and future, including:

  • What has brought you to this point in your life?
  • What have you learned from your past experiences?
  • What do you want to do with your studies?
  • How will this fellowship help you pursue you goals?
  • Why should this fellowship want to invest in you?

The personal statement should not be a simple list of your activities and accomplishments. Instead, try to craft a narrative that shows the review committee reader that you have the qualities the fellowship is looking for.

How to write a personal statement

You can approach the personal statement in many different ways. Some students like to start with an outline, while others start by brainstorming. The main points are: What are a few things you want people to know about you? Why is this fellowship right for you?

Writing improves with successive drafts. It is not unusual to write several drafts of the personal statement. As long as the fellowship rules allow it (and most do), you should bring your writing to the URF advisers. We can discuss your ideas at any stage and talk in-depth with you about your statement. We don't try to fit you into a mold. Instead, our goal is to help you write a statement that you feel best represents you!

Keep these ideas in mind as you write:

  • Use specific examples from your life to highlight your positive qualities--the more concrete the better.
  • Include stories from your life, your favorite quotes, or anecdotes that reveal how you define yourself and see the world
  • Show your reader that the issues that move you are important. Get them to want to "fight the fight" with you.
  • Describe the ways you want to make an impact in the world.

Once you have written your personal statement, invite friends and family to read it. Do they think it portrays the person they know? Selection committees value authenticity above all other qualities. Make sure your statement reflects your true values and aspirations.