Key Recommendations for Writing a Personal Statement for College
A personal statement, also called statement of purpose, is an essay written as part of application process for admission to various educational institutions. It is important because it helps applicants describe their own skills, experience, and ambitions, which is very informative personal information that is complementary to other documents submitted during application and used for assessing the candidate.
Personal statements are sometimes also called “application essays” or “statements of purpose.” Whatever they are called, they are essentially essays which are written in response to a question or questions on a graduate or professional school application form which asks for some sort of sustained response.
Some applications ask more specific questions than others. There is no set formula to follow in shaping your response, only choices for you to make, such as whether you should write an essay that is more autobiographically focused or one that is more professionally focused.
From application to application, requested personal statements also vary widely in length, ranging from a couple of paragraphs to a series of essays of a page or so each.
Personal statements are most important when you are applying to an extremely competitive program, where all the applicants have high test scores and GPA’s, and when you are a marginal candidate and need the essay to compensate for low test scores or a low GPA.
While personal statements may be required in other circumstances, for instance, as part of job applications accompanying a CV, here, we focus on writing a personal statement for college. In particular, we describe the expected content and provide some basic suggestions but also include a sample for illustration.
How are personal statements read, and by whom? It’s most likely that your personal statement will be read by professors who serve on an admissions committee in the department to which you are applying. It is important in developing your personal statement to carefully consider this audience. What are the areas of specialty of this department, and what might it be looking for in a graduate student?
Additionally, since personal statements will most often be read as part of your “package,” they offer an opportunity to show aspects of yourself that will not be developed in other areas of your application. Obviously, it is important that personal statements are not simply prose formulations of material contained elsewhere in the application.
It may be helpful to think of the statement as the single opportunity in your package to allow the admissions committee to hear your voice. Often times, committees are sorting through large numbers of applications and essays, perhaps doing an initial quick sort to find the best applicants and then later reading some of the personal statements more thoroughly. Given that information, you will want your statement to readily engage the readers, and to clearly demonstrate what makes you a unique candidate–apart from the rest of the stack.
One Process for Writing the Personal Statement
- Analyze the question(s) asked on a specific application.
- Research the school and/or program to which you are applying.
- Take a personal inventory (see below). Write out a 2-3 sentence response to each question.
- Write your essay.
- Revise your essay for form and content.
- Ask someone else – preferably a faculty member in your area – to read your essay and make suggestions for further revision.
- Revise again.
- Proofread carefully.
How to Begin a Personal Statement
Our experts explain how to start a personal statement for college by listing some recommendations following common sense. Firstly, start by learning about the university or course you are applying to. You need a good understanding of what the core disciplines are, what key competencies and knowledge are developed during the educational process, what job opportunities these studies open, what are some typical challenges encountered during studies.
Carefully study application guidelines. It would help understand the context of your application, how it will be reviewed. Sometimes, the same platform is used for applying to multiple colleges, such as in the case of UCAS – the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. In such case, one shouldn’t mention any specific college names or course titles but rather should write more generally about specialization.
Outline the structure of your personal statement. Check whether you are required to follow a pre-established standard template. If it is not the case, think about structure of your content, which sections would come first and which ones would come later to ensure natural flow. Your planning efforts should yield a detailed outline which would subsequently guide the writing process – obviously, you may reorganize elements in the outline to ensure smooth content flow and avoid restructuring the final text.
Personal Inventory Questions
What makes you unique, or at least different from, any other applicant?
What attracts you to your chosen career? What do you expect to get out of it?
When did you initially become interested in this career? How has this interest developed? When did you become certain that this is what you wanted to do? What solidified your decision?
What are your intellectual influences? What writers, books, professors, concepts in college have shaped you?
How has your undergraduate academic experience prepared you for graduate/professional school?
What are two or three of the academic accomplishments which have most prepared you?
What research have you conducted? What did you learn from it?
What non-academic experiences contributed to your choice of school and/or career? (work, volunteer, family)
Do you have specific career plans? How does graduate or professional school pertain to them?
How much more education are you interested in?
What’s the most important thing the admissions committee should know about you?
Think of a professor in your field that you’ve had already and that you like and respect. If this person were reading your application essay, what would most impress him or her?
What is Better to Include in Personal Statement
If instructions in the application guide allow free writing rather than following a template, then you should consider including the following sections when writing a personal statement for college:
Skills and achievements. A student’s achievements or proof of skills are among the criteria carrying the greatest weight for an admission committee given that they represent an effective way of evaluating abilities and a fair method of recognizing somebody’s previous effort. If there is something you’ve done which might throw positive light on some relevant skills or abilities, it’s very advisable that you mention it.
Hobbies and interests. Your interests are the reasons you apply in a certain discipline for college. Share your enthusiasm for this field and explain why it’s important for you on personal level – what personal goals, worldview, creed, visions align with and explain such interest of yours and how your past contributed to these interests. Talking about hobbies may help create an image of person with multiple and balanced interests, who can harness energy and inspiration from all these activities and perhaps channel them somewhere else. In addition, hobbies are another area of manifestation. Mentioning sporting, musical, or creative clubs or societies one belongs to, is as well appropriate.
Work history. In case students had some part-time or summer work, it could be a really valuable thing to mention in college personal statement even if it is not related to the anticipated field of study. It is because work typically requires and develops skills like discipline, cooperative spirit, stress resilience, etc. Volunteering experience is by no means worse than work experience and sometimes even better – it proves you are not only driven by prospects of personal financial gain but also by the community spirit. Volunteering signals you are likely to be an active and involved student throughout college years – there are lots of projects on campus which could benefit the student community as well.
