Fellowships and Grants Personal Statements Online Advising
The fellowships and grants personal statement can seem like the most daunting and difficult part of your application.
Silver lining, though: a well-written essay can:
- Wake up a bored application committee (most essays they'll read are extremely similar)
- Convey your real personality and make you come alive to your readers
- Depict your experiences in movie-like clarity and detail
- Show your best qualities and values
- Help the reader see why you and their program are such a great fit
Simply put, the essay is not a to-do; it's a powerful tool to help you get accepted!
Lauren Hammond is our fellowships and grants application essay expert and has been helping people write their personal statements for several years. Whether you just want some feedback on a draft, or you're staring at a blank Word doc and don't know where to begin, she is happy to help!
Contact Lauren directly at 951-395-4646 (phone or text), or send us an email.
She works with people online via Zoom and via email / Google Docs.
Lauren: I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Literature and Writing, with a concentration in Writing, at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) and my Master’s Degree in English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University (SDSU). I recently completed my PhD in English at the University of California Riverside (UCR) in September 2023. Upon graduating, I began my current position as UCR's Graduate Writing Center Specialist and Fulbright Program Advisor last summer.
I have been a writing consultant for nearly 10 years now, and I've helped people with research writing, thesis/dissertation projects, rhetorical and literary analyses, writing in the humanities, grammar/sentence mechanics, and more. My focus for VKTP centers on graduate school application materials– including personal statements, diversity statements, and research statements– as well as job market materials for academic and alt-academic positions– resumes, CVs, cover letters, etc.
During my downtime, I love hanging out with my husband, 2-year-old daughter, and our two dogs, Link and Leia! My favorite activities are going on the boat, cruising on the golf cart, and making our way through all of the local eateries. When we aren’t out and about, I typically enjoy reading and watching movies.
Working with Lauren is $225 per hour or $995 for a package purchase of 5 hours. You can reach her at 951-395-4646 (phone or text), or by sending us an email.
Love For Lauren
"I had about 6 sessions with Lauren Hammond to go over my personal statements for PhD/PsyD Clinical Psychology applications. I had different goals for each of my statements (e.g., trim, content development, brainstorm ideas), and she tailored each session to meet my needs. An hour might seem short, but she was very productive and sometimes went over two short statements in one session. She was also available via text for any brief questions or concerns. I am very happy with her service and recommend it to anyone who wants to craft a stand-out personal statement. I thought my writing skills were already good, but the final product, including her revisions, turned out even better than I expected."
- Fiona Wang (see review on Google Maps)
Lauren helped me out SO much with my MFT graduate school essays. I've already gotten an interview from two schools, and I was incredibly happy with the essay results. 110% would recommend her! Thank you so much Lauren.
"Very happy to have worked with Vince on my GRE prep and Lauren on my personal essay writing. Both were integral to my success in getting accepted to my ideal grad school. Vince had a very straightforward and understandable approach toward taking the test which helped remove the test anxiety I definitely would have otherwise felt. I knew exactly what was coming weeks before I sat down to take it and managed to score about 10-15 points higher than I would have without his help. Lauren was equally helpful in editing my essay - both on the finer details as well as big picture ideas and concepts. I wholeheartedly believe their assistance throughout the GRE and grad school application process is what pushed me over the edge and got me accepted into my ideal program at my ideal school. 5 stars, no question."
- Clifford Grant (see review on Google Maps)
"I worked with Lauren Hammond on my personal statement and she was amazing!! I spent a couple months working with her and it was one of the best decisions that I feel elevated my grad school applications. I came into the first meeting with a draft essay that was basically my resume and was all over the place. Lauren helped me nail down my story and what I am passionate about. I ended up writing an amazing personal statement with great feedback from Lauren that I felt really showed readers who I am. She was super flexible with the times we met and I ended up getting into my TOP choice schools (Johns Hopkins, Brown, etc). I would definitely work with her again!"
