advice for personal statement

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How to Write a Strong Personal Statement

  • Ruth Gotian
  • Ushma S. Neill

advice for personal statement

A few adjustments can get your application noticed.

Whether applying for a summer internship, a professional development opportunity, such as a Fulbright, an executive MBA program, or a senior leadership development course, a personal statement threads the ideas of your CV, and is longer and has a different tone and purpose than a traditional cover letter. A few adjustments to your personal statement can get your application noticed by the reviewer.

  • Make sure you’re writing what they want to hear. Most organizations that offer a fellowship or internship are using the experience as a pipeline: It’s smart to spend 10 weeks and $15,000 on someone before committing five years and $300,000. Rarely are the organizations being charitable or altruistic, so align your stated goals with theirs
  • Know when to bury the lead, and when to get to the point. It’s hard to paint a picture and explain your motivations in 200 words, but if you have two pages, give the reader a story arc or ease into your point by setting the scene.
  • Recognize that the reviewer will be reading your statement subjectively, meaning you’re being assessed on unknowable criteria. Most people on evaluation committees are reading for whether or not you’re interesting. Stated differently, do they want to go out to dinner with you to hear more? Write it so that the person reading it wants to hear more.
  • Address the elephant in the room (if there is one). Maybe your grades weren’t great in core courses, or perhaps you’ve never worked in the field you’re applying to. Make sure to address the deficiency rather than hoping the reader ignores it because they won’t. A few sentences suffice. Deficiencies do not need to be the cornerstone of the application.

At multiple points in your life, you will need to take action to transition from where you are to where you want to be. This process is layered and time-consuming, and getting yourself to stand out among the masses is an arduous but not impossible task. Having a polished resume that explains what you’ve done is the common first step. But, when an application asks for it, a personal statement can add color and depth to your list of accomplishments. It moves you from a one-dimensional indistinguishable candidate to someone with drive, interest, and nuance.

advice for personal statement

  • Ruth Gotian is the chief learning officer and associate professor of education in anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, and the author of The Success Factor and Financial Times Guide to Mentoring . She was named the #1 emerging management thinker by Thinkers50. You can access her free list of conversation starters and test your mentoring impact . RuthGotian
  • Ushma S. Neill is the Vice President, Scientific Education & Training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She runs several summer internships and is involved with the NYC Marshall Scholar Selection Committee. ushmaneill

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How to Write a Personal Statement (with Tips and Examples)

Hannah Yang headshot

Hannah Yang

How to write a personal statement

Table of Contents

What is a personal statement, 6 tips on how to write a personal statement, personal statement examples (for college and university), faqs about writing personal statements, conclusion on how to write a personal statement.

How do you tell someone who you are in just a few hundred words?

It’s certainly no easy task, but it’s one almost every college applicant must do. The personal statement is a crucial part of any college or university application.

So, how do you write a compelling personal statement?

In this article, we’ll give you all the tools, tips, and examples you need to write an effective personal statement.

A personal statement is a short essay that reveals something important about who you are. It can talk about your background, your interests, your values, your goals in life, or all of the above.

Personal statements are required by many college admission offices and scholarship selection committees. They’re a key part of your application, alongside your academic transcript, standardized test scores, and extracurricular activities.

The reason application committees ask you to write a personal statement is so they can get to know who you are. 

Some personal statements have specific prompts, such as “Discuss a period of personal growth in your life” or “Tell us about a challenge or failure you’ve faced.” Others are more open-ended with prompts that essentially boil down to “Tell us about yourself.”

No matter what the prompt is, your goal is the same: to make yourself stand out to the selection committee as a strong candidate for their program.

Here are some things a personal statement can be:

It can be funny. If you have a great sense of humor, your personal statement is a great place to let that shine.  

It can be vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to open up about hardships in your life or failures you’ve experienced. Showing vulnerability can make you sound more like a real person rather than just a collection of application materials.  

It can be creative. Candidates have got into top schools with personal statements that take the form of “a day in the life” descriptions, third-person short stories, and even cooking recipes.

Now we’ve talked about what a personal statement is, let’s quickly look at what a personal statement isn’t:

It isn’t a formal academic paper. You should write the personal statement in your natural voice, using first-person pronouns like “I” and “me,” not in the formal, objective language you would use to write an academic paper.

It isn’t a five-paragraph essay. You should use as many paragraphs as you need to tell your story instead of sticking to the essay structure you learned in school.

It isn’t a resumé. You should try to describe yourself by telling a clear and cohesive story rather than providing a jumbled list of all of your accomplishments and ambitions.

personal statement definition

Here are our top six tips for writing a strong personal statement.

Tip 1: Do Some Serious Self-Reflection

The hardest part of writing a personal statement isn’t the actual process of writing it.

Before you start typing, you have to figure out what to write about. And that means taking some time to reflect on who you are and what’s important in your life.

Here are some useful questions you can use to start your self-reflection. You can either answer these on your own by writing down your answers, or you can ask a trusted friend to listen as you talk about them together.

What were the key moments that shaped your life? (e.g. an important friendship, a travel experience, an illness or injury)

What are you proud of? (e.g. you’re a good listener, you always keep your promises, you’re a talented musician)

How do you choose to spend your time? (e.g. reading, practicing soccer, spending time with your friends)

What inspires you? (e.g. your grandmother, a celebrity, your favorite song)

Doing this self-reflection is crucial for figuring out the perfect topics and anecdotes you can use to describe who you are.

Tip 2: Try to Avoid Cliché Topics

College application committees read thousands of personal statements a year. That means there are some personal statement topics they see over and over again.

Here are a few examples of common personal statement topics that have become cliché:

Winning a tournament or sports game

Volunteering in a foreign country

Moving to a new home

Becoming an older sibling

Being an immigrant or having immigrant parents

If you want to make a strong impression in the application process, you need to make your personal statement stand out from the crowd.

But if your chosen personal statement topic falls into one of these categories, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t use it. Just make sure to put a unique spin on it so it still delivers something the committee hasn’t seen before.

advice for personal statement

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Tip 3: Show, Don’t Tell

One common mistake you might make in your personal statement is to simply tell the reader what you want them to know about you, such as by stating “I have a fear of public speaking” or “I love to cook.”

Instead of simply stating these facts, you should show the committee what you’re talking about through a story or scene, which will make your essay much more immersive and memorable.

For example, let’s say you want the committee to know you overcame your fear of public speaking. Instead of writing “I overcame my fear of public speaking,” show them what it was like to be onstage in front of a microphone. Did your palms get clammy? Did you feel light-headed? Did you forget your words?

Or let’s say you want the committee to know you love to cook. Instead of writing “I love to cook,” show them why you love to cook. What’s your favorite dish to cook? What does the air smell like when you’re cooking it? What kitchen appliances do you use to make it?

Tip 4: Connect the Story to Why You’re Applying

Don’t forget that the purpose of your personal statement isn’t simply to tell the admissions committee who you are. That’s an important part of it, of course, but your ultimate goal is to convince them to choose you as a candidate.

That means it’s important to tie your personal story to your reasons for applying to this specific school or scholarship. Finish your essay with a strong thesis.

For example, if your story is about overcoming your fear of public speaking, you might connect that story to your ambition of becoming a politician. You can then tie that to your application by saying, “I want to apply to this school because of its fantastic politics program, which will give me a perfect opportunity to use my voice.”

Tip 5: Write in Your Own Voice

The personal statement isn’t supposed to be written in a formal tone. That’s why they’re called “personal” statements because you have to shape it to fit your own voice and style.

Don’t use complicated or overwrought language. You don’t need to fill your essay with semicolons and big words, unless that’s how you sound in real life.

One way to write in your own voice is by speaking your personal statement out loud. If it doesn’t feel natural, it may need changing. 

Tip 6: Edit, Edit, Edit!

It’s important to revise your personal statement multiple times in order to make sure it’s as close to perfect as possible.

A single typo won’t kill your application, but if your personal statement contains multiple spelling errors or egregious grammar mistakes, you won’t be putting your best foot forward.

ProWritingAid can help you make sure your personal statement is as clean as possible. In addition to catching your grammar errors, typos, and punctuation mistakes, it will also help you improve weaknesses in your writing, such as passive voice, unnecessary repetition, and more.

Let’s look at some of the best personal statements that have worked for successful candidates in the real world. 

Harvard Personal Statement Example

Love. For a word describing such a powerful emotion, it is always in the air. The word “love” has become so pervasive in everyday conversation that it hardly retains its roots in blazing passion and deep adoration. In fact, the word is thrown about so much that it becomes difficult to believe society isn’t just one huge, smitten party, with everyone holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.” In films, it’s the teenage boy’s grudging response to a doting mother. At school, it’s a habitual farewell between friends. But in my Chinese home, it’s never uttered. Watching my grandmother lie unconscious on the hospital bed, waiting for her body to shut down, was excruciatingly painful. Her final quavering breaths formed a discordant rhythm with the steady beep of hospital equipment and the unsympathetic tapping hands of the clock. That evening, I whispered—into unhearing ears—the first, and only, “I love you” I ever said to her, my rankling guilt haunting me relentlessly for weeks after her passing. My warm confession seemed anticlimactic, met with only the coldness of my surroundings—the blank room, impassive doctors, and empty silence. I struggled to understand why the “love” that so easily rolled off my tongue when bantering with friends dissipated from my vocabulary when I spoke to my family. Do Chinese people simply love less than Americans do?

This is an excerpt from a personal statement that got the applicant admitted to Harvard University. The applicant discusses her background as a Chinese-American by musing on the word “love” and what that means within her family.

The writer uses vulnerable details about her relationship with her grandmother to give the reader an understanding of where she comes from and how her family has shaped her.  

You can read the full personal statement on the Harvard Crimson website.

Tufts Personal Statement Example

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go,” and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon. Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration. Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear. I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.

This is the beginning of a personal statement by Renner Kwittken, who was admitted into Tufts University as a pre-medical student.

Renner uses a humorous anecdote about being a pickle truck driver to describe his love for nanomedicine and how he got involved in his field. You can feel his passion for medicine throughout his personal statement.

You can find Renner’s full essay on the Tufts Admissions page.

Law School Personal Statement Essay Example

For most people, the slap on the face that turns their life around is figurative. Mine was literal. Actually, it was a punch delivered by a drill sergeant at Fort Dix, New Jersey, while I was in basic training. That day’s activity, just a few weeks into the program, included instruction in “low-crawling,” a sensible method of moving from one place to another on a battlefield. I felt rather clever for having discovered that, by looking right rather than down, I eliminated my helmet’s unfortunate tendency to dig into the ground and slow my progress. I could thus advance more easily, but I also exposed my unprotected face to hostile fire. Drill sergeants are typically very good at detecting this type of laziness, and mine was an excellent drill sergeant. So, after his repeated suggestions that I correct my performance went unheeded, he drove home his point with a fist to my face. We were both stunned. This was, after all, the New Army, and striking a trainee was a career-ending move for a drill sergeant, as we were both aware. I could have reported him; arguably, I should have. I didn’t. It didn’t seem right for this good sergeant, who had not slept for almost four days, to lose his career for losing his temper with my laziness. Choosing not to report him was the first decision I remember making that made me proud.

These are the first three paragraphs of an anonymous personal statement by a Wheaton College graduate, who used this personal statement to get into a top-25 law school.

This statement describes a time the applicant faced a challenging decision while in the army. He ended up making a decision he was proud of, and as a result, the personal statement gives us a sense of his character.

You can find the full essay on the Wheaton Academics website.

Here are some common questions about how to write a personal statement.

How Long Should a Personal Statement Be?

The length of your personal statement depends on the specific program you’re applying to. The application guidelines usually specify a maximum word count or an ideal word count.  

Most personal statements are between 500–800 words. That’s a good general range to aim for if you don’t have more specific guidelines.  

Should Personal Statements Be Different for Scholarships?

Many scholarship applications will ask for personal statements with similar prompts to those of college applications.

However, the purpose of a personal statement you’d write for a scholarship application is different from the purpose of one you’d write for a college application.

For a scholarship application, your goal is to showcase why you deserve the scholarship. To do that, you need to understand the mission of the organization offering that scholarship.

For example, some scholarships are meant to help first-generation college students get their degree, while others are meant to help women break into STEM.

Consider the following questions:

Why is this organization offering scholarships?

What would their ideal scholarship candidate look like?

How do your experiences and goals overlap with those of their ideal scholarship candidate?

You can use the same personal anecdotes you’d use for any other personal statement, but you’ll have a better chance of winning the scholarship if you tailor your essay to match their specific mission.

How to Start a Personal Statement

You should start your personal statement with a “hook” that pulls the reader in. The sooner you catch the reader’s attention, the more likely they’ll want to read the entire essay.

Here are some examples of hooks you can use:

A story (e.g. When the spotlight hit my face, I tried to remind myself to breathe. )

A setting description (e.g. My bedroom floor is covered with dirty laundry, candy wrappers, and crumpled sheet music. )

A funny anecdote (e.g. When I was a little kid, my friends nicknamed me Mowgli because of my haircut. )

A surprising fact (e.g. I've lived in 37 countries .)

There you have it—our complete guide to writing a personal statement that will make you stand out to the application committee.

Here’s a quick recap: 

A personal statement is a short essay that shows an application committee who you are

Start with a strong hook that pulls the reader in

Tell a story to engage the reader 

Write in your own voice, not in a formal tone

Good luck, and happy writing!

Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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By Nik Taylor (Editor, The Uni Guide) | 18 August 2023 | 22 min read

How to write an excellent personal statement in 10 steps

Stand out from the crowd: here's how to write a good personal statement that will get you noticed

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advice for personal statement

Your personal statement forms a core part of your university application, and the sooner you get going, the better you can make it. You may think that your personal statement won’t matter as much to unis as your grades and experience but a great personal statement could make all the difference between you and a candidate with the same grades. Sure, your application might not reach that deal breaker stage. But is it something you want to leave to chance?  Here we’ll take you through the process of planning, writing and checking a good personal statement, so you end up with something you can submit with confidence. And to make sure the advice we're giving you is sound, we’ve spoken to admissions staff at loads of UK universities to get their view. Look out for video interviews and advice on applying for specific subjects throughout this piece or watch our personal statement playlist on YouTube .

  • Are you looking for personal statement examples? Check our library of hundreds of real personal statements, on The Student Room

Personal statement deadlines

You'll need to make sure you've got your personal statement written well in advance of your application deadline. Below are the main university application deadline dates for 2024 entry.

2024 entry deadlines

16 October 2023: Deadline for applications to Oxford and Cambridge universities, along with most medicine, dentistry, and veterinary courses.   31 January 2024: Deadline for applications to the majority of undergraduate courses. After this date, universities will start allocating places on these courses –   but you can still apply after the 31 January deadline , as this article explains . 30 June 2024:  Students who apply after this date will be entered into Clearing .

