Tips on Writing a Good Personal Statement
The personal statement is the one place in an application where you have the power to show your true personality and to give the admissions committee insight into who you are as a person. However, this type of writing can be quite difficult, especially for students who have been trained to write in an academic manner, where boasting about oneself is frowned upon. Fortunately, there are a few tips that will make it easy to write a good personal statement that will show off the real you.
Write about Yourself, But Don’t Brag
Obviously, the personal statement should focus on you and your accomplishments. Resist the urge to devote space to your siblings, your parents, your favorite teacher and all the other people who made your journey possible. It’s great to acknowledge their help, but don’t tell their life stories. The admissions committee members are looking to learn about you, not them, so any space you give to others is time you aren’t using to make the case for yourself.
That said, you should also avoid the other extreme. Don’t come off as a braggart. When you discuss yourself and your accomplishments, do so with a sense of humility. It’s fine to share how proud you felt about what you have done, but be sure to remind the reader that you recognize that you still have a long way to go and that you recognize that value of hard work and dedication. In other words, you need to remind them that you know that their institution has a lot to offer you and you know it.
Avoid Too Much Flattery
A lot of candidates try to flatter the admissions committee by rhapsodizing over the school they hope to attend. In one case that became notorious among admissions officers, the student used the same personal statement for every school and explained how much he was in love with the school’s programs, its faculty, its campus, etc. The problem? He forgot to change the name when he passed the statement to include with each application. As a result, universities V, W, X, and Y all got statement talking about how much he loved university Z!
But students need to be aware that too much flattery can come across as insincere. A little bit of praise can show dedication and passion, but paragraphs praising everything from the architecture to the dining hall food show the student to be insecure and a little insincere. Try to limit your praise of the school in order to make those statements as effective as possible.
Tell a Relevant Story
One of the hardest tips of all is the recommendation to tell a relevant anecdote or story. The key word here is “relevant.” Telling a personal story humanizes you, but it is important that this story have a clear purpose and demonstrates something important about you. For example, you might tell about a situation in which you had to make an important moral choice, or when you faced a life-altering hardship. These kinds of stories demonstrate the depth of your character and show the admissions office that you possess the kinds of qualities they are looking for. On the other and, a random humorous story about your vacation or your favorite childhood TV show might not have the same relevance to your current application. Think about what you want the admissions committee to know about you and choose a story that helps them to see that side of you.
Writing an original personal statement can be challenging, but by following a few tips like those listed above, you’ll find that you will soon be developing effective personal statements that will go a long way toward improving your chances of securing admission to the program of your dreams.
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