How to Write a Successful Personal Statement

A personal statement is a brief overview of the story of you presented in narrative essay format. If you’re applying for admission to college or graduate school, you’ll need to know how to write a personal statement. Even some job applications require candidates to submit this type of statement.

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What Is a Personal Statement?

A personal statement is simply a statement about yourself. It could be an essay or a paragraph, depending on why you’re writing it. This type of statement is typically submitted along with application materials, such as applications for college, university or graduate school admission or a job.

General Checklist for a Personal Statement

There isn’t a one-size fits all answer to the question of how to write a statement about yourself, as each opportunity is unique and probably has specific requirements. Unless whatever you’re applying for provides different guidelines, follow this general checklist when preparing your own personal statement.

Step 1: Verify Requirements

You may be provided with a particular question to address or simply be instructed to submit a personal statement. Review the requirements (if any) and study the question (if there is one) to make sure you understand what your personal statement needs to include. Follow the instructions exactly. If you don’t, your application could be disqualified.

Step 2: Conduct Thorough Research

Research the school or organization to which you're applying. This provides insights that help you tailor your personal statement to clearly indicate why you are an outstanding candidate for their specific opportunity.

Step 3: Outline Key Points

Look closely at the questions or topic areas that you are being asked to address with your personal statement, if provided. If not, consider what the decision makers would most need to know about you and come up with a few related questions to focus on in your response. Write a brief response of approximately three sentences to each question or point you need to address as a springboard for your writing.

Step 4: Craft Your Essay

Once you have documented what you want to say in response to each question or topic area, convert it to essay form. Follow best practices for essay writing for an essay-length statement. Since this essay is about you, apply key tips for writing a personal narrative essay. If you’re writing a shorter statement, approach it like an about me speech, but in narrative form. Be honest, give examples and let your personality show through.

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Step 5: Edit the Essay

Check for grammar and format errors while also ensuring that the tone suits the application. Proofread your essay very carefully, being sure to remove all errors. Ask someone you trust to review your personal statement, like a faculty member or a member of your academic or professional network. Incorporate any feedback they share, then edit and proofread again.

Step 6: Do a Final Check Before Submitting

Before submitting your personal statement along with the result of your application materials, take the time to check it again. Simply read through it one more time, again editing for accuracy, truthfulness and grammatical precision. Review the specific assignment or requirements again, just as a final check to be sure you have followed all of the instructions and included all requested information.

How to Write a Personal Statement

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Personal Statement Samples

Before you start writing, you may find it helpful to view a few personal statement examples.

Sample Personal Statement for a College Application

The following example is a personal statement written from the perspective of a high school student seeking college or university admission. If you’re seeking admission to graduate school or medical school, also review these statement of purpose examples for graduate school.

Ever since I was a small child, I have dreamed of becoming a scientist. As I grew older, my passion for science grew with each passing year. Now that I have reached my final year of high school, I know with certainty that I want to become an environmental biologist. That’s why I’m applying for admission to State College University. I have thoroughly researched environmental biology programs and have concluded that your program is the best option. I feel that I will be an asset to your program as a student and as a graduate, once I complete the program and begin working in the field.

I have completed every science class offered at my high school and have excelled in each of them. My overall grade point average is 3.8, though I do have a 4.0 in science-related courses. In addition to earning as many credits in science as possible, I have participated in a number of extracurricular activities related to science. I worked at the local hands-on science museum between my junior and senior years and plan to do so again this summer before beginning classes at State College University in the fall. I am very involved in the biology club and chemistry club at my high school and have earned several state and regional science fairs awards.

I realize that majoring in environmental science in college will introduce me to new concepts and require new ways of studying. I welcome the challenge and am so excited at the prospect of becoming part of the 2021 freshman class at State College University. Making a decision to accept me into your program is an investment in the next generation of scientists who will represent your school in the field of environmental biology. I can promise you that you won’t come across other applicants who are more desiccated than I am. I would be honored to be accepted into your student body. I humbly ask for the privilege of acceptance and pledge to make the school proud in all that I do, both as a student and following graduation.

Keep in mind that you’ll likely need to tweak your personal statement for each school that you’re applying to attend. Most schools have at least a few unique requirements, as they don’t want applicants simply copying statements written for other institutions.

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Sample Personal Statement for a Job Application

If you’re in the market for a new job, you may need to know how to write a statement specific to the interests of prospective employers. Employers don’t always request personal statements from applicants, but such a request is not uncommon. This type of personal statement should be very brief, akin to a written elevator pitch. It should be just a paragraph that persuasively highlights your most impressive qualifications.

Experienced marketing professional with expertise specific to digital design, content marketing, social strategy and community building seeking director-level marketing communications role with a tech startup or innovation-driven, established organization in the tech space. Seeking to lead the marketing function within a fast-moving organization committed to bringing innovative solutions to market and leveraging martech solutions to establish and strengthen loyal customer relationships.

Because this type of statement should be clearly relevant to the job for which you are applying, it is fine to use industry jargon (like martech) as long as you are correctly using such terminology.

Share Your Story

Personal statements can be a lot of fun to write. You're sharing important components of your life, with the specific goal of expressing your worthiness for a certain role. As long as you remain true and share relevant information, you stand a good chance of achieving goals for which you are qualified.

For more suggestions that can be helpful as you work on drafting your statement, review these creative “about me” essay samples. If you’re not already so inspired that you know exactly what to write, reviewing a few more personal statement examples might be just what you need.