  • Read more: Ucas deadlines and key application dates

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is a central part of your Ucas application, where you explain why you’ve chosen a particular course and why you’ll be good at it. It's your chance to stand out against other candidates and hopefully get that all-important offer. You only write one personal statement which is then read by each university you apply to, so if you are applying for more than one subject (or it's a combined course) it's crucial that you include common themes or reference the overall skills needed for all subjects. Personal statements are especially important if you’re trying to get on a very competitive course, where you need to do anything you can to stand out to admissions tutors. Courteney Sheppard, senior customer experience manager at Ucas, advises that your personal statement is "the only part of the application that you have direct control over. Do lots of research to demonstrate your passion, curiosity and drive to pursue your chosen subject." There’s a limit on how much you can write: your personal statement can be up to 4,000 characters (including spaces) or 47 lines of 95 characters (including spaces); whichever is shorter. This may appear generous (read: long) but once you've got going you may find yourself having to edit heavily.

  • Read more: teacher secrets for writing a great personal statement

1. Plan what you want to cover

The first thing you need to do is make a plan. Writing a personal statement off the top of your head is difficult. Start by making some notes, answering the following questions:

  • What do you want to study?
  • Why do you want to study it?
  • What is there about you that shows you’re suited to studying this subject at university? Think about your personality, as well as your experiences.
  • What are your other interests and skills?

These few points are going to form the spine of your personal statement, so write them in a way that makes sense to you. You might want to make a simple bulleted list or you might want to get all arty and use a mindmap. Whatever you choose, your aim is the same. You want to get it clear in your own head why a university should offer you a place on its course. Getting those details down isn't always easy, and some people find it helpful to make notes over time. You might try carrying a notebook with you or set up a memo on your phone. Whenever you think of something useful for your personal statement, jot it down. Inspiration sometimes comes more easily when you’re thinking about something else entirely. It might help to take a look at The Student Room for some sample personal statements by university and sample personal statements by subjects , to give you an idea of the kind of thing you want to include. 

  • Read more: personal statement FAQs

2. Show off your experience

Some things are worth adding to your personal statement, some things are not. Firmly in the second camp are your qualifications. You don’t need to mention these as there’s a whole other section of your personal statement where you get to detail them very precisely. Don’t waste a single character going on about how great your GCSE grades are – it’s not what the admissions tutor wants to read. What they do want to see is: what have you done? OK, so you’ve got some good grades, but so do a lot of other applicants. What have you done that’s different, that shows you off as someone who really loves the subject you’re applying for? Spend some time thinking about all the experience you have in that subject. If you’re lucky, this might be direct work experience. That’s going to be particularly appropriate if you’re applying for one of the more vocational subjects such as medicine or journalism . But uni staff realise getting plum work experience placements is easier for some people than others, so cast your net wider when you’re thinking about what you’ve done. How about after-school clubs? Debating societies? Are you running a blog or vlog? What key skills and experience have you picked up elsewhere (eg from hobbies) that could be tied in with your course choice? Remember, you’re looking for experience that shows why you want to study your chosen subject. You’re not just writing an essay about what you're doing in your A-level syllabus. Use this checklist as a guide for what to include:

  • Your interest in the course. Why do you want to spend three years studying this subject at university?
  • What have you done outside school or college that demonstrates this interest? Think about things like fairs/exhibitions, public lectures or voluntary work that is relevant to your subject.
  • Relevant work experience (essential for the likes of medicine, not required for non-vocational courses such as English )
  • Skills and qualities required for that career if appropriate (medicine, nursing and law as obvious examples)
  • Interest in your current studies – what particular topics have made an impression on you?
  • Any other interests/hobbies/experiences you wish to mention that are relevant either to the subject or 'going to uni'. Don't just list your hobbies, you need to be very selective and state clearly what difference doing these things has made to you.
  • Plans for a gap year if you’re deferring entry.

Read more: 6 steps you need to take to apply to university

3. Be bold about your achievements

Don't be bashful about your achievements; that’s not going to help you get into uni. It's time to unleash your inner Muhammed Ali and get all “I am the greatest” with your writing. Do keep it focused and accurate. Do keep your language professional. But don’t hide your qualities beneath a layer of false modesty. Your personal statement is a sell – you are selling yourself as a brilliant student and you need to show the reader why that is true. This doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and if you’re finding it difficult to write about how great you are it’s time to enlist some help. Round up a friend or two, a family member, a teacher, whoever and get them to write down your qualities. Getting someone else’s view here can help you get some perspective. Don’t be shy. You are selling your skills, your experience and your enthusiasm – make sure they all leap off the screen with the way you have described them.

  • Read more: the ten biggest mistakes when writing your personal statement  

4. How to start your personal statement

Type your personal statement in a cloud-based word processing program, such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word and don’t copy and paste it into Ucas Hub until it’s finished.  One of the benefits of doing it this way is that you can run spell check easily. (Please note, though, that Word adds "curly" quotation marks and other characters (like é or ü) that won't show up on your Ucas form, so do proofread it on Ucas Hub before submitting it to ensure it is how you typed it.)  Another big benefit is that you'll always have a backup of what you've written. If you're being super careful, you could always save your statement in another place as well. Bear in mind that extra spaces (eg adding spaces to the beginnings of paragraphs as indentation) are removed on Ucas. In your first sentence, cut to the chase. Why do you want to do the course? Don’t waste any time rambling on about the daydreams you had when you were five. Just be clear and concise – describe in one line why this course is so important to you. Then, in the rest of your intro, go into more detail in demonstrating your enthusiasm for the course and explaining how you decided this is what you want to do for the next three or more years. However you choose to start your statement, just avoid the following hoary old chestnuts. These have been some of the most used lines in personal statements over the years – they are beyond cliche, so don’t even think about it.

  • From a young age I have (always) been [interested in/fascinated by]…
  • For as long as I can remember, I have…
  • I am applying for this course because… 
  • I have always been interested in… 
  • Throughout my life I have always enjoyed… 
  • Reflecting on my educational experiences… 
  • [Subject] is a very challenging and demanding [career/profession/course]… 
  • Academically, I have always been… 
  • I have always wanted to pursue a career in… 
  • I have always been passionate about…   

5. Focus your writing on why you've chosen that subject

So you’ve got your intro done – time to nail the rest of it. Bear in mind that you’ve got to be a little bit careful when following a personal statement template. It’s easy to fall into the trap of copying someone else’s style, and in the process lose all of your own voice and personality from your writing. But there is a rough order that you can follow, which should help keep you in your flow. After your opening paragraph or two, get into any work experience (if you’ve got it). Talk about extracurriculars: anything you've done which is relevant to the subject can go here – hobbies, interests, volunteering. Touch on your career aspirations – where do you want this course to take you? Next, show your enthusiasm for your current studies. Cite some specific examples of current work that you enjoyed. Show off your relevant skills and qualities by explaining how you’ve used these in the past. Make sure you’re giving real-world examples here, not just vague assertions like “I’m really organised and motivated”. Try to use examples that are relevant.   Follow this up with something about you as a person. Talk about non-academic stuff that you like to do, but link it in some way with the course, or with how it shows your maturity for dealing with uni life. Round it all off by bringing your main points together, including a final emphasis of your commitment to studying this particular course.

  • Read more: how to write your personal statement in an evening  

6. How long should a personal statement be?

You've got to work to a very specific limit when writing your personal statement. In theory you could use up to 4,000 characters – but you’re probably more likely to be limited by the line count. That's because it's a good idea to put line breaks in between your paragraphs (to make it more readable) and you only get a maximum of 47 lines. With this in mind, 3,500 characters is a more realistic limit. But when you’re getting started you should ignore these limits completely. At first, you just want to get down everything that you feel is important. You'll probably end up with something that is far too long, but that's fine. This is where you get to do some polishing and pruning. Keep the focus of your piece on the course you’re applying for, why you want to do it and why you’re perfectly suited to it. Look through what you’ve written so far – have you got the balance right? Chop out anything that goes on a bit, as you want each point to be snappy and succinct.

  • Read more: universities reveal all about personal statements  

7. Keep it simple

8. Smart ways to end your personal statement

Writing a closing line that you’re happy with can feel as tricky as coming up with your opener. What you’re looking for here is a sign-off that is bold and memorable. The final couple of sentences in your statement give you the opportunity to emphasise all the good stuff you’ve already covered. Use this space to leave the reader in no doubt as to what an excellent addition you would be to their university. Pull together all your key points and – most importantly – address the central question that your personal statement should answer: why should you get a place on the course?

  • Read more: universities explain how to end your personal statement with a bang  

9. Make sure your personal statement has no mistakes

Now you’ve got a personal statement you’re happy with, you need to make sure there are no mistakes. Check it, check it a second time, then check it again. Once you’ve done that, get someone else to check it, too. You will be doing yourself a massive disservice if you send through a personal statement with spelling and/or grammatical errors. You’ve got months to put this together so there really is no excuse for sending through something that looks like a rush job. Ask your teachers to look at it, and be prepared to accept their feedback without getting defensive. They will have seen many personal statements before; use what they tell you to make yours even better. You’ve also got another chance here to look through the content of your personal statement, so you can make sure the balance is right. Make sure your focus is very clearly on the subject you are applying for and why you want to study it. Don’t post your personal statement on the internet or social media where anyone can see it. You will get picked up by the Ucas plagiarism checker. Similarly, don't copy any that you find online. Instead, now is a good time to make your parents feel useful. Read your personal statement out to them and get them to give you feedback. Or try printing it out and mixing it up with a few others (you can find sample personal statements on The Student Room). Get them to read them all and then try to pick yours out. If they can't, perhaps there's not enough of your personality in there.  

10. Don't think about your personal statement for a whole week

If you followed the advice at the very start of this guide, you’ve started your personal statement early. Good job! There are months before you need to submit it. Use one of these weeks to forget about your personal statement completely. Get on with other things – anything you like. Just don’t go near your statement. Give it a whole week and then open up the document again and read through it with fresh eyes. You’ll gain a whole new perspective on what you’ve written and will be well placed to make more changes, if needed.

  • Read more: how to write your personal statement when you have nothing interesting to say  

10 steps to your ideal personal statement

In summary, here are the ten steps you should follow to create the perfect personal statement.  

Personal statement dos and don'ts

  • Remember that your personal statement is your personal statement, not an article written about your intended field of study. It should tell the reader about you, not about the subject.
  • Only put in things that you’re prepared to talk about at the interviews.
  • Give convincing reasons for why you want to study the course – more than just "enjoying the subject" (this should be a given).
  • For very competitive courses, find out as much as you can about the nature of the course and try to make your personal statement relevant to this.
  • Be reflective. If you make a point like 'I like reading', 'I travelled abroad', say what you got from it.
  • Go through the whole thing checking your grammar and your spelling. Do this at least twice. It doesn’t matter if you’re not applying to an essay-based course – a personal statement riddled with spelling mistakes is just going to irritate the reader, which is the last thing you want to do. If this is something you find difficult then have someone look over it for you.
  • Leave blank lines between your paragraphs. It’s easier for the reader to get through your personal statement when it’s broken into easily digestible chunks. Remember that they’re going to be reading a lot of these! Make yours easy to get through.
  • Get someone else's opinion on your statement. Read it out to family or friends. Share it with your teacher. Look for feedback wherever you can find it, then act upon it.
  • Don’t write it like a letter. Kicking off with a greeting such as "Dear Sir/Madam" not only looks weird, it also wastes precious space.
  • Don’t make jokes. This is simply not the time – save them for your first night in the union.
  • Don’t criticise your current school or college or try to blame teachers for any disappointing grades you might have got.
  • Be afraid of details – if you want your PS to be personal to you that means explaining exactly which bits of work or topics or activities you've taken part in/enjoyed. It's much more compelling to read about one or two detailed examples than a paragraph that brushes over five or six.
  • Just list what you're doing now. You should pull out the experiences that are relevant to the courses which you're applying to.
  • Mention skills and activities without giving examples of when they have been demonstrated by you or what you learnt from them. Anyone can write "I have great leadership skills" in a PS, actually using a sentence to explain when you demonstrated good leadership skills is much rarer and more valuable.
  • Refer to experiences that took place before your GCSEs (or equivalent).
  • Give explanations about medical or mental health problems. These should be explained in your reference, not your PS.
  • Apply for too many different courses, making it difficult to write a convincing personal statement which supports the application.
  • Write a statement specific to just one institution, unless you're only applying to that one choice.
  • Copy and paste the statement from somewhere else! This means do not plagiarise. All statements are automatically checked for plagiarism by Ucas. Those that are highlighted by the computer system are checked manually by Ucas staff. If you’re found to have plagiarised parts of your statement, the universities you apply to will be informed and it could jeopardise your applications.
  • Use ChatGPT or another AI program to write your personal statement for you. Or, if you do, make sure you thoroughly edit and personalise the text so it's truly yours. Otherwise you're very much at risk of the plagiarism point above.

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 How to Write a Personal Statement with Examples

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What is a personal statement?

How to write a personal statement, what to include in a personal statement, personal statement examples, tips for writing a personal statement.

A personal statement highlights your industry credentials, previous noteworthy accomplishments, what you can bring to the company and how your interest in the role can achieve a company’s goals. What you write in a personal statement also conveys a great deal about yourself, including your talents, goals, outlook and work ethic. This article shares steps and examples that you can follow when writing your own personal statement.

A personal statement is a description that combines your notable abilities and career objectives in a brief paragraph to help hiring managers determine whether your qualifications are suitable for a position. It also summarizes substantial information that shows how much you understand the job. When writing a personal statement, it’s vital to make a connection between you and your desired job. 

Here are some steps to follow when writing a personal statement:

1. Firstly, research the company

Read the company’s profiles, achievements, vision and goals. Analyze and understand the position for which you’re applying, and find ways to connect it to the company’s overall goals. 

2. Then, make a list of your achievements

Create a list of your education and academic qualifications, training, accomplishments, skills and experience relevant to the job. Pick the most noteworthy achievements out of this list to add to your personal statement.

3. Next, demonstrate your qualifications

Using your knowledge about the company, write a brief paragraph about why you are the best person for the job. Be sure to add the most important details about you and your professional life, which includes highlighting how employing you can help the company fulfill its goals.

4. Finally, keep your personal statement short and readable

While there is no definite word count, a good personal statement should usually be about a paragraph long. What’s essential is that you can summarize all of the crucial points within a few detailed sentences. Keeping your statement easily readable can ensure that you maintain an employer’s attention.

If you’re applying to a job or updating your resume, one of the first things to do is to write a compelling personal statement highlighting essential details about yourself and your professional achievements. 

Here are the following parts you can use to help you write a personal statement:

Personal history

A good personal statement shares details that will give the hiring manager an idea of who you are both as a person and as an employee. For example, if you’re looking for an entry-level position, you can note that you’ve graduated with honors. As another example, listing your experience as a team leader can make it easier to demonstrate your qualifications for a management position. Make sure the personal history you include aligns with the position and the company’s goals.

Skills and work contributions

Your personal statement should emphasize the skill sets and talents that you can contribute to the company. Your expertise is not limited to technical aspects. It could also be communication, leadership, time management and similar skills. Communicate how these substantial assets of yours can contribute to the company’s objectives.

An example could be explaining how your expertise in programming software helped your former company secure a long-term contract. Describe how the company can benefit from your skill and experience.

Purpose and career goals

Your purpose conveys how your chosen career path aligns with the position you’re applying for. Although you can write about how the job will help your professional interests, it’s more important to identify how the company can benefit from hiring you.

