The personal statement that you write as part of your college application is your chance to show college admissions counselors who you are beyond your test scores and high school GPA. At some colleges, if your personal statement is very strong, it can lead you to get a scholarship from the school directly.

Usually, writing a personal statement for a college application is very different than writing a personal statement for a scholarship, which you will have to write separately if you are looking to get one to cover your tuition or part of your tuition when you go to college. The guidelines for a personal statement for a scholarship are not very clear, so it is helpful to have some information to get you started.

What Is a Personal Statement for a Scholarship?

According to PrepScholar, your personal statement, also commonly referred to as a "college essay," is an essay that you write as a part of your application. The goal of this essay is to give college admissions counselors an idea about who you are and ultimately, why they should let you into their school, especially over other applicants. Best of all, your personal statement can be a way for you to earn a scholarship to your prospective colleges.

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If your prospective college does not award you a scholarship based on your college application, there are still other ways to earn a scholarship. If you are looking to apply for scholarships separately from the schools you are applying to, for instance, through a non-profit organization or a scholarship given by your high school, then you will need to write a separate personal statement.

Writing a personal statement for a scholarship can be more difficult that writing your personal statement for a college application, but you may be able to re-purpose the personal statement you wrote for your application for your scholarship application.

Why Is a Personal Statement for a Scholarship Important?

Unlike your personal statement for college which is designed to show who you truly are to college admissions counselors, perhaps giving you entrance over someone with identical qualifications, a personal statement for a scholarship is your chance to get money to pay for school.

For some students, this personal statement is much more important than the other because without money for school, you may not be able to attend at all. It would not matter, therefore, how many schools you have been accepted to. If you are able to pay for some of your college tuition, then having even a small scholarship can help lessen the burden. This is why your personal statement is important.

Good Personal Statement Examples

Before writing your personal statement, you will need to get an idea of what you need to write. According to Binghamton.edu, there are no set guidelines for scholarship essays, yet the funding organization might be able to give you some guidance on what they are looking for in their candidates.

Therefore, the first step is to look into each scholarship you want to apply for and to read the instructions carefully. If you are still not being given clear direction as to what topic you should write about in your personal statement, Binghamton has some suggestions:

  • Highlight your most relevant experiences in relation to the scholarship you are applying for. How have those experiences shaped you into the person you are today and a person that should earn this award? Remember, if you are applying for an academic scholarship, then your topic should be somewhat related to academics.
  • Describe significant obstacles you have had to overcome, and how you have stuck to all your goals despite these challenges. Stay positive.
  • Predict your future success and how you hope this award will help you get there. Scholarship organizations want to know that their investment will pay off. 
  • Explain the history of your interests and aspirations and how that ties into you needing a scholarship to help you grow.

Personal Statement Topics to Avoid

Writing a personal statement for a scholarship can be rather challenging because there are so many different directions you can go with it, especially if you are not being assigned a topic. In addition to knowing which topics make for a good starting point, it is also a good idea to know what to avoid writing about.

According to Scholarship.umd.edu, you should avoid writing to impress. The other credentials that you have to submit with your application will already be speaking to your academic success. This is no time to write a laundry list of all your amazing achievements, but instead, what "motivates, inspires and shapes" you.

You should also avoid being too general or too abstract. Be specific, be direct and be honest. You do not want the reader to have to do any additional digging to find out what you meant. In addition to this, avoid writing any cliches or using too much humor.

How to Write a Personal Statement for a Scholarship

Once you are comfortable with the knowledge that you have to write a personal statement for a scholarship, it is time to get moving. Writing your personal statement can feel a bit overwhelming, but if you follow some basic steps, you will be able to write it with as little stress and time as possible:

Start Brainstorming Ideas

According to College Essay Advisors, it is never too early to start writing your personal statement or at least to start brainstorming. Since you will have to start submitting applications for scholarships in the fall of your senior year, you should begin your scholarship research around the same time. Once you know where you are going to apply for scholarships, and you are sure you have met the criteria, you can begin brainstorming some aspects about yourself that make you stand out.

Decide What You Want to Write About

Brainstorming is certainly helpful, but eventually, you will need to decide what you want to write about. A good tip is to talk to friends, family and your teachers about what they think makes you a good friend or a unique person. Write down anything that comes to mind, and see if it fits under one of those suggested topics. Come up with a few ideas, then narrow it down to the one you feel you can write best about.

Look at a Personal Statement Sample

Before you start writing, it is necessary that you take some time to look at a personal statement sample. Remember that you want to find a personal statement that was written for a scholarship and not for college admissions, unless it was a 2-in-1. Since most scholarship organizations also do not provide templates, you can use a personal essay sample to get an idea of what style to follow.

Write Your Outline

Once you've got your topic down, it's time to start writing your outline. There is no right or wrong way to write an outline. Just do what works best for you. Start with your intro, add your body and your conclusion. If the scholarship organization is asking you to answer specific questions, then your outline should reflect that.

Start Writing Your Personal Statement

Now, it is time to start writing! Go somewhere where you can get some peace and quiet to focus on writing. This might be at your desk in your bedroom, at the library or even at a friend's house. Not everyone has the privilege of writing in a quiet environment, so do what you can to get somewhere that is more calm, or put on headphones with relaxing music to block out noise.

Edit and Revise Your Personal Statement

After you write your rough draft, take some time to walk away from your personal statement and come back to it. You may come up with another point that you forgot to add, or you might realize that you want to remove something that you wrote.

A rough draft is not meant to be perfect, and you can really only notice errors after seeing it again with a fresh pair of eyes. It is also a good idea to ask an adult with some writing or academia expertise to read over your essay for you. Now is also the time to check for grammatical and spelling errors. You might go through this process several times before finalizing.

Finalize Your Essay

Last but not least, it is time to finalize your essay. Although there is always room for improvement in anything, eventually you will have to get your essay and yourself to a point where it is ready to submit. Of course, read it over again yourself a few more times and run your personal statement through a word processor to check for anything you did not catch.

How Long Should Your Personal Statement Be?

One of the challenges that students have when writing their personal statement is trying to figure out how long it should be. Some scholarship organizations will tell you this information, but others will not. Therefore, it might be up to you to determine how many words your personal statement for a scholarship should be. Some samples, according to one by Accepted.com, suggest that it should be no more than 500 words. This is a good place to start.

Personal Statement for a Scholarship Tips

Now that you know how to write your personal statement in order to help you earn a scholarship for college, there are some other tips you can take into account to help give yourself the best chance possible:

  • When writing, use specific examples to illustrate your experiences.
  • Include some reflection to show how your experiences made you the person you are today.
  • Do not ask for pity; frame any negative experiences in a positive light.
  • Get your personal essay started way before the deadlines so you have time to perfect it.
  • Even though you'll be writing in the first-person, try not to overuse "I,"
  • Allow your personality to shine through.
  • Be honest and sincere.

About the Author

Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. She has spent the last 5 years traveling the world and living abroad and has lived in South Korea and Israel. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Hana spent a semester studying abroad at Tel Aviv University during her undergraduate years at the University of Hartford. She hopes to use her experience to help inform others. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.