In this article, we’ll talk you through why a scholarship personal statement is important and questions to brainstorm before you get started.
We have great tips for how to adapt your statement depending on what the prompt question is, what to include and three examples of winning scholarship personal statements.
Our favourite statements use life experiences as a metaphor for success. One makes a connection between high jumping and medical school!
We also loved hearing about an aspiring party planner who spotted a niche in the market which led to a scholarship and a computer science star helping his local community online.
Table of Contents
- What is a scholarship personal statement?
- Tips for writing an Effective Scholarship Personal Statement – what should you include?
- Scholarship Personal Statement Example #1
- How to Adapt Your Scholarship Personal Statement
- Scholarship Personal Statement Example #2
- Scholarship Personal Statement Example #3
- Brainstorming questions for your personal statement
- Why is writing a winning scholarship personal statement important?
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is a scholarship personal statement?
It’s a short essay or paragraph about yourself, written for the purpose of applying for scholarships.
It should focus on your strengths and explain why you deserve the money being offered by the scholarship provider.
Remember that a scholarship might be money that can pay for school fees, accommodation or living expenses, or take the form of a portion of your school fees being paid for you so you should be clear about what you are applying for and make sure your statement mentions this.
A personal statement should sound honest and genuine in order to stand out from the competition.
Show them what makes you unique, such as your interests and achievements, and explain you deserve financial support from the scholarship provider.
A good way to do this is by sharing stories that showcase your passion for certain causes or topics related to your field of study or career goals.
Additionally, make sure that your language is appropriate; avoid using slang words or phrases that may not be understood by those reading your application materials.
Finally, keep in mind that shorter sentences tend to be more effective than longer ones when it comes to writing personal statements and stick to the word count!
Tips for writing an Effective Scholarship Personal Statement- what should you include?
1. Identify your motivation for seeking a scholarship
Explain the reasons why you need a scholarship.
Commonly, these can include financial hardship in your family, not having any close family support, coming from a single-parent or foster-parent home, parents who are disabled or out of work, coming from a low-income family or neighbourhood, and receiving government assistance like food stamps and housing aid.
List all of these reasons in your scholarship personal statement along with any other relevant information that might help the committee understand why you need their help paying for college tuition fees.
Make it clear that these challenges have made you stronger!
Explain why you deserve the scholarship by listing all of your achievements and successes that have led up to this point in time – be sure to emphasize anything that shows off your intellectual abilities as well as any awards or recognition related to these achievements such as being an honour roll student or National Merit Scholar designation.
Talk about your future goals and make it clear how obtaining a degree will help further those goals – this could include anything from pursuing an advanced degree in medicine to becoming an entrepreneur who needs business knowledge to create jobs in your hometown.
2. Write about a challenge you have faced and how you overcame it
Writing about a challenge you have faced and how you overcame it can make a great personal statement for scholarships.
You will show potential scholarship providers that you have the determination, perseverance, and resilience to overcome obstacles in order to achieve success – in other words, the challenge is a metaphor.
Additionally, sharing what lessons you learned from the experience will demonstrate your maturity, flexibility and ability to learn from difficult situations.
Colleges and scholarship awarding bodies are looking for positive people who are hard workers.
Explaining how this challenge helped make you stronger will make your application stand out from others in a positive way.
3. Talk about an interest or passion of yours
Talking about an interest or passion can help you write an effective personal statement for scholarships because it gives you the opportunity to share your motivation, achievement, leadership, and commitment.
By discussing these topics in your statement, you will be able to showcase why this particular field is important to you and how it has impacted your life.
This will help scholarship selection committees understand why they should award you with a scholarship and recognize your potential contributions as a future leader in the field.
In example #2 above, Sara wrote a fantastic personal statement about her passion for making parties affordable and personalised for ordinary people.
Volunteering at a retirement community, I was able to use my party planning skills for completely unique parties – ‘grandma’ baby showers!
So many of the residents were excited about becoming grandparents or great-parents but were far from family.
I created personalised party kits with cakes, balloons and banners for a relatively low cost and it was a wonderful way for residents to share baby photos and feel that they were included in the celebrations.
In the future, I intend to use my degree in event planning to set up my career as a party planner, specialising in events for seniors.
She went on to explain that she had made enough money from this unique service to put herself through 2 years of community college and intended to continue on a smaller scale while studying full-time.
4. Explain how a scholarship will help you achieve your goals
Your statement needs to give the awarding committee a clear understanding of what the scholarship will provide and how it will help you achieve your goals.