- Aster M. (see review on Google Maps)
"Lauren Hammond was so incredibly helpful with my personal statements for grad school. I really needed help with organization, staying focused on a coherent narrative and content-building, which she was phenomenal with. She's also a really sweet person and a pleasure to work with! Can't recommend her enough."
- Mira Park (see review on Google Maps)
"As I was applying to PhD programs, I was struggling to write my personal statements. I searched online for hours to try and find something or someone that looked worth spending the money on and I came across Lauren Hammond at Vince Kotchian Test Prep. I was only planning on doing maybe one session to help get me started but Lauren was SO good that I continued working with her for weeks. She gave such valuable feedback and felt like she truly cared about making my work the best it can be. I even recommended her to my other colleagues who were applying to grad school and they felt the same way. I currently have 3 interviews for grad school and I couldn't have gotten those without her help!"
- Mikayla Haas (see review on Google Maps)
"Lauren Hammond was amazing. She provided me with thoughtful feedback that structured and strengthened my graduate school application essays. She was great at asking questions to push me to be a better writer. You can tell she genuinely cares about her students and wants to see you succeed. Additionally she is flexible in scheduling and will make deadlines work with your timeline. I was accepted into my top school choice and appreciate Lauren for her help in the process. If you or someone you know is looking for an essay tutor for graduate applications, Lauren is definitely the best!"
- Renee Begin (see review on Google Maps)
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should I spend writing my fellowships and grants personal statements?
We generally recommend about 4-8 weeks - 6 weeks is a good sweet spot. It takes time to come up with ideas and get those ideas onto paper in a compelling form.
How can I make my personal statement stand out?
MOST personal statements are BORING! Not because the person writing them is boring, but perhaps because:
- Their focus is too broad. They try to cover everything they've done, and nothing ends up standing out.
- They're impersonal. It's a personal statement - the reader needs to get a sense of who you are and what you're actually like - not some sanitized "professional" version of you.
- They're too safe. Ironically, a statement that takes no risks can be the riskiest thing you can do. We're not applying to a program with the intent of blending in with all the other applicants!
Granted, the above things can be overdone, or done wrong. But most statements make no impact, so it's worth thinking about how yours actually can.
What are the basics of applying for fellowships and grants?
Applying for fellowships and grants is like navigating a complex labyrinth — it requires meticulous planning, a clear vision of your project or research, and the ability to convincingly articulate its value and impact. Here's a roadmap for successfully navigating this process:
Firstly, defining your project or research idea is crucial. It needs to be well-thought-out, innovative, and relevant. Whether it's academic research, a community project, or a creative endeavor, your proposal should address a gap or need in your field and propose a viable way to address it.
Understanding the specific requirements and goals of the fellowship or grant you're applying for is essential. Each funding opportunity has its unique focus, eligibility criteria, and expectations. Tailoring your proposal to align with these requirements significantly increases your chances of success.
A strong application typically includes a detailed proposal or project plan. This should clearly outline your objectives, methodology, timeline, and expected outcomes. It should also demonstrate your competence and readiness to carry out the project.
Budget planning is a key component. You need to present a realistic, detailed budget that justifies the funding you're requesting. This includes direct costs like materials and equipment, as well as indirect costs like travel or administrative expenses.
Your academic and professional credentials support your application. This includes your past experiences, publications, presentations, or any relevant work that establishes your credibility and expertise in the area you're proposing to explore.
Letters of recommendation or endorsements can bolster your application. Choose referees who are familiar with your work and can vouch for your ability to successfully complete the project.
For many fellowships and grants, especially in academia, interviews or presentations might be part of the selection process. This is your chance to passionately and persuasively discuss your project and how the fellowship or grant will facilitate its success.
Networking and mentorship can play a significant role. Engaging with past recipients, mentors, or professionals in your field can provide valuable insights and advice for strengthening your application.
In summary, applying for fellowships and grants involves developing a well-defined and impactful project or research proposal, carefully aligning it with the funding organization's goals, meticulously planning your budget, showcasing your qualifications, and effectively communicating the significance and feasibility of your work. It's a challenging but rewarding process for those committed to advancing their ideas and making a meaningful impact in their field.