For example, it could be as simple as your eagerness to seek a position as an operations supervisor, which means you must highlight how your leadership skills can help you manage teams so they can reach a sales quota. Start by explaining how your education, skills and experience have prepared you for the leadership role and, subsequently, how it can benefit the company.

Although it is a personal statement, it is best to find a balance between your individual and professional details. Keep in mind that you also only need to include details that are relevant to the position. If you’re trying to become a graphic artist, for example, focus primarily on your artistic achievements, awards, experience and goals in your statement.

Here are some examples of personal statements for different goals and career paths:

Engineering personal statement

‘Accomplished mechanical engineer with a master’s degree in modeling and simulation and more than 10 years of supervisory experience in an international manufacturing company. My technical and problem-solving skills helped develop test procedures that increased machine sales by 65% in a single financial year.’

Photographer personal statement

‘Veteran photographer with over five years of experience serving as a trainer for both photographers and editors in a regional publishing house. Supervised photo shoots for magazine features and covers that earned national recognition and awards. Searching for a leadership position in a national publication.’

Sales director personal statement

‘Target-oriented sales director within the tourism sector with over 20 years of experience in sustainable travel management. Proven success in both environmental tours and managing farm-to-table restaurants and accommodation. Increased previous company’s sales by 60% by implementing a two-year marketing plan.’

Here are some tips you can use when writing your personal statement:

  • Use a template.  Have a general personal statement you can use as a template and then customize it depending on the job description.
  • Use specific keywords and quantifiable metrics.  This can help your resume or cover letter make it through any application tracking software.
  • Talk to your colleagues. The people you work with can give you deeper insight into your work output and character.
  • Focus on the content first and the length later. You don’t need to worry much about the length of your statement when making a draft. You can always edit and shorten it.
  • Use action words.  Descriptive words make it easier for employers to envision the achievements you’ve accomplished in your professional life.
  • Make a strong first impression. A personal statement is often the first impression you make on a hiring manager. Because of this, it’s important to select only keywords, skills and experiences that are significant to your desired position.

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  • Applying to graduate school
  • How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

Published on February 12, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 3, 2023.

A personal statement is a short essay of around 500–1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you’re applying.

To write a successful personal statement for a graduate school application , don’t just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to demonstrate three things:

  • Your personality: what are your interests, values, and motivations?
  • Your talents: what can you bring to the program?
  • Your goals: what do you hope the program will do for you?

This article guides you through some winning strategies to build a strong, well-structured personal statement for a master’s or PhD application. You can download the full examples below.

Urban Planning Psychology History

Table of contents

Getting started with your personal statement, the introduction: start with an attention-grabbing opening, the main body: craft your narrative, the conclusion: look ahead, revising, editing, and proofreading your personal statement, frequently asked questions, other interesting articles.

Before you start writing, the first step is to understand exactly what’s expected of you. If the application gives you a question or prompt for your personal statement, the most important thing is to respond to it directly.

For example, you might be asked to focus on the development of your personal identity; challenges you have faced in your life; or your career motivations. This will shape your focus and emphasis—but you still need to find your own unique approach to answering it.

There’s no universal template for a personal statement; it’s your chance to be creative and let your own voice shine through. But there are strategies you can use to build a compelling, well-structured story.

The first paragraph of your personal statement should set the tone and lead smoothly into the story you want to tell.

Strategy 1: Open with a concrete scene

An effective way to catch the reader’s attention is to set up a scene that illustrates something about your character and interests. If you’re stuck, try thinking about:

  • A personal experience that changed your perspective
  • A story from your family’s history
  • A memorable teacher or learning experience
  • An unusual or unexpected encounter

To write an effective scene, try to go beyond straightforward description; start with an intriguing sentence that pulls the reader in, and give concrete details to create a convincing atmosphere.

Strategy 2: Open with your motivations

To emphasize your enthusiasm and commitment, you can start by explaining your interest in the subject you want to study or the career path you want to follow.

Just stating that it interests you isn’t enough: first, you need to figure out why you’re interested in this field:

  • Is it a longstanding passion or a recent discovery?
  • Does it come naturally or have you had to work hard at it?
  • How does it fit into the rest of your life?
  • What do you think it contributes to society?

Tips for the introduction

  • Don’t start on a cliche: avoid phrases like “Ever since I was a child…” or “For as long as I can remember…”
  • Do save the introduction for last. If you’re struggling to come up with a strong opening, leave it aside, and note down any interesting ideas that occur to you as you write the rest of the personal statement.

Once you’ve set up the main themes of your personal statement, you’ll delve into more detail about your experiences and motivations.

To structure the body of your personal statement, there are various strategies you can use.

Strategy 1: Describe your development over time

One of the simplest strategies is to give a chronological overview of key experiences that have led you to apply for graduate school.

  • What first sparked your interest in the field?
  • Which classes, assignments, classmates, internships, or other activities helped you develop your knowledge and skills?
  • Where do you want to go next? How does this program fit into your future plans?

Don’t try to include absolutely everything you’ve done—pick out highlights that are relevant to your application. Aim to craft a compelling narrative that shows how you’ve changed and actively developed yourself.

My interest in psychology was first sparked early in my high school career. Though somewhat scientifically inclined, I found that what interested me most was not the equations we learned about in physics and chemistry, but the motivations and perceptions of my fellow students, and the subtle social dynamics that I observed inside and outside the classroom. I wanted to learn how our identities, beliefs, and behaviours are shaped through our interactions with others, so I decided to major in Social Psychology. My undergraduate studies deepened my understanding of, and fascination with, the interplay between an individual mind and its social context.During my studies, I acquired a solid foundation of knowledge about concepts like social influence and group dynamics, but I also took classes on various topics not strictly related to my major. I was particularly interested in how other fields intersect with psychology—the classes I took on media studies, biology, and literature all enhanced my understanding of psychological concepts by providing different lenses through which to look at the issues involved.

Strategy 2: Own your challenges and obstacles

If your path to graduate school hasn’t been easy or straightforward, you can turn this into a strength, and structure your personal statement as a story of overcoming obstacles.

  • Is your social, cultural or economic background underrepresented in the field? Show how your experiences will contribute a unique perspective.
  • Do you have gaps in your resume or lower-than-ideal grades? Explain the challenges you faced and how you dealt with them.

Don’t focus too heavily on negatives, but use them to highlight your positive qualities. Resilience, resourcefulness and perseverance make you a promising graduate school candidate.

Growing up working class, urban decay becomes depressingly familiar. The sight of a row of abandoned houses does not surprise me, but it continues to bother me. Since high school, I have been determined to pursue a career in urban planning. While people of my background experience the consequences of urban planning decisions first-hand, we are underrepresented in the field itself. Ironically, given my motivation, my economic background has made my studies challenging. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship for my undergraduate studies, but after graduation I took jobs in unrelated fields to help support my parents. In the three years since, I have not lost my ambition. Now I am keen to resume my studies, and I believe I can bring an invaluable perspective to the table: that of the people most impacted by the decisions of urban planners.

Strategy 3: Demonstrate your knowledge of the field

Especially if you’re applying for a PhD or another research-focused program, it’s a good idea to show your familiarity with the subject and the department. Your personal statement can focus on the area you want to specialize in and reflect on why it matters to you.

  • Reflect on the topics or themes that you’ve focused on in your studies. What draws you to them?
  • Discuss any academic achievements, influential teachers, or other highlights of your education.
  • Talk about the questions you’d like to explore in your research and why you think they’re important.

The personal statement isn’t a research proposal , so don’t go overboard on detail—but it’s a great opportunity to show your enthusiasm for the field and your capacity for original thinking.

In applying for this research program, my intention is to build on the multidisciplinary approach I have taken in my studies so far, combining knowledge from disparate fields of study to better understand psychological concepts and issues. The Media Psychology program stands out to me as the perfect environment for this kind of research, given its researchers’ openness to collaboration across diverse fields. I am impressed by the department’s innovative interdisciplinary projects that focus on the shifting landscape of media and technology, and I hope that my own work can follow a similarly trailblazing approach. More specifically, I want to develop my understanding of the intersection of psychology and media studies, and explore how media psychology theories and methods might be applied to neurodivergent minds. I am interested not only in media psychology but also in psychological disorders, and how the two interact. This is something I touched on during my undergraduate studies and that I’m excited to delve into further.

Strategy 4: Discuss your professional ambitions

Especially if you’re applying for a more professionally-oriented program (such as an MBA), it’s a good idea to focus on concrete goals and how the program will help you achieve them.

  • If your career is just getting started, show how your character is suited to the field, and explain how graduate school will help you develop your talents.
  • If you have already worked in the profession, show what you’ve achieved so far, and explain how the program will allow you to take the next step.
  • If you are planning a career change, explain what has driven this decision and how your existing experience will help you succeed.

Don’t just state the position you want to achieve. You should demonstrate that you’ve put plenty of thought into your career plans and show why you’re well-suited to this profession.

One thing that fascinated me about the field during my undergraduate studies was the sheer number of different elements whose interactions constitute a person’s experience of an urban environment. Any number of factors could transform the scene I described at the beginning: What if there were no bus route? Better community outreach in the neighborhood? Worse law enforcement? More or fewer jobs available in the area? Some of these factors are out of the hands of an urban planner, but without taking them all into consideration, the planner has an incomplete picture of their task. Through further study I hope to develop my understanding of how these disparate elements combine and interact to create the urban environment. I am interested in the social, psychological and political effects our surroundings have on our lives. My studies will allow me to work on projects directly affecting the kinds of working-class urban communities I know well. I believe I can bring my own experiences, as well as my education, to bear upon the problem of improving infrastructure and quality of life in these communities.

Tips for the main body

  • Don’t rehash your resume by trying to summarize everything you’ve done so far; the personal statement isn’t about listing your academic or professional experience, but about reflecting, evaluating, and relating it to broader themes.
  • Do make your statements into stories: Instead of saying you’re hard-working and self-motivated, write about your internship where you took the initiative to start a new project. Instead of saying you’ve always loved reading, reflect on a novel or poem that changed your perspective.

Your conclusion should bring the focus back to the program and what you hope to get out of it, whether that’s developing practical skills, exploring intellectual questions, or both.

Emphasize the fit with your specific interests, showing why this program would be the best way to achieve your aims.

Strategy 1: What do you want to know?

If you’re applying for a more academic or research-focused program, end on a note of curiosity: what do you hope to learn, and why do you think this is the best place to learn it?

If there are specific classes or faculty members that you’re excited to learn from, this is the place to express your enthusiasm.

Strategy 2: What do you want to do?

If you’re applying for a program that focuses more on professional training, your conclusion can look to your career aspirations: what role do you want to play in society, and why is this program the best choice to help you get there?

Tips for the conclusion

  • Don’t summarize what you’ve already said. You have limited space in a personal statement, so use it wisely!
  • Do think bigger than yourself: try to express how your individual aspirations relate to your local community, your academic field, or society more broadly. It’s not just about what you’ll get out of graduate school, but about what you’ll be able to give back.

You’ll be expected to do a lot of writing in graduate school, so make a good first impression: leave yourself plenty of time to revise and polish the text.

Your style doesn’t have to be as formal as other kinds of academic writing, but it should be clear, direct and coherent. Make sure that each paragraph flows smoothly from the last, using topic sentences and transitions to create clear connections between each part.

Don’t be afraid to rewrite and restructure as much as necessary. Since you have a lot of freedom in the structure of a personal statement, you can experiment and move information around to see what works best.

Finally, it’s essential to carefully proofread your personal statement and fix any language errors. Before you submit your application, consider investing in professional personal statement editing . For $150, you have the peace of mind that your personal statement is grammatically correct, strong in term of your arguments, and free of awkward mistakes.

A statement of purpose is usually more formal, focusing on your academic or professional goals. It shouldn’t include anything that isn’t directly relevant to the application.

A personal statement can often be more creative. It might tell a story that isn’t directly related to the application, but that shows something about your personality, values, and motivations.

However, both types of document have the same overall goal: to demonstrate your potential as a graduate student and s how why you’re a great match for the program.

The typical length of a personal statement for graduate school applications is between 500 and 1,000 words.

Different programs have different requirements, so always check if there’s a minimum or maximum length and stick to the guidelines. If there is no recommended word count, aim for no more than 1-2 pages.

If you’re applying to multiple graduate school programs, you should tailor your personal statement to each application.

Some applications provide a prompt or question. In this case, you might have to write a new personal statement from scratch: the most important task is to respond to what you have been asked.

If there’s no prompt or guidelines, you can re-use the same idea for your personal statement – but change the details wherever relevant, making sure to emphasize why you’re applying to this specific program.

If the application also includes other essays, such as a statement of purpose , you might have to revise your personal statement to avoid repeating the same information.

If you want to know more about college essays , academic writing , and AI tools , make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

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advice for personal statement

How to Write a Personal Statement That Wows Colleges

← What Is an Application Theme and Why Is It Important?

10 Personal Statement Examples That Work →

advice for personal statement

  Most of the college applications process is fairly cut and dry. You’ll submit information about your classes and grades, standardized test scores, and various other accomplishments and honors. On much of the application, your accomplishments must speak for themselves. 

The personal statement is different though, and it’s your chance to let your voice be heard. To learn more about the personal statement, how to choose a topic, and how to write one that wows colleges, don’t miss this post.

What is the Personal Statement?

Personal statements are used in both undergraduate and graduate admissions. For undergrad admissions, personal statements are any essays students must write to submit their main application. For example, the Common App Essay and Coalition Application Essay are examples of personal statements. Similarly, the ApplyTexas Essays and University of California Essays are also good examples .

Personal statements in college admissions are generally not school-specific (those are called “supplemental essays”). Instead, they’re sent to a wide range of schools, usually every school you apply to. 

What is the Purpose of the Personal Statement?

The personal statement is generally your opportunity to speak to your unique experiences, qualities, or beliefs that aren’t elsewhere represented on the application. It is a chance to break away from the data that defines you on paper, and provide a glimpse into who you really are. In short, it’s the admissions committee’s chance to get to know the real you.

So, what are colleges looking for in your personal statement? They are looking for something that sets you apart. They are asking themselves: do you write about something truly unique? Do you write about something common, in a new and interesting way? Do you write about an aspect of your application that needed further explanation? All of these are great ways to impress with your personal statement.

Beyond getting to know you, admissions committees are also evaluating your writing skills. Are you able to write clearly and succinctly? Can you tell an engaging story? Writing effectively is an important skill in both college and life, so be sure to also fine-tune your actual writing (grammar and syntax), not just the content of your essay.

Is your personal statement strong enough? Get a free review of your personal statement with CollegeVine’s Peer Essay Review.

How To a Choose A Topic For Your Personal Statement

Most of the time, you’re given a handful of prompts to choose from. Common personal statement prompts include:

  • Central aspect of your identity (activity, interest, talent, background)
  • Overcoming a failure
  • Time you rose to a challenge or showed leadership
  • Experience that changed your beliefs
  • Problem you’d like to solve
  • Subject or idea that captivates you

One of the questions that we hear most often about the personal statement is, “How do I choose what to write about?” For some students, the personal statement prompt triggers an immediate and strong idea. For many more, there is at least initially some uncertainty.