• ‘I would like to study X because it will help me achieve my career goals’ doesn’t really give enough information.
• ‘I plan on transferring to School X after receiving my Associate degree from College Y in order to pursue my Bachelor’s degree in Z field of study’ is better – but it doesn’t really make your application stand out.
• ‘My long-term career goal is to become an ABC practitioner/specialist with a Master’s Degree in XYZ field of study from University ABC by 2025, in order to help disadvantaged youth in the region reach their full potential.’ tells them how helping you to achieve your goals might help other people.
5. Provide details about your education so far
There’s no need to talk in too much detail, but remember that the committee will have a huge stack of applications to look at and it’s helpful for them not to have to keep flipping between your CV/resume and your personal statement.
Mentioning that you graduated High School with a 3.8 GPA and have been accepted to XYZ university to study Social Sciences with the aim of becoming a social worker will help them stay focused on the big picture.
6. Add any other information that will strengthen your application
When writing a personal statement for scholarships, it is essential to include information that can’t be found in your resume or transcript. This includes
- painting a picture of who you are
- sharing something about yourself that isn’t already known
- showcasing your strengths.
Additionally, it should complement the other parts of your application and relate to the scholarship provider’s goals.
Finally, it can acknowledge any weaknesses but focus primarily on positive aspects and how any setbacks have made you stronger and more resilient.
7. Conclude with a statement of determination
A statement of determination reinforces your strengths and shows the granting committee that you are determined to succeed.
By ending with a brief summary of why you are the best candidate, right after stating how this scholarship will fund your degree, it will impress the readers and make them more likely to award you with the scholarship.
8. Proofread and revise your work carefully
- Take a break from the computer: Give yourself at least a 12-hour break before you start editing your work to give your brain and eyes time to relax.
- Read your essay from top to bottom: Read your essay several times from beginning to end, paying extra close attention to spelling, grammar, punctuation, capital letters and sentence structure.
- Have someone else read it over for a fresh perspective and help catch anything you missed during the reading process.
9. Include a relevant essay title
Why is this point 9 and not point 1? You never know how the direction of your essay might change during the writing process!
A relevant essay title can help provide a clear focus and direction for an effective personal statement for scholarship but be prepared to be flexible. Jessie’s essay, which we looked at earlier, ended up having the title ‘Setting the bar high’ which was a great play on words and referred both to high-jumping and the goal of achieving a medical degree.
By including a relevant essay title, you are able to write an opening paragraph that is both engaging and persuasive, thus increasing your chances of winning a scholarship.
10. Follow the instructions given by the scholarship provider
Research the scholarship you are applying for and familiarize yourself with its requirements and criteria.
Make sure that all documents required by the scholarship provider (including transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc.) are included with your application package when submitting it.
Then proofread again!
Scholarship Personal Statement Example #1
When writing a personal statement for a scholarship, it is important to focus on why you deserve the award and how it will benefit your future.
The statement should be concise and interesting, while still providing enough information about yourself to demonstrate why you are deserving of the scholarship.
It is also important to include relevant details such as volunteer work, academic achievements, or extracurricular activities that have helped shape who you are today.
A good example of a scholarship personal statement can be found below:
(Free topic) – Setting the bar high
Every Saturday morning I spend three hours throwing myself backwards over a high jump bar in a feat that seems impossible. If you flinch or hesitate, you will crash into the bar and be out of the competition. When I was younger, and dreaming of being a doctor, some teachers thought I was setting the bar too high and advised me to aim lower. I approached my academic studies with the same determination as the high jump and have been offered a place at medical school.
I grew up in a very conservative small town in the south, where there are a lot of team sports for boys but few for girls past the age of 12. I came to high jumping quite late compared to other sports, when I was 13. I came 4th in the under-14 state championship the following year and took 3rd in the under-15s. What was interesting was that several of my teachers were very encouraging about me going to college and playing sports but nobody took me seriously when I told them I wanted to study medicine.
As I got stronger and started attempting higher and higher jumps in competition, my grades went up too. The confidence I got from winning medals and being a role model to other young athletes was reflected in my success in the classroom. The motto of the college I will attend is Vim Promovet Insitam, or ‘learning promotes one’s innate power’. The more I learn, in class and on the sports field, the stronger I feel, and more able to achieve my dreams and help others.
My family have always encouraged me to be the best I can be. My parents have raised me and my 4 siblings with good values, to rise to a challenge and to understand the importance of teamwork and supporting our community. I hope that one day I can come back here to practice medicine at the local hospital – and coach high jump at the weekends!
