How To Write a Good Personal Statement (With Tips and Examples)

Why is boasting about a best friend SO much easier than writing about yourself? Unfortunately, writing about yourself is exactly what a personal statement essay requires you to do–whether it’s for your college admissions application, or for a scholarship application to pay for college. Here’s our guide, to ensure you’re well-equipped to write a killer personal statement!

how to write the PERFECT personal statement for top universities!!!

Types of personal statements

While ultimately similar in both purpose and content, there are two types of personal statements: general statements of purpose and response statements to specific questions.

General statement of purpose

If you are asked to provide a personal statement in broader terms—sometimes called a “statement of purpose” that asks for the details that the name suggests—then you are to provide a bio of yourself as it relates to what you hope to get out of the program or why you see yourself as especially valuable to it. Even the most general request will almost always have some degree of guidelines that should be honored very strictly.

While every statement you write should be catered meticulously to the institution, one advantage to having a more generalized prompt is that you will be more able to repurpose portions of the statement into future ones. That being said, you should assume that there is no such thing as a boilerplate personal statement, by definition.

Response to a question

You may be prompted for a personal statement by way of a topical prompt or direct question. These questions can take many forms, but the heart of the answer will not be that far off from a more general statement; they just want to get to know you. Make sure that anything specifically asked of you is addressed.

Expect to see iterations of the following (and even if you don’t, these are questions you might ask yourself when articulating your character on the page):

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is a short essay that provides a relevant autobiographical account of your merits, but it is more than that. It is your chance to give an honest representation of who you are and who you hope a program will give you the chance to become.

Tips for a good personal statement

Overall, thoughtfulness and thoroughness make a good personal statement. Beyond that, here are a few pointers that will work in your best interest:

Be authentic, not colloquial

Your application should reflect your real voice and character. Read it aloud. Does it sound like something that the best version of yourself would say? That said, avoid being overly familiar. Don’t use slang. Go for personal, but professional.

Take risks but don’t break rules

If you are wondering if it would be appropriate to share something a little unconventional or a highly personal memory that put you on the path to this program, the answer is to use your best judgment. Does this story show your potential to excel? Is this the first thing that comes to you as your real story?

Taking a chance could serve well—it’s brave to tell a story unlike any other—but don’t break the form. Stick to word counts and formats precisely as requested. Fictionalizing your life for attention is a bad idea. Experimenting with form would probably be too risky. Originality is good, but following instructions is imperative.

Suit your story to your audience

Your personal statement should be written to the person or committee reading it. Whatever you know of the school or program should be on your mind while writing it. Is it a niche arts program that would admire a little edge? Or is it a highly competitive international scholarship that treasures only the most serious of students? Tone counts.

For some programs, you may be able to figure out exactly who will be reading it. Review the application, departmental website and any related materials carefully to discover details that might inform what you choose to share or how you choose to share it.

Be organized and detailed

As you write a personal statement, organize it with a clear pattern for readability. A common structure for a personal statement is to group paragraphs by your past, present and future if youre writing a general response. This is not mandatory, but if you are having trouble organizing what you want to say, finding a structure can help you stay on track.

If you are answering a more specific question, organize your response into paragraphs that support the main point of your statement. Organization also helps you showcase what the committee values by making it clear in your response to a prompt.

Fill your personal statement with real-life examples that show instead of tell about your accomplishments or goals. Supply details to create a picture.

Be polished

A good personal statement is free from errors in spelling, grammar and structure. Once you finish the first draft, put it aside for a while before rereading. Identify areas where you can add more detail and strengthen your word choice. Check that your paragraphs or sentences are well organized. Next, edit for grammar mistakes and misspelled words.

Give yourself enough time

The personal statement is not a last-minute project; it can require multiple drafts. Allow time for inspiration to strike. Once you’ve organized your thoughts, ask someone you trust to read it and give feedback. You’ll need to allow enough time to revise your final draft. The final draft should indeed feel final, and you’ll need time to get there.

What to include in a good personal statement

Regardless of the prompt or angle you choose, here are the most important elements to include in a good personal statement:

A strong opening

Begin with an opening sentence that interests your audience and makes them want to read more. Avoid cliches and quotes. Instead, use your words to introduce the main idea of your response. You can start by describing a scene from your past or sharing a thought about what something means to you.

Your response to the prompt

Write the main idea statement that gives the overall point of your response and directly addresses the prompt. For example, if you are asked to share why you want to be part of a specific career field, one of your first sentences should relate to this idea.

Your passion for the field

Part of your work in a personal statement is to convince your readers that you have a clear talent and passion for your chosen area of study or work. Your language and the examples you choose should show how much a subject means to you.

