I am applying to our organization‘s scholarship program to pay for graduate school (if I get accepted).

One of essay questions is:

Why is graduate study important at this time in your life?

Well, there are lot of personal reasons for that. For instance, I wish to get my mind off a terrible tragedy in my life that happened about a year or two ago, and they say being productive and busy is one of the best ways to get over things.

Question: How much personal things to include in a scholarship essay? Would this add depth to the essay, or simply detract. I mean, the word life is in the question and it includes all sorts of things beyond academics and career.


Thank you all for your feedback.

It also answered other questions that I did not post, so a big thank you to all.

  • 3
    If this question comes up on the grad school app itself, the answers you get here are most relevant. If this question is being asked by a commercial enterprise that you work for, The Workplace might have more relevant insights. Things you wouldn't bother to tell a grad school might possibly be of interest to an employer deciding to fund you, and vice versa.
    – user4512
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 20:14
  • @ChrisWhite That's a good idea. Might post on Workplace because its my employer that is funding this.
    – Rhonda
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 23:23
  • 7
    "they say being productive and busy is one of the best ways to get over things"... for my personal experience, I think this is incredibly bad advice. In this way you do not get over things. You simply forget about them, without resolving the actual issues. Which means if in the future that situations, for some reason, comes to your mind again you'll be in the same situation as before. Running from problems doesn't solve them. Sure standing up against a tragedy (a loss in my case) is hard, but distracting doesn't really help in the long run.
    – Bakuriu
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 6:21
  • @Bakuriu Well, that does make sense. I mean, I'll still apply for scholarship for grad school, but I won't try to forget these situations.
    – Rhonda
    Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 12:25
  • To add to what @Bakuriu said - there are a lot of different methods to get over tragedy. "Standing up" to a tragedy, means to understand why its made you feel the way you felt, accepting what you [could have done/ were not able to do], and letting it go.. moving on as a better and wiser person. Different religions (not that I'm for, or against, religion) usually offer different ways to achieve that, and therapists or counselors can also help lead to understanding. Being able to let go of any pain you still have, (if you still have any) might be worth looking into your options. Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 17:35

3 Answers 3


You should probably keep your academic interests as the main point. If you write that you are applying to recover from a tragedy in your life, it might not be clear whether you are actually interested in that specific program (or are you just looking for something to do) or whether you might change your mind later.

Also, someone could suspect whether you could tolerate additional stress right now.

Anyway, if you have been out of work or study for a long time due to the tragedy, it is probably best to briefly mention it.

  • I like this approach best.
    – Rhonda
    Commented Oct 25, 2015 at 19:28

I would caution against including too much intimate personal information on scholarship application.

First, it is not clear how your personal story will be received by the people reading your application. Depending on the nature of the tragedy, some people may feel sympathy, but others may find themselves offended or uncomfortable when reading the essay.

Secondly, certain personal tragedies are "stereotypical", such as wanting to study cancer biology after the death of a family member or wanting to study clinical psychology after suffering from mental disorders. Although there is nothing wrong with these experiences motivating your desire to study a particular field, such stories have been used so many times that they tell very little about you as a suitable applicant to graduate school.

Finally, I don't see how the personal tragedy provides a compelling reason why your graduate study should be funded. True, being a graduate student will keep you busy, but there are many other cheaper ways to keep yourself engaged. If you insisting on putting this personal experience in your essay, you should think about why graduate study stands out as the best course of actions.


You want the readers to feel like you want to be running to something - not away from something.

For instance, I wish to get my mind off a terrible tragedy in my life that happened about a year or two ago, and they say being productive and busy is one of the best ways to get over things.

When you say this, I read it as:

I want to distract myself since I'm emotionally unstable and a wreck. I'm hoping to bury myself in my work and make my problems go away and not deal with them.

It's important to consider how the person reading what you write will interpret it. You might say, in your words, one thing but those reading it might interpret something very different.

In this case, there is nearly no way to write what you are attempting to communicate without worrying the reader.

Instead, write something more like:

  • I really want to focus on learning. I have a passion for this and I've really been missing the focused learning available in graduate school

or something similar, etc.

  • If I put a summary on your answer, it would be "Don't focus on what prevented you from doing it previously, focus on why you want to do it now, and what you want for your future." Commented Oct 26, 2015 at 19:53

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