How to Adapt Your Scholarship Personal Statement
If you have written a good statement for a free topic (meaning you choose what to write about) it’s possible to adapt that essay and use it to answer other questions, so you can apply for several scholarships at the same time!
Common topics to prepare essays for:
1. A challenge you overcame
2. An important life event
3. An important community issue
4. How you want to change the world
5. How you are from an under-represented group in this program
6. What values are important to you
Look again at the essay above and you can see how with some small changes, particularly in the introduction and conclusion, the essay could be adapted to suit all these questions.
1. A challenge you overcame
Jessie is talking about not being considered ‘smart’ enough to be a future medical student in the context of the challenge of high jumping.
Using the word challenge, with synonyms such as ‘difficulty’, also changing the form of the word and using common collocations (challenging, challenged, rise to the challenge, greatest challenge) really ties the statement to the question.
2. An important life event
Jessie could focus more on how being selected for the regional team and winning 1st place in the regional competition showed her that she was capable of academic excellence and succeeding at anything she put her mind to.
3. An important community issue to you
This would be a challenging angle for this essay, but we would suggest focusing on the lack of female role models encouraging young women to join sports teams in her neighbourhood.
There are usually many more sports teams for boys but girls are under-represented. Perhaps Jessie could also talk about the privilege of mentoring younger teammates and encouraging academic excellence as well.
4. How you want to change the world
Jessie might talk more about the importance of affordable, accessible health care to all and make the link between children being healthy and being able to attend school.
5. How you are from an under-represented group in this program
Not all students will be from an under-represented group. However, if you are, there are different ways to approach this question.
If Jessie felt comfortable discussing identifying as queer, then writing about the challenges of being an LGBTQ+ student in her small, conservative town would be appropriate.
Jessie could also talk about her racial or cultural heritage as a child of minority parents who immigrated to the USA when she was young.
If she had a physical disability, that would also be an appropriate topic to discuss. What’s important in this type of question is honesty and candour.
6. What values are important to you
Jessie could focus on the importance of focus and determination.
Remembering the motto of the school she was accepted to, she can talk about the importance of helping empower young people to believe in themselves and their potential for success.
She could also talk about the importance of compassion – trying to move past being hurt by the lack of encouragement from her teachers in the early stages of her education.
Even better she could talk about gratitude for their help later on when she blew past all their expectations for her, as a role model for other young women.
Scholarship Personal Statement: Example #2
‘A creative way to solve a problem’
Volunteering at a retirement community, I thought of the perfect way to help pay my way through Junior College. I was able to use my party planning skills for completely unique parties – ‘grandma’ baby showers!
Growing up, I was raised by a single mom my who always encouraged me to study hard and aim for college. I got babysitting jobs as soon as I could and started earning a little extra money helping some of the parents throw birthday parties for their children. This was the beginning of a love of helping plan unique and special events and working towards my dream job of becoming an events coordinator. I needed to find a way to put myself through school to get an event management degree.
As well as babysitting and a few waitressing shifts that fit with my classes, I volunteered once a week to run a crafts class for local seniors. I realized that many of the residents were excited about becoming grandparents or great-parents but were often far from family or couldn’t travel easily. With the support of the care workers, I threw a ‘grandma baby shower’ for one of my favourite ladies there and was inundated with requests for more.
I created personalised party kits with cakes, balloons and banners for a relatively low cost and it was a wonderful way for residents to share baby photos and feel that they were included in the celebrations. The money I earned was enough to pay my share of the rent and bills at home and I am starting to save for state college. A scholarship to help pay tuition costs will mean I can continue my party business at the weekends to pay my other expenses and otherwise focus on my studies.
In the future, I intend to use my degree in event planning and my love of creative problem solving to set up my own business as a party planner, hire community college students to work part-time for me and specialise in events for seniors.
Scholarship Personal Statement: Example #3
Prompt – Why do you deserve this scholarship?
My name is John Abrams and by helping me, you’ll be indirectly helping many other students in the future. I am a student, a leader, a tutor and a future employer.
I am currently pursuing my undergraduate degree in Computer Science at XYZ State College. I maintain a 4.0 GPA and am an active member of several student organizations on campus including the Coding Club and the local Big Brother/Big Sister volunteer team.
I have tutored classmates in IT, science and math throughout my own high school years and now coordinate a group tutoring middle school and Junior High school students online. I’ve been able to procure tutoring jobs for several of my fellow students in this way, thanks to parents recommending me to their friends and asking me to introduce them to reliable tutors for their children. It made me realize that I am good at finding the right people for the right jobs and will put this skill to excellent use in the future.
