Candidates applying for admission to college or graduate school often must write personal statements. Writing an effective personal statement can be a challenging task that requires a significant amount of self-reflection and awareness. If you’re gathering your application materials and need to write a personal statement, it may be helpful for you to review various best practices for doing so. In this article, we explain what a personal statement is and outline nine do’s and don’ts to keep in mind while writing your own.
What is a personal statement?
Personal statements are essays that candidates submit as a part of their application for admission to college or graduate school. These documents typically include details about a candidate’s personal background, academic credentials, professional experience, career interests, goals, and other applicable information that can help decision-makers evaluate whether candidates are qualified for admission. Many candidates use their personal statements as an opportunity to introduce themselves to an admissions committee, make a positive first impression, and increase their chances of being invited for an interview or being selected as a finalist.
5 do’s of writing a personal statement
There are various best practices you can follow when drafting your personal statement that can help you ensure that your writing is clear, and effective and demonstrates your value as a candidate. With this, here are five do’s of writing personal statements to consider:
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1. Do use a narrative structure
When writing your personal statement, it’s important that you tell a story about your background, accomplishments, goals, and plans for the future. Maintaining a narrative structure can help you write a cogent statement that follows an intelligible timeline. This structure is typically compelling to readers, as it allows them to gain a clear understanding of your life, its events, and the scope of your work, and may help you keep an admission officer’s attention.
2. Do tailor your statement to each school
It’s common for different schools to have their own expectations for candidates’ personal statements. Therefore, make sure that you fully understand what information you’re required to include in your statement by reaching the guidelines provided to you by each school. From here, you can tailor your statement and ensure you’re meeting expectations. In addition, it may be beneficial for you to personalize the content of your statements to emphasize your interest in attending specific institutions.
3. Do discuss your value as a candidate
While you may feel uncomfortable bragging about your accomplishments and qualifications in your personal statement, it’s important that you underscore your value as a candidate. As you write, remember that you’re competing with others who apply to each program, and honing in on your best abilities can help you gain an advantage. Try to use a tactful approach and write about your strengths, so decision-makers reading your statement know why you’re a suitable candidate for admission.
4. Do respect word limits
It can be challenging to fit all the information you want to relay in your personal statement within the word limit allotted by schools’ admissions offices. Even so, admissions officers frequently review dozens of personal statements on a day-to-day basis during application season and may only be able to dedicate a certain amount of time when reviewing yours. With this, it’s important that you respect word limits and try your best to keep your personal statement brief and clear so admissions officers can read the entire document within a reasonable amount of time.
5. Do solicit feedback from someone you trust
Once you’re done writing your personal statement, make sure that you ask for feedback from a few different sources. Consider soliciting help from a trusted friend, colleague, or mentor who can read your statement and offer suggestions for strengthening it. This process can help you catch any errors—like typos and grammar mistakes—and evaluate the overall quality of your writing. From here, you can return to your writing, implement the feedback you received, and finalize your statement for submission.
4 don’ts of writing a personal statement
It may be helpful for you to consider a few common mistakes that candidates make when writing their personal statements. Here are five don’ts of the writing process to keep in mind:
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1. Don’t write about sensitive topics
When outlining your personal statement, try to avoid writing about sensitive, controversial topics that may cause a reader to feel uncomfortable or overly emotional. While it’s worthwhile to write about your personal hardships in your statement to demonstrate your ability to overcome challenges, try to do so in a positive and uplifting tone. This can help ensure that readers are able to focus on the trajectory of your growth throughout your life and your abilities as a candidate overall.
2. Don’t simply restate your resume
Try to think of your personal statement as an opportunity to expand upon your resume and discuss why you’re a valuable, qualified candidate in your own words. Don’t miss this opportunity by simply restating all the information listed on your resume or in other parts of your application. Instead, use the space allotted to you in your personal statement wisely and tell an inspiring story about your background and goals as a candidate.3. Don’t procrastinate
Make sure that you begin writing your personal statement early. It’s important that you have enough time to think about the topics you want to write about, outline your thoughts, create multiple drafts of your statement and seek feedback from others to optimize your approach. By procrastinating and starting your writing process close to the application deadline, you may risk submitting a lower-quality statement than otherwise.
4. Don’t use overly complex language
While you may feel the impulse to use formal language to demonstrate your intelligence and command of complex vocabulary, try to resist this urge. It’s important that you write your personal statement in your voice, so it reflects who you are as an individual. Therefore, try to balance colloquial and formal language in your statement to remain authentic to yourself while writing eloquently.
I hope you find this article helpful.