An important part of the college application process is the writing of a personal statement. This goes a long way in convincing a college recruiter that you will be a valuable member of their school. It is therefore important that you get it right.
A personal statement has many purposes, including giving you a chance to play up your strengths, experiences, and qualifications. Since a personal statement demands your unique perspective, it makes you appear more human to the recruiter. You might not be the best of writers, but how to write a personal statement should not stump you. Let us look at a few tips that will take your writing skills to the next level.
Why Write a Personal Statement?
You get good grades, you are in all the clubs in school, you excel in a sport or two, and you volunteer. That should be enough to guarantee your admission into the university of your choice, right? Wrong. As hard as it might be to believe, there are thousands of other students applying to the same school whose records read the same as yours.
Universities and colleges place an emphasis on both hard and soft factors of applicants. While the ‘hard factors’, i.e. your grades might be impressive, they do not give a holistic picture of you. Your ‘soft factors’ i.e. your experiences and viewpoint, give a clue as to how you approach learning and life. Sometimes your soft factors will get you that admission even when your grades are not so good. This is because recruiters can tell from your personal statement what kind of person you are e.g. a hard worker despite a disability that keeps you from scoring perfect As. Your personal statement assures recruiters that you will be a positive addition to the campus.
That is why most personal statement prompts try to get you to show what sets you apart from the rest. You might be unique, or you might be able to describe commonplace events in a new way. How can you achieve this?
Personal Statement Tips
Start right away
you might be experienced in writing last-minute essays for school and passing them, but do not fall into the temptation of doing this when you write your personal statement. You need to take the time to think through the prompt, if you have been given any, and come up with different ways to address it. Experts suggest doing this in the summer of your junior year before the busy senior year starts. If you finish and submit the personal statement early, college counselors in your school will give you feedback earlier so you can implement their suggestions.
Write your own statement
It is tempting to pay someone to write the personal statement for you, but do not go down this road. Only you know the specific achievements and any obstacles you have had to overcome in order to get where you are. You are also very conversant with your work and educational background and why you want to pursue the course you are applying for. Infusing the personal statement with your own voice gives it an authentic note, something that any recruiter will notice.
Do not ramble
Even if you have not been given a page or word limit, it is good practice to restrict your essay to 650 words. Any length over that and you come off overconfident like you feel entitled to the recruiter’s attention. A concise personal statement leaves a stronger impression. This is because you use the words available to you to make a point.
Address any gaps
If your academic transcripts have any discrepancies like bad grades in one semester, address this in your personal statement. Was it a result of tough economic times, family troubles, bad health, or personal struggles? Covering this in your personal statement shows the recruiter that you take responsibility and are ready to learn from a bad patch to do better.
No matter how complete you think your final draft is, get another person to look it over. This can be a trusted teacher or parent. They will notice any errors or inconsistencies in tone or tense there might be. Submit your draft to your school’s college counselor and implement their suggestions.
Personal Statement Format
Like most essays, the formats take the Introduction, Body, and Conclusion format. Or as Kerry Lamano puts it: Story, Implication, and Connection to the college or major.
Your Introduction can be a short anecdote that reflects your strengths, talents or personal experience. Look at the personal statement example below of a student accepted to Johns Hopkins University.
The body should explain how the event you mentioned in the introduction impacted you and your decisions. If you have any experience, whether in volunteering or work experience, find a way to mention it naturally like in the personal statement example below.
Like the student in the above example, you can show your approach to work and the values you hold creatively and in a way that engages the recruiter. The recruiter gets a clear image of how the student is beyond just good academic transcripts.
Your conclusion should be as strong as the rest of your statement. Close off by emphasizing why you applied for the course and why you think you will be a valuable addition to the program.
Do not waste time by restating the prompt word for word. Make it as engaging and memorable as the rest of the personal statement.
By restating the course they are interested in in the conclusion, the student manages to close off the personal statement without being redundant. A strong conclusion like that will stick in the mind of the recruiter, no matter how many more personal statements they have to read.
Writing a statement does not have to be as daunting as it seems. The format is the same as any other essay you have written in your academic career. Start early enough and come up with different ideas to approach your personal statement. Write several drafts, tuning your tone so that is is consistent throughout and correct any grammatical errors.
Tell a powerful story that will keep the reader glued to the page until the end. And get an experienced person to review the statement and make the necessary edits. Once it is ready you will confidently hit that submit button.