Personal Statement

A personal statement provides the reader with an overview of who you are.  It can include information about your background, challenges you have overcome, accomplishments, and future goals.

Essay Tips

The following is a general checklist to help organize a draft of your personal statement.  It is recommended that you write at least one paragraph for each of these points.  This checklist will help you create an overall summary of who you are and your goals.  You will customize your personal statement based on the job or scholarship criteria using sections of the summary that are applicable.

Part 1: Background, Character, Strengths

  • Personal background - where your family came from, ethnic background (only mention this if it is applicable to the scholarship you are applying for).
  • Challenges you have overcome i.e., academic obstacles, personal circumstances, financial challenges.
  • Strengths - academic, skills, talents, positive character traits.
  • Describe yourself using 2 to 3 words and why you chose those particular characteristics.

Part 2:  Experience & Involvement

  • Jobs, extracurricular activities, community service/volunteer work, and leadership positions

Part 3:Accomplishments

  • Grades (if 3.0 cumalitive GPA or higher), advanced/honors classes, positive job performance, awards, and other special recognition.

Part 4: Future Plans

  • College major - Why did you choose this major? How do you plan to use it?
  • Career goals - Why are you interested in this career?

Part 5: Closing

  • In one or two sentences, describe your ability/potential to measure up to the requirements of scholarship that you are applying for.
  • Thank the reader in advance for considering you for the scholarship.

Letter of Recommendation

Writing a college letter of recommendation requires considerable effort. Choose your letter of recommendation writers carefully, and plan out your timing and approach. Most importantly, do not procrastinate.

Part 1: Ask someone who knows you well

  • When deciding on whom to ask, do not simply think of those classes in which you have done well. Think of instructors or supervisors who are most familiar with your work and achievements.
  • Readers look for evidence of the recommenders familiarity with you and your work. Without it, letters of recommendation lack credibility.

Part 2: Ask early

  • Do not wait until the last minute. Avoid putting the writer under pressure, give him or her plenty of time to consider and addres your performance
  • As the deadline approaches, you can always send the writer a friendly reminder of the impending deadline. 

Part 3: Ask personally

  • When seeking letters of recommendation, it is to your advantage to first ask the person face-to-face. This conveys importance of the letter. Send an email after your conversation with recommender.
  • Along with the letter of recommendation form and materials, include a vivid reminder of your accomplishments, particularly those with which your instructor or supervisor is already familiar. You might include a resume and goals so that your writer is aware of them.
  • If you are asking for multiple letters, it is a good idea to organize all the forms in one folder. Include a cover sheet with a list of the scholarships for which you are requesting letters.

Part 4: Waive your right to read the letter

  • Federal law grants you access to your letters of recommendation, but many applications include a form where you can waive your rights to read the letter. It is highly recommend that you do so. This reassures the reader that the recommnder has written a candid letter.
  • If you fear that the recommender might not best articulate your achievements or might include negative information — consider someone else for letter.

Part 5: Send a thank you note

  • Always send your recommender a thank you note after you know the letter has been submitted. Send a note of appreciation within a week. Update recommender on status of your application.

Letters of recommendation are important parts of the scholarship and admissions process, and should be treated as such. For some students, these letters will be a crucial element in being awarded a scholarship or acceptance to graduate school.