The Personal Statement

What Is It?

Applications for most of the fellowship programs require a "personal statement." You are allowed approximately 1,000 words to present a succinct, meaningful and original self-portrait. This task may prove to be the toughest assignment you have ever tackled. The personal statement introduces you to the review committees. A successful statement will grab the attention of committee members, make them want to know more about you and give them reason to delve further into your application materials or invite you for an interview.

Where Do I Start?

Initially, you should visit the scholarship website to become familiar with the program's criteria and mission.  Are you a good match?  If so, get writing!  Don’t worry about the word limit yet. Just free write to get your ideas flowing. The personal statement doesn’t require the support of prior research or well-documented theories to build your case. It gives you the rare opportunity to listen to your inner voice and articulate what is most important to you.  Be honest and sincere.  You will write, edit, rewrite, and toss out many drafts before you get your final product.

Initially, you'll want to address the following questions:

  1. What people, experiences, coursework, books etc. have made me who I am today?
  2. What limitations have I faced and how have I addressed or overcome them?
  3. Can I identify any common themes throughout my relationships, work and activities?
  4. How has my past shaped me?
  5. When did I first become interested in my field?  What have I learned about myself through involvement in this area?
  6. What do I want to do next and how will I accomplish that?
  7. How will the (---) Scholarship help me achieve my goals?

The personal statement allows you to share aspects of yourself that will not appear in other parts of the application.  Remember, it is your self-portrait.  You should use this space to develop personal anecdotes of unique experiences that reflect your core values and aspirations.  The statement also connects you to the missions of the scholarship foundations and awards.  The review committees want candidates who honestly represent the ideals of the programs.

Additional Help

  1. Writing Personal Statements Online.  By Joe Schall at Pennsylvania State University.
  2. Writing the Personal Statement.  The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University.
  3. Advice for Writing Application Essays. The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University.
  4. The Personal Statement.  Compiled by the Fellowship Office of Columbia College at Columbia University.

The Project Proposal or Statement of Proposed Academic Program

What Is It?

Most of the nationally competitive scholarship programs require a project proposal or academic study plan.  These documents are only 1-2 pages long.  The final product must be concise, direct and persuasive.  It is your vision of your year or two abroad. The reviewers should be convinced that you are able to plan and complete a feasible research project or course of study within the duration of the scholarship. It should also be clear how your plans fit into the overall mission of the specific scholarship. Your document should address the following questions:

1. Where do you want to go and why does it need to be in that country and institution?

  • Be specific as to location(s) and the reasoning behind your choices.

2. What do you propose to do?

  • What are the core questions you want to answer?
  • What is the rationale behind your choice of questions?
  • Why do you need to be in the proposed location to complete the work?
  • Is there anything new about what you are proposing or is it building upon work done by others previously?
  • What challenges do you anticipate as you carry out the research or coursework? How will you address those issues?
  • Do you require any special skills tor preparation to undertake this work?
  • What contribution will this project make to promoting cross-cultural understanding? (Especially true for Fulbright)

3. When will you conduct your project and/or course of study?

  • Create an approximate timeline for yourself that is feasible and flexible enough to accommodate problems or delays when you are working in the field.

4. With whom do you propose to work?

  • Which individual or institution will serve as your mentor or affiliation?
  • What documentation has been provided to establish this relationship?
  • What resources or help will be provided?
  • Why is that individual or institution the best resource for you?

5. How will you carry out and complete this project and/or coursework?

  • What specific methodology will you employ?
  • What are your objectives?
  • What are the outcomes or results you expect?
  • Do you require any special permission or approval to carry out this work in the host country? If so, how will you obtain it?
  • How will you document the work and your experiences?
  • How will this project  or coursework help you further your academic and professional goals?
  • Is your approach similar or different from any work done previously in this area?
  • How does the information you gather advance knowledge in the field?
  • How will you share this information once you have returned to the U.S.?
  • How do you propose to pay for additional materials or equipment that is not covered by the grant? (If applicable)

6. Why do you want to carry out this particular project?

  • Why is this project and/or course of study important to you?
  • What is significant or timely about the project ?
  • Why would this project or course of study be important to your mentor or the host institution, and the host country ? What about your home institution and the U.S.