The financial aid statement is a simple, short piece of writing that students may include on a financial aid letter, in an essay, or in other communications to a financial aid department. The financial aid statement may not be a full communication on its own, but rather an element of a more complex financial aid appeal. If you need to write such a statement in order to reach out to a university or college’s financial aid office, follow some basic steps.
Writing a Statement of Financial Need
Write the introduction. Present a picture to the financial aid committee of who you are. Describe special family circumstances, such as whether you are the first in your family to attend college. State whether you come from a disadvantaged family. Mention if you are from an ethnic group that is under-represented at the school.
For example, you could write the following: “My parents moved to the United States from Albania in order to give us better opportunities. As their oldest child, I will be the first in our family to attend college.”
Explain how you are currently paying for college. Describe your financial situation. Tell if you are currently working to support yourself. Describe other sources of support you are currently receiving, such as from your family. Provide details about any college savings that you have, such as a 529 College Savings Plan.
For example, write something like this: “I have worked to help support my family since I was 16 years old. Currently, I work on the weekends as a waitress to support myself. My parents also give me what they can each month. Since my parents didn’t speak English when we moved here, it was very difficult for them to support our family. My mother worked many hours as a housekeeper in a hotel. They saved what they could, but we do not have enough savings to pay for my college education.”
Justify why you are seeking aid. Explain difficulties you are having meeting your needs. Describe changes in your life that have affected your ability to pay for college. For example, changes in your family’s income or unexpected expenses may have caused a financial deficit. Provide evidence that you can handle your finances responsibly. Tell how you have paid some of your tuition yourself through your own efforts. Avoid details about paying for expenses other than education, such as car loans, as this is irrelevant.
For example: “My earnings from my weekend job cover my living expenses. I worked extra shifts over the summer and saved enough to pay for a portion of this year’s tuition. However, I am seeking aid for the portion of the tuition I cannot cover on my own.”
Describe how you would benefit from the financial aid. Explain how you will make good use of the financial aid you receive. Benefits might include being able to concentrate more on studying instead of working. The financial aid may allow you to take advantage of an unpaid internship. It may even make the difference between graduating or having to drop out.
For example: “Receiving financial aid will allow me to focus on my studies during the week without having to worry about earning extra money. I would continue to work on the weekends to cover my living expenses, but I would be able to keep the weekdays free to focus solely on my school work.”
Write a closing statement. Use a professional and polite tone. Avoid begging or being highly emotional. Awarding financial aid is a responsibility that schools take very seriously. Recognize this with a concise conclusion that thanks the committee for their time.
For example: “Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to discussing my opportunities with you.”
Writing a Statement for a Scholarship
Write an introduction. Develop a thesis statement. Outline your academic and career goals. Indicate the main categories you will address in your statement. Describe how your academic record, work experience and community service have lead you towards your goals.
For example: “I am applying for this scholarship in order to further my studies in education. My long-term goal is to work as an ESL teacher in an inner city environment. My academic, work and personal experiences have lead me to this career goal.”
Describe your academic record. State that you have taken challenging courses. Mention that you have an excellent academic record. Note any skills or special knowledge you have acquired. Describe any special projects or research in which you have participated. Include information about tutoring or teaching.
For example: “I graduated from my undergraduate institution with a 4.0 GPA. I had a double major of Elementary Education and Spanish, with a minor in Sociology. I applied for and received a prestigious internship working with the state government on developing educational policies.”
Communicate your leadership skills. Describe how your work experience has taught you how to interact with a variety of different people. Affirm your understanding of your strengths. State how your educational experiences have taught you to overcome obstacles and face challenges. Describe how life experiences have motivated you to continue your education and given you a clear vision of your future.
For example: “My parents moved our family to this country from Albania when I was 12 years old. I did not speak any English when we arrived. The ESL teachers in my school helped me to be successful in school, and I want to do the same for other students in my circumstances.”
Explain your community service history. Emphasize active participation in clubs, organizations, or civic associations. Describe volunteer work you have done. Explain how you chose your community service projects. State how long your involvement was. Tell about your travels and how they have impacted you. Express how your interactions with others have engendered a passion for what you do.
For example: “Each summer, I volunteer for the Migrant Workers Education Association in Chester County, Pennsylvania. They service migrant workers who come here from Mexico to work on mushroom farms. We not only link families with community services, but we also tutor children in English and help them learn important school skills that will allow them to be successful in school.”
Illustrate how your past experience has imparted qualities that the scholarship committee will value. Describe the qualities you have developed as a result of your academic, work and community service experience. For example, your academic experience may have given you motivation, knowledge of your current field and an attention to detail. Your work experience may have given you originality, creativity and an ability to solve problems. Your community service experience may have given you maturity, emotional stability and the ability to face challenges.
For example: “My experiences as an ESL student and an English tutor have taught me the value of helping children to feel successful and empowered. I know the meaning of hard work, and I have learned how to overcome challenges in my own personal and academic life.”
Choose your words carefully. Strike the right balance between being modest and bragging. Demonstrate your abilities in an unpresumptuous way with phrases like “good candidate,” “well-prepared,” and “good leadership skills.” Avoid overstated statements like “my fantastic background,” or “my eternal passion for learning.” Present clear evidence of your skills and accomplishments. The evidence will speak for itself.
Making Your Personal Statement Successful
Start early. Don’t wait until the last minute to write your personal statement. It may be your best chance for making the case of why you should qualify for aid or a scholarship. It is an important document that sets you apart from other applicants. Devote enough time to making it accurately reflect who you are, demonstrate your writing ability and provide evidence of your achievements
Get organized. Develop a logical structure for your statement. Write an outline that organizes your ideas and categories. Get input from others about what to include. Ask teachers, parents and others whom you trust for feedback. Include enough details to be thoughtful and complete, but avoid being long-winded
Be personal and reflective. Share information about who you are. Tell the readers what you want them to understand about you. Give them information about your family and past experiences and how they have motivated you to pursue your studies. Explain how your work and academic experiences have given you knowledge about your field. Describe personal experiences that have helped you hone in on your goals
Be authentic. Write about who you really are and what you really care about. Do not try to write what you think the readers want to hear. The application committee will know right away if you are not being honest. They read so many essays that they can distinguish the difference between genuineness and insincerity. Showcase your true desires, accomplishments and strengths
Avoid humor and clichés. Remember that those reading the essay do not know you. They may not understand your sense of humor, so it’s best not to use it in this essay. Avoid using clichés in order to make your application essay more specific and persuasive. Instead of saying that you’re a “people person” or a “Jack of all trades,” provide specific details about yourself and your experience
Use specific examples. Reinforce general claims about yourself with specific details. For example, if you state that you feel comfortable with people of different backgrounds, give details that explain why. Perhaps you have been an ESL tutor, or you grew up in a military family and traveled around quite a bit. Provide concrete examples of your motivation and leadership. Explain how you are going to use your education to accomplish your goals
Give yourself time for revisions. Prepare to write several drafts of your personal statement. Get feedback from others. For example, show it to people on campus such as professors, advisors, classmates and teaching assistants. Revise it for clarity and content. Check your spelling, grammar and punctuation.