The past couple of weeks have been exciting, albeit slightly stressful, ones as we have continued to hurl through the incomprehensible space-time medium we call the HSC. As if manoeuvring through homework, exams, assignments, major projects and stress isn’t hard enough, we’ve also got to (somehow) capture a snapshot of ourselves in 500 words called a personal statement.
The perfect mixture of 500 words, that goes by the name personal statement, may (just) be your biggest weapon in getting your dream scholarship.
If all goes to plan, you’ll sit down at your [insert thinking place] with a glass of [your favourite drink] and a plate full of [your favourite snack] and knock out the most personally personalised personal statement ever and walk away with a scholarship!
All passengers are reminded to ensure their belts are securely on. We will be arriving back to reality in T minus 10, 9, 8…
Welcome back! I hope you had a smooth landing. Oh, the weather’s bad here? And the food? Geez!
All jokes aside, sometimes things don’t go to plan. Things happen, and there is nothing we can do but stand back up, keep walking and plan ahead. I’m starting to feel the heat of exams getting closer – I can only imagine (not that I want to) what it’ll feel like when I’m trying to study for trials and write personal statements for scholarships!
Some of you may be a little confused about what I’m actually talking about – don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!
Personal Statements – The Who, What, When, Where and Why!
A personal statement is an essay, generally ranging from short (500 words) to longer that is included in a scholarship application. Generally, they look something like:
“Tell us, in no more than 500 words, why you want to…?”
Some personal statements come with prompts, such as “include benefits you’ve received from any community service experience / contributions you can make if selected”.
In general, a personal statement should include four key components – PIPS:
Paint a true picture of who you are. Be yourself! And yes, this means writing it yourself. It’s okay to let other critique it, but make sure that you and your personal flair is clear to the reader. And as with any picture, over-editing can lead to a loss in personality.
Your statement should allow the reader to gain meaningful insights into you. It should show the reader your enthusiasm and passion for the course, the research you’ve done and your honesty. They don’t want to hear flattery. They simply want to see if you are able to rise out of the paper and make a lasting impression in their minds.
Priorities and Judgement
When you’ve been given such a word limit, particularly the shorter ones, you need to have a delicate balance of personal and professional, academic and extra-curricular, optimistic and rational. This means asking yourself ‘Is this adding meaning to my personal statement?’ before adding in any extra details. Make the most out of your limits!
There is a reason why it’s ‘personal’ statement and not ‘an-essay-with-you-as-the-subject’ statement! You’ve got a passion for a certain course for the reason – tell the reader your story. Creativity and self-reflections are encouraged, however, always keep in mind that you’ve got to maintain a balance.
Things to remember…
Articulate realistic goals
One of the most important features of a personal statement is authenticity. If you are setting realistic goals, and back them up with evidence of your passion and dedication to the course, the reader will be able to make a greater connection with you as an individual.
Example: ‘My ambition is to contribute to the growing body of research into … that will assist in improving the quality of life in affected individuals’ rather than ‘I’m going to cure the world of cancer’.
Don’t plagiarise someone else’s personal statement
The reader wants to get to know YOU and not whoever else wrote it.
It is important to keep in mind that these readers are often highly experienced members of their respective fields – they will be able to detect flattery and forced ‘passion’ from kilometres away. A single whiff of plagiarism and you’re out.
Meet the deadlines for applications
This may seem a little silly, but just as there is no use to a personal statement without a scholarship to attach it to, there is no use for either if they’re not on time. Mark down the date in your diary, set multiple reminders on your phone and tell someone reliable to remind you!
Before applying, reflect!
This is one of the most important things to consider before applying.
Scholarships are limited opportunities; you receiving one means someone else will not.
If you are sure you don’t want to do anything in business for example, then don’t potentially take up a scholarship spot in business! If you change your mind, consider letting the institution know that you will no longer require it, so possibly someone else could receive it.
Let’s Get Started!
Okay, so now that you’re an expert on personal statements, it’s time to start writing one. But how? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with these prompts.
Use these to guide you in crafting the perfect personally personalised personal statement:
- Why are you applying for your chosen course?
- Why does this course interest you? Include evidence that you understand what’s required to study; e.g. If applying for heath related courses, then demonstrate your understanding of science and the significance of the course in society.
- Why do you think you’d be suitable for the course? Do you have any particular skills and experiences that will help you succeed in the course?
- Have you participated in any activities that demonstrate your interest in the course?
- What skills and qualities do you have that will make you a suitable person for this course?
- What are any other achievements you’re proud of, leadership positions you’ve held both in and out of school and attributes that make you an interesting and unique individual?
- What hobbies and interests do you have? (Hint: think about how they demonstrate your personality, skills and abilities).
- Have you done any work experience (including volunteer work) that is related to this course?
- What do you hope to achieve after completing this course? How do you aim to use the knowledge and experience gained in your future?
Now it’s your turn!
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Dharni Patel is not really limited to being a 2017 HSC student; she’s a certified science nerd and baker, and to her knowledge, still holds the record for the most missed basketball/netball/anything-ball shots in her community. When she’s not buried in textbooks and gripping her beloved calculator Calci (4 unit maths does that to you), you’ll find her grazing the pages of Cosmos, playing with her 11-month Labrador Tyson or just planning how she’ll walk to accept her Nobel Prize in Chemistry (but she’ll settle for a Nobel in biology or medicine if she must).