During the pandemic, I volunteered with the ABC online Coding Club, helping kids from lower-income families learn to code, interact with other students online in a safe environment and encourage them to consider studying computer science in the future. As well as working on coding through popular games, we worked on some community projects as well, with the kids designing some interactive features for our local animal shelter’s website. Everybody loved it and the shelter got a lot of extra traffic on social media leading to increased adoptions. I believe that volunteering is the best way to appreciate what we already have and a few hours a week can make all the difference in the community.
My goal is to one day use my skills to set up an outstanding online tutoring business with a focus on IT and coding for kids and teens, doing projects to learn new skills that can also benefit worthy causes in the students’ own communities.
Brainstorming questions for your personal statement
Before you start – use these questions to brainstorm ideas then go through the tips step by step to make sure you have covered all the important information.
- What do you want to do professionally when you graduate? Why do you want to do it?
- What kinds of things do you need to learn in order to get where you want to go? How will the things you need to learn help you?
- Does the school have a reputable program? (How did you hear about it?)
- Does it have a well-known faculty? • Does it have state-of-the art facilities ? • Does it have a great network of graduates who could be mentors?
- Emotional barriers or challenges you have faced and how they have helped shape you into the person you are today.
- Key events or key people from your life that have influenced and inspired you.
- Accomplishments, events, and realizations that sparked periods of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
- Volunteer work or community service activities that have shaped who you are today and what they have taught you.
- What is your best quality?
- What makes you unique?
- How could winning this scholarship benefit other people?
Why is writing a winning scholarship personal statement important?
1. It gives you the opportunity to showcase your strengths and qualifications
You are giving the reader an in-depth look at who you are as a person as well as your qualifications.
A well-written personal statement adds meaning to the information collected in other parts of your application and gives readers an opportunity to get a better sense of who you are as an individual.
Additionally, it shows how factors outside of your school environment have enhanced or impeded your ability to maximize available academic opportunities.
A strong personal statement can help ensure that you receive the scholarship or program that best fits your needs while showcasing the qualities that make you worthy of financial support.
2. Helps the awarding body understand why you are deserving of their scholarship
Writing a winning scholarship personal statement helps the awarding body understand why you are deserving of their scholarship by providing them with the necessary information to make an informed decision.
By including anecdotes, examples, and personal stories in your essay, you can highlight your strengths and accomplishments while also showing them why you need the money.
Additionally, providing specific reasons as to why you deserve the scholarship will help them see that you are truly deserving of their support.
Ultimately, writing a stand-out essay will help win over their hearts and minds so that they know they’re giving it to someone who truly needs it and deserves it.
If the scholarship is for a small amount (every little helps) such as $500, make it clear what you will spend it on – books, or software – and it’s a great idea to say how you could share these or pass them on to other students later.
3. Allows you to focus on your own personal story and goals
Writing a winning scholarship personal statement helps you focus on your own personal story and goals by giving you the opportunity to tell your story in a unique way that highlights the lessons you have learned, the changes you have made, and the goals you are working towards.
If possible, make your experiences a metaphor for success.
For example, we were very impressed by the story of Jessie, who received a scholarship to help pay for medical school following her success as a high school regional high-jumping champion. She wrote,
‘Every Saturday morning I spend three hours throwing myself backwards over a high-jump bar in a feat that seems impossible. If you flinch, or hesitate, you will crash into the bar and be out of the competition. When I was younger, and dreaming of being a doctor, some teachers thought I was setting the bar too high and advised me to aim lower. I approached my academic studies with the same determination as the high-jump bar and have been offered a place at medical school. ‘
The motto of the university she would attend is Vim Promovet Insitam, or ‘learning promotes one’s innate power’. Later in her statement, she used this motto to make the point that the more success she had academically, the more confidence she gained in high-jumping, and vice-versa. This a great way to connect her chosen school and her suitability for both the course and a scholarship!’
4. Allows you to showcase your writing skills
Writing a winning scholarship personal statement requires you to be concise, authentic, and grammatically correct.
You need varied sentence structure and a logical movement from point to point.
Avoiding clichés such as “from a young age” or inspirational quotes will help make your statement feel unique without sounding like everyone else’s.
You will be able to impress scholarship committees with an impressive, unique piece of work that stands out from the rest.
