Osi Fellowship Application Essay

A personal statement for a fellowship or graduate school application is your opportunity to express to the selection committee who you are and why you are a great candidate for the program. In particular, an eye-grabbing lead sentence or opening paragraph is your most important tool for maintaining the reader’s attention. Here are some examples of powerful personal statement openings of winners of highly competitive fellowships.

  1. “My parents are acupuncturists who made the long trip from their tiny cluster of villages in Guangzhou, China, to the quaint suburbs of Northern California, two years before I was born.”

By a winner of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Macau. The applicant draws the reader to something memorable – her parents’ unique vocation – paving the way for an interesting story about her childhood and interest in working abroad. Read more.

  1. “Every morning at 10:00 a.m. I come face to face with the power of language to free; it happens in a classroom. The students I teach at Seattle Central Community College come from night work in an industrial bakery, from a Vietnamese refugee camp, from a 9-to-5 job in a car wash, or from the day care center where they’ve left their children.”

By a graduate fellowship applicant to the University of Washington. This opening paragraph begins to tell a story that reflects on the applicant’s work with a diverse community. Read more.

  1. “My grandparents have touched many lives: former drug addicts, refugees, neighbors, and my own. They have an uncommon ability to build relationships; they are a paradigm of service— where service is more than what you do and is also defined by who you are.”

By a winner of the Fulbright U.S. Student Grant. The lyrical nature of this stand-alone opening paragraph exhibits an advanced ability to use both words and punctuation to express the applicant’s personal values and how they originated. Read more.

  1. “Thirty years ago, my dad boarded a one-way flight to the U.S. Unlike the people he left behind, he was coming to a new country filled with educational opportunities his homeland could not provide. He was not limited by his place of birth.”

By a successful applicant to Teach for America. Immediately, the applicant has built a framework to describe his interest in education and equal opportunity, and his personal experience as a child of an American immigrant. Read more.

  1. “In the sixth grade, I took a test to see if I was left- or right-brained. To my elementary eyes, the result of that quiz would be the truth from on high—a resolute word that would define the man to come as either analytic or artistic.”

By a Marshall Scholar to the U.K. The applicant masterfully opens with a story to describe the early beginnings of his intellectual curiosity, a key characteristic that the selection committee seeks in applicants. Read more.

A common aspect of these opening statements is their ability to draw the reader in to a unique and memorable story that begins to describe why the applicant is applying to the fellowship. You can identify more personal statement samples like these online by Googling “personal statement example pdf” with the name of the fellowship.

For more tips on writing a compelling personal statement, see our Step-by-Step Guide For A Competitive Fellowship Application.

© Victoria Johnson 2016, all rights reserved.

Not currently accepting applications.


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The Drugs, Security and Democracy (DSD) Program fellowship is designed to support short-term research that contributes to the literature on drugs in Latin America and the Caribbean on topics and countries that are central to drug policy discussions in the region and beyond.

The competition is open to applicants conducting research in Latin America or the Caribbean who are fully embedded in and committed to the region, and whose research focus has a clear and central connection to the field of drugs and to formulating sound drug policy. Successful applicants will be those whose work and interests best match, and who demonstrate a long-term commitment to, these program goals.

In addition to conducting individual research, DSD fellows should contribute to the development of a global interdisciplinary network of researchers engaged with drug policy and communicate their findings to relevant audiences over the course of their careers.


DSD-funded research must address the primary theme of drugs in Latin America or the Caribbean. Proposals must demonstrate the potential for the research to contribute to a sound and credible knowledge base for informed advocacy and decision-making for drug policy. For the current fellowship competition, applications must address one of the following topics:

  • Drug policy / legal reform, including different depenalization, decriminalization, legalization, and regulation approaches as well as country-specific obstacles to reform
  • Marijuana, including legalization for medical use
  • Impact of drug laws on prison systems, including costs associated with pretrial detention for drugs
  • The dynamics and relationships between legal pharmaceutical drug markets and illicit drug production, including barriers to access and incentives/disincentives for producers
  • Drug policy and the peace process in Colombia
  • Analysis of institutional resource distribution between criminal and public health approaches to drug use
  • Drug economy and its dynamics

Preference will be given to candidates researching the aforementioned topics in Brazil, Caribbean countries, Central American countries, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay.

At the end of their fellowship tenure, fellows present to the program the results of their DSD-funded research along with a tentative plan for its dissemination. The program will work with fellows to choose an appropriate research deliverable, considering their fields, from the following list:

  • Research paper
  • Policy brief or white paper
  • In-depth news article or investigation
  • Proposal for legal reform
  • Multimedia production

In order to solidify and increase the knowledge of the region’s main actors in the drug field, DSD fellows are required, in the course of their research, to identify key stakeholders and any research gaps in the drug field in their research countries, as applicable.


Applications are welcome from midcareer and senior researchers/scholars conducting research in Latin America and the Caribbean that addresses issues with a clear and central connection to the field of drugs and to formulating sound drug policy. Eligible applicants must

  • be fully embedded in and committed to the Latin American and Caribbean region;
  • hold a terminal degree in their field of study or clearly demonstrate equivalent research experience related to the field of drugs, with at least a bachelor’s degree in any discipline;
  • focus on one of the topics indicated in the section above; and
  • if proposing to conduct research in a nonnative language, provide evidence of sufficient language proficiency to carry out the project.

Preference in the selection process will be given to candidates

  • who are citizens of a Latin American or Caribbean country and are living and working in the region; and
  • whose research projects focus on one of the countries listed in the section above.


The DSD Program provides support for a minimum of three and a maximum of six months of research in Latin America and the Caribbean, including write-up of the research deliverable. Candidates must spend at least half of their fellowship tenure researching their relevant topic, with the remaining time devoted to writing their research results in one of the deliverable formats to be agreed upon by the program and the candidate.

Fellowship amounts vary depending on the research plan. The fellowship is intended to support an individual researcher, regardless of whether that individual is working alone or in collaboration with others. DSD fellowships do not offer support for dependents.

The fellowship includes mandatory participation in one interdisciplinary workshop. The workshop will be organized by the SSRC and held in Latin America in either July or August 2015. Travel and accommodations will be provided by the program. Fellows are required to be active participants in the DSD network and are expected to produce a policy-relevant deliverable in addition to fellowship reports.

Deadline: March 2nd, 2015, at 9 PM EST.

DSD Program is funded by the Open Society Foundations. The program is a partnership between OSF, the SSRC, Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, and Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas in Mexico.


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