We often encourage students to think less about the exact prompt and more about what aspects of themselves they think are most worthy of highlighting. This is especially helpful if you’re offered a “topic of your choice” prompt, as the best essay topic for you might actually be one you make up!

For students with an interesting story or a defining background, these can serve as the perfect catalyst to shape your approach. For students with a unique voice or different perspective, simple topics written in a new way can be engaging and insightful.

Finally, you need to consider the rest of your application when you choose a topic for your personal statement. If you are returning from a gap year, failed a single class during sophomore year, or participated extensively in something you’re passionate about that isn’t elsewhere on your application, you might attempt to address one of these topics in your statement. After all, the admissions committee wants to get to know you and understand who you really are, and these are all things that will give them a deeper understanding of that.

Still, tons of students have a decent amount of writer’s block when it comes to choosing a topic. This is understandable since the personal statement tends to be considered rather high stakes. To help you get the ball rolling, we recommend the post What If I Don’t Have Anything Interesting To Write About In My College Essay?

Tips for Writing a Personal Statement for College

1. approach this as a creative writing assignment..

Personal statements are difficult for many students because they’ve never had to do this type of writing. High schoolers are used to writing academic reports or analytical papers, but not creative storytelling pieces.

The point of creative writing is to have fun with it, and to share a meaningful story. Choose a topic that inspires you so that you’ll enjoy writing your essay. It doesn’t have to be intellectual or impressive at all. You have your transcript and test scores to prove your academic skills, so the point of the personal statement is to give you free rein to showcase your personality. This will result in a more engaging essay and reading experience for admissions officers. 

As you’re writing, there’s no need to follow the traditional five-paragraph format with an explicit thesis. Your story should have an overarching message, but it doesn’t need to be explicitly stated—it should shine through organically. 

Your writing should also feel natural. While it will be more refined than a conversation with your best friend, it shouldn’t feel stuffy or contrived when it comes off your tongue. This balance can be difficult to strike, but a tone that would feel natural when talking with an admired teacher or a longtime mentor is usually a good fit.

2. Show, don’t tell.

One of the biggest mistakes students make is to simply state everything that happened, instead of actually bringing the reader to the moment it happened, and telling a story. It’s boring to read: “I was overjoyed and felt empowered when I finished my first half marathon.” It’s much more interesting when the writing actually shows you what happened and what the writer felt in that moment: “As I rounded the final bend before the finish line, my heart fluttered in excitement. The adrenaline drowned out my burning legs and gasping lungs. I was going to finish my first half marathon! This was almost incomprehensible to me, as someone who could barely run a mile just a year ago.”

If you find yourself starting to write your essay like a report, and are having trouble going beyond “telling,” envision yourself in the moment you want to write about. What did you feel, emotionally and physically? Why was this moment meaningful? What did you see or hear? What were your thoughts?

For inspiration, read some memoirs or personal essays, like The New York Times Modern Love Column . You could also listen to podcasts of personal stories, like The Moth . What do these writers and storytellers do that make their stories engaging? If you didn’t enjoy a particular story, what was it that you didn’t like? Analyzing real stories can help you identify techniques that you personally resonate with.

3. Use dialogue.

A great way to keep your writing engaging is to include some dialogue. Instead of writing: “My brothers taunted me,” consider sharing what they actually said. It’s more powerful to read something like:

“Where’s the fire, Princess Clara?” they taunted. “Having some trouble?” They prodded me with the ends of the chewed branches and, with a few effortless scrapes of wood on rock, sparked a red and roaring flame. My face burned long after I left the fire pit. The camp stank of salmon and shame. 

Having dialogue can break up longer paragraphs of text, and bring some action and immediacy to your story. That being said, don’t overdo it. It’s important to strike a balance between relying too much on dialogue, and using it occasionally as an effective writing tool. You don’t want your essay to read like a script for a movie (unless, of course, that’s intentional and you want to showcase your screenwriting skills!).

Want free essay feedback? Submit your essay to CollegeVine’s Peer Essay Review and get fast, actionable edits on your essay. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Personal Statements

1. giving a recap or report of all the events..

Your essay isn’t a play-by-play of everything that happened in that time frame. Only include relevant details that enrich the story, instead of making your personal statement a report of the events. Remember that the goal is to share your voice, what’s important to you, and who you are. 

2. Writing about too many events or experiences. 

Similarly, another common mistake is to make your personal statement a resume or recap of all your high school accomplishments. The Activities Section of the Common App is the place for listing out your achievements, not your personal statement. Focus on one specific experience or a few related experiences, and go into detail on those. 

3. Using cliche language.

Try to avoid overdone quotes from famous people like Gandhi or Thoreau. Better yet, try to avoid quotes from other people in general, unless it’s a message from someone you personally know. Adding these famous quotes won’t make your essay unique, and it takes up valuable space for you to share your voice.

You should also steer away from broad language or lavish claims like “It was the best day of my life.” Since they’re so cliche, these statements also obscure your message, and it’s hard to understand what you actually mean. If it was actually the best day of your life, show us why, rather than just telling us.

If you want to learn more about personal statements, see our post of 11 Common App Essay Examples .

Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.

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Writing the Personal Statement

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The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories:

1. The general, comprehensive personal statement:

This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms.

2. The response to very specific questions:

Often, business and graduate school applications ask specific questions, and your statement should respond specifically to the question being asked. Some business school applications favor multiple essays, typically asking for responses to three or more questions.

Questions to ask yourself before you write:

  • What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story?
  • What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
  • When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
  • How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
  • If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre LSAT or GRE scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
  • Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
  • What personal characteristics (for example, integrity, compassion, and/or persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
  • What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
  • Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession or field than other applicants?
  • What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?

General advice

Answer the questions that are asked

  • If you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar.
  • Don't be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It is important to answer each question being asked, and if slightly different answers are needed, you should write separate statements. In every case, be sure your answer fits the question being asked.

Tell a story

  • Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is to bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourself memorable.

Be specific

  • Don't, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to become a lawyer, engineer, or whatever should be logical, the result of specific experience that is described in your statement. Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story.

Find an angle

  • If you're like most people, your life story lacks drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle or a "hook" is vital.

Concentrate on your opening paragraph

  • The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement.

Tell what you know

  • The middle section of your essay might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as some of your knowledge of the field. Too many people graduate with little or no knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the profession or field they hope to enter. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information. Refer to experiences (work, research, etc.), classes, conversations with people in the field, books you've read, seminars you've attended, or any other source of specific information about the career you want and why you're suited to it. Since you will have to select what you include in your statement, the choices you make are often an indication of your judgment.

Don't include some subjects

  • There are certain things best left out of personal statements. For example, references to experiences or accomplishments in high school or earlier are generally not a good idea. Don't mention potentially controversial subjects (for example, controversial religious or political issues).

Do some research, if needed

  • If a school wants to know why you're applying to it rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention.

Write well and correctly

  • Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits.

Avoid clichés

  • A medical school applicant who writes that he is good at science and wants to help other people is not exactly expressing an original thought. Stay away from often-repeated or tired statements.

For more information on writing a personal statement, see the personal statement vidcast .

How to Write a Personal Statement – 5 Personal Statement Examples

How to write a personal statement – introduction.

The personal statement is one of the most important parts of the college application process. For this reason, it’s often also one of the most anxiety-inducing. If you’ve been searching for personal statement examples because writing your personal statement has you worried (or excited), then you’re in the right place. 

In this article, we’ll present five personal statement examples and teach you how to write a personal statement that highlights who you are and demonstrates your full potential to colleges. We’re going to outline what a personal statement is, how colleges use them in the application process, and which topics tend to work best for college applicants. Then, we’ll offer some advice and tools to help you draft, edit, and finalize your own personal statement. Finally, we’ll walk you through five personal essay examples, breaking them down individually, so you can see just what makes them work. 

Writing a personal statement may seem like a daunting task, especially if you aren’t clear on just exactly what a personal statement for college is. After you see your first personal statement example, things may seem clearer. But first, let’s demystify the term “personal statement.” 

What is a personal statement?

Learning how to write a personal statement starts with understanding the term . I’m sure throughout the college application process you’ve heard your counselors, teachers, and classmates talking about the importance of a personal statement. While you may know that the personal statement for a university is extremely important, you still might not be clear on just what it is. You may have never even seen a personal statement example. So, before you attempt to start writing , let’s answer the questions: what is a personal statement for college? And just how do universities use them to evaluate students?

A personal statement for college is your chance to set yourself apart from other students and show admissions who you are. A strong personal statement for a university will describe your unique experiences and background in a first-person narrative. And when done well, it’s your opportunity to catch the right attention of an admission officer. 

No pressure, right? Don’t stress quite yet. The process of writing a personal statement can be fun! It’s an opportunity to write about something you’re passionate about. You’ll be able to see a personal statement example later on (five, actually!), and you’ll notice that it’s not about the perfect topic , but rather, how you tell your story. 

Personal statement basics

Now, let’s talk about personal essay specifics. Generally speaking, a personal statement will be between 400-700 words, depending on the specific university guidelines or application portal. The Common App essay must be 250-650 words. The Coalition App , by contrast, suggests that students write 500-650 words.  Try to aim for the higher end of those ranges, as you’ll be hard pressed to write a compelling personal statement without enticing descriptions. 

Apart from the word count, what’s the personal statement format? The personal statement for a university should be written in a first-person conventional prose format. You may be a wonderful poet or fiction writer but refrain from using those styles in your personal statement. While using those styles in a personal essay could occasionally be a hit with admissions, it’s best to showcase that style of writing elsewhere. If you choose to add your creative writing style to your application, you should do so by submitting a writing portfolio. Generally speaking, the strongest personal statement will be written in first-person prose language. 

General or prompted

When it comes to a personal statement for college, it will generally fall into one of two categories : general, comprehensive personal statement, or a response to a very specific personal essay prompt. In the open-ended option, you’ll want to share a story about something important related to your life. This could be about family, experiences, academics, or extracurriculars . Just be careful not to repeat your entire resume. That’s certainly not the goal of a personal essay.  

Remember, it’s a personal statement. So, share something that you haven’t elsewhere. If given a prompt, it will likely be open-ended so that you can flex your creativity and show off your writing style. You’ll be able to write a story that genuinely matters to you, ideally sharing something that has made you who you are. 

You may also need a personal statement when applying to certain programs, such as business or STEM programs. The basic idea is the same, but you’ll want to connect your experiences to the specific program. Check out the details of writing a personal statement for a specific field . 

That extra push

The college application process can seem rigid at times; the personal statement for college is your chance to show off in a way that has nothing to do with GPA or transcripts. The personal statement is an opportunity for colleges to meet students on their own terms. It’s essentially your written interview . 

At top universities, many students will have similar grades and test scores. A strong personal statement gives students the chance to stand out and show that they’re more than just numbers on a transcript. What’s the extra push that an admissions officer may need to admit a qualified student? A well-written, compelling personal statement can help you gain admittance to competitive schools . 

Having a support system throughout the college admissions process is important. Keep your parents in the loop with this personal statement webinar that offers details about the common app essay and the personal essay for college. 

You are probably wondering the same things as other students about the college application essay or college essay tips. Read an admissions officer’s response to some FAQs and get some useful college essay tips. Then, put your college admissions knowledge to the test with our quiz below!

The CommonApp Essay vs. The Personal Statement

So, we’ve discussed what a personal statement is and why it matters. Now, let’s discuss one common type of personal statement: the Common App essay. While each school may have their own personal statement topics, the Common App essay section has general prompts that will serve as your personal statement. The Common App essay will respond to one of seven prompts.

For the most up-to-date information on the Common App essay, you can check their website .

Common App Essay Questions for 2022-2023:   

  • Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  • Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  • Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Open-ended prompts

The Common App essay personal statement prompts are intentionally open-ended. They are meant to give you the chance to tell your unique story . However, one requirement is that your Common App essay must be between 250-650 words. 

You can choose to respond to any one of the seven prompts. Remember to choose the best prompt for you. It may seem obvious, but the personal statement for college is your opportunity to share your personal story. You’ll want to choose a topic you can write well about that will show how you’ve grown or changed. It’s also your opportunity to show off your writing style. So, pick a topic you enjoy writing about!

Check out some tips on how to tackle each prompt from the Common App essay blog. You may also want to read this Common App essay overview for juniors . We’ll get into more specific details later on how to write the Common App essay– and other personal statement topics in general– later in this article.

How important is a Personal Statement?

As we’ve mentioned, the personal statement is your chance to stand out in a pool of applicants. It’s an extremely important part of any college application. A personal statement for college will be a requirement of nearly every application you complete. Admissions will use your personal statement to get a sense of who you are beyond your grades and scores. So, if you want to show colleges what makes you unique, your personal statement is the place to do it. Figuring out how to write a personal statement is key to a successful application. 

Seeing what works when it comes to your personal statement for university can be a helpful first step. U.S. News breaks down the process of writing a personal statement and gives some successful personal essay examples. Reading another student’s successful personal statement example will give you an idea of what impresses admissions. It may even get you excited about writing your own personal statement for college! 

While every school will likely require some sort of personal statement, it may actually be used differently in the admissions process. How your personal statement is judged during the admissions process will depend on a school’s size, ranking, acceptance rate , and various other factors. Larger state schools will likely put the most importance on an applicant’s grades and scores while spending little time reviewing a student’s personal statement. 

Especially important at top tier schools

However, at Ivy League schools and other elite institutions, many students have the same impressive grades, scores, and extracurriculars. The personal statement allows these schools to distinguish between high-achieving students. If you’re looking at these types of institutions, then a lot of importance should be placed on writing a personal statement that is unforgettable and impresses admissions. 

So, we know that learning how to write a personal statement is key to many successful applications, but you may be thinking: what’s the difference between a personal statement and supplemental essays? Every school you apply to via the Common App will receive an identical copy of your Common App essay. The Common App essay serves as your personal statement. 

However, each school will have their own supplemental requirements, which may include additional supplemental essays . For schools with many supplemental college essay prompts, your personal essay may not have as much of an impact on your overall application. Admissions officers will see your writing style, and likely your personality, in all of the college essay prompts you submit. 

Additional personal statements

Still, you should always treat your personal essay with the utmost care. It can make a huge difference in the admissions process. You may also need to write other personal statements when applying to scholarships or specific programs . It’s good to get used to the process and the personal statement format during college application season. 

When should I start writing my Personal Statement?

When it comes to all things in the college application process, including any college application essay, it’s best to start early . Don’t leave your personal statement for a university until the last moment. Writing a personal statement will take time. The sooner you start your personal statement for college, the more likely you are to succeed. 

This doesn’t mean that you should start writing your personal statement for university the summer before your sophomore year. High school is a time for development, and colleges want to get to know you at your most mature. It’s just good practice to start thinking about how to write a personal statement early on. 

Review personal statement examples

Think about personal statement format, personal statement topics, and personal statement ideas. Look at other students’ personal statement examples. You can start jotting down potential ideas for your personal essay for college at any time, which may be useful down the line. But, you don’t need to actually start writing your personal statement until the summer before your senior year .