5. Helps you prepare for other scholarship applications
Writing a scholarship personal statement helps you prepare for other scholarship applications by giving you practice in crafting a compelling narrative that showcases your potential.
You will ‘tweak’ every statement to make it fit the application but you won’t need to start from the beginning every time, so it’s important to keep all your applications organised.
Each one you write gives you valuable experience in presenting yourself as an attractive candidate while also gaining insight into what types of narratives are most effective in winning over judges.
This knowledge can then be applied when preparing for other scholarship applications.
6. Provides you with an opportunity to reflect and be proud of your accomplishments
As Jessie said, the more we learn the more inner power we have. Sometimes we can get caught up in academic work and can forget our goals or motivation.
Writing scholarship personal statements helps you reflect on your past experiences and achievements and learn from them.
It gives you the opportunity to showcase your strengths, such as resilience, determination, leadership skills, teamwork ability and more.
It also allows you to show progress from where you are and where you are headed in the future.
7. Helps you connect with the awarding body
Scholarship personal statements can help you connect with the awarding body by providing an insight into your background, experiences, and achievements that is not available by just looking at your GPA or letters of recommendation.
By sharing your story and highlighting what makes you special, you can create a connection with the awarding body that will make them more likely to choose you over other candidates.
It’s so important to research the awarding body – do any of them work on non-profit or community projects that connect to your experience and what you want to study?
Sara’s experience, detailed below, is a great example of an innovative idea tailored to an application, that helped her get both a place at a prestigious college and a substantial scholarship.
8. Could lead to a valuable monetary prize
The value of writing a winning scholarship personal statement is immense.
Writing a strong personal statement can help you stand out from the competition and give you the opportunity to earn multiple scholarships that could potentially cover all or part of your college expenses.
The more you practice, the better you get.
Keep and organise all your applications to save time in the future.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is the purpose of a scholarship personal statement?
It’s to provide an opportunity for applicants to humanize their profile beyond their transcript, GPA, and test scores by highlighting their personality, values, goals, and what makes them special.
The specific goal of the personal statement depends on the scholarship on offer. For example, for scholarships that aim to provide opportunities for students with career ambitions in the non-profit field may be looking for applicants with strong technical skills or civic-minded community service leaders of the future.
By reading your personal statement along with your academic record and other application materials such as the achievements/activities list, scholarship review committees can make decisions about who they think are the best candidates to receive a scholarship.
What should the format of a scholarship personal statement look like?
If there are no specific instructions regarding font and layout, we recommend that you have one-inch margins on all sides, double-spaced lines, no additional line spaces between paragraphs, and 12-point Times New Roman font.
Write out an outline for your essay, making sure it flows smoothly from topic to topic and makes sense as written.
How can I make sure my scholarship personal statement stands out?
- Be organized and gather all necessary materials correctly, including correct grammar, professional writing style and any necessary documents such as letters of recommendation and transcripts.
- Ensure that your personal statement honestly depicts who you are by using anecdotes to illustrate your unique personality and portraying who you really are overall. People remember stories so choose your best story!
- Make sure that your personal statement follows a logical structure and is well organized; think about how it may sound to an audience who doesn’t know you and revise for clarity in content and style accordingly.
- Read over your writing with others for feedback on grammar rules, punctuation use/mistakes and clarity in content/style before submitting it to prestigious scholarship advisors if applicable for editing help with rewrites if necessary
How can I ensure that my scholarship personal statement is really original?
- Stay away from cliches! Brainstorm and outline your personal statement using the questions above. This will help ensure that your statement is organized, concise, and free of clichés.
- Use correct grammar and language skills: Make sure that you have excellent grammar and language skills when writing your personal statement; this will make it easier for the scholarship committee to understand what you are trying to say without getting distracted by mistakes.
- Ensure variety in sentence structure. The shortest sentences can be used for making the most important point for added impact.
How can I incorporate my experiences in my scholarship personal statement?
- As above – Brainstorm: Think about your life story thus far, including notable personality traits, skills, accomplishments, passions, difficulties and obstacles, goals, extracurricular activities and inspirational people.
- Be authentic: Make sure that every personal statement for scholarship applications talks honestly and truthfully about your experiences.
- Choose examples: Select between three or four examples that demonstrate your preparedness for future studies, your determination to succeed and your flexibility in the face of challenges.
- Try to mention an experience or quality that is important to the awarding body. For example, the Lions Club Scholarships are awarded by a group that values good citizenship and community involvement above all else. Make sure there is a clear link between your story, your qualities, your financial needs and the organisation to which you are applying.