How To Write a Personal Statement
for Your College Application
A personal statement tells the reader of your college application about your motivations and strengths. Use these tips and examples to make it memorable.
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What Is a Personal Statement?
A personal statement is an essay that is addressed to an admissions committee when you’re applying for college. It can also be useful when applying for certain jobs. The best personal statements are those that detail your passions, career goals, personal characteristics and extracurricular activities that you feel help you stand out to admissions officers and recruiters.
In other words, think of a personal statement as a critical element of your application, along with letters of application and your school transcript. In your statement, you can write about anything you think will capture the reader’s attention and properly convey your goals, dreams and the qualifications you feel make you a perfect candidate for the college you are applying for.
What Your Personal Statement Should Include
There are a couple of key qualities that your personal statement should include but first, let’s quickly distinguish the difference between a personal statement and a college resume.
A college resume and personal statement are usually sent together when you’re applying for higher studies. The resume is an overview of your academic journey, focusing on your knowledge, skills, achievements and other major accomplishments. A personal statement is an essay where you further explain your inspirations, your own story and talk about any challenges you might have overcome. One focuses on the facts but the other is the heart of the application.
Here’s what readers will be looking for when they read your personal statement:
- Better understanding of the writer’s unique skills and qualities.
- An understanding of what “makes the writer tick” — ambitions, dreams, passions, etc.
- Demonstration of the writer’s ability to be articulate, persuasive and creative through how the statement is written.
- Finally, and most importantly, the attributes that make the writer the best fit for the program being applied to.
For more on academic resumes, check out the ResumeHelp resume examples page.
Personal Statement Example
Use this example as a personal statement template to write your own letter. If you would like to see our other designs, explore our library of cover letter templates that work perfectly for a personal statement.
Create a personal statement in minutes using the ResumeHelp Cover Letter Builder.
How to Write a Personal Statement
When writing your personal statement, treat it like a research project, with you as the subject. Think about what makes you special. It is important that you showcase your unique skills, personality traits and personal characteristics in a way that will make you memorable to the reader.
Writing personal statements may take a bit of thought, but if you keep these tips in mind, you will find the writing process much easier and create a great personal statement that will impress any college admissions team.
1. Start with a hook.
College admissions officers read thousands of personal statements every year, from essays that focus on personal growth to those that center on work experience. You need to create a hook that is unique to you and will make the opening paragraph of interest to the reader. This is why it is advised that prospective students going through the application process tie a unique, personal experience into their personal statement.
Midnights became my noons the first time I read Jane Austen. I waited with anticipation for my mother to close her bedroom door and counted to ten before I reached for my flashlight and dove under the covers to continue reading the misadventures of Emma.
2. Explain your passion.
Whatever personal experience you choose to use, make sure it ties into the reason you want to go into the field you have chosen. Expand those thoughts to your future plans in the body paragraphs and discuss what you hope to gain from this educational path.
I found Austen’s perspective of the women of Georgian society refreshing and amusing. She made women in a society that solely focused on their status three-dimensional; they were thoughtful, curious, intelligent, vulnerable and complex. Her writing expanded my interest in Victorian literature, particularly the work of other female writers like Emily Brontë and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I developed a hunger for their point of view on womanhood, the effects of their surroundings and the parallels between women in the 19th century and women today.
3. Mention your important skills.
Whether you are applying to college from high school, applying to medical school or you are seeking to attend graduate school, it is important that you convey to the college admissions team the skills you feel make you suited to their institution. If you have a particularly high GPA, you should certainly mention this (anything above 3.2 is definitely worth noting).
I carefully curated my curriculum to enroll in psychology, sociology and history lessons in addition to the core classes required for English Literature. They were fundamental in the development of my critical thinking skills, analytical skills and reading comprehension skills. I was able to make connections between what was taught in sociology and what I was reading, allowing me to fully dive into the societal expectations for women at the time.
4. Focus on achievements and challenges you’ve overcome that relate to what you’re studying.
Think of your statement as a narrative in which you tell the story of your life and interests, and what has led you to this point. Always frame your story in terms of your skills and strengths, how they match up with your field of study and how you would fit in with the college environment.
As the daughter of immigrant parents, I learned from an early age that the expectations they had of me weren’t similar to the expectations my friends’ parents set for them. I found myself in Elizabeth Bennet’s search for freedom and boldness, in Catherine Morland’s imagination and in Anne Elliot’s unwavering compassion despite being underestimated. These traits encompass the human experience — my experience — and have transcended time, elevating my affinity for English Literature and the stories told centuries ago that to this day leave a mark in our hearts.
5. Show why you’re the best match for the program.
Include your reasons for choosing that institution while presenting a compelling argument for your admittance. Talking to people you consider mentors or even a trusted family member about what they would focus on can be helpful, especially if they are providing letters of recommendation for you.
It takes passion, an open mind and curiosity to find meaning in the written word of the past. The alumni from your program are all distinguished professors, authors, historians and curators who, one way or another, dedicate themselves to telling, retelling and conserving what makes us human. We’re all, in our own way, that kid reading under the covers, finding solace and companionship in characters that feel so alive, they might as well call us by our names.
