What is a personal statement? It is a part of the required set of documents that you are to submit to a school in order to be enrolled as a student. As the term suggests, this statement is supposed to be personal. In other words, this part of your college application is where you focus on yourself and your personality. You should aim at “selling” yourself to the responsible committee. You explain to them why they should pick you out of all the applicants, why you want to study there and what you plan to do there.
Normally, a personal statement should not exceed 1000 words, so this is the limit into which you must fit all the relevant information about yourself. To write a truly stunning personal statement, you should view this task from different approaches or rather different angles that represent the criteria by which your reader – the responsible committee – will most likely evaluate it and decide whether they want to see you on the next step – the interview. Here they are:
1) Clarity. This is no place to go deep into reflections on whatever topics. You should stay to the point. Most schools aid their applicants in writing personal statements by giving out some questions that they expect to be answered in the document. Use those as your guidelines and stick to them.
If you apply to more than one school or more than one specialty, you will probably be tempted to send them uniform answers. This is not a good idea. Instead, write out all answers separately and keep in mind the individual details of every school that you are aware of – what this particular school’s faculty and student life is famous for.
2) Storytelling. Since this writing is about you, it obviously needs to be your story. How have you come to the point of choosing this particular future profession? Why do you want to study at this particular school? What do you plan to do with the knowledge that you will obtain? The answers to these questions should be backed up with your concrete life experiences that lead you to your decisions.
The worst thing here is to bore your reader, so try your best to write lively and fresh. This will put you ahead of your “competitors”.
3) Good beginning. You need to interest your reader from the start. This is why your opening paragraph is arguably the most important part of your personal statement. It sets the tone for the rest of the statement and lines out the framework of the writing as a whole. Your goal here is to ignite your reader’s attention in such a way that it would last until the very last line of your statement.
4) Being informative. We have already mentioned that your personal statement needs to be as personal as it gets and focus on your experiences which lead you to make up your mind on mastering this particular profession at this particular school. As you write the main part of your personal statement, you list all these. Remember that you are limited by the volume requirements, so it is not such a good idea to talk about your school projects because that should already be covered in your other application documents.
5) Research. Answering the question why you chose this particular school and profession over others may get you thinking something like “Really, why did I choose this?” It will be worthwhile to research everything there is to know about this school – from former alumni down to the geographical and cultural factors. This is how you demonstrate not only your motivation but also your awareness. You need to convince your reader not only that you are the perfect applicant for their school, but also that their school is the perfect one for you.
6) Being careful. Always ask yourself – do I want to put this piece of information in my personal statement? Remember about the things that should be avoided when writing the statement. We have already mentioned that there is no need to mention your school achievements here because this topic is already covered in other documents that you submit when applying and because you have to fit into 1000 words or so.
Another thing to be avoided is any topic that may be regarded as controversial. For example, political or religious issues. You do not know the people who will be reading your personal statement, so try and eliminate anything and everything that might raise any form of controversy.
7) Literacy. Finally, one of the most important personal statement tips is to ensure it is well written regarding grammar, spelling, etc. No doubt, some professions require master writing skills for the successful career less so than other. Yet, the people reading your statement will undoubtedly be quite literate and perhaps even somewhat snobbish in terms of grammar. So, once you are ready with your draft, be strongly encouraged to run it through some grammar- and spelling-checking software and/or leave it for editing and proofreading to someone qualified and trustworthy.
A good way to avoid mistakes is to avoid “fancy” words and phrases which some applicants are tempted to use as a futile attempt to impress the admission committee. It is better to be yourself and be clear.
In this article, we have talked about the personal nature of a personal statement on several occasions. This is basically the main thing you need to keep in mind when writing your personal statement. Avoid using someone else’s examples, because it will influence you and compromise the individuality of your statement. And individuality is the main thing that gives it value.
Also, don’t write what you think the committee wants to read in your personal statement. You don’t know these people (yet), and it makes no sense to try guessing their likes and dislikes and inventing an imaginary self to meet imaginary requirements. Remember that it is your beautiful personality that you are advertising here, and not your previous academic achievements, and certainly not someone else’s personality.
About the Author:
Richard Nolan is a writer and a private tutor, sharing his experience in spheres of writing, blogging, entrepreneurship and psychology. Richard writes for numerous blogs and gives useful tips for bloggers and students.