Personal Statements

The personal statement is your chance to tell your story! There's a lot more to you than your transcript and universities/colleges want to know about you as a whole person.

The Prompt

Each school will ask you to respond to a specific prompt so you will likely need to submit a unique essay for each application. Follow the prompt, but prepare to include: your academic history, major, future plans, extracurricular activities, major challenges you have overcome, and why you're interested in that particular school.

Tips on style and the writing process

  • Aim for precision, clarity and linear organization. The people reading your essay are also reading thousands of other essays. Make yours easy to follow and try not to repeat yourself.
  • Stick to the word limit. Some schools will ask you to keep your personal statement to 300 words, others will allow you 1000 words or more. It can be very difficult to edit your story down to those limits, but it's important not to go too far over the limit.
  • Emphasize the academic, social and career benefits of your education; avoid discussing money and future earning prospects directly.
  • Remember your audience. This is someone who has never met you. What kind if lasting impression are you leaving them with your personal statement?
  • Be truthful, but emphasize the positive. If you've struggled academically, talk about what you've learned from those struggles.
  • Show that you have done your research. Include specific reasons the school and program are a good fit for you instead of focusing on reputation and rankings.
  • Give yourself enough time. Sometimes students will try to write their personal essay the night before it is due. You should start your essay several weeks in advance, to give yourself time to think about it, edit, and ask for suggestions from someone else.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about your talents and hard work. Many students have trouble talking about themselves. It is very important that you are able to explain why they should pick you over all the other applicants.
  • Support your statements. Back up your claims with examples, stories, and details so that the reader feels that your essay is authentic. Make your statements interesting to read.
  • Edit, edit, edit. Don’t let the reader be distracted by spelling errors and grammar mistakes. They want to read a clean copy without any errors. Make sure you proof read your essay and ask others to proof read it.
  • Stay organized. Sometimes, students have a tendency to add details that are not needed to their essay. Make sure that every detail in your essay is needed to make your main point and that you tell your story in an order that makes sense.
  • Follow directions. Student sometimes forget to read all of the directions or read them carefully. Please make sure you are answering the correct question, using the right amount of words, and following any other guidelines.

Suffering from Writer's Block?

Use this personal statement worksheet to help you get started brainstorming.

More Resources