5 Key Personal Statement Writing Tips
Helping your personal statement stand out among other applicants can be difficult, but here are a few extra things you can do to distinguish yourself:
- Be unique and passionate.
While being eloquent and expressing yourself well is a major advantage, you can also bolster your writing by showing real passion for the subject you are applying to study and pinpointing what is special and impressive about you or your life story.
A well-written personal statement will be elevated to a memorable and compelling personal statement if you allow your passion for what you are doing to stand out.
- Read the personal statement guidelines and format your document correctly.
The application instructions for your chosen college should have guidelines as to what is expected from a personal statement. This will include elements such as a desired word count limit and any questions you’ll be specifically asked to answer. By considering these guidelines, you will show attention to detail and the ability to follow directions.
Be sure to also use the correct formatting for your document, following the standard cover letter format. Use professional fonts like Arial, Helvetica or Times New Roman, and the appropriate margins all around the page.
- Review other examples of personal statements for inspiration.
As we said, it pays to treat your personal statement like a research project. In addition to researching what makes an effective personal statement, you should also research the history and ethos of your chosen institution, as well as examples of personal statements for your field or program.
You can use the sample personal statement on this page, but remember to use it for inspiration rather than something to just copy verbatim for your own personal statement.
- Proofread your work.
Before submitting your personal statement, make sure you read it carefully and spell check. Correct any typos or grammatical errors you find and be certain that it reads as one succinct essay. It helps to get someone you trust to proofread it, especially if you have been staring at the document for long periods of time.
- Get feedback on your statement from a mentor or someone in the same field.
Getting a trusted mentor you have been shadowing or a professional in the same field to take a look at your first draft is an extra step you can take to ensure that your personal statement hits the mark. They can give you field-appropriate feedback and help you stand out from the other applicants.
More Letter Writing Tips and Resources
At ResumeHelp you can find dozens of additional resources and articles with expert writing tips you can apply to any statement or professional letter you create.
- Cover Letter Basics: A personal statement is very similar to a cover letter. Learn more about the cover letter basics you can use on your statement letter. Learn more about the cover letter basics you can use on your statement letter.
- How to Write a Cover Letter: Capturing the attention of the reader is crucial for any letter. Here are some additional tips you can use.
- Cover Letter Examples: Find examples for different jobs and industries you can use as inspiration.
- Cover Letter for an Internship: Interested in an internship? Wow recruiters and hiring managers with a great cover letter.
- Letter of Interest: You might encounter a place you want to work in with no job openings. Here’s how to get their attention.
- How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?: We have the right answer and more tips.
FAQ: Personal Statement
Q: How do I start writing a personal statement?
It is a good idea to start jotting down ideas to express your feelings about why you want to apply to the colleges you have chosen, why you have chosen the major you have, and what you can offer the college as a student. Collecting your thoughts in this way is the first step in helping you shape your statement and avoiding cliches or predictable content.
Q: How long should my personal statement be?
A personal statement can be as long as it needs to be; there is no set limit. However, it is common for a personal statement to be one to two pages in length, or between 700 to 1,000 words. Refer to the specific college guidelines to be sure you meet their specifications.
Q: Is a personal statement supposed to be added to my resume?
Q: What are the three ways to make a personal statement more interesting?
The three ways to make a personal statement more interesting are:
1. Don’t go overboard with the opening. You want to engage the reader but you don’t want to be too cheesy or long-winded. Grab their attention but get straight to the point. What motivated you to choose that program? Where does your passion come from?
2. Avoid cliches. The best way stand out from the crowd is to avoid starting your personal statement with a cliché line, like “From a young age…” “I am applying for this course because…” or “Throughout my life…”
3. Demonstrate humility and passion. You should find a balance between showing excitement and clearly stating your plans for the future. Give real examples that demonstrate your passion for the program and subject, keep it personal and focus on what you can bring to the program.
Q: What is the difference between a statement of purpose and a personal statement?
The main difference between a statement of purpose (SOP) and a personal statement is that the SOP is used to explain why you want to study that particular subject while a personal statement is written to explain why you are the best candidate for the program. The SOP focuses on your credentials, qualifications and discusses the area of interest. In a personal statement, you talk about what motivated you to apply, your acquired skills and relevant challenges, accomplishments or experiences.
Q: Is a personal statement the same as a personal mission statement?
No, a personal mission statement defines who you are as a person, your values and your purpose. It can be used to help you make decisions about your career, set boundaries and stay focused on your long-term goals. Personal mission statements might not be shared with others.
A personal statement, on the other hand, is an essay that’s submitted as part of a college application process. They might be required to enter certain programs or schools, like business school or law school. Through a personal statement, you might answer the following questions:
- What’s special, unique or impressive about my life story?
- What details of my life might set me apart from other applicants?
- When did I become interested in this field and what have I learned that has allowed me to grow and/or develop my interest?