Personal Statement Do’s and Don’ts
Admission committees often weigh personal statements as heavily as test scores and grades. Even if you have terrific scores and a stellar GPA, you can be rejected based an a weak personal statement. Conversely, if your numbers are borderline but your personal statement paints you as a dynamic, aware, and giving person, the committee may decide you’ll be an asset to their school community. It all depends on the person they see projected through your statement.
Most personal statement prompts ask similar questions.
- How have your past experiences led you to apply for our program?
- What obstacles or difficulties have you overcome?
- Why do you want to work as a ___________?
- What are your professional goals?
The committee readers want specifics. Whatever your answer, it has to present you as a unique individual able to articulate ideas about the significance and and impact your past experiences have had on you and how they have shaped your thinking today. That means strong personal statements are personal. Yet they also have to show a balanced person who understands boundaries and is able to cope. That means strong personal statements are academic/professional.
- DO tell stories with vivid details both external (what happened) and internal (how you felt, what you thought).
- DO keep the focus on yourself, rather than on other people who influenced or inspired you.
- DO edit your work carefully so that it is as concise and well written as possible.
- DO present an optimistic vision of your goals, particularly how you intend to contribute and help others
- DO reflect on your own personal assets without letting modesty prevent you, but…
- DON’T brag or come across as arrogant
- DON’T rely on clichés or overuse words like “passionate.”
- DON’T come across as a victim or as seeking pity
- DON’T praise their school/program to the point where you sound sycophantic.
- DON’T procrastinate!
Collaborating with an editor or coach is an excellent way to get a second perspective on your statement. While the content, of course, has to come from you, an editor or coach can help you polish your statement, making it more concise and efficient to paint a better picture of your ideas, as well as eliminating grammatical errors that would otherwise count against you.
Louisa Peck has worked with dozens of applicants to craft successful personal statements that have gotten qualified candidates accepted at the schools of their choice.
She is available either in person in the Seattle area or via Skype or Facetime for those distantly located. A one to two hour session is usually enough time to revise a solid first draft.
Contact her today for help at email@example.com