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I'm an undergrad who is applying a scholarship for Phd. I have already sent heck a lot of documents ranging from my academic background, letter of purpose, research statement etc.; it took more than two months to prepare them. There I - more than once - explained my future plans extensively.

Now, we are called for an interview, and we, again, need to fill a document where there is this question:

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What is the purpose of this question, exactly ? What do they expect to see ?

I mean I have already explained what I wanted to, what are my plans extensively, and now they want me to (I guess summarise) write it again with less than 51 words.

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I suspect there are two purposes.

  1. To make it easier for the committee by giving a synopsis. They are busy. A short blurb is helpful to keep track of the different applicants.

  2. To test your ability to synthesize and present information concisely. (The "elevator speech".)

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Question 1: Why the prompt?

I had similar prompts during grad school when I had scholarships, both through the university and third party foundations. Another answer noted two reasons, but I would add more possible reasons:

  1. To help them better know you. They probably don't have a hidden agenda.
  2. To make sure your goals line up to the scholarship's mission (e.g., if the scholarship wants to train future research scientists and you write "become a corporate intellectually property lawyer" you probably won't get the scholarship).
  3. To have something to share on their webpage if you get the scholarship (e.g., a University page about their scholars or a foundations page about the people they help).
  4. To have something to share with their donors or funding agency. People like to hear about those who they are helping.
  5. Sometimes universities have scholarship pools where all students apply to the same pool and a committee matches applicants to scholarships. Both my undergrad and graduate programs did this. This is related to my first point as well.

Question 2: What should you write? What you want to do. Try to match the scholarship's mission or purpose if the provide one. Examples might include:

  • I want to work towards discovering a cure for cancer as a researcher at the CDC. Specifically, I am interested in examining molecular carcinogenesis of throat cancer and how it may be used to predict cancer risk.
  • I aspire to become a professor who teaches young minds about importance of conservation in a changing world.

Also, make sure you have 51 words or less. If it's a web form, their software may truncate without telling you. If it's a paper form, they might disqualify you if you go over.

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