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How to make your autobiographical essay stand out

When applying for a scholarship, you typically will have to add an autobiographical essay. If you want to stand out as an applicant, it is important to show more than good grades. Here is some advice on how to use one sheet of paper to make a lasting impression and be invited for an interview.

1. Polish your writing style

If you are at the point of applying for a scholarship to study abroad after your first cycle of higher education, chances are small that you’ve been going through application or interviewing processes before.
Likewise, chances are small that you have experience in writing, other than homeworks and essays related to your study course.

Writing an autobiographical essay takes more than just summing up what you’ve been spending your past years on. It requires a style of writing you might need to get used to. Even though I’ve always enjoyed writing, composing my autobiographical essay took me a lot of frowning, rewriting and rephrasing.

Make sure you allow enough time to go through this process, don’t write it out the night before the deadline.
To give you an idea: I spent two months between my first trials and the final version in my application.

2. Ask a senior academic for advice

Look for a professor or senior academic with a clear writing style to whom you can turn to for advice. I was lucky enough to receive great ideas from one of my professors, which took my essay five levels up.

3. Show the link between your extracurricular activities and your studies

You might think that fellowship institutions are not interested in your talent for sports or music. However, you can use your extracurricular activities to show how it reinforces some of your talents in your studies.

In my essay, I linked composition courses to math. Following the classical rules of composition requires indeed a lot of “calculating” and counting distances between notes to come up with allowable chords.

4. Let your personality shine through

If you’re applying for a prestigious fellowship, you are most likely already a very good student. To show that you are ready to take most advantage of the opportunity which might be offered to you and to become an ambassador of a sponsoring institution, it is important to show that you are a fully grown individual with a personal range of talents and interests.

5. Point out the skills you’ve learned from your extracurricular activities

Depending on the extracurricular activities you’ve chosen to spend your time on, you will have developed certain skills. Use the description of your activities to point out which skills you’ve learned.

Playing team-sports or playing in an orchestra teaches you how to work in a team, for example. Combining several activities with demanding studies teaches you time management skills.

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