Remember their directions.

The Watson Foundation explains that “in your personal statement, you should discuss how your project is your project—and how it reflects your talents, concerns and commitments . . . The personal statement is an opportunity to provide the Watson Fellowship Program with a sense of who you are, including how you would benefit from the unique experiences the Watson Fellowship permits and how you would embrace the challenges of immersing yourself in cultures other than your own for a year. The content of the personal statement is up to you, but we require that it not exceed five double-spaced typewritten pages in no less than 11-point font.”

Connect your project to something larger.

Does this project take you back to something from your childhood—a book you read or a movie you saw and loved? Does the project grow out of a course you took or a paper you write here at Lawrence? Why, in short, would this trip be the culmination or fulfillment of a longstanding dream or ambition?

Tell a story or create an image.

Your application will be considered alongside lots and lots of others, and you’ll want to make sure that something about it—and that means something about you—jumps out at the reader. That “something” can be anything. It may be the fact that you’ve lived in the same small town your whole life; or the fact that you have always been into martial arts; or that you’ve done volunteer work at the local animal shelter.

Don’t be afraid to be passionate.

In applying for some jobs, or even for some other fellowships, you may want to play it cool. When you’re going for a Watson, it’s okay to be more passionate. If you’ve always dreamed of living in Japan or India or France—or wherever—by all means say so. If you’ve always been fascinated by some particular aspect of another culture, don’t be afraid to say that either. In this competition, intensity and sincerity are both big pluses.

Show why you’re the right person for this project.

Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that you and another candidate are both proposing to do very similar projects. Why should you get the nod? Why should we be confident that you are the right person, maybe even the best person, for this particular project? Do you have some particular qualification for the job? Would the Watson be especially meaningful or significant to you?

Be honest.

If there’s a part of the project or the experience that concerns or even scares you, don’t be afraid to admit it. One of the big questions for all Watson interviewers is, “Where’s the challenge?” You’ll want to be in control of that issue, to show that you know where the challenges are—and that you’re eager and ready to meet them head-on.

page created by Tim Spurgin -- last modified 8/23/04