Typically, you’ll need some tips on how to write a personal statement for college entrance essays, scholarships, or professional applications. In some instances, you’ll be asked to address specific points of interest. Other times, the door will be open for interpretation.
No matter the format, a personal statement needs to accomplish a couple things. First, it needs to address every question outlined in the task. Second, it needs to demonstrate a deep level of personal reflection rooted in honesty. Given their varied purposes, there’s no set formula for personal statements. However, you can adhere to checklist to remain as thorough as possible. Let’s take a look.
Personal statements encompass a broad topic. Anything autobiographical is going to be multi-faceted. So, it’s best to develop a game plan. A checklist will help you maintain focus and precision:
Study the question or directions to develop a full understanding of what’s required.
Research the school or organization to which you’re applying.
Write a three-sentence response to each question as a springboard for your writing.
Write your essay.
Edit your essay.
Ask someone you trust to review it, i.e. a faculty member or a member of the professional community.
Read through it one more time, editing for accuracy, truthfulness, and grammatical precision.
Here’s another helpful tip. Develop a thesis statement or a theme about yourself. What makes you shine? Are you an endlessly hard worker? Are you fiercely loyal? Have you overcome enormous challenges in your life that taught you something powerful? Focus on what it is that makes you special and tie every point in your essay back to that central theme.
This will also help you from over-divulging. You can’t summarize your entire life in one essay and you must avoid needless details. Having a well-developed thesis will help you stay the course.
The first thing to include is loads of personality within the realm of professionalism. Of course, your grammar needs to be pristine, and this is not the place for slang or casual writing. However, that shouldn’t prohibit you from letting your personality shine. Truth be told, if you’re writing from a genuine place, your personality will poke through at the appropriate time.
The second thing to include is a killer introduction and mesmerizing conclusion. Spend quality time on these two elements. Your introduction is the hook that will make people want to read more. Likewise, your concluding paragraph is what’s going to stick with them. They’re your closing remarks, your final opportunity to be memorable.
Also, although a personal essay is all about you, remember to tie it into the school or organization at some point. That’s why you spent time researching them in the beginning. Explain why you’re interested in the opportunity they’re providing. Demonstrate you spent some time researching their university or institution.
Finally, here’s the key to looking like a topic expert. Whenever you state a claim or make a point, be sure to support it with specific examples. You can achieve this by including facts and statistics, adding awards or accomplishments, or sharing a notable quotation. Each of these will work as supporting evidence, thus solidifying your expertise. Be sure to avoid vague generalizations, they’ll only expose a lack of research.
While you want to include loads of personality, you don’t want to try to be funny. Now’s not the time to hope your joke will land well. Remember to keep it professional. Along these lines, table “taboo” subjects like religion and politics.
You also want to disregard superfluous adjectives. In truth, you don’t need an overabundance of adjectives and adverbs. Sometimes they only muddy the waters. Instead, let your theme shine through and leave phrases like “tremendously meaningful” or “enormously invaluable” to others who are trying too hard.
Finally, steer clear of negativity. Avoid spending too much time on any negative components of your academic or professional portfolio. Instead, remember that theme you developed and redirect each section back to it.
Personal statement formats and lengths will vary from application to application: 250-500 words, or one to two pages, is often a safe bet if it's not otherwise stated. Another safe bet is the need to keep your margins at one inch all around and your font size at 12.
Just as you carefully assessed the questions asked of you, make sure you examine the directions. Don’t be the applicant who demonstrates an inability to follow simple instructions. And, before you submit your statement, make sure you've read and reread your statement and adhered to these 11 Rules of Grammar. This is your time to shine and you can own it, with a little bit of planning and a whole lot of heart.