The personal statement is one of the most important parts of your college application. It’s your chance to show that you are more than a transcript and GPA. It gives you space to talk about what motivates you, how your background and interests have led you to this point in time, and why a particular school matters to you. Getting into any university is hard work, but writing a good personal statement is an art form all its own — here’s how to make sure yours is up to snuff.
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A personal statement is an essay, which is submitted along with your application to a college or university. It’s a great way to show admission officers who you are as a person. It’s an opportunity for you to explain what motivates you, what your life experiences have been, and where you see yourself going in the future. Personal statements usually have 3–4 sections. A few helpful tips and formatting suggestions can make your text flow more smoothly, and make it easier for readers to relate to your unique voice.
Before you start, make sure you have a proofread to make sure you don’t mess up anything important.
Here are some popular sections:
1. Who am I? — The first part answers this question for applicants. They explain why they’re interested in a particular campus, how they think they fit the school’s academic profile, and what makes them excited about the school. Keep it brief — do not go off the main subject trying to sell yourself.
2. My Vests — What have I done in the past to demonstrate my character, temperament, and character traits? Ask your parents for personal statement examples if you have trouble coming up with something.
3. Additional Personal Information — This part really helps with the narrative. It answers other questions like when did you start to take an interest in a certain field, and why. Your past experiences play a big part in your chances of admission. Review why they are important here, so readers know why you did well in school.
4. Recommendations — Get specific about what academic credentials (recommendations) the school is looking for. They also look at your leadership and volunteer work. Finally, include a list of three or four schools that they particularly liked.
Next to each recommendation section, you should put a brief statement of why you believe they are important. They serve as a filter for your application. Doing so ensures that you highlight only the schools where you are most qualified and demonstrate why you fit the school’s requirements.
There are some things you should avoid in your personal statement, like writing about things that are not related to why you want to be a doctor. For personal statement examples, if you’re applying to medical school as a woman, don’t talk about how you’re a woman so you deserve it. Avoid talking about your childhood. Certainly don’t forget to mention your high school experience. Avoid stating your major unless you really must.
The personal statement is the first step in answering the admissions bar. You’ll receive over 100 elements in your letter of interest, from your SAT or ACT scores to your high school class rank and the activities and clubs you have participated in. Since you will be asked to write an essay as well, the personal statement serves two purposes: It gets your written responses to both your written and standardized test scores to go along with your application and gives you room to explain any writing or other gaps on your application. Here’s how to write a great personal statement, using some guidelines we go over as well as some tricks to make it stand out.
Words can do so many things. Right now, they can get you the admission you want or give you pause. To answer the two main questions on the application:
Keep it short. Most people let their personal statements hang out too long, or they worry that they will seem self-serving. Try for just five to ten lines. Try not to use any long-form word count. There are no wrong answers, but try and stick to the kind of lines we often see in personal essays:
For personal statement examples, use something like this “Arts and leisure activities bring a great deal of richness to my life. Whether it’s reading poetry, watching live theatre, or sharing a pint as a team at a pub, I will always be drawn to creative things that engage my mind and heart.”
That is a good personal statement sample.
You may have covered this already, but if you include your academics here, nobody will think you’re dodging the question.
A personal statement should be written in the first person, present tense. Keep it short, sweet, and straight to the point. It should give the right balance of information about your skills and what you want to do. Below is a short checklist of points to consider for your personal statement. To get you started, here is a sample draft of my incomplete personal statement.
Goals/goals of the school: Obviously list your goals for graduating, and explain what makes you excited about the school, since that is what will really get you to apply. Also, detail what you are looking for specifically, based on your passion/interests. Too many students go to schools that offer so little because they believe a good GPA and test scores will show them they belong. The problem is that a lack of outside motivation causes students to stagnate and do poorly on tests and in class. From personal experience, I learned that pursuing something passionately and which you are passionate about will help increase your chances of admission.
Resumes and transcripts: Include the information from your high school that supports your application. For instance, if you took AP French in high school and have a currently accepted college degree, include that. You might also want to add any achievements from organizations and clubs you participated in as a student. Also, if your transcripts have specific school evaluations or essays from specific teachers, highlight those. Unfortunately, very few schools allow full re-cords, so make sure you highlight the relevant parts of your transcript. Also, if you used an online school for your undergrad, make sure your resume and transcripts both include the specific online program you took.
Curriculum vitae: For most graduate schools, a CV is required even if you don’t plan on applying. Make sure to include your job history and highlights from your most recent studies.
Before you begin, make sure that you articulate why each school is a good fit and why you’re the best fit. You don’t have to list out the reasons why you’re amazing or why you’re going to gain so much from going to this school over others. An excellent personal statement focuses on the intangible benefits you’ll gain from attending this university. As cliché as it sounds, you’re not here to get an MBA or a fancy academic paper, so don’t stress about the quantitative stats here; writing about how you’ll learn more about yourself and your career by attending a particular school than others would be overkill. For me, a compelling personal statement comes down to one word: value.
While you may not be able to get straight to the point in your personal essay, I’d suggest it keeps things simple while still leaving space for readers to open up their minds. Let them know why, in a way that doesn’t make them want to swipe left immediately. This also gives you a chance to reframe thinking about certain subjects or firms altogether. For example, in my own application essay, I talked extensively about why I was interested in studying Sinology at Michigan— within that essay, I attempted to reframe my views on this hot topic. If both you and your school’s admissions committee are interested in learning more about you — and what you can bring to the table — a personal essay is your chance to endear yourself to the admissions staff.
The rest of your essay is entirely up to you, but I’d recommend outlining the experiences that will prepare you well for the rigors of college life and for the debates and social circles that will include your classmates.
When you’re writing your personal statement for college, you need to know who you’re writing it for. You’re not writing it for yourself, you’re writing it for a panel of strangers. You want to look and see if the professor and the admissions committee will see the same thing you do in your applicant statement: an intent to learn. The type of statement you’ll be writing will depend upon your preferred school. If you’re applying to a state school, you’ll presumably be writing a personal statement for university. If you’re being referred by a parent/guardian, ask what they like to see in a personal essay. We will touch on that shortly.
Nail your intent to learn in the language used in your personal statement. The personal statement is the first part of the admissions process — it explains why you want to come to this school and how you intend to use it to achieve this goal. While you can cover the important facts like why you’re applying and why you think you deserve to be here, it’s best to show how you’ve learned more about the school and its people than just what you learned in school. Here are some starter topics:
Add details about the school and your experience there. Don’t overfill your statement if you don’t have to. You’re competing with hundreds of other applicants for these spots, and the personal statement essay is your best chance of sticking out.
Crafting a great essay is like crafting a great speech — it takes time and effort, but the rewards are greater than you can imagine. Now that you know how to write a compelling essay, it’s time to go out and do it!
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