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How Do I Write a Personal Statement for a Fellowship?

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  • Written By: N. Kalu
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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Writing a personal statement for a fellowship should be an exploration of your research, why you chose to go into your particular field of study, and what you hope to gain from getting the fellowship. Nearly all types of fellowships require that applicants submit a well-written and thoughtful personal statement with their application. Learning to avoid the usual errors when writing a personal statement is also part of making your fellowship application the best it can be.

Start your statement by explaining your credentials. This section should include your educational background and field of study. Explain your research in greater detail, highlighting any specific achievements or challenges that you overcame while conducting research. Be sure to avoid making these highlights into a laundry list of achievements, which can bore fellowship admissions personnel and dilute the emotional impact of your personal statement for a fellowship. The main purpose of explaining your research and its challenges is to demonstrate how you worked with colleagues or used your ingenuity to overcome a particular situation.

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Fellowship admissions staff will be curious to know why you decided upon this particular subject matter. Instead of choosing the common explanation of a childhood interest or talent in the subject, try to come up with a reason that shows how you engage with your community at large. For example, if you are in the sciences and writing a personal statement for a fellowship, you could note how specific instances of a scientific endeavor helped people to succeed in some way. Writing about how your field has impacted others and how this aspect attracted your attention could be a much better way of expressing yourself than simply recounting the fact that you have had an interest in the field since your early years.

You will probably be expected to include a couple of sentences on what you would like to get out of the fellowship. This section is there to test your knowledge of the fellowship and what it offers. Do your research on different fellowships. Find ways to tie the unique aspects of the fellowship into your aspirations and goals, whether personal or academic.

Besides the thematic errors, you want to steer clear of other pitfalls while writing a personal statement for a fellowship. Grammatical errors must be caught and eliminated. Difficult and clunky syntax should be edited out and changed into clear and easy to read sentences.

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irontoenail
Post 3

@indigomoth - I was applying for several fellowships, so I wasn't able to get that in depth for any of them, but I still managed to get one. I think it's useful to have a look at the numbers of people you're competing against and, if possible, how much weight they give the personal statement.

In some cases, I suspect they don't give it much weight at all, and I'd rather spend my time volunteering or getting some other relevant experience than spending hours slaving over my personal statement.

indigomoth
Post 2

I found one of the most useful things I did was to read it out loud to myself to try and catch all the little grammatical errors.

I then got a close friend to read it and to read it out loud as well, so I could hear them. That really helped to get some errors as well and they caught a few that I hadn't noticed.

There are a few forums online for people who are looking into particular fellowships and they are a good place to look for sample personal statements and to get feedback on your own as well.

I really went all out trying to make mine as shiny as possible, rather than leaving it to chance.

MrsPramm
Post 1

The most important thing is to try and catch the right balance between being impersonal and being personal. They want someone who is passionate and will bring some creativity to the table, but they also want someone who is going to be level headed and able to do the job well.

Finding that balance depends on what kind of fellowship you are going for and it's really important to try and find successful personal statement examples. Not just ones that someone cobbled together for a website, but real ones that are as close to your field as possible.

You might be surprised at how creative people get with this kind of thing. But you don't want to get too crazy with it, or you could end up damaging your chances.

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