Writing a Personal Statement? 5 Tips to Help You Get Started

A Personal Statement is one of the many factors colleges consider when making an admission decision.  It is an opportunity for you to tell the admission committees about you as an individual, and why you are a good fit for the school. Need help getting started? Here are five tips on writing a strong personal statement.


Start Early

A Personal Statement or Personal Essay is a requirement for almost all college applications.  Unfortunately, this is not a one-paper-fit-all scenario. Every school assigns specific topics in this section. If you are applying to 6 to 8 different schools, it is very possible that you will need to write 10 to 20 responses. Even though some content can be reused in more than one essay, each personal statement should be tailored specifically to the school; do not just copy and paste! Writing a personal statement is a very time-consuming part of the application process. To ensure you have sufficient time to create high quality essays, the key is to start early.  The summer before your senior year is a good time to start brainstorming ideas and creating your first drafts.


Read the Instructions and Prompts Carefully

Before creating your drafts, you must first read the instructions and prompts written on the applications carefully and in full. The instructions should tell you whether you need to respond to all prompts or if you can select from a few options. The prompts are basically the questions that need to be answered in your personal statement.  Think about the overall message and impression you want to communicate to the readers, and create a list of keywords. Brainstorm a few potential topics or stories that are associated with these keywords and start from there. Also, be sure to adhere to the word count restriction.


Be Personal (It is a PERSONAL Statement)

The content of your letter shouldn’t be full of what you think the school wants to hear; it should be personal, honest, and professional.  Schools are interested in learning about your life stories, personal characteristics, experiences, ambitions, motivation, etc.  Demonstrate your qualities by telling a story, and support the story by detailing your experiences and providing solid examples. You should also get to the point quickly and not waste time on writing a long introduction. A strong personal statement is the one that admission committees will enjoy reading, so it is important to make it interesting to read. You might not have many exciting things going on in your life, but your essay should show that you are enthusiastic, motivated, and different from the other candidates.


Never Blame

Many students have gone through struggles in order to accomplish what they have, and admission committees are generally interested in understanding how students handle challenges. However, they are not interested in hearing your complaints or excuses. Do not blame anyone in your essays or make excuses for setbacks.  If you need to explain a bad grade in your transcript, make sure you state the facts and tell them how you fixed the problems. They want to know if you can face challenges with the right attitude, and if you can turn negative experiences into positive ones.


Select Your Reviewers

I’m sure you know how important it is to have someone review your essay and give you feedback. However, one mistake many students make is that they have too many people reading the essay for them. You should choose no more than three readers to review your essay. When choosing a reviewer, make sure the person has a similar writing style as you; your English teacher probably has a completely different writing style than your uncle who is a scientist.  Some students even combine paragraphs based on the revisions from different reviewers and make the essay fragmented and confusing.  Make sure your essay flows smoothly and is clearly understood by expressing your ideas coherently, clearly, and concisely.


Hopefully the guidance above will give you some perspective on how to write a persuasive and well-organized personal statement.  A well-written essay should respond directly to the question(s) and should be written clearly without any errors. Remember that an interesting and unique response can make a positive impression on the admission committees and help you stand out among many other qualified applicants.


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