Monday, August 10, 2009

One page... sum it all up.

Today I was working more on my Fulbright Scholarship application package. It's' an extremely thorough process, which includes an online application, research/study proposal, references, detailed schedule/itinerary and a personal statement.

The statement is pegged on the Fulbright Web site as a "narrative giving a picture of you as an individual."

The statement is limited to one typed, single-spaced page, using Times Roman pt 12 font.

I normally love to write. I think it's one of the few things I can do well. But, I absolutely hate doing things like this with such confined parameters. How in the world am I going to sell myself and stand out among a pool of about 2,000 (or more) applicants? How do you make that "hard sell" in roughly 400 to 500 words?

The country to which I'm applying, the United Kingdom, is the most competitive, receiving between 700 to 800 applicants each year. Of those applicants, there are spots for about 20 scholarships.

Rough estimate/rough reality -- one in 40 applicants is chosen.

Also, the specific scholarship I'm applying for only has one recipient. So, my odds are completely dependent upon how many applicants that specific scholarship receives. Here's hoping the applicant pool is low! It's a program designed specifically for those interested in journalism.

::crosses fingers:: pressure.

So, I've been agonizing for several days, trying to structure a statement that has character, purpose, theme, clarity and a solid approach.

There are three I've written that I'm quite proud of, each hitting on major points in my life. Three points which I believe have helped mold me into the student and person I am today; none of which I can make a firm decision to stand behind 100 percent.

The key to standing out among a large pool of equally qualified candidates is to play off of your life experiences, not so much your academics -- your resume is for that.

We've all taken similar classes, similar internships, but the thing that makes all of our experiences different is how we've treated this game of life.

That's where things like character and integrity come into the picture.

The three "gimmicks" that appear in my statements in no particular order are:

  • My personal struggle with dropping out of high school my senior year and prevailing, making it into a good university and positioning myself as a top student in my major. Hinting at my determination, dignity, character and tenacity.
  • My ability for adaptation, as exemplified in taking on new challenges and work in some of my classes. Hinting at my ability to manage my time and ration myself when I was already spread pretty thin.
  • Growing up as a minority in rural land, Pa. This route illustrates a blend of the high school thing with the adaptation thing. It helps to define my moral attributes.
This is difficult to do in one page -- especially for a person who is so "Type A" like I am.


I'll write more later. I need to stop thinking for a while.

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