Be open-minded to changing your personal statement topic as you grow and discover new things about yourself. Check out this personal statement webinar on how one student switched her personal essay for college at the last moment. Just like there is no set personal statement format, there are no rules against mixing up your topic as you see fit. But, at least try to allow yourself some time to revise and edit your personal essay for college to perfection.

What do I write in a personal statement?

There’s no one-size-fits-all outline when it comes to how to write a personal statement. Your personal statement for university will depend on your own background, interests, and character. Overall, it’s not the personal statement topics that will catch the eye of admissions officers– it’s how you write your story that will. You need to know how to write a personal statement that not only checks the boxes but is also powerful . 

Important things to keep in mind when writing your personal statement: 

Choose a topic you’re passionate about.

What would you be excited to write about? Chase the personal statement topics that seem fun to write, think about, and talk about. If you’re passionate about your personal statement, your audience will feel it and be engaged. 

Really be you

Authenticity is key when it comes to writing a personal statement. After all, it’s your chance to tell your story and really show admissions who you are. Whatever you write about, make sure it is true, honest, and authentic to your experiences.

Give it some flair

Ok, we don’t mean do something too unconventional like a personal statement haiku. But, you should show off your writing style in your personal statement for college. Admissions officers want to get to know you and your writing. 

Knowing how to start a personal statement or how to start a college essay, in general, is often the most difficult part of the process. You’ll want to brainstorm some personal statement topics to get your creative juices flowing. offers a masterclass on brainstorming personal statement topics for the Common App essay in case you need some help with how to start a college essay or a personal statement. 

Still have doubts? Read more on how to write a personal statement and get some college essay tips from’s admissions experts. It will also be helpful to look at some successful personal essay examples and understand why they worked . Good personal statement examples can inspire you to tackle writing your own personal essay for college.  

Exploring Personal Statement Topics

It seems logical that when exploring the process of how to write a personal statement, you should start thinking about personal statement ideas. What are the best topics to write about in a personal statement? If you look at various successful personal statement examples, you’ll likely realize the topic isn’t necessarily the most important part. You don’t need to write about something that no one else has ever written about. You just need your personal statement to have its own unique spin. Lean into brainstorming personal statement ideas that show who you are. It’s helpful to read some personal statement examples for inspiration. 

While there is no exact formula for “how to write a personal statement”, there are some basic guidelines that students should follow. The personal statement should be written in first-person nonfiction prose form. Often, a personal statement introduction will include a story or an anecdote and then expand to reveal the impact of that experience on the writer. 

You may be specifically wondering how to start a personal statement. Well, it could be with a moment, a place, or a conversation that spurred some sort of change or growth within you. While this isn’t necessarily a “personal statement format,” it’s a very general format that works. 

Things to avoid

We now know that the personal statement format is fluid, but there are some things to avoid when thinking about how to write a personal statement: 

  • Profanity, explicit content, or crude language. 
  • Lying or misinterpreting events. Keep it authentic. 
  • Sharing overly personal descriptions of troubling life experiences. Remember that applying to college requires professional boundaries. 
  • Writing a narrative that revolves around others. The personal statement is all about you and your experiences. 

If you want to know what a bad personal statement example would look like, imagine one that includes any of the formerly listed items. You don’t want to catch an admissions officer’s attention for the wrong reasons. Good personal statement examples will be engaging, but inoffensive. Check out some more do’s and don’ts when it comes to how to write a personal statement.   

When pondering “how to write a personal statement,” it’s good to know that you don’t need to follow conventional essay guidelines. The best personal statement examples will exude passion and professionalism, while a bad personal statement example will lack soul. If you’re excited about a topic, then that’s a great place to start! Now, let’s get into the actual writing. 

How do you write a good Personal Statement?

To review, in the first part of this series of three articles on how to write a personal statement we answered the question “What is a personal statement?” We also explained how schools use a student’s personal statement for college to evaluate them. We described the Common App essay as an example of a personal statement for a university. Next, let’s dig into how to write a personal statement, including how to start a personal statement, the best tips for writing a personal statement, and some good personal statement examples and personal essay examples to inspire you.

First, you have probably wondered how to write a personal statement that stands out from the rest. It all comes down to one thing: authenticity. The best personal statement examples and personal essay examples show schools what makes the writer unique, and they are written in an authentic voice. When giving advice about how to write a personal statement, admissions officers say that the best personal statement examples tell them who the student is beyond their coursework and grades. They are personal, and they tell a unique and interesting story.

Considering Personal Statement topics

So, as you think about how to write a personal statement, you may also wonder what the best personal statement topics are. When writing a personal statement, including the Common App essay, you don’t have to share an exciting story about the time you wrestled a wild bear or how you discovered a cure for cancer. For example, in their advice on how to write a personal statement, Wellesley College advises , “Tragedy is not a requirement, reflection and depth are.” 

Some of the best personal statement topics focus on insights about common experiences. Begin your brainstorming process by reviewing the list of Common App essay prompts as you think about writing a personal statement, and choose a story that genuinely matters to you. Then, get excited about telling it! Think about writing a personal statement, including the Common App essay and every other personal essay for college, as an opportunity to lean into your quirkiness or to share your unique insights.

What’s more, a good personal statement for a university should be well-written. Consider the advice offered by Purdue Online Writing Lab : “Be specific, write well and correctly, and avoid cliches.” This will take time—writing a good personal statement for a university or a good Common App essay doesn’t happen overnight. The process of writing a personal statement will include multiple sessions between the first phase of brainstorming and the final phase of editing. Be prepared to write and rewrite, and never hesitate to ask for help from an advisor, counselor, parent, or trusted adult. However, remember that your work should always be your own.

Now, let’s discuss how to start a personal statement.

How do you start a personal statement?

So, now you have the basic information on how to write a personal statement, including your Common App essay. Next, you’re probably asking, “But how do you start one?” In this section, we’ll break down the process of exploring personal statement ideas and how to start a personal statement. This information also applies to thinking about how to start a college essay. Then, we’ll discuss how to write a personal statement opening.

Brainstorming is usually the first phase of any writing project to generate personal statement ideas. You may want to read a personal statement example like those here or here for inspiration to help get your personal statement ideas flowing. Next, ask yourself some idea-generating questions : Who have your intellectual influences been?  Which careers are you considering and why? What personal goals do you have? As you think about the answers to these typical college essay prompts, jot down personal statement ideas that occur to you. If you’re still feeling stuck, ask a close friend or family member , “What do you think differentiates me?,” or “What are my quirks?”

Pick a topic that excites you

Then, once you have a few good topics for your personal statement, choose one that you feel most excited to write about. Write a draft of your personal statement introduction and see what other ideas occur to you for later parts of your essay. Choose another topic and do the same thing. Don’t feel like these initial drafts need to be perfect—words on the page are always a great start! The goal right now is to decide which personal statement topics you feel most inspired to write about. Which ideas reflect something interesting about you ? 

Once you have selected which topic you will focus on for your personal statement, Common App essay, or personal essay for college, think about crafting a strong hook. The opening line (or lines) of the best personal statement examples include a “hook” for the reader, grabbing their attention and making them want to keep reading. For example, you could start with a question, an unusual or surprising statement, or an anecdote that will leave readers wondering what comes next. Whichever approach you select when considering how to start a college essay, make sure to use engaging language and vivid imagery.

Remember, start early and write several drafts .

The personal statement is an opportunity to write about a topic that is important to you and that also reflects your personality . Now, let’s discuss the personal statement format.

How do you format a personal statement?

Different applications may require different approaches to your personal statement format. In some cases, you may copy and paste your personal statement into an application and it will format itself automatically. In other situations, you will need to set up your personal statement format yourself. If this is the case, Times New Roman font, 12-point, with conventional margins and double spacing is a safe personal statement format.

When you are submitting your personal statement or Common App essay through the Common App, you may notice that the Common Application text box only allows formatting for bold, italics, and underlining. Therefore, it’s best to write your personal statement in Google Docs or Word and to write your paragraphs with block formatting (not indented). In addition, using Google Docs or Word will also allow you to easily check spelling and word counts before pasting your personal statement into the Common App.

Editing your Personal Statement

Many students wonder what the editing process for their personal statement for college, including the Common App essay and other personal essays for college, should look like. This varies by student and by essay. But, the best personal statements for a university go through at least several rounds of edits.

Firstly, once you have written the first draft of your personal statement for a university or personal essay for college, take a step back for a few hours or even for a day. Then, return with fresh eyes. Is your narrative well organized? Are there sections that seem unclear, ideas that don’t support your main point, or awkward sentences? You may want to reorder your paragraphs or sentences or delete and rework other elements. Revisit a personal statement example and consider how it is organized for comparison. 

Making the cut

In short, don’t be afraid to cut sentences that don’t directly relate to the main focus of the essay or convey some important detail of the story. This will help clarify your narrative. Also, make sure that you have centered your writing around your own experiences—the story should reflect your perspective and insights.

Next, once you are confident that your personal statement is well organized and your main ideas are clear, do another round of detailed editing. Eliminate any typos or repetitive language; make sure you have proper grammar and spelling throughout.

Finally, ask a trusted adult to read your personal statement and provide feedback. Something that you thought was clear may not be to them. Also, ask them how engaging your personal statement is, and if there are sections that seem dry or unimportant. Ask whether your hook is effective, and review tips on how to start a personal statement if necessary. Sometimes feedback can be difficult to hear, but it helps to remember that even professional writers seek input from others. The goal is to create the best personal statement possible!

For more detailed advice on revising your personal statement, check out this CollegeAdvisor personal statement webinar, “ Revising the Personal Statement .”

How do I know when my personal statement is done?

There’s no definitive way to know when your personal statement for a university is done—you can keep editing most writing forever. However, as you revise and edit, you’ll notice that you have fewer things to fix with every new draft. Once you feel like there’s nothing major left to change, get feedback from someone you trust. 

Your College Advisor expert can also provide valuable feedback and guidance at this point. If the notes and suggestions from others are also limited, you may be nearly ready to finalize your personal statement for college and press “submit.”

6 Tips for Writing a Great Personal Statement 

1. be authentic.

Remember, admissions officers want to know about you —your personality, your interests, your goals. A great personal statement is personal . Your personal statement for a university needs to express your unique ideas and insights in your own voice. Nobody can tell your story better than you. So, choose a topic that interests you and let your energy and ideas shine through.

Being personal also means that you should share sensory details and your internal dialogue. What did you see or hear at a critical moment? What were you thinking or feeling during that pivotal conversation? The more personal details you share, the more interesting your personal statement will be.

2. Start early

This is one of the most important tips on how to write a personal statement. You can start brainstorming topics for your personal statement at any time during high school. Some students keep a notebook where they write down personal statement topics and ideas as they occur to them over time. They also begin reading other good personal statement examples and Common App essays for inspiration. 

Regardless, a good plan is to solidify a draft of your personal statement for college the summer before your senior year. This will give you time to work on supplemental essays and other parts of your applications during the fall of your senior year.

3. Brainstorm before you write

Take some time to think and reflect deeply before you begin writing. Don’t feel like you need to jump into a full essay draft as soon as you complete your junior year. Do some writing exercises and brainstorming activities first, including reading other personal statement examples. 

In each personal statement example you read, pay close attention to the personal statement introduction, the narrative arc, and the conclusion. Did the writer incorporate an effective technique for how to start a college essay? Why is the essay interesting? What does it tell you about the writer? 

4. Tell a story

Keep in mind that well-told stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They also engage the reader and arrive at a clear message or point by the end. In short, the best personal statement examples follow a narrative arc. 

Start with an interesting hook and use it as an introduction to a story from your life that addresses the given college essay prompt. Then, use the latter half of your personal statement or Common App essay to show why this story matters and how it reveals a key part of your identity. And always remember: show, don’t tell.

5. Avoid common mistakes

Steer clear of cliches in your writing—they do not help you stand out or demonstrate strong writing skills. Also, do not use your personal statement or Common App essay as an opportunity to rehash your activities or achievements. Remember, these are included in other parts of your application. 

The best personal statement examples show admission officers something about the writer that is not reflected in other parts of the application. They describe first-hand experiences and provide specific examples to illustrate ideas.

6. Edit carefully

Once you’ve written your personal statement for college, look for anything that doesn’t feel right. Eliminate awkward phrasing, delete or replace repeated words and phrases, and work to streamline your language. You might delete entire drafts, and that’s okay! It’s a process, and all the work you do gets you closer to your best work. Also, make sure to ask a few others whom you trust to read your essay and provide suggestions for edits.

Bonus tip: Ask for help

A second set of eyes can make a huge difference. Ask an advisor (like our team at, counselor, or parent to look over your work. Don’t let anyone write your sentences for you—instead, use their input to help your voice shine through. 

For more great college essay tips on how to write a personal statement and college essays, check out this advice from college admission experts.

Personal Statement- Frequently Asked Questions

Where can i find a good personal statement example.

There are a variety of websites that offer good personal essay examples as models you can use to inspire you. A good place to begin is here , and there are also examples of personal statements in the next article of this series. As you read these examples, take note of the personal statement introduction, as well as how the writer focuses the essay on a specific topic or idea that reflects their personality.

Is it ever too late to change my personal statement?

While it is much better to begin writing your personal statement early, sometimes students decide later in the writing process that they want to rethink the personal statement topic they have chosen. If you find yourself in this position, you will find some helpful advice in this personal statement webinar . 

My parents didn’t go to college. How do I explain personal statements and how to write a personal statement to them? has created a special personal statement webinar just for parents. In this webinar, we describe personal statements, the specifics of how to write a great college essay, and other college admissions terms.

I’m a high school junior. What should I be doing now to prepare to write my personal statement and college essays?

First, congratulations on thinking ahead! You can begin by reading “ Common App Essay Overview for Juniors .” Then, your CollegeAdvisor admissions expert can help you begin brainstorming and planning for your college application essays. They can provide you with examples of common college essay prompts, as well as helpful college essay tips. Also, they can provide suggestions on how to start a personal statement and share other resources on how to write a great college essay.

How will college admission officers evaluate my personal statement and college application essay?

Admission officers are looking for personal stories that are well told. How closely each of your college application essays is read will vary depending both on the school and the other components of your application. However, as more schools become test-optional, admission officers say that college essays are becoming even more important in the admissions process. So, as you plan your essays keep in mind that admission officers want to learn about you —your experiences, thoughts, and goals. They also want to see that you have solid writing skills, so make sure that you closely edit your essays before you submit them.

If you would like to hear directly from an admission officer and learn more about how to write a great college essay, including specific advice on how to start a college essay, check out this “ 39 Essay Tips ” article.

How is the personal statement for a university different from the Common App essay and personal essay for college? 

The Common App essay asks students to write a personal statement in response to one of seven provided prompts. All types of personal essays for college provide students with an opportunity to introduce themselves to college admission officers on their own terms. For a more detailed description of each of these types of essays, check out the first article in this series, “How to Write a Personal Statement.”

For answers to more frequently asked questions about personal statements for college and college essays, click here .

In the first part of this series discussing how to write a personal statement, we answered the questions “What is a personal statement?” and “How important is the personal statement?” In this second article of the series, we have covered the specifics of how to write a personal statement, including descriptions of the writing phases of the personal statement and personal essay for the college writing process. In the next article, we will examine personal statement examples and highlight key elements of each personal statement example. 

