A personal statement for a fellowship or graduate school application is your opportunity to express to the selection committee who you are and why you are a great candidate for the program. In particular, an eye-grabbing lead sentence or opening paragraph is your most important tool for maintaining the reader’s attention. Here are some examples of powerful personal statement openings of winners of highly competitive fellowships.
- “My parents are acupuncturists who made the long trip from their tiny cluster of villages in Guangzhou, China, to the quaint suburbs of Northern California, two years before I was born.”
By a winner of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Macau. The applicant draws the reader to something memorable – her parents’ unique vocation – paving the way for an interesting story about her childhood and interest in working abroad. Read more.
- “Every morning at 10:00 a.m. I come face to face with the power of language to free; it happens in a classroom. The students I teach at Seattle Central Community College come from night work in an industrial bakery, from a Vietnamese refugee camp, from a 9-to-5 job in a car wash, or from the day care center where they’ve left their children.”
By a graduate fellowship applicant to the University of Washington. This opening paragraph begins to tell a story that reflects on the applicant’s work with a diverse community. Read more.
- “My grandparents have touched many lives: former drug addicts, refugees, neighbors, and my own. They have an uncommon ability to build relationships; they are a paradigm of service— where service is more than what you do and is also defined by who you are.”
By a winner of the Fulbright U.S. Student Grant. The lyrical nature of this stand-alone opening paragraph exhibits an advanced ability to use both words and punctuation to express the applicant’s personal values and how they originated. Read more.
- “Thirty years ago, my dad boarded a one-way flight to the U.S. Unlike the people he left behind, he was coming to a new country filled with educational opportunities his homeland could not provide. He was not limited by his place of birth.”
By a successful applicant to Teach for America. Immediately, the applicant has built a framework to describe his interest in education and equal opportunity, and his personal experience as a child of an American immigrant. Read more.
- “In the sixth grade, I took a test to see if I was left- or right-brained. To my elementary eyes, the result of that quiz would be the truth from on high—a resolute word that would define the man to come as either analytic or artistic.”
By a Marshall Scholar to the U.K. The applicant masterfully opens with a story to describe the early beginnings of his intellectual curiosity, a key characteristic that the selection committee seeks in applicants. Read more.
A common aspect of these opening statements is their ability to draw the reader in to a unique and memorable story that begins to describe why the applicant is applying to the fellowship. You can identify more personal statement samples like these online by Googling “personal statement example pdf” with the name of the fellowship.
For more tips on writing a compelling personal statement, see our Step-by-Step Guide For A Competitive Fellowship Application.
© Victoria Johnson 2016, all rights reserved.
Im starting on a scholarship essay on how I contribute to diversity. But I dont know where to start. How do I begin an essay like this? What are they looking for?
How you contribute to diversity sounds like a tricky topic, but you can actually apply it to a bunch of things. Maybe talk about eccentric family traditions, community you were brought up in, if you are from a different culture, decided to start something new at your school, took the initiative and spearheaded something never done before. You can really use any of these as a theme of diversity, it's all about how you describe it in an essay. Jot down ideas and build from it, think of all the ways that you can bring something new, vibrant, fresh to the Lehigh campus. If you need help, just write down some of the starting ideas and maybe someone on here can help you collect ideas.
Great, I would add to this advice by saying that "contributing to diversity" means something like "adding to the interestingness" of the campus environment... and it implies cultural issues.
One might respond to this essay by writing about his or her experiences with culture (your own culture or other cultures!)...
I personally would use the words "contribute," "diverse," "diversity," and "culture" in order to show that I understand the prompt.
You can also realise some stereotypes towards certain ethnic groups are unfair, and you initiate some ''Immersion Programmes" to build a bridge between people with different beliefs.
Try taking a look at the minority percentages at your college, if you are a minority group. What i would do is something like this: if i see a college with something like 5% asian and I know some asian traditions then i can mention it like this. "After taking a look at your stats I noticed that...not a lot of asians....I can introduce this perspective..."