What is Personal Statement
A personal statement, or statement of purpose, is a reflective essay that allows you to market yourself to an admissions committee by describing your personality and previous experience. The goal of a personal statement is to convey who you are and why you are the best person for a program or a position. This type of writing is often used when applying for a university program, scholarship, transfer, or job.
How to Start a Personal Statement
Your first step is to determine the purpose of your essay. Your purpose will serve to guide you in choosing which of your particular qualities and experiences to highlight in the paper. If you are answering a prompt, ensure that you are clear about the topic you are being asked to write about. It is also important to consider your target audience carefully. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you start by researching the educational establishment to which you will submit your statement of purpose. Pay attention to the organization’s history and mission statement to identify what is valued in a potential student, and consider this information when writing the essay. Thus, if you are going to apply for several programs or courses, adjust your personal statement accordingly for each. Your writing must show that you have made an effort to learn more about the establishment to which you are applying.
Define your academic goals and consider how they relate to the chosen program or course. Conveying these goals in your writing will inform your reader that the program is important to you as it may have a significant impact on your future. At this stage in developing your statement, consider identifying why you have chosen this program and how you anticipate it will influence your life and contribute to your ultimate academic or career goal.
Regardless of the purpose, follow the guidelines listed below as you craft your personal statement.
- Meet the recommended word count. Overly short or long personal statements will reduce the chances that you will be chosen for a program.
- Include all requested information.
- Have a clear structure, including an introduction and a conclusion.
- Express your interest and passion in the chosen subject.
- Include a clear thesis statement.
- Convey a positive tone. Thus, avoid negative or confusing information.
How to Structure A Personal Statement
As with other academic papers, a personal statement should consist of a clear introduction with a thesis statement, main part, and a conclusion. However, the use of the first person is not prohibited, and you are free to speak about yourself using “I” because this is a personal statement. Since you are expected to tell about your experiences, write your narrative using the past tense. Throughout the essay, you should employ language that makes you sound enthusiastic about the program. Here is a suggested structure for a personal statement, highlighting the points you should cover:
The first thing that the admissions committee will see is the introduction, which is why you should take your time to ensure that your opening will distinguish you in some way from the other applicants. Your initial sentence should effectively set the tone and quality of the rest of your paper. Begin by expressing your interest in the subject, avoiding overused opening sentences like “I have always been interested in…” and “I have always been passionate about….” Rather, strive to be original and creative and refer to your own experience in a way that will spark the readers’ interest and explain what your passion is grounded on.
This “hook” should be followed by a transition to a thesis statement in which you identify the overall theme that you are going to communicate in your paper. Ensure that you include only one theme that relates to the explanation of how your previous experiences have prepared you for the given program. Generally, a thesis statement should comprise one sentence and be specific in summarizing the intent of the paper. Throughout the essay, you are expected to argue your thesis statement.
Body paragraphs account for the bulk of your personal statement. In this section, you should address the thesis statement presented in the introduction as well as answer the question (or questions) required by the admissions panel. Keep in mind that each paragraph should have one central idea and an opening sentence in which you clearly state what to expect in the rest of the paragraph. All the paragraphs should be logically linked with each other and presented chronologically or according to their importance, from least to most important. At this stage, address why you are the best candidate for the program and what makes you think that you will be successful. Identify your accomplishments and strengths and relate them to specific examples of your experiences. It is highly recommended that you avoid vague statements, stereotypes, or assumptions.
Consider answering the following questions in your paper:
- How do the details of your life reflect your academic and career goals?
- How has your interest in the subject evolved?
- Why do you think this field is important?
- What experiences have you had relative to the chosen field?
- How did you learn about the program?
- What personal qualities make you a valuable asset?
- Did you have any turning points that changed your life?
- How can you contribute to the organization? What makes you think that you are a better candidate than other applicants?
In this section, you should restate your thesis sentence as well as the arguments supporting it. Here is one more opportunity to express your interest in the field, state how you will contribute to the program, and assert why you will succeed. It is also appropriate to reiterate how your previous experience made an impact on you and your readiness to participate in the program. The closing sentence in the conclusion should contain some new information and challenge the reader to think further.
In summary, a personal statement is a piece of writing that requires the writer to prove why he or she is the best candidate for a program based on personal qualities and previous experience. Writing a good personal statement should be preceded by a thorough investigation of the target organization and identification of the writer’s goals, strengths, and achievements. The given guidelines present simplified rules to illustrate the proper structure of this kind of writing.