Relevant background

Unlike a resume, the background you use to create a personal statement can relate to life experience instead of just work experience. You have the chance to tell how your unique journey has led you to where you are today.

Your plans for the future

Part of your personal statement should include future goals and ambitions. Explain what will happen if you are accepted to the university of your choice or you receive the job you want. You can also share how you plan to keep learning and growing.

Examples of personal statements

The precise tone and content of your personal statement will vary depending on the context youre writing it for. Review these examples to understand the possible differences:

Example 1: Inspiration in response to a prompt

Here is an example of a personal statement as a response to a specific question that could be used for graduate school applications:

Prompt: Describe how your personal qualities have helped you achieve a specific goal.

Im sure some people learn from success, but Ive learned the most from failure. When I started failing tests in fourth grade, I discovered I needed glasses. After my plan to race dirt bikes professionally ended with me in the hospital in a full-body cast, I taught myself how to code. Thats when my life took another direction that led me to earn a degree as a mechanical engineer.

Lying in a hospital bed for three months, I wanted to give up. Instead, my best friend showed me an app he was using to complete a project for his robotics class. Whenever my dirt bike needed a fix, I would spend hours tinkering with the engine, fingernails caked with grease. But fixing and creating with strings of symbols was a discovery. By the end of my senior year of high school, I was leading our robotics team to the state competition.

While pursuing my degree at Eastern College, I used my background in robotics to enter a competition for NASA prototypes. Using my skills of leadership and encouragement, I led a team of three other engineering students in a design project for the International Space Station (ISS).

After months of redesigns and feedback from our mentor professor, NASA selected our prototype as one of the finalists for ISS installation. We won the competition, and I watched from a private viewing area as the rocket containing our project blasted out of the atmosphere.

Then I got the call. While the ISS commander tried to install our project in space, the controls shorted out. Our project had failed when it was needed the most. NASA engineers had tried to walk the astronaut through a possible fix, but it hadnt worked. The head flight engineer asked if I would help consult. My team and I flew to Johnson Space Center and worked three days with little sleep, barely stopping to eat a candy bar and drink our fifth cup of coffee.

My team and I were able to isolate the malfunction and lead the astronaut to correct the device. Hearing the astronaut report that the machine was nominal (normal) as he added “thank you, Eastern College team,” is the moment I am most proud of in my life.

Thats why Im applying for your program to earn a masters degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering. I have the experience, expertise and dedication your program needs.

Example 2: Turning around hardship

Here is an example of presenting hardship in a positive light to highlight perseverance and explain gaps in the transcript without directly drawing attention to them:

I just can’t start with some lemonade tale of backyard summers starring all the local little rascals. I fled the schoolyards and the foster homes to develop my own flair through defiant scrawls of bad poetry upon alley walls. Even now, I drag sentences and abuse modifiers in a formal essay. As a child, writing wasn’t my conscious goal. It was a nagging urge. Now it is both.

My mother was once disheartened by my blank stares upon her mention of the Bronté sisters or my shirking at the girth of her volumes of Dickens. I admit that resistance readily. We all have both growing up and owning up to do. I may know this fact better than those behind the other sheets of paper you sift through now. Perhaps that is why, once I was taken from her custody, I made sure that I discovered who these literary gods of hers were. I trudged the long way toward a bachelor’s degree and, over time, raised my grades to cum laude status.

While I was living the burger-flipping, diaper-changing life of a different lot, I didn’t consider a degree a real possibility until I tallied up my units and calculated that my education could indeed become a formal one. I shot into the dark. Two years later, I had a degree from one of the nations top programs. And now I am ready for another.

FAQ

How do you write a strong personal statement?

10 Tips for Writing a Strong Personal Statement
  1. Read the instructions carefully. …
  2. Focus on yourself. …
  3. Demonstrate your genuine interest and enthusiasm. …
  4. Start early. …
  5. Explain any discrepancies in your application in your personal statement. …
  6. Review good sentence and paragraph structure. …
  7. Use the active voice.

How do you begin a personal statement?

Start with why you chose it, then try and summarise this in one or two sentences. Be original and refer to personal experiences as a way to draw attention. Avoid overused opening sentences, quotes and clichés like ‘when I was young…’ They want to know about you now, not your childhood or Shakespeare!

What makes a powerful personal statement?

What makes a good personal statement?
  1. Explain the reason for your choice and how it fits in with your aspirations for the future.
  2. Give examples of any related academic or work experience.
  3. Show you know what the course will involve and mention any special subjects you’re interested in.

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