Global Korea Scholarship (Undergraduate) Application Guide: Form 2 Personal Statement

This post is part of my “How to apply for the Global Korea Scholarship for Undergraduates” series.

In my humble opinion, the essays are the most important part of the application because they showcase who you are as an individual. Before anybody asks, I will not share my essays because this section should be about what defines you and there is no standard nor correct answer for this. I am, however, happy to give some personal advice and prompts that hopefully will be of help.

Tips for Writing Your Personal Statement :

1) Be Unique & Impressionable

When writing about why you want to study in Korea and why should they choose you, remember to try to stand out from the rest of the applicants. For example, I knew that many Malaysians learned about Korea through Hallyu influences and would write about how K-pop or Korean dramas made them fall in love with the country. To stand out from the rest of the applicants, I instead chose to write about Korea’s rapid post-war economic development, and how this experience bears many lessons for my country, which is why I had to study Economics in South Korea and not any other country.

I need to emphasize that I am not discouraging you from writing about K-pop or Hallyu at all. The goal here is to attract the assessor’s attention by giving a loud first impression, so if you are confident that the Hallyu identity embodies who you are and shows the best of you, by all means, go ahead! A gentle reminder though, your personal statement should be about YOU, so while you wax poetic about how great Korea is, remember to always relate it to yourself by giving concrete examples. Here’s a comparison:

I want to study in Korea because I love Korean culture and entertainment. I am inspired by my idol xxx who worked hard to achieve his dreams, and I want to be like him too. xxx came from a poor family, but did not want to give up his dreams to perform on stage. He worked several odd jobs 7 days per week while auditioning until he finally gained the attention of yyy agency.

vs.

I want to study in Korea because I love Korean culture and entertainment. My fascination with Korea has led me to self study the Korean language since xxxx, where I relied solely on Internet resources to learn how to read, write, speak and listen to the language. I also got to talk to people from all around the world who share the same love for K-pop and realized how similar we are despite coming from different backgrounds. This is an experience I wish to emulate during my studies in Korea.

They both describe the same topic, but the former makes me more interested to learn about your idol and not you. Worse, after reading 4 sentences, I still know nothing about you and feel like I’ve wasted my time. The latter in contrast gives the impression that the applicant is resourceful, self-motivated and open to meeting new people, which are important traits for a foreign student to survive in Korea.

When it comes to any subject that you are truly passionate about, even the most mundane topics can be written in a captivating way. So just write about something heartfelt with sincerity, and it will be an essay worth reading.

2) Compelling Story-Telling

The instructions given on the form are as follows:

Motivations with which you apply for this program

- Family and Education background

- Significant experiences you have had; risks you have taken and achievements you have made, persons or events that have had a significant influence on you

- Extracurricular activities such as club activities, community service activities or work experiences

- If applicable, describe awards you have received, publications you have made, or skills you have acquired, etc.

If you answer these instructions factually, I am going to posit that you will not go very far in this scholarship selection. The assessor does not need you to reiterate how many brothers you have, or where you attended primary school, you’ve already covered that in Form 1. My advice is to use all these questions as prompts to tell stories about your life. Remember, excelling academically, or being active in co-curricular activities are merely prerequisites that will get you qualified but not necessarily chosen — this is a competitive scholarship and almost all the applicants would share these qualities, so you need to stand out.

How did your parents raise you? Did your primary or secondary school environment shape your competitiveness or fear of failure? What did you learn from your engagement in volunteering with a local community? How did you manage to secure the awards you have received, and what does it mean to you? Also, personally, I like to write about failures when it comes to significant experiences because I think how I learn to overcome them define me more than my successes. It is completely OK to write about your flaws because nobody is perfect — what is important is the effort you go through to improve yourself. The key is to pepper your personal statement with anecdotes that best helps the assessor understand who you are before meeting you in person, and seem like an interesting individual to talk to.

3) Be Specific, Concise & Honest

Keep in mind that vague is bad, so quantify your accomplishments whenever possible to demonstrate credibility. Examples of this include:

Organized online marketing campaign to promote local community centre’s Facebook page, resulting in 20% increase in page likes and 30% increase in user engagement / chosen as valedictorian in graduating class of 200 students / Raised $500 of funds on School Carnival Day as president of the English Language Society, the highest record in my school’s 30-year history.

There are already tonnes of tutorials on the Internet teaching this and they explain much better than I do, so Google is your best friend. I recommend doing this because numbers are always more convincing and give more context for comparison.

You would also want to write your personal statement using language that is easy to understand. I cannot emphasize enough that there is no need to use bombastic words or grammar, especially if you’re doing it solely to impress. No, it does not make you sound sophisticated, nor does the ability to use thesaurus make you an outstanding candidate. The most important thing is to ensure that your sentences flow naturally and can be understood at first reading — there is no guarantee that the assessors will take time to go through your application in detail, and most of the time they do not.

Also, not lying may seem like common sense to most people, but surprisingly some still resort to doing this to boost their application. Sell yourself, write about your most notable achievements, but do not exaggerate or conjure imaginary titles. You will be required to submit evidence to back your claims, and getting caught lying will automatically disqualify you. (+imagine how embarrassing it will be, it’s not worth it)

4) Ask for Help

When you’re done with your essay, re-read it a few times to catch grammar mistakes and check that it flows naturally. Once you’re happy with your personal statement, ask your friends or family or teachers to proofread it. I know it can be embarrassing to make people read about something as intimate as your personal statement, but getting honest feedback from other people really gives you the perspective of how you come off as a person from the essay, and most of the time the constructive criticism you get helps improve your personal statement.

Hope my guide helped and do not hesitate to drop a comment below if you have questions. Good luck with your application!

If you require further guidance, I offer proofreading/editing services for Personal Statements and Statements of Purpose for the KGSP application. Feel free to contact me @ korealah.my[at]gmail.com for details on price & procedure.

If you find this guide helpful, please feel free to give me a clap or leave a comment below.

I also share content on student life in Korea, Korean slangs and Korean culture on my Instagram: instagram.com/korealah.my

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