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Start a Draft: Jump Start Your Statement
Overall, fellowship applications will have similar questions. For this reason, it is best to take the approach of compiling all your information into one generic statement. The undertaking of writing a statement will require pulling the pertinent information from your generic statement to respond to each of the application questions instead of composing a new statement for each application. Your demanding schedule will require you to work smart; start by answering the provided generic questions. Your goal is to write all your information in one place to serve as a reference to answer application questions. Avoid focusing on character, page, or word limits, but be concise. Reviewers can lose interest in your proposal when you begin to ramble (remember you are applicant #187 out of 200). However, if rambling gives you the incentive to begin your statement or gets the writing juices flowing for the first draft, then plan to modify your information during the second draft for more concision.
Respond to the generic questions assuming all applicants will have a great GPA and letters of recommendation. Respond to the questions with information that will make the reviewer remember you. Depending on your academic status, you want to convince the reader that you have the potential to be successful graduate student and/or that you have a clear understanding of your research and a solid plan and the ability to successfully complete your proposed research. Your faculty, advisor, and mentors (FAM) can provide excellent feedback. Review and incorporate your FAM's suggestions before preparing your application essay.
Be concise, grab the reader’s attention. After all, you are applicant #187 out of 200 and the reviewer is getting tired and wants you to get to the point. Indicate what you are studying, what it addresses, and your plans to conduct research. Make a strong statement (I will study… In my proposal I will address…I will research…). Sound confident, make the reader sit up and take notice. If you provided a clear, direct, and concise statement, the reader will have a better understanding of your research when it’s time to read information pertaining to your background, literature, population, etc.
Explain how your research will examine or reframe the questions, theory, approach, or method. If the reader has only a general knowledge of your research area, your goal is to discuss the literature as it pertains to your research to provide the reader with insight of why you selected your research, question(s), hypothesis, method, etc.
Your response should be detailed, now you can elaborate. Discuss travel, population, microorganism, faculty, research team, research facilities, etc. Tell the reader how your research will be designed. Discuss your plans to prove, predict, or affirm. Discuss your methodology. Discuss the validity. If your research is innovative, tell the reader why. What about your analysis, is it sound? By the way, faculty are a rich source of guidance and can provide great feedback for this section.
Discuss what impact your research will have when finished. Discuss your contribution to existing knowledge. Discuss how you plan to advance the field. The reader needs to justify why he/she wants to advance your application to the next level for funding. Give the reader the necessary information to promote your proposal.
You should try to wow the reviewer. My research will ___. My research findings will ___. Make an argument for your research idea. Why is your research important? Convince the reader why your research should be funded.
Discuss your research experience. Avoid listing your experiences; explain what your role was, what skills you learn, data analysis, etc. My work experience as __ assisted with the development of ___.
This section allows you to brag a little. Again, don’t merely list your awards or presentations. Relate the experiences to your research, growth, skill set, etc.
You can provide a little background (no sandbox stories, “Ever since I was a child…” Stay current with your information and experiences. Although it may be interesting to you, think like the reviewer and share information that will make your application memorable and that is connected to your research. Discuss how your research experience has evolved. If you had a setback, discuss what you have learned for the situation, not complain what was wrong. If you cannot connect the information to the research or your general research interest or discipline, omit it.