Introducing 5 Personal Statement Examples

By this point, you’ve gone from asking, “What is a personal statement?” to knowing how to write a personal statement. Now, let’s look at some personal statement examples. Reading personal statement examples is great preparation for writing your own personal statement for college.

However, keep in mind that reading about how to write a personal statement is one thing–writing a personal statement is entirely different. By reading these personal statement examples and why they worked, you’ll have a better grasp of how to write a personal statement.

Each of these personal statement examples shows something that isn’t clear in the rest of the application. Top schools accepted all the writers of these personal statement examples. Our guide will walk you through each of these personal essay examples and discuss what makes them work. We hope by reading these, you can learn more about how to write a personal statement.

Personal Statement Example #1: Choosing a Great Topic

The first of our personal statement examples was written by a student who was accepted to Yale, Princeton, and other top schools. Their personal statement discusses the legacy of antisemitic violence in their family. While political and religious topics can be difficult, this student writes a fantastic college application essay about their topic.

Personal Essay Example #1

Across the ocean, there is war. Children mistaking rockets for fireworks, parents too protective—too careful—to correct them.          Back home, there are phone calls. To family, to friends. In English, in Hebrew.          “Are you safe?”         I pray they live far from Jerusalem.          Right here, in my room, there is turmoil.          Furiously swiping through Instagram, I wonder who will betray me next. I wonder which friend will decide that their loosely related, offensive commentary belongs on their profile.          Once the deed is done, I am quick to unfollow. To cut off perpetrators of what Jewish journalists call “the Social Media Pogrom”: when targeting the Jewish people online turns to real antisemitic violence (and a powerful reason to unfollow my friends).          So I flee from my friends’ Instagram accounts. But only because my family fled from much worse.          My grandfather found himself wearing a yellow star, living in a ghetto, and losing everything to the Nazis. One day, he ripped off the star and ran. Even though it meant never seeing his family again.          He did not flee for a better life; he fled for any life.          His son came to marry another refugee: my mother. Her story is a familiar one, shared by many in my hometown: escaping yet another antisemitic regime whose existence threatened her own, my mother fled Revolutionary Iran in 1979. Fortunately, she was reunited years later with all eight of her siblings, who had escaped in various other creative, illegal ways—“on camelback” being a personal favorite.           To this day, she bears a scar on her eyelid from antisemitic violence back home.          My family tree’s roots are settled in the soil of persecution. Swastikas have sawed away at its structure, and Revolutionary Guards have bent its branches. I know too well which winds will threaten the leaves: words wishing my people death, implicitly or explicitly. Calling on my cousins to evacuate their homes, for they are on the Jewish side of the land dispute. Denying the reality that no one deserves to be displaced.         When I hear these words, see them on a screen, I sense a chillingly familiar breeze. Sometimes, the breeze blows away a few leaves: a rabbi is stabbed, a synagogue vandalized.          Suddenly my friends, teetering on the edge of antisemitism with waves of painful posts, are no longer my friends. They are my enemies.          But then I hear a little voice:         “David, what on Earth are you doing?”         And I remember that they are not. They are not Nazis or Revolutionary Guards. I should not shun them or cease to show them love. I cannot wallow in my rage or simply “unfollow”—not on Instagram, not in life.          I soon return those beloved friends to my circle. I “follow” them once again.         Because dialogue is my lifestyle. I ought to be recruiting my friends to Model Congress or engaging them in class. Welcoming the people around me to a world of positive, exciting, and purposeful discourse is the best I can do. It’s also who I am.          My family passed down a sensitive radar for harmful rhetoric, but also gifted me with a powerful belief—a Jewish belief—in informed discussion and coexistence. Holding no hate in their hearts, my ancestors wore lenses of love that did not belong to their oppressors.         Today, I wear those same lenses with pride. Once infuriating Instagram posts no longer cloud my vision. I’ve instead fallen in love with the precious diversity of thought that surrounds me and find myself most at home when I am immersed in political dialogue.          I will face many “enemy” opinions, but I will not shut my eyes and cover my ears, give up a dear human connection, and miss out on a meaningful experience.            I will approach individuals with humanity rather than animosity, acceptance rather than judgement, and love rather than hate.          I will live by the lessons of my ancestors. 

What Worked?

What did this Common App essay do well? Firstly, it covers a great topic. This student writes about their family’s experience with antisemitic violence and its legacy in their life today. When writing a personal statement for college, such sensitive personal statement topics can be challenging. In this case, the writer successfully centers their experiences and thoughts rather than on controversial events.

Moreover, they cut through political tension with a core reality rooted in empathy: “No one deserves to be displaced.” This is a great strategy if you’re wondering how to write a personal statement on a sensitive topic. All personal statement topics have an angle that makes them universally relatable. If your personal essay for college is missing something, try an empathetic approach.

Ask for help revising

Don’t forget to ask other people to revise your personal statement for university. What makes sense to you may not read well to others. Especially with sensitive topics, share your work with someone you can trust to give you feedback. If possible, also include a non-family member like a teacher or guidance counselor who knows how to write a personal statement.

This student connects their family’s troubles with their own worldview. Good personal statement examples offer a look at the author as a person. A strong topic lets you reflect on how your experiences have impacted your engagement with the world and other people. And as shown above, the writer chose a great topic –not necessarily a great college essay prompt. College essay prompts are wide-ranging , and good personal statement ideas can come from any of them. Indeed, whatever your prompt is, personal essay examples are ultimately about you . 

Evocative language and imagery

With this in mind, look at how the writer’s attitude changes throughout their Common App essay. Good personal statement examples contain precise, evocative language and imagery. When you’re writing a personal statement, find the right words—not necessarily the longest ones—and sentence structures you need. This personal statement begins in a panic; the writer “furiously swiping” in the “turmoil” of their room, keenly attuned to betrayal from friends. These words and the short paragraphs bring each thought into sharp focus.

The writer’s passion for their subject shows through their language. Using structural repetition in “Wishing…. Calling…. Denying…” establishes a serious tone and keeps the personal statement fresh. In the latter half, words like “beloved,” “lenses of love,” and “precious diversity” signify a shift to a gentle, loving attitude. The best personal essay examples choose their words precisely. By choosing words carefully in combination with poetic and rhetorical devices, you can write a stellar personal statement for university.

Certainly, family histories can be great personal statement topics. Even so, suffering doesn’t automatically make a strong personal statement for university. If you know how to write a personal statement, even at first mundane personal statement ideas can become good personal statement examples.

Personal Statement Example #2: Finding a Great Hook

The second of our personal statement examples is by a student who was accepted to UC San Diego, Johns Hopkins, the University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, and more. In their personal statement for college, this student uses their interest in Rubik’s cubes to frame other parts of their life.

Personal Statement Example #2

My life is as simple as a Rubik’s Cube: a child’s toy that can be solved in 20 moves or less IF and only if enough knowledge is gained. I received one on my 9th birthday and over the following months, I became obsessed with it.  I rotated the rows aimlessly, hoping that eventually the cube would solve itself. I was naive about the complexity of the cube which led me to apply some research. I began looking up tutorials on YouTube about solving the toy and was in awe over the amount of work that had to be done. I forced myself to go step by step until I could arrange a single face, and my progress pushed me forward until I could solve 4 of the 6 faces of the cube. Every night for an hour I would randomize the colors again and work my way back to ⅔ of the cube being complete. Until this point, I lacked the confidence in my everyday life and had never aimed for a difficult goal, especially one without external motivation. However, what I love about solving the cube is that you can follow the steps perfectly and still run into a stalemate based on the arrangement of the squares. This forces you to randomize the cube again and start from step 1. All the hard work and time put into this object can be useless, but it is unavoidable no matter what you do. Multiple times I faced this dilemma of running into a wall, but instead of giving up, my will pushed me forward. I shed many tears over my failures to solve a child’s toy. I needed to push through these failures until I could learn how to arrange the last faces of the cube. And just like that, it was complete! The Rubik’s Cube was arranged correctly. However, I wanted to get faster. I was inspired by the greatest, the individuals who could solve cubes within 5 seconds, and mix up the cube once more. I tried over and over until the point of obsession where I could get the cube arranged in under a minute. Sometimes it is necessary to disarrange a completed face of the cube in order to achieve the end goal of every face being complete. The colors of a cube can be compared to my academics, my athletics, my art, my leadership, my hobbies, and my family life. Though it is a struggle to juggle all these tasks, it is the desire to expand in all these subjects that pushes me forward. I want to learn more and master subjects within my academics, improve my form and get faster within my athletics, grow my skills of digital design within art, become a stronger role model as a leader, volunteer more within my hobbies, and get closer to supporting my family.  This mindset will continue to push me to expand my present knowledge and learn new concepts in order to complete my goals. 43,252,003,274,489,856,000: That is how many combinations there are for a single 3×3 Rubik’s cube, and there are probably even more combinations ahead of me in my journey through college and beyond. I have to struggle to learn how to solve my cube and put in the hard work in order to succeed at this game of life. Once I finish school and solve my cube for the first time, the game is not over. The next steps are to refine my work and ethics until I can get the process of solving my own cube down to 20 moves or less. My life goal is to carve a name for myself among the best and the brightest in the surgical field, yet there is always more knowledge to obtain which will drive me to continue growing.

Take a look at that hook! The classic personal statement format begins with a hook to draw the reader into a story, and this is no different. This personal statement introduction, “My life is as simple as a Rubik’s cube”, is bold, even seemingly contradictory, until you read the rest of the sentence. Either way, it makes you want to keep reading this personal statement example. 

The worst thing a personal statement for a university can be is boring. A good hook starts your reader off on the right foot. While many personal statement examples begin in the middle of a story, making a bold claim is also common. If you’re wondering how to start a personal statement, start thinking about what opening sentence would grab your attention.

Like the first essay’s writer, this student also uses descriptive language to bring their Common App essay to life. They didn’t simply try the Rubik’s cube, but they “rotated the rows aimlessly”. Rather than saying they kept working on the cube, the writer shows us how they scrambled and resolved it every night. When writing a personal statement, do your own experiences justice with the right descriptive language .

Thinking about tone

You may notice the tone of this personal essay example is very different from the first– intensity isn’t everything! In fact, it’s a reflection of the different subject matter of these personal essay examples. When writing your personal statement, your tone should match what you are trying to say. In the same way that one word can make a sentence, another can totally break it. 

From a vivid description of their childhood, the writer expands the scope of their Common App essay to other areas of their life. Good personal statement examples explore subjects that other parts of your application don’t. In this case, this student uses the Rubik’s cube to represent their varied activities and their aspirations for each. They also reflect on life lessons and personal traits: perseverance, ambition, and curiosity.

In other words, the writer creates parallels between their interest in Rubik’s cubes and their personal journey. In the same way that they obsess over speed-solving, the writer works to excel in other subjects. Furthermore, the writer shows us this instead of directly telling — a maneuver fundamental to all good personal statement examples. The writer makes a compelling case as not only an applicant but also as a future member of the campus community. 

Consider chronology

Notice the chronological structure this student uses for their Common App essay. Specifically, see how it follows the writer’s life from their first Rubik’s cube to the present day. This is a simple way to craft a strong Common App essay. Personal essay examples like this make it easy to reflect on your growth, which is crucial for any personal statement for college. Lastly, by ending with the 20 moves needed to solve a cube, the writer neatly ties up this personal statement example.

Personal Statement Example #3: The Value of a Great Ending

The third of our personal statement examples is by a student who got into the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Southern California. The writer talks about how being on the swim team helped them cultivate confidence.

Personal Essay Example #3

When I joined the high school swim team, I never expected to go to school dressed as Shrek. Yet as Freshman Friday approached, I learned it was team tradition for upperclassmen swimmers to dress freshmen teammates in ridiculous costumes. Against my will, my teammates splotched green paint on my face, styled my hair into pigtails covered in green paper, and stuffed a pillow under my sweatshirt. Attending my classes was mortifying. With every stare, I buried my head further into my textbook and shifted my hand to cover my green and now bright red face; with every chuckle, I sank deeper into my seat, attempting to hide my massive pillow stomach. The frown on my face felt like a permanent fixture, and after dealing with the humiliation for a class period, I was done. I yanked the pillow out of my sweatshirt and ripped the paper from my hair. The only hint of swamp ogre that remained was the green face paint. When confronted about my lack of Shrek-ness at the end of the day, I claimed I was overheating and that the paper had fallen apart.  I lied. I was just embarrassed. I always knew I was shy — the “too-timid-to-signal-the-waiter” type of shy — but until Freshman Friday, I hadn’t realized the extent to which it affected the social and academic aspects of my life. Ever since I was young, my jaw would clench at the thought of humiliating myself by deviating from the norm and bringing attention to myself. I often closed myself off from friends by diverting conversations to trivial topics like gym class when they probed me about deeper subjects like my mental health. I even avoided participating in class by scouring Google for hours for physics help to circumvent admitting to my classmates that I was confused by asking questions. By hiding in the shadows to avoid embarrassment, I hindered my ability to cherish the humor in being Shrek, and, more broadly, my comfort in freely expressing myself.  However, I loved swimming and wanted to make my high school team’s environment as wonderful for me as my love for the sport. I slowly started creeping out of my shell, meeting the team, and participating in more voluntary dress-up days. Freshman year, I wore a dragon onesie on pajama day; sophomore year, I wore a Hawaiian shirt, a lei, and sunscreen for tacky tourist day. Junior year, I wore my swimsuit over leggings, goggles, medals, pigtails with award ribbons, and a towel cape, finally surpassing the ridiculousness of the Shrek costume. For the first time, I finally felt confident enough to prance around the school, laughing about my costume with my classmates. I felt like a true part of my team, joking with teammates, taking pictures, and letting the whole school know that I swam. With each year and its dress-up days, I gradually felt more of the sense of community, team spirit, and fun that I had craved.  Dressing up unleashed my confidence. This, in turn, made me happier and more involved in my school community. Most surprisingly, though, was how dressing up eventually better prepared me to enter engineering. Hispanic women are severely underrepresented in engineering, so I used to fear that I would be incapable of establishing a strong enough presence and earning my peers’ respect for my ideas. However, with every group discussion I initiated, every question I asked, and every club meeting I hosted, I saw myself making a place for my input and noticed that my teachers and peers actually valued it. I realized that I had found my voice and even enjoyed sharing my opinions. I’m now ready to take on the challenge of expressing my thoughts in a male-dominated field. In the meantime, I’m just looking forward to my swim team’s next dress-up day.

Like our last essay, this personal statement has an awesome hook. In fact, the writer drops us right into the action. This technique, known as in media res , is great for a Common App essay. You can immediately set the scene for your reader, then build context from there. Not only does the writer bring us right in, but they also expertly use language for tone. “Ridiculous,” “against my will,” and “splotched” all illustrate the writer’s opposition to what’s about to happen. This is an effective technique in personal statement examples.

