Personal statements! It’s hard to find a college applicant who isn’t dreading the day they need to sit down and start writing personal statements. This writing is tricky. On the one hand, it isn’t as rigid as, let’s say, an argumentative essay. On the other hand, this freedom is the reason why so many students fail at it. We are not going to give you exact instructions on how yours should look; we just want to provide you with guidelines.
Alright, before you start panicking over your personal essay for college, you need to choose a college or at least a general career path your whole narration will be dedicated to. that’s another reason for panicking for a senior who has no idea what to do with their lives later. Keep calm and follow these steps:
- Make a list of your formal achievements. Diplomas, medals, scholarships, awards of honor, and any other official recognition of your contribution to the intellectual, social, or sports development of the community goes in here. Make sure you list everything. You won’t need to mention them all in your essay, of course, but it’s a great self-esteem boost. Define your goals. Everyone wants to feel special. We are not applying for a job or a university just because we didn’t find a better place to go to. When an applicant shows a sense of purpose and pursuit, they have a higher chance of being accepted. Question your life goals to be that applicant.
- Show the path that has led you to your current place in life. By this, we don’t mean your autobiography from the birth to the present date, of course. You need to provide evidence and show why and how you developed an interest in the field you are applying in. Forget about cliches like, “I have always been interested in …” because that’s not true!
- Describe three to five major challenges. Make a list of your life challenges with a brief description of how you overcame them. This will come in handy while writing personal statements.
- Make a list of your strongest qualities and how they connect to your education and career goals. Make sure you mention your skills related to the field, as well as transferable skills. Remember that you are here not to boast; you need to show the connection between your skills and the major of choice.
Research the Audience
Just like a skilled hunter, you need to know your prey to set a successful trap. Here are the tools and techniques you should consider using:
- Research the institution you are planning to enter. Look everywhere! The effort you put into this stage is defined by your desire to get there, but ideally, you should not only read their website (ten thousand other applicants will do the same), but also attend conventions and university open days, and read comments and stories by current or former students. Look EVERYWHERE.
- Look out for specific questions. Every education institution has the right to customize the required statement, and this is becoming popular. Make sure you read the guidelines carefully, and that your statement contains not only general information but also the answer to the specific question.
- Write a separate personal essay for college, uni, and other scholarship committees or institutions you are applying to. Okay, maybe asking for a separate piece of text for each college is a little bit too much, but at least remember to customize them. Avoid writing institution names, or else you risk sending an application with a wrong name. That will kill your chances immediately.
Writing Your Statement
You may not feel ready, but we are sure that you are if you did at least something from the previous parts. Gather your courage and creativity, and let’s begin writing personal statements!
- Start with a snap. Don’t beat around the bush and warn your readers that “I am going to tell you how X and Y impacted my life dramatically.” Start right away! And start dramatically. Pay special attention to this part and make sure you eliminate cliches. One or two of them might slip in the main part, but the introduction should be close to perfection.
- Focus on a few main topics. Write about what interests you and what is relevant to the institution you are applying to. Don’t try to share your whole story and don’t put experiences and situations just for the sake of it. This either appears as showing off or adding volume, which is not good for your image in any case.
- Give specific details and emphasize your unique experiences. Try to be as specific and authentic as you can within the accepted limits, of course. Don’t share the story of your first kiss and other intimate encounters, but don’t stay academic and stiff. Think of a personal essay for college as of your extension, and as charisma on paper, which should charm your readers.
- Don’t try to guess what the reader wants. Though you should address specific concerns and questions mentioned in the official guidelines issued by the institution, don’t try to guess what the admission officer wants to read, because you won’t. And trying to appeal with a perfect and flawless version of yourself would likely repel people than attract them. We all find pleasure in fairness and real-life stories.
- Maintain a positive tone. Forget about being negative at all. However, you need to describe a challenge, so choose it carefully. If you are still filled with bitter emotions over the occurrence, it’s better to look for something else. A perfect match would be a problem or a challenge you can talk easily about. Maintain a confident tone, and avoid using phrases such as, “probably I would be a good match for you.” You need to show that you definitely will be a good match, but back it up with arguments.
Congratulations, you managed to finish the biggest and hardest part of the work. Now you need to put in a little more effort to proofread and edit your personal statement, and you can have a well-deserved rest.
- Make sure your statement fits the word count required. The most frequent situation is longer personal essays, which means you need to cut out unnecessary background information. If yours is shorter, you may revisit the points you were describing and add details.
- Read your statement aloud. This will help you focus on strange-sounding phrases, find the boring bits, and probably think of a more catchy introduction. This technique works because you employ another part of your brain that is responsible for auditory input of information, so you multiply the concentration.
- Ask for criticism. Make sure you address people who are better than you at writing, and those who are able to provide amicable and non-biased criticism. A personal statement is already a reason for concern, so don’t multiply them by asking people who can’t phrase their opinions in a friendly manner.
We hope this guide will help you craft a great personal statement that will get you into the college of your dreams, and even further!Also, check out How to Write a Five-Paragraph Essay in One Hour.