Writing a Great Personal Statement
When applying to college or to a graduate program, you may be asked to write a personal statement. Before you begin, the very first thing you need to realize is that the personal statement is the most important part of your admissions package.
The personal statement essay is your chance to state your achievements and qualifications in a manner that will be compelling to admissions committees. Most of the other components of your application are numbers (test scores, GPA, etc.) or out of your control (letters of recommendation). Your admissions essay is your one chance to set yourself apart from all the other applicants with the same grades and the same test scores. You need to think very carefully about what it is about you that will make an academic program take notice and say, "I want this person at our school!"
Crafting Your Best Personal Statement Essay
You'll usually be asked to write on a particular theme. You can click on the links below to see more information about common personal statement themes. Remember, however, the focus is on you. You'll need to use personal events from your life and what you've learned to craft a compelling story. What do you feel strongly about? What provides you with your inner drive?
You want to show that you know how to think. A big part of what will attract admissions officials to your character will be the quality of your insightfulness. How do you think about the world? What events from your past have influenced your mindset?
Where are you headed? Nobody expects you to have all the answers, to have the next fifty years of your life charted out, but it's worth your while to think hard about where you want to be in five or ten years, and to articulate how the program you're applying to can help you get there.
Above all, be sincere. Too many applicants write what they think an admissions committee wants to hear. Admissions officers have read it all - they know the difference between a sincere, honestly expressed personal statement essay and one that is made-up fluff.
The professional editors at EssayEdge can help you transform your personal statement into something that will stand out among the flood of essays from similar candidates. Whether you're off to college, graduate school, an MBA program, medical school, or law school, we've got the right editor for you at an affordable price.
There are four common types of personal statement themes:
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1. Pick a topic you’re passionate about.
Your writing will be both easier and more genuine if you write about what you want to write about, instead of writing about what you think colleges want to hear. The most successful essays describe a moment of personal growth, difficulty, strength, or confidence, all of which people experience in vastly different ways.
If you are serious about your college essay, you will most likely be spending a fair amount of time brainstorming, writing, and editing until you make it as near perfect as possible. Understandably, this process will proceed quicker if you actually enjoy the topic you are writing about.
More importantly, if you love the topic you choose, your reader will see it in your writing: the more passion you feel for a subject, the easier it will be to express yourself. So if your greatest personal growth story occurred as you were picking out socks for the day, so be it. Perhaps you managed to find courage on a stage in front of two thousand, or maybe just two people.
Remember that this is your personal statement, your only chance to differentiate yourself as a unique individual to colleges apart from grades, test scores, and resumes. Write about a topic that excites you, and you will excite your reader.
2. Engage your reader from the first sentence.
Regardless of the topic you choose, your reader’s interest must be captured in the first sentence. Out of thousands of essays, why should yours stand out? A perfect introduction will leap out to the reader and grab their attention.
The best way to do this is through as much detail as you can muster. If you have chosen a sport or activity you excel in, show your reader through your words a split second of what participating in the activity is like. Write as if you are telling a story: what was the setting? What was the weather like? Were there other people there? What emotions were coursing through you at that exact moment?
Many students will begin their essays, “The most life-changing/important/difficult moment in my life has been___.” Over time, admissions officers will lose steam over the constant repetition, and all essays that begin as such will fail to make an impact.
Make it easier for your reader to remember you by writing a story as your introduction. The more specific detail you add in, the more the reader will get into the story and the more sold they’ll be on you.
3. Ask yourself “So What?”
As with any good essay, you should spend at least a paragraph explaining the “so what?” aspect of your essay. If you have chosen a specific activity to write about, in addition to writing about the activity itself, colleges want to know why this particular activity has made an impact on your life.
So you’ve been playing baseball for the last ten years, so what? Perhaps playing baseball taught you teamwork, or made you appreciate the value of practice and determination in achieving your goals. As this is a college essay with a point to make about your character, a substantial portion of your essay should answer the “so what?” question.
Colleges want to know how you have grown as a person through your own experiences and how they have changed you, and stating why such experiences were important to you aid in convincing admissions officers that their school could use more students like you.
If your detail and story-like aspect of your essay comes at the beginning, your “so what?” moment should wrap up your essay, connecting your activity in question with the purpose behind your choice of topic.
4. Read through your essay out loud.
It goes without saying that you should spell-check your essay before sending it off to colleges. As your personal statement is one you will presumably be using for the majority of your college applications (if your colleges use CollgeApp), there is no excuse for sending off an essay that is not completely free of mechanical and grammatical errors.
In addition to the automatic spellcheck on Microsoft Word, set time aside to read over your paper out loud. This will allow you to catch things your mind might otherwise overlook; because you are able to hear any wrong grammar or sentence structure, you are less likely to skip over it.
It is also wise to ask for a second opinion: let your parents read it, your English teacher or your friends. Ask them to read it and tell you what they thought the central message they got out of it was; if it is the same message you were hoping to send to admissions officers, your essay has succeeded.
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