How to write a Personal Statement

Sample personal statements

The personal statement is your opportunity to speak to the scholarship judges in your own voice about who you are, why you study [your degree or academic pursuits], or what you want to do with your life. You might explain how different aspects of your life—academics, work, activities, hobbies, study abroad, family—come together to inform your choices.

  • Take the same care writing your personal statement that you would with a course paper. Pay particular attention to the instructions for each scholarship. Depending on the application, your personal statement may be a single essay or a series of short paragraphs.
  • Address each topic requested and conform to the specified format and length limit. You may be asked to write a personal statement describing your academic interests, life goals, extracurricular or leadership experiences, or what the scholarship would enable you to do.
  • Expect to write more than one draft. Email us a draft for review, come to our walk-in hours OR visit the UWL Writing Center (Link to their page)
  • Write in a clear, straightforward style. Have confidence that you are an interesting person with some great ideas, unique experiences, and worthy dreams. You don't need to decorate your essay with ornate or emotion-laden language or quotations from famous people, to make it interesting.
  • Show—don't tell—what a great candidate you are by the way you write and the things you write about. Leave it to your references to praise your gifts as a writer, your dedication to community service, or your passion for research. Your job is to show these things implicitly.
  • Define any specialized terms so that selection judges outside of your major field will know what you're talking about.
  • Proofread your essay and use the spell-check tool. Have someone read your essay or personal statement for clarity and style.

While challenging to write, the personal statement is an extremely useful learning experience. Whether you win the scholarship or not, your time is well spent. Once you have written a personal statement for one scholarship, you will probably be able to adapt it for others.

10 Steps for your Personal Statement

"Tell them what you're going to say. Say it. Tell them what you said."

  1. Before you begin writing, decide on your answer to the question asked of you. This is your basic thesis. 
  2. Before you begin writing, decide on what three pieces of evidence/support you will use to prove your thesis. 
  3. Write your introductory paragraph. Place your thesis along with your three pieces of evidence in order of strength (least to most) at the end of this paragraph. 
  4. Write the first paragraph of your body. You should begin by restating your thesis, focusing on the support of your first piece of evidence. 
  5. End your first paragraph with a transitional sentence that leads to paragraph number two. 
  6. Write paragraph two of the body focusing on your second piece of evidence. Once again make the connection between your thesis and this piece of evidence. 
  7. End your second paragraph with a transitional sentence that leads to paragraph number three. 
  8. Write paragraph three of the body focusing on your third piece of evidence. Again, make the connection between your thesis statement and this piece of evidence. 
  9. Begin your concluding paragraph by restating your thesis. Include the three points you have used to prove your thesis. 
  10. End your concluding paragraph with a statement of extension which will (hopefully) cause the reader to look beyond what you have written. You do not include new evidence in your last paragraph. 


  1. Never use I or you (unless specifically told that it is allowed).
  2. Do not use contractions in formal writing. 
  3. Organization is one of the most important parts of good writing. Make sure to organize from the first paragraph on. 

Reprinted with Permission from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.