Career plans. Sharing your future plans demonstrates you have an idea about the path you plan following after graduation – having a “plan A” is always good. However, it is again not catastrophic if you aren’t entirely determined – you could state what type of work you are keenly attracted to within a discipline and might support your position by listing examples of professions which feel right or seem to lead to personal accomplishment. Demonstrate reality awareness that you are not naïve about existing opportunities and challenges.
Dos and Don’ts When Writing Personal Statement
A series of rules should be useful in guiding you on how to write a personal statement for college. The best alumni have prepared a few pieces of advice that should help you.
- Answer all the questions asked. If you are applying to more than one program, you may find that each application asks a different question or set of questions, and that you don’t really feel like writing a bunch of different responses. However, you should avoid the temptation to submit the same essay for different questions, it’s far better to tailor your response to each question and each school. If you do find yourself short on time and must tailor one basic essay to fit a number of different questions from a number of different schools, target your essay to your first-choice school, and keep in mind that the less your essay is suited to an application’s particular questions, the more you may be jeopardizing your chances of being admitted to that school.
- Show your enthusiasm and passion. It is quite important to convince evaluators that you are really passionate and interested in what you pursue because motivation is a great predictor of perseverance and success.
- Open your soul if needed. If your academic pursuit is linked to some personal struggles or challenges faced earlier in life, it could be very wise to confess about it in your statement of purpose. Explain how challenges made you tougher and provide examples of achievements.
- Develop a thesis about yourself early in the essay and argue it throughout. Each piece of information you give about yourself in the essay should somehow support your thesis.
- Pick two to four main topics for a one-page essay. Don’t summarize your entire life. Don’t include needless details that take space away from a discussion of your professionalism, maturity, and ability to do intellectual work in your chosen field.
- Use the personal statement as a form of introduction. Think of the essay as not only an answer to a specific question but as an opportunity to introduce yourself, especially if your program doesn’t interview applicants.
- Use technical terminology and such techniques as passive voice where appropriate. You should write clearly and interestingly, yet also speak in a voice appropriate to your field.
- Edit and improve your original version. It is not unusual to read the final draft of your personal statement six times or more and revise content, optimize word choice and certain expressions, locate grammatical errors. While writing or editing, watch the word limit. An undergraduate personal statement for college submitted through UCAS is typically 4000 characters long.
- Ask somebody to review your essay – note that there are always aspects that you may miss, hence such an essay could seriously benefit from somebody else’s correction.
- Exaggerate or lie about any of your achievements, skills, talents as you always risk being exposed during an interview and lying comes with heavy penalties along with a heavy conscience. Not plagiarizing your admission essay is another essential aspect of being honest.
- Be too modest – while such trait would be highly valued outside this context, in this particular situation, it could cause harm, given that you are competing with other applicants and are expected to provide solid informative arguments aimed at convincing the committee that your application is superior.
- Use empty, vague, over-used words like “meaningful,” “beautiful,” “challenging,” “invaluable,” or “rewarding.”
- Repeat information directly from the application form itself unless you use it to illustrate a point or want to develop it further.
- Emphasize the negative. Again, the admissions committee already knows your GPA and test scores, and they probably are not interested in reading about how a list of events in your personal life caused you to perform poorly. Explain what you feel you need to, but emphasize the positive.
- Try to be funny. You don’t want to take the risk they won’t get the joke.
- Get too personal about religion, politics, or your lack of education (avoid emotional catharsis).
- Include footnotes, cliches, or long-winded and slow introductions.
- Use statements like “I’ve always wanted to be a…” or any other hackneyed phrases.
Personal Statement Examples for College
The most efficient way of grasping the rules according to which a personal statement is written is to review college personal statement examples on the web. Alternatively, applicants could cooperate with personal statement writing services to help them achieve such goal or even could delegate this task entirely to such service. Below, is personal statement sample:
I’ve noticed that throughout my school years, I’ve enjoyed wide diversity of exact sciences and was fascinated in particular by understanding the underlying principles behind various complex phenomena or systems, for instance, Mendeleev’s periodic table, which elegantly describes the pattern of organization of subatomic particles (neutrons, protons, electrons) into atoms.
The field that maximally converges my interests was computer science and in particular AI, despite the fact that only basics are taught in school. Such attraction is due to the versatility of involved algorithms, universal applicability based on some fundamental mathematics, underlying engineering mindset of this field, and its huge transformative potential. Driven by my passion, I’ve managed to get some really good scores on some machine learning contests organized on Analytics Vidhya platform.
As for my hobbies, instrumental music has been central passion for more than 6 years already, since I’ve started learning to play bass guitar, all by myself. By experimenting and improvising at parties of friends and at occasional street music events, I’ve discovered it is an extremely versatile instrument and sheer diversity of sounds it can produce can trigger a huge spectrum of emotional states and behaviour in my audience.
To me, music is another interesting and enigmatic system which sparks many questions – what musical patterns (tonality, tempo, etc.), what types and combinations of instruments make us consider an instrumental piece harmonious, inciting, playful, dark, solemn, etc.? Could deep learning algorithms learn these patterns and reproduce them creating veritable pieces of art? I am sure that this will become a big industry in less than 6 years and I contemplate building my career in it
While the information above should be useful in getting initiated, learning how to write a personal statement for a college application requires a decent amount of creativity, which is the key to a unique and inspiring essay. As admission essay writing help is frequently requested from our professional academic assistants, we provide students with high-quality assistance in this regard. Just place an order and start cooperating with your preferred writer to create a powerful personal statement matching your biography, personality, academic preferences.