How to Write a Personal Statement: Examples Can Make Your Paper Better

While having to write a personal statement to enter a new program or for a scholarship application may be an intimidating prospect, students should relish this chance to share their outlook, goals, and ambitions. Most application paperwork presents committees only with facts and figures; a personal statement can be a great way for a student to present themselves as a person and explain what makes them a great candidate for their program. There are likely other applicants that have similar grades, test scores, and activities, but none will have the student’s own unique voice and perspective. However, personal statements are only valuable when the student takes full advantage of them.

To take full advantage of a personal statement, students should be presenting more than just a formulaic response to the instructions or prompts they are given. This can seem like a difficult prospect when the instructions ask very specific questions and have very tight word limits. However, it’s easily done by using examples rather than simply stating facts. There’s a phrase used, mainly in fiction writing, about this: “Show not tell.” It’s equally applicable here. By “showing” the answers to the instruction’s questions rather than simply “telling” them, the student can present a far more engaging personal image than they would otherwise.

Let’s say the instructions for the student’s personal statement ask the student to discuss their past successes. Instead of making a list of their past successes that is lengthy and boring, the student could briefly overview some of them but describe one in depth as an example. In this example, they won’t simply list the events that they consider to be a success, but will also talk about their emotions in regards to the challenges they faced, the obstacles they overcame, and the eventual feelings of satisfaction that accompanied succeeding.

The same method can be used for other questions as well. For discussing volunteer work for example, instead of simply stating that they worked in a soup kitchen, they could describe an example of one fulfilling incident which occurred while they were volunteering there. They might describe one person that expressed gratitude for their volunteer work, for example. Expressing their accomplishments in this manner provides the committee with a much more vivid picture of who the student is as a person, and that’s the point of a personal statement.

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