Following the anecdote, the writer reflects on their intense shyness. They show self-awareness by recounting specific instances where fear got the better of them. Yet again, we can see the importance of showing rather than telling in a personal statement. Each sentence provides an example of how the writer’s shyness had a negative impact on their social and academic success. Thus, we see the true conflict in this personal statement isn’t the costume, but the writer overcoming their lifelong shyness. 

Personal growth and development

Ask anyone how to write a personal statement and they’ll tell you about growth. When writing a personal statement for university, demonstrating personal growth and an ability to reflect on it is key. Across college essay prompts, you should explore how your experiences have shaped or changed you. Being able to indicate specific causes and effects is part of all good personal statement examples.

From there, the writer clearly illustrates their journey from insecurity to confidence. They show us the ways that their shyness manifested before. Then, the writer shows us the increasingly ridiculous costumes they wore. Of course, the language changes, too—the writer goes from “creeping” to “prancing”! Yet another example of how small changes to wording can have a huge impact on your personal statement for college.

Finally, the writer provides a sound conclusion. They mention the numerous benefits of their newfound confidence and, more importantly, look forward. In the final paragraph, the writer takes the lessons they’ve learned and discusses how they will use them to accomplish their goals. Like both of the personal essay examples we’ve already seen, the writer closes by talking about the doors they want to open.

Circling back to your hook

We saw the effectiveness of linking the hook and closing paragraph in previous personal statement examples. Similarly, this personal statement example ends with the idea of dress-up day once again. This kind of personal statement format helps bring everything full circle. In learning about how to write a personal statement, the conclusion is one of the most important parts. Especially in chronologically structured personal statements, closing the loop in this way makes your personal statement feel complete .

The best personal statement examples have a well-written conclusion. Taking your personal statement ideas and addressing them neatly in the conclusion is important. Whether you explain particular future goals or simply affirm your personal values, you should have a future-facing closer. Colleges want to know not only how you’ve grown, but also how you will bring that growth to campus. 

Personal Statement Example #4: Why This Essay Worked

Fourth on our list of personal statement examples is by a writer who applied to performing arts programs. This student wrote about their love for the performing arts and their heritage. They were accepted to schools like NYU Tisch, Point Park, and Roosevelt University. Look for the college essay tips we already mentioned in the personal statement below.

Common App Essay Example #4

At six years old, most kids I know get excited to help Blue find clues or recite Elmo’s songs on Sesame Street. So you can imagine my family’s surprise when they saw me ignoring the other kids to go belt alongside my grandfather’s mariachi trio in the backyard. Growing up, I had always loved performing for people. But my passion for performing in front of a packed house never compared to performing for my favorite audience: my great grandmother. From age seven to twelve, my dad would take our family on a three-hour road trip to visit my great grandmother’s nursing home every single weekend. I remember the clean, antiseptic smell, and the beeping of her oxygen concentrator as I perched myself next to her bed and sang all types of songs from romantic boleros to earwormy Disney tunes. Even as she began failing to recognize her loved ones due to her worsening Alzheimer’s, she would always remember me, her “palomita blanca,” or white dove. But as I got older, singing what once were innocent songs, like “Edelweiss” or “Almost There,” started to make me feel like an imposter. I knew I belonged on stage, but I never saw any Mexican representation in any of my favorite musicals and animated cartoons. By seventh grade, I was plucking away at my full eyebrows for community theatre the night before auditions because I was told it would give me a better chance at landing a lead role. When my great grandmother passed away, I had lost the person who constantly reminded me how powerful staying true to your identity is. Without her, I questioned whether I had a chance at pursuing the thing that lights my soul aflame. But I stuck through the late nights, sprained ankles, and endless sweating under stage lights, because I loved theatre more than anything else in the world. In my freshman year, I joined the Conservatory of the Arts program for dance and drama at my high school. After my first show, I remember feeling so comforted by the fact that I finally felt that I belonged in the theatre kid community. In sophomore year, I finally got my first lead role as Gertrude in my high school’s production of Seussical. At last! All of my hard work had paid off and I was going to be a lead after six years of ensembles. I was so excited to get the chance to show myself and the world that my identity was my power. I didn’t want to be any old Gertrude. I’d stay up until 2 a.m. on weekends coming up with ways to make her more memorable. Inspired by Juan Gabriel’s emotional ballads, I added vocal cry to Gertrude’s solos to better portray her insecurities. Instead of sticking to just belting in “All For You,” I sang runs similar to the high energy mariachi songs I grew up with to show off my character’s passion and newfound confidence. But in March 2020, the world stopped, and the show couldn’t go on. Distanced learning made the performing arts programs nowhere near as fun or educational as they used to be. Still though, as president of the drama program in 2021, I am determined to rebuild a community that was torn apart by a worldwide pandemic. I want to be the mentor I never had. My confidence in my identity has been an important tool in teaching others that practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes progress. I work hard encouraging others not to be afraid to show the world what they have. Musical theatre is an art that thrives with innovation, so I’d like to bring the creative spice which my culture has enriched me with to the world’s stage. Maybe someday I can be that actress on stage or TV that’ll get a little Latina girl enthralled by the arts.

In this personal essay example, the writer uses vivid storytelling to show how they became the person they are today. Firstly, the hook tells us how the writer values both performance and her family. This light, fun personal statement introduction quickly goes for the heartstrings by introducing the writer’s great-grandmother. Personal statement examples sometimes avoid talking about family, because it’s easy to lose focus on the writer. But this writer never loses sight of their own memories, emotions, and experiences.

Equally important, those experiences are well-illustrated with rich imagery that clearly conveys the writer’s passion for their topic. Details like the smell and sound of the nursing home bring us into the moment. The writer also provides some examples of what they endured in theatre: “late nights” and “sprained ankles.” Use concrete images to get your personal statement ideas across with impact .

Also, the writer makes a point to explore the intersections of their Hispanic heritage and their passion for theatre. Particularly, the writer discusses their difficulty in putting them together, as shown by plucking their eyebrows. By establishing this conflict in the middle of her personal statement, the writer indicates their awareness of the wider world and their place in it. Many good personal statement examples will create context like this, showing the author thinking beyond themselves.

Show commitment to your topic

Broadly, the writer discusses their twin passions with powerful language and imagery. Exhibiting genuine enthusiasm for your personal statement topics is key. This personal statement shows that the writer has always been moved by their family and by the arts. Their triumph in combining the two feels huge precisely because we understand how much each of these things mean to them. Even if your personal statement topics aren’t as deep-seeded as this writer’s, you should show commitment to what you’re writing about.

If you’re reading this, COVID probably disrupted your school life at some point, as it did for this student. However, be careful not to linger on it more than necessary. This writer doesn’t completely gloss over the pandemic, but they keep their own journey at the center of the personal statement. The writer’s experience with distanced learning propelled them forward. Ideally, your personal statement for the university should keep a tight focus on you. The narrative personal statement format should show not only your experiences but also what you’ve learned from them.

Personal Statement Example #5: Pulling It All Together

The fifth and last of our personal statement examples is by another student who got into several top schools. They write about their participation and leadership at a club event. Keep an eye out for all the tips we’ve mentioned, from a good hook to showing-not-telling.

Personal Statement #5

One hundred and fifty bagels, all completely frozen. I couldn’t believe it. My school’s Model UN Conference was to start in thirty minutes, and breakfast for the delegates was nowhere near ready. I looked with dismay at my friends’ concerned faces peering out from behind piles of frozen bagels. As Secretary-General, it was my job to ensure that this conference went smoothly. However, it seemed that was not going to be the case. I took a moment to weigh my options before instructing Hannah, our “logistics coordinator,” to heat up the frozen circles of doom in the home-ec room. I knew Hannah enjoyed baking, so I trusted her to find a way into the locked room and thaw the assortment of bagels.  Cold bagels were not the only thing weighing heavily on my mind that morning. As I walked from classroom to classroom helping set up committees, I couldn’t help but feel nervous. Our conference wasn’t going to be like those of the private schools- there were no engraved pens or stylish water bottles. Instead, people got post-it notes and whatever pens we could steal from the supply closet. Forcing myself to stop worrying, I chose instead to think of why we made that choice. Since most of the food was donated, and all of the supplies had been “borrowed” from the supply closet, we could afford to charge only a nominal fee to everyone attending. Making Model UN accessible was one of my top priorities as Secretary-General; the same desire motivated me to begin including middle school students in the club. I hurried back down to the cafeteria, and was relieved to see that all the bagels looked warm and ready to eat.  The bagels would not be the sole crisis that day. As debates were about to start, one of the Chairs sent me a panic stricken text: “We only have 5 people in our committee! We can’t reenact the creation of the Treaty of Versailles!” I hurried to where his debate was taking place, and sure enough, only five people were there. I quickly considered my options- cancel the committee?  Convince some delegates to switch into this debate through bagel bribery? Or maybe, come up with a completely new topic?  I settled on idea number three. But what topic could a committee of only five people spend a day discussing? I mulled it over until an idea began to form. I explained to the room, “Each one of you will represent one of the five major Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. The chair will guide you as you tweet, make campaign videos, and debate the most important political issues.” I spent a few minutes figuring out how to go about moderating such an unconventional committee, before heading off to check in on the other debates.  As I walked from committee to committee, fixing problems and helping move debates along, I felt a sense of pride. I had spent months working on this conference, along with the other members of my team. At times, I worried I could never pull it off. A part of me had wished our faculty advisor would just organize the whole thing for us. After all, I’m just a high schooler, how could I put together such a big event? But as the day went by, I realized that with the help of my peers, I had done it. All the little crises that cropped up weren’t because I was doing a bad job; they were inevitable. The fact that I could find solutions to such a wide variety of problems was a testament to my leadership skills, and my level-headedness. I didn’t just feel like a leader—I felt like an adult. As I look towards my future in college and later the workforce, I know that I can succeed, even if my obstacles seem as insurmountable as a mountain of frozen bagels. 

This writer has a great example of how to start a college essay. Their strong hook makes us curious – why are there so many? What’s going on, and can the writer fix it? The essay’s tone is clear from the outset, and we’re drawn in by the conflict. Moreover, the writer establishes themselves as a leader and problem-solver.

Like a short story character, this writer encounters various obstacles. Throughout this personal statement, the writer shows off their resourcefulness, leadership skills, and quick thinking. While other people are in this personal statement example, the focus never wavers from the writer’s thoughts and actions. Additionally, the writer details the thought process behind each of their solutions.

As we’ve mentioned, a good personal statement for a university shows information, rather than telling it. This writer walks through various aspects of the conference in the second paragraph, then explains their reasoning. Instead of just saying they wanted to make the conference accessible, the writer shows us how they made it possible by organizing food donations and only charging a small fee. This Common App essay shows us what the writer is like through actions as well as words.

A narrative of learning and growth

As with our other personal statement examples, the writer wraps up with a strong conclusion that recalls the hook. They recount their personal growth throughout this process. In addition, the writer elaborates on the lessons they have taken from this experience. As shown above, introspection on personal growth and values is part of any good personal essay for college. This Common App essay makes a solid case for its writer as a future student and community member.

In sum, this writer takes a seemingly insignificant anecdote and uses it to reveal something critical about their experiences. By highlighting particular, telling moments, the writer shows us their personality and capability. What’s more, by using engaging language and a clear structure, the writer makes a lasting impact on the reader. For these reasons, this is a superb example of a personal statement for college.

CollegeAdvisor Resources on Writing a Great Personal Statement

By now, you’ve seen several personal statement examples and confidently say you know how to write a personal statement. But maybe you feel you need a little more information. A good personal statement for college starts with early preparation. Getting a head start on writing your personal essay for college is a great idea.

We at CollegeAdvisor have no shortage of guides on how to write a personal statement. We’ve got quick college essay tips from our admissions experts . If you have some more time, here are some frequently asked questions answered by an Admissions Officer. If you’re more of a watcher than a reader, check out a personal statement webinar from CollegeAdvisor.

How to Write a Personal Statement: Final Thoughts

You made it to the end! Now you know how to write a great college essay. Let’s briefly recap what we covered in this “How to Write a Personal Statement” guide.

Firstly, we answered the question, “What is a personal statement?” We outlined the expected length, personal statement format, and how important they are in the application process. Then, we explored some of the most common and effective personal statement topics.

Next, we looked at how to write a personal statement. We gave advice and tips on drafting, editing, and finalizing your personal essay for college. Specifically, we talked about the value of strong hooks, your unique voice, and editing.

Finally, we reviewed five personal statement examples and discussed what made them work. Each of our personal essay examples had effective language, structure, and other techniques that may inspire your writing.

Still a little stuck on how to write a personal statement for college? Aside from college essay tips and personal statement webinars, CollegeAdvisor also offers one-on-one support. We have hundreds of Admissions Experts and former Admissions Officers available to support you. Our Admissions Experts can work with you to help you craft a college application essay that highlights your potential.

This guide was written by Sarah Kaminski , Lori Dunlap , and Gina Goosby . No matter what stage you are at in your college search, is here to help. We’ve created a wide range of guides, to help you navigate the college admissions process from building your school list all the way to packing for your freshman fall. For more specialized guidance on writing a personal statement, click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how can support you in the college application process.

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Tips for writing your personal statement

How to write a personal statement it's difficult to know where to begin. get hints and tips on structure, content and what not to write from a university expert..

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Structuring and preparing your personal statement

What to write in a personal statement, examples to avoid, looking for clearing advice.

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An insider’s view 

Personal statements may seem formulaic, but they can be critical to the decision-making process, and admissions tutors do read them.

If you’re applying for a high-demand course, your personal statement could be the deciding factor on whether or not you get an interview.

The Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment at the University of Gloucestershire , James Seymour, shares some top tips on how to write a personal statement.

What makes a good personal statement?

This is your chance to demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment and show us what value you can add to a university. In the vast majority of cases, universities are finding ways to make you an offer, not reject you – the personal statement is your chance to make this decision easier for them!

First, you need to explain why you want a place on a course. Take a look at James’ tips on what you should include:

  • Explain the reason for your choice and how it fits in with your aspirations for the future
  • Give examples of any related academic or work experience
  • Show you know what the course will involve and mention any special subjects you’re interested in
  • Demonstrate who you are by listing any positions you’ve held, memberships of teams or societies, and interests and hobbies
  • Show consistency in your five UCAS choices. It may be difficult for an admissions tutor to take you seriously if your other choices, and references to them, are totally different. If your choices are different, you should explain this in your statement. The UCAS form is blind. Admissions tutors don’t know the other universities you’ve applied to, or your priorities, but you should still be consistent
  • Keep it clear and concise – UCAS admissions are increasingly paperless – so most admissions tutors/officers will read your statement onscreen
Explain what you can bring to a course and try not to just list experiences, but describe how they have given you skills that will help you at university.

Don’t just say: I am a member of the college chess club. I also play the clarinet in the orchestra.

When you could say: I have developed my problem-solving skills through playing chess for the college; this requires concentration and analytical thought. I am used to working as part of a team as I play clarinet in the college orchestra and cooperate with others to achieve a finished production.

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What will admissions tutors look for in your personal statement?

To decide if you’re the right fit, universities and colleges are interested in how you express your academic record and potential. This should be backed up by your reference.

