Selling Yourself in Two Pages or Less
Posted July 31, 2011
Who are you? You of all people should know that question, but it isn’t always easy to portray you in writing is it? Well, at one point in becoming a scientist, or any kind you will be asked this question many times in “Personal Statements”. This is your chance to wow the person approving your application for funding or admittance to grad school.
(Note: This was part of a summer 2011 assignment for all Fellows to blog about summer seminars.)
Sometimes, there are prompts to help you along like this one from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF), “Describe any personal, professional, or educational experiences or situations that have prepared you or contributed to your desire to persue advanced study in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. Describe your competencies and evidence of leadership potential. Describe your aspirations and how the NSF fellowship will help you to achieve your goals.”
Not an easy task by far, and much harder when you only have two pages to get all that information across.
Come up with 10 points you want to get across, and try writing a little bit about each one. Make sure you address every point in the prompt, this will make sure you are not passed over. Narrow down your 10 points to three really good ones that fit the criteria, and make an outline of what you want to say. Quality over quantity! If you are the reviewer, what is going to keep you reading?
Cater your statement to the program you are applying for. It would be silly to get passed over because your personal statement said you were looking forward to working with the DOD (Department of Defense) when you were applying to the NSF. That being said, once you have written and perfected your personal statement for one application it should be easy to adapt it to similar programs.
Like I said before, this process takes time. When applying for these programs, especially funding, put in as much time and effort as possible. Someone is going to invest in you, so that statement should reflect the fact that you deserve it and you meet/exceed the qualifications they are looking for.
I started writing my first personal statement at the beginning of the summer, and it has been looked at by four people. Each one has said something different, and each time I find myself cutting, adding, and rearranging my statement. It is not as easy as it may sound, especially in two pages, but it will pay off once I have it polished.