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Personal Statement for Graduate School Scholarship

The following section is an excerpt from the Yale University Undergraduate career Services' publication entitled Applying for Fellowships.

The personal statement presents an opportunity for you to speak about yourself. Your essay should show that you have ideas and opinions, are able to think logically, and can express yourself clearly, with economy and elegance.

Clear writing is the result of clear thinking. The first and most important task is to decide what you want to say. This is a short essay. You must be highly selective. Consider carefully what you wish to impress upon the reader. Remember the nature of your audience. It is composed of people who are probably as intelligent as you are, well educated, and vastly experienced in this work. Do not try to fool or second guess your reader; you will seem silly if you do. Do not write in a cute, coy, or gimmicky style: selection committees have heard it all already. Do show that you have thought deeply and broadly about what you have learned in your academic career and what you hope to learn next.

When you have written a first draft, start the work of refining, simplifying, and polishing. Do you say exactly what you mean? Is any section, sentence, or word superfluous, ambiguous, or awkward?

Are your verbs strong and active? Have you removed unneeded qualifiers? Are you sure that each accomplishment and interest you mention supports one of your main ideas? Do not apologize. Do not misrepresent yourself. You are writing as an adult who wishes to join the community of scholars and other professionals. You must write as a peer and potential member of such a community.

Correctness and style are vital. Neatness counts. Check and check again your spelling, the agreement of verbs and persons, syntax. Your thoroughness demonstrates that you have learned and mastered this art and that your future teachers and colleagues will not be troubled with sloppy thinking or writing.

Ask several individuals whose judgment you respect to read and criticize a draft of your essay. Possible reviewers include faculty members, writing tutors, and friends who can assess how well your essay represents you.

 


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