Tips for writing your personal statement

It’s awkward to have to sit down and think about who you are, what your goals are and where you see yourself in the future.

So, if you’re planning on attending graduate schools, you’ve probably seen the words “personal statement” listed somewhere under the requirements and rolled your eyes in annoyance. But writing a personal statement can actually be fun, if you have the right mindset and understanding.

The I’s have it

By the time you’ve entered your final semester in college, you’ve learned that using the word “I” is academic suicide, and your unsolicited opinion in academic papers is a big “no-no.” It took some getting used to, but, by the time you become a senior, you have exiled all I’s from your work.

However, when it comes to personal statements, it’s OK to revive the “I’s” because personal statements are not academic papers, according to Jason Weeks, assistant director of admissions for the Shepard Broad College of Law.

“[Personal statements] are used as a tool to capture who the student is,” Weeks said.

Painting with words

Writing your personal statement is the best way to showcase yourself to schools because they have no idea who you are. So think of your words as a paint brush and you as the Pablo Picasso of your personal statement. Paint a picture of yourself, and use your words to create a masterpiece that screams, “Hello, this is me.”

Personal statements offer an understanding of the writer as a unique individual. So use words that add clarity and richness to the other parts of your application.

“Be concise but thorough,” Weeks said.

Furthermore, other applicants might have similar grades, scores and experiences, so sometimes, your personal statement is the deciding factor. You are unique, and your personal statement should reflect that.

Major keys

According to Weeks, in a good personal statement for law school, for example, a student will state why he or she is interested in law and mention an experience that is relevant to why he or she wants to study law.

A good personal statement will answer the following:

  • Who are you?
  • Why are you interested in that particular school?
  • Why are you pursuing that program?

If you can answer these questions in a clear and concise manner, then you’re on the path to acceptance.

Draft on top of drafts

Most people cannot write personal statements in one go. Prepare yourself to rewrite your personal statement numerous times. So don’t be discouraged because, by the time you start writing your hundredth draft, you’ll start to see how much improvement you’ve made when it comes to writing about yourself.

According to Weeks, proofreading your personal statement is a great way to catch errors and make edits.

“The best personal statements that I have read are well-written, so they don’t have grammar or punctuation errors,” said Weeks.

If you think you’re a poor writer, you might want to make an appointment at the Writing Center, which can be found on the second floor of the Student Affairs Building, or you can contact the center at 954-262-8350.

Begging is bad manners

With college tuition and student loans on the rise, it’s tempting to turn your personal statement into a personal plea. But hasn’t your mom ever told you “Begging is bad manners”?

According to Weeks, using your personal statement to defend an assertion that you are deserving of a scholarship or financial aid takes away from the essence of the statement. Talking about your financial situation does not persuade the admissions committee.

“When we are reading personal statements, we do so with financial blinds,” Weeks said.

Things to avoid

Avoid using lies and clichés in your personal statement.

Weeks said that he can usually sense when someone is being honest in their personal statement versus when he or she is giving a well-rehearsed story.

Jokes are also difficult to include in personal statements, but Weeks said that a well-placed joke or a sense of humor can add to your personal statement.

“Well-placed jokes are OK — they can enhance your personal statement, which can make you stand out,” said Weeks. “After reading tons of personal statements, sometimes, there is that one where someone bursts out laughing at a joke, and that definitely helps,” he said.

Personal statements are liberating and fun, so don’t overthink them, and don’t shy away from them. Remember that you are the Pablo Picasso of your words, so use them well.


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