For the Mellon Application
(not the same as a Grad School Personal Statement)
The “personal statement” is usually what you will write as part of a graduate school application. In it you discuss your unique attributes as a person, a student, and as a potential scholar and researcher. In the personal statement you talk about your life story (among other things) and how through difficult experiences you have survived and thrived.
In the “statement of interest” you would typically discuss the strengths and unique talents you have that would contribute significantly to the position for which you are applying. You would be focusing on the highlights of your resume, providing concrete examples from your work experience that may capture the interest of a potential employer.
In the “personal statement of interest” which you are writing for the Heritage University Mellon application, you are being asked to combine the above purposes. In other words, we want to hear about your unique attributes as a potential scholar and researcher (curiosity, asking questions, a thirst for knowledge, reading books because you want to engage language, art, dialogue, mystery, controversy, etc.), as well as how your strengths and unique talents would contribute to the future job position of university professor. In other words, how does “diversity” influence the way you think, live, and contribute to others? How would your experiences enable you to become more accessible to a diverse student body? How would your diverse experiences make you a more contributive colleague?
Remember that good academic writing is clear, concise, and compelling. When you are writing the “personal statement of interest” keep in mind that your audience is looking for the answer to a particular question, “How do you see yourself contributing to Academia (college/university teaching)? Research a little about college professors. Maybe ask one of your professors why they teach at Heritage? What specific attributes do they think contribute to and enhance the field of academic teaching?
Remember that this “personal statement of interest” is a combination of both a personal statement and a letter of interest (see definitions above). You will need to provide a balance between your personal dreams, desires, goals, story, vision, and perceptions, and the attributes that will contribute to your professional success: the ability to set goals, translate your experience into effective practice, knowledge of community needs and how you will address them through your work, etc.
Basic Rules of Good Writing:
- Have a thesis or main point in mind to guide your discussion. Concentrate on a few specific points and then provide specific examples to make them come alive for the reader.
- Limit vague language and over-used word, phrases or ideas. For example, “I am really good with people.” OR “My GPA shows that I am a good student.” Instead give concrete examples that bring the reader to those conclusions.
- Write multiple drafts of this essay and have someone read it to you. What is your impression of the writer? Of the message? Is it clear, concise and compelling? Do you want to spend time and energy working with the writer? What is the main point of the essay? Does it have a clear direction and does it follow through with clarity?
- Finally, proofread, proofread, proofread. Mistakes in essays intended to show scholarly promise are especially costly. “I am a skolar” says a lot.
Have your instructor/professor/mentor ready your essay and give you honest feedback. The Mellon Fellowship is a BIG deal and a great opportunity. You want to make sure you are giving the application your best effort.
How to Apply
Personal Statement of Interest
The Mellon Family
Winona Wynn, PhD (Nakota, Hohe)
Associate Professor of Humanities; Ethnic Literature
Coordinator, Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship
Institutional and Summer Coordinator, The Leadership Alliance