Writing the Personal Statement can be a torturous exercise for many seniors. Fears of sounding like a braggart or worse, having nothing worthwhile to say, leave even strong writers paralyzed. While the temptation might be to adopt a distant, academic tone, by making your Personal Statement personal you help the admissions office gain a richer understanding of your unique character and qualities. Make your Personal Statement about yourself. Don’t write someone else’s biography. Even if your essay is about a person who has had a significant influence on you, your writing should focus on the nature of that influence and how that person helped to shape the person you are today.
Write something only you could write. While you may have had a powerful experience doing community service with your youth group or celebrated an amazing victory with teammates, by writing about your perspective and insights on those moments makes your essay one-of-a-kind. Even though others shared this moment, focus on what that experience meant to you, not on the experience itself.
Related to that, your Personal Statement should not merely tell a story. The event you share should represent some type of catalyst of change for you – a moment that helped you come to a deeper understanding about something that has lead to a meaningful change in your perceptions of the world and of yourself.
Sometimes the events themselves are so momentous that they can eclipse the rest of your essay. For example, if you have worked with someone who is profoundly handicapped, or helped starving children, or had dinner with the Dalai Lama, the moment itself is so significant that you might feel like your introspections are lost in the shadow cast by the event. Ironically, sometimes the small, every day moments that lead to the most profound personal insights. It really, truly doesn't really matter what event you write about. What matters is what you write about says about you.
Write about what is personally meaningful to you. Don’t be swayed by what other people tell you to write about. In the end, you won’t be able to write with the same conviction and passion, and the reader will know it. Write about what is deeply, powerfully, meaningful to you.
Finally, write in your own voice. Don’t adopt a faux-intellectual style because you think that will impress your reader -- it won’t. While it’s important not to adopt a style that is too casual, the reader should learn something about you just by the way you write. Are you an optimistic person? Do you have a dry wit? Drop the formal academic tone and let your personality shine through.
The Personal Statement should convey who you are, how you think, what it important to you while showcasing your strong writing skills. In the end, however, the statement needs to be personal in tone, content, and meaning. While a lot will be left unsaid, a statement that that is personal brings a depth and dimension to the application and gives the admission office a fuller sense of who you are.
Written by Allison W. Matlack