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Ask your readers: Do you think I answered the prompt? Would this essay make you interested in talking with me further?

Be prepared to start from scratch if their answer to many of these questions is “no.” Be your own critic!

Use the essays to tell what cannot already be gleaned from those materials. For most applications, you will be writing for an intelligent, educated, non-specialist, so make sure the terminology is understandable to someone outside your field.

Avoid the trap of aiming for what you think the selection committee wants to hear. To explain how and what you think, you will likely include content such as current events, historical examples, or things you have been involved in.

Below are some brief tips on the two main types of essays required, and a combination of these.

A personal statement explains who you are, what are your interests and goals for the future, and why winning this particular fellowship would be a critical, and even necessary, component toward achieving those goals.

Do not inflate your own experiences, but do expound what you have learned from them. Read multiple examples to see that there is a range of ways to do it.

Don’t mention things that you only vaguely understand in the effort to sound sophisticated. You can access examples of essays by Amherst College fellowships winners under Sample Applications.

Most personal statements contain four components, which answer the following questions: In addition to these questions, use the Reflection Questions for Personal Statements guide to generate ideas more broadly for your essay.

These questions are useful for periodic reflection throughout your undergraduate years and beyond.


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