Many applications require a letter of intent or a personal statement, whether you’re applying for an undergraduate school or trying to get into graduate programs. Personal statements are one of the most important parts of the application and sometimes the deciding factor for admission. Personal statements can be tricky as you do not want to repeat what is stated elsewhere in your application, but you also don’t want to turn it into an autobiography. This guide will provide research and tips to help students write amazing personal statements.
What is a personal statement?
A personal statement is a brief essay that accompanies your application for university, college, or graduate school. It’s a way of introducing yourself to the admissions committee and showing them who you are. Your statement should be directly related to the program you’re applying to—if it’s an English major, write about literature; if it’s a degree in aerospace engineering, write about NASA missions!
The length of a personal statement can vary widely based on where you apply; some schools require only a couple hundred words while others want several hundred more. One thing they all have in common is an emphasis on quality over quantity. If your essay is too short or badly written (or both), it could negatively affect your chances of being accepted into a college or grad school.
Would You Rather Watch Instead?
The video will cover how to write an effective personal statement, including advice on choosing a topic, brainstorming ideas and organizing your essay. It also shows you examples of great personal statements that will inspire you to write something amazing!
These tips will help you no matter what type of graduate school program or college program you’re applying for. You can use these tips as inspiration when writing your statement or even if you’re trying to make a good first impression on someone important in your life (like a future employer).
If this isn’t enough information, for now, go ahead and continue reading our blog post below.
What makes a great personal statement?
The best personal statements are ones that show off your individuality and your passions. This means they should be personal, but it doesn’t mean they should include information like how many times you’ve watched Mr Bean or how long you’ve been playing the piano (unless those things are relevant to a particular program).
Instead, think about what makes you unique. What are your most defining characteristics? What interests do you pursue in your free time or at work? If something stands out about yourself, whether it’s an interest or an achievement—that can be used as the basis for a great personal statement!
1. The admission committee can identify the applicant’s core values
Your core values are what make you, you. They are the most important things to you, making them a natural starting point for your essay. Your core values can be used to identify your interests, passions, and motivations—all of which will be useful in helping the admission committee get to know you. The following is an example of a student’s core value:
“My core value is honesty.”
This example shows that the applicant’s most important principle is honesty—something they believe strongly enough to include in their application essay about the education process.
2. It’s vulnerable.
A personal statement is a vulnerable piece of writing. It’s an opportunity to show the school you are applying to what kind of person you are, and that means being honest about your experiences, feelings and values. That can be scary! But it’s also important for the school to know who will be coming into their program and how much work they will need to put in before graduating with a degree in psychology or nursing or accounting or whatever else.
If you don’t have any major life experiences (like living abroad), feel free to make up some stories about how great you were at math as a kid (or not). Because even if no one knows whether these things happened or not, schools want students who have good communication skills, so it doesn’t hurt to pretend!
3. It shows the insight and growth
You’ll be able to show the reader of your statement that you have insight into yourself and your situation. You can demonstrate this by:
- Explaining how you’ve learned from past experiences or explaining how you’re better now than before
- Addressing a challenge or obstacle in your life head-on, rather than avoiding it or making excuses for any poor choices made in the past
- Discussing obstacles that are currently present within your family unit or social group
4. It demonstrates craft (aka it’s articulate and reads well)
It’s not enough to write down your thoughts and ideas. It would be best if you did so in a way that communicates with them, too. That means using a variety of techniques:
- Clear, concise writing — Your essay should be well-written and easy for the admissions committee to understand. It should avoid filler words like “very” or “really”; be free of grammatical errors; use correct spelling; employ correct punctuation; adhere to proper sentence structure (e.g., parallelism); and stay within the character limits prescribed by each school (generally 250-500 words).
- Use language appropriate for each school — Don’t try to write in a formal style if the school uses informal language in its statements or vice versa—write as you would normally speak!
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What are some great personal statement topics? (aka How do I brainstorm mine?)
The first step to writing a great personal statement is choosing a topic you can write about. The topic should be specific, unique, and relevant to the program or school you’re applying to since they will likely look at your application in greater depth than the average admissions officer.
Doing some research on whatever institution you’re applying with is critical here—you want your essay to match the school’s mission statement and values, as well as its admissions requirements and timeline. For example: if a school requires an SAT score of 1200 or higher for admission (and if you don’t have one), don’t pick “How I Learned To Love Math” as your essay topic! Here are some other tips for brainstorming ideas:
- Be personal – talk about something from your past that relates directly back to the subject (i.e., how did something from your childhood prepare you for this?).
- Be passionate – detail why this particular topic interests you so much (i.e., maybe it’s because of something related again).
Here are 5 great brainstorming exercises to get you started
- Ask your friends and family what they think of your story. You can do this informally by having an open-ended conversation or in a more structured way by asking them to write down their thoughts on post-it notes.
- Write down all the things you like about yourself.
- Ask your friends, family, and teachers what they think you are good at.
- Think of all the things that are important to you outside school and write them down, such as music or sports.
- Write down the things that make you proud of yourself (such as achievements).
After doing those, you can also check out this Top College Essay Topics and Ideas That Worked list.
How should I write a personal statement?
To write a winning personal statement, you have to:
1. First, outline.
Once you know what the essay should be about, it’s time to outline. An outline can help you focus on the most important parts of your essay, and if it’s done well enough, it may even help keep you from getting stuck or going off-topic.
Some writers prefer this method, while others find it too restrictive. If you choose this route, make sure your outline is detailed enough so that you can fill in the gaps later. It would be best if you also ensured that your essay flows logically from point to point and has a compelling overall argument.
The easiest way to do this is by writing a few sentences that describe each major point in your essay. You should also write down any other key points—these will often be things like “this story shows…” or “this attachment shows…”—and then fill those blanks with more details as they come up during the writing.
If there are some main arguments (or arguments at all) that will run throughout the piece, write those down too; then consider how they fit into the overall structure of your work and whether any other places would benefit from these arguments being made somewhere else too.
Here are some solid example outlines:
Narrative outline (developed from the Feelings and Needs Exercise)
- Domestic abuse (physical and verbal)
- Controlling father/lack of freedom
- Prevented from pursuing opportunities
- Cut off from world/family
- Lack of sense of freedom/independence
- Faced discrimination
What I Did About It:
- Pursued my dreams
- Travelled to Egypt, London, and Paris alone
- Challenged stereotypes
- Explored new places and cultures
- Developed self-confidence, independence, and courage
- Grew as a leader
- Planned events
What I learned:
- Inspired to help others a lot more
- Learned about oppression, and how to challenge oppressive norms
- Became closer with mother, somewhat healed relationship with father
- Need to feel free
2. start drafting
Now that you have a good idea of the personal statement, it’s time to start drafting your essay.
Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. Don’t worry about length. Don’t worry about content. Don’t worry about style or structure; write down whatever comes to mind, even if it doesn’t make sense yet!
3. Revise (And revise. And revise …)
After you’ve finished writing your statement, it’s time to revise. Revise, revise, revise!
Make sure that it is clear and concise; show the admissions committee that you know how to communicate effectively in written form. Make sure it is compelling; convince the reader that they should consider accepting you into their school based on what you have written. Make sure that it is original; don’t rehash other essays; instead, focus on why YOU are here and want this opportunity.
Lastly, ensure your essay is grammatically correct (no one wants a bad mistake in their application).
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Three personal statement examples
Personal statement example 1:
This personal statement shows a lot of detail but doesn’t explain much. It focuses on the applicant’s achievements and what they hope to achieve in their future career.Personal-statement-example-1
Personal statement example 2:
This statement is a bit more creative because it uses metaphors to explain what the applicant wants out of life. The metaphors are related to nature and plants, both symbols of growth and renewal.Personal-statement-example-2
Personal statement example 3:
This statement is straightforward—no extra details are being used! It focuses on why you want to go into this field and how you’ll benefit from it.Personal-statement-example-3
We hope these personal statement examples have helped you understand how to write a personal statement of your own. If you’re honest about who you are, what your values are, and what matters to you—and reflect on why that is—you can’t go wrong. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t the most award-winning or thought-provoking essay in the world; what matters is that it represents you and shows your personality. Remember, this is your opportunity to tell colleges and scholarship programs why they should invest in YOU!
Get out there, brainstorm on some great personal statement topics, and have fun with it!
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