Those working in admissions look for evidence of:

  • Motivation and commitment
  • Leadership, teamwork and communication
  • Research into your chosen subject
  • Any relevant key skills

Admissions tutors aren't seeking Nobel laureates. They’re looking for enthusiasm for the course being applied for, and self-reflection into why you’d be suitable to study it. What value could you add to the course? Where would you like to go once you graduate?

Ben, the Admissions Manager for Law at the University of Birmingham , shared with us what he expects applicants to tell him in their personal statement:

The personal statement is not only an excellent opportunity to showcase applicants individual skills, knowledge, and achievements, but it also provides us with an insight into the type of student they aspire to be and how they could fit into the academic community. Ben Atkins, Law Admissions Manager at University of Birmingham

Real-life example: the good

Good personal statement

Real-life example: the not-so-good

Not so good personal statement

  • How to make your personal statement stand out

You could have excellent experiences, but if they’re arranged in a poorly-written statement then the impact will be reduced. So, it’s important to plan your statement well.

A well-written personal statement with a clearly planned and refined structure will not only make the information stand out, but it’ll demonstrate you have an aptitude for structuring written pieces of work – a crucial skill needed for many university courses.

You can use it for other things too, such as gap year applications, jobs, internships, apprenticeships and keep it on file for future applications.

There's no one ‘correct’ way to structure your personal statement. But it’s a good idea to include the following:

  • A clear introduction, explaining why you want to study the course
  • Around 75% can focus on your academic achievements, to prove how you’re qualified to study it
  • Around 25% can be about any extracurricular activity, to show what else makes you suitable
  • A clear conclusion
  • How to start a personal statement

Your personal statement is your chance to really show why you deserve a place on your chosen course. 

Remember to keep these in mind:

  • Be clear and concise – the more concentrated the points and facts, the more powerful
  • Use positive words such as achieved, developed, learned, discovered, enthusiasm, commitment, energy, fascination…
  • Avoid contrived or grandiose language. Instead use short, simple sentences in plain English
  • Insert a personal touch if possible, but be careful with humour and chatty approaches
  • Use evidence of your learning and growth (wherever possible) to support claims and statements
  • Plan the statement as you would an essay or letter of application for a job/scholarship
  • Consider dividing the statement into five or six paragraphs, with headings if appropriate
  • Spelling and grammar DO matter – draft and redraft as many times as you must and ask others to proofread and provide feedback
  • For 2022 – 23 applications, refer to the challenges you've faced during the pandemic in a positive way


  • Over-exaggerate
  • Come across as pretentious
  • Try to include your life history
  • Start with: "I’ve always wanted to be a..."
  • Use gimmicks or quotations, unless they're very relevant and you deal with them in a way that shows your qualities
  • Be tempted to buy or copy a personal statement – plagiarism software is now very sophisticated and if you're caught out you won’t get a place
  • Make excuses about not being able to undertake activities/gain experience – focus on what you were able to do positively, e.g. as a result of coronavirus

For further details, read our detailed guide on  what to include in a personal statement  and the best things to avoid.

Note that if you decide to reapply for university the following year, it's a good idea to consider making some changes to your personal statement. Mention why you took a year off and talk about what skills you've learnt. If you're applying for a completely different subject, you'll need to make more changes.

James gives us real-life examples of things to avoid:

I enjoy the theatre and used to go a couple of times a year. (Drama)
I am a keen reader and am committed to the study of human behaviour through TV soaps!
I have led a full life over the last 18 years and it is a tradition I intend to continue.
I describe myself in the following two words: 'TO ODIN!' the ancient Viking war cry. (Law)
My favourite hobby is bee-keeping and I want to be an engineer.
My interest in Medicine stems from my enjoyment of Casualty and other related TV series.
I have always had a passion to study Medicine, failing that, Pharmacy. (A student putting Pharmacy as her fifth choice after four medical school choices – Pharmacy can be just as popular and high status as Medicine.)

Some final advice

Above all, remember that a personal statement is your opportunity to convince a university why it should offer you a place. So, make it compelling and there’s a much higher chance they will.

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How To Write A Personal Statement (With Examples)

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Whether you want to apply to colleges, graduate programs, or competitive jobs, writing a persuasive personal statement will give you a leg up over the other applicants. A personal statement gives you a chance to express your qualifications, motivations, and long-term objectives in a way that gets hiring managers and admissions boards excited to meet you.

No matter why you’re writing a personal statement, we’re here to help you stand out from the crowd.

Key Takeaways:

To write a personal statement, first brainstorm, then narrow down your ideas, and start with an intro that leads into your qualifications.

Make sure to proofread your personal statement before submitting.

Personal statements describe your interests, skills, and goals, with a particular focus on your passion.

Personal statements are typically found in academia, however some professional organizations may also request one.

How To Write A Personal Statement (With Examples)

What Is a Personal Statement?

How to write a personal statement, tips for writing a strong personal statement, questions to ask yourself when writing a personal statement, when do i need a personal statement, academic personal statement examples, professional personal statement example, personal statement faq.

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A personal statement is a written work that describes your skills, areas of interest, accomplishments, and goals. It is typically included with a college or scholarship application, and sometimes used as part of job applications as well.

Personal statements are a chance for you to show an admissions board or a hiring committee what makes you special outside of your resume . Think of it as an in-depth cover letter where you get to detail not only your skills, but why you’re so passionate about the subject.

Short of an interview, it’s the best way to show your personality in a way that (hopefully) convinces someone to hire or admit you.

When you’re ready to write your statement, there are a few ways you can approach it. We’re going to go over a seven-step process so you can keep your thoughts organized and work through a process. Feel free to switch up the method, so it works for you.

Understand the prompt. Before you put pen to paper, make sure you understand the prompt and what is being asked of you. If there’s a specific set of questions you need to respond to, make sure you frame your thinking that way instead of just choosing a topic.

Brainstorm. Think of some ideas and an outline before you start writing. Consider how you can answer the prompt you’re given and what unique experiences you can bring to the table. The more options you have, the better off you’ll be.

Narrow it down. An excellent way to pick your final approach to draft a statement would be to jot down a few sentences for each idea you had. This helps you tell what topic is easiest to write about or what you feel most confident. No matter how you narrow down your ideas, you need to settle on the strongest one to convey your qualifications.

Start with an intro. Once you’re ready to write, you’ll want to write your opening paragraph first. This is a chance for you to introduce yourself and let people know who you are. Try to keep this paragraph short since it’s just an intro, and you’ll have more space to get into your qualifications in the next paragraph.

Write about your qualifications. When you write about your skills, make sure you align them with the job description or the program’s goals or university.

You can expand this section to a few paragraphs (if word count allows) and be sure to cover your achievements, qualifications, skills, talents, goals, and what you can bring to the program or organization.

One to three body paragraphs should suffice, with scholarship and graduate school personal statements being the longest of the bunch, and job personal statements being the shortest.

Sum up your argument. Your statement is a persuasive argument for why the committee should pick you. It should be a compelling summary of your qualifications, and it should show that you have a clear desire to work for the company.

Proofread. Look for any spelling or grammar errors and check to make sure your writing is clear and concise. Cut out anything that doesn’t fit or help paint a good picture of what kind of student or employee you are. You might want to show your draft to a few people to ensure everything sounds right.

No matter what approach you take to writing your statement, a few things hold. We’ll give you some tips to make your statement stand out from the rest.

Write to your audience. Chances are you have a good idea of who will be reading your application and personal statement, so try to gear your writing toward them. Think of what will persuade or impress them and incorporate that into your writing.

Stay truthful. It might be tempting to exaggerate the truth or smudge a little bit, but make sure you stay truthful. If you claim to have skills or experience that you don’t have and land the job, it might be pretty easy to tell that your writing doesn’t exactly align with your experience.

Tell a story. If you can, try to weave your narrative into a story. Not only will it be more engaging for your reader, but it will also show if you can use your skill to create a story. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but tying everything together into a narrative will impress your readers.

Use your voice. To make your statement more personal and unique, you should write in your voice. Don’t try to copy examples of statements you find or let your editor drown out what makes you unique. Make sure you keep your personality and qualifications front and center since it’s a personal statement.

Get specific. Instead of generally talking about skills you have, find ways to show your reader when you used those skills. Being specific and giving examples will make your argument more compelling and show your reader that you’re a master.

Use simple language. Since personal statements are so short, it’s not the time for long and complex sentences. Keep it concise and easy to read. You don’t want to risk confusing your reader since committees usually have a few minutes to consider your candidacy, and you don’t want to lose their attention.

Sometimes, especially during the brainstorm process, it can help to ask yourself questions to get your mind focused. These questions can help realize what you want to write in your personal statement.

Some questions you can ask yourself include:

“Why am I interested in this application? What about it makes me want to apply?”

“What are my strengths and weaknesses?”

“What type of work gets me excited and deeply engaged?”

“What is my life story and how does it relate to this application?”

“Where do I want to go?”

“Who do I want to be?”

“What have I learned from my past?”

“How can I explain my past experiences?”

“How would my friends and family describe me to a stranger?”

“What obstacles have I overcome and how does it make me who I am today?”

Asking yourself questions like these will open up your mind to new ideas on how to write your personal statement.

You may need to write a personal statement for a university, scholarship, or job application.

University application. When you’re writing a personal statement for a school application, you’ll usually have a few paragraphs to get your point across. These prompts tend to be more open-ended and give you a chance to explain why you want to attend that school, how you align with their program, and why you are an excellent fit for the school’s culture.

A personal statement for a graduate program needs to be much sharper and more focused. At this point in your education, you’re expected to know precisely where you’d like to turn your academic focus and be able to communicate that efficiently.

Scholarship application. When you need to write a personal statement for a grant or scholarship application, you want to make sure you align your values and purpose with the providers. These can be tricky to write, but they’re like a careful balance between personal statements for school and work.

Job application. For work-related personal statements, you’ll want to focus on your skills and qualifications more than your personality. Employers are more concerned with how you can meet their skill requirements. Professional personal statements tend to be shorter, so there’s less space to talk about anything but your qualifications.

Here are two examples of shorts personal statement for graduate program applications:

From the moment I stepped into the lab, smelled the clean scent of fresh lab coats, and saw the beakers glistening under the light, I felt an excitement to learn that hasn’t left me since. Each time I enter the lab, I feel the same flutter of my heart and a sense of purpose. I want to continue to chase this feeling while contributing to a broader scientific knowledge catalog, which I know the Graduate Biology Program at City University will allow me to do. I want to continue the research I started in college on communicable diseases while gaining a critical education. City University’s program emphasizes in-class and hands-on learning, a perfect combination for my learning style.
As a graduate of State University with a B.S. in Biology, I have the foundation to build my knowledge and experience. While at State University, I worked in a lab researching the efficacy of a new flu vaccine. There, I managed other student researchers, worked as a liaison between the professor running the lab and students and managed the data reports. I am ready to bring my extensive experience to City University classrooms while learning from my peers. I am eager to begin the coursework at City University, and I believe I am uniquely prepared to contribute to the campus culture and research efforts. I look forward to stepping into City University’s lab in the fall and feeling the familiar excitement that drives me to pursue a graduate program and learn more about public health.

If you need to write a professional personal statement, here’s a sample you can model yours after:

As a recent graduate of State University with a B.A. in Communications, I am prepared to take what I have learned in the classroom and bring my work ethic and go-getter attitude to ABC Company. I believe that I have the skills and experience to excel as a Marketing Coordinator from my first day. My classes in Digital Communication, Social Media Marketing, and Business Management and my work as Outreach Chair of the university newspaper have prepared me to take on responsibilities as I learn more about the field. I also believe that my dedication to animal welfare aligns with the ABC Company’s goal of finding loving homes for all of their foster pets and makes me especially interested in this position.

What do I write in a personal statement?

A personal statement should include an introduction, your relevant skills/experiences, and your goals. You want to keep your personal statement relevant for the program or job in question. Make sure to show your passion and indicate what you’d like to do with the degree or opportunity.

How do you start off a personal statement?

Start your personal statement by introducing yourself. Give a brief snapshot of your background that also describes why you’re passionate about this field or area of study in particular. Another powerful way to start off a personal statement is with a significant accomplishment that immediately speaks to your relevant skill set and experience.

What exactly is a personal statement?

A personal statement is a brief statement that sums up your qualifications. A personal statement is a brief written document that university admissions boards, scholarship programs, and sometimes hiring managers require from applicants. A personal statement’s purpose is to show the reader that you are qualified, fully invested in the aims of the program, and have plans for what you would do if granted the opportunity.

How do you write a 500-word personal statement?

To write a 500-word personal statement, start by writing without worrying about the word count. If your personal statement is too long, look for sentences that include skills, experiences, or qualifications that aren’t strictly related to the requirements or aims of the program/job you’re applying for and remove them.

If your personal statement is too short, go back to the program, scholarship, or job description. Make note of the preferred experiences and required skills. For example, if you’ve included a skill in your personal statement without experience to back it up, consider adding a brief story that shows you putting that skill into action.

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Amanda is a writer with experience in various industries, including travel, real estate, and career advice. After taking on internships and entry-level jobs, she is familiar with the job search process and landing that crucial first job. Included in her experience is work at an employer/intern matching startup where she marketed an intern database to employers and supported college interns looking for work experience.

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Top tips for writing an original personal statement

A student advisor offers some top tips for ensuring your personal statement and your university application stands out and avoids the common mistakes.

Hannah Morrish's avatar

Hannah Morrish

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A personal statement is an essay about yourself that is usually included in a university application. Writing a personal statement can seem like a daunting task, but the main thing to remember is that you should aim to show why you want to study at your chosen university, what experiences you have in the subject you have chosen and any extracurricular activities you’ve taken part in. 

Many students worry about writing their personal statement because it is the first time they will have to write something about themselves with the aim of conveying their personality and drive to a stranger. 

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is an essay that is part of the application process when applying to university in the UK. The personal statement is your opportunity to showcase why you would be a good fit for your university, why you have chosen your university and why you want to study your chosen course. 

It is an opportunity to showcase what makes you unique, what skills and experience you have and why you would be an asset to the university. 

Personal statement reforms

Personal statements will soon be scrapped in Ucas applications , and replaced by a series of questions that applicants will have to fill out. These will be introduced in 2024 for the 2025 academic year start. 

How to write a good personal statement

The main thing to remember when writing a personal statement is that it should be unique to you. It might feel strange to write down all of your achievements and ambitions, but this is your opportunity to show your university of choice why they should accept you. 

Talk about your reasons for choosing your university, why you want to study the course you have chosen, any related work experience or hobbies you might have, and what your future goals are in relation to your course. 

It’s best not to leave writing your personal statement until the last minute – a great personal statement is one that is well written and well structured and this can take some time to put together. 

There are some more detailed tips on how to put your personal statement together below. 

Here are some more detailed tips on how to write a postgraduate personal statement here . 

Create two lists

Write down one list detailing what you know about the course you would like to study and why you know it is the correct degree choice for you, including any career aspirations you might have or if you have plans to continue into postgraduate study. The second list should focus on why you are the ideal student for that course and university, including things such as extracurricular activities and related work placements you have done. 

Thoroughly research your subject choice

Admission tutors will read your personal statement to help them evaluate whether you are right for the course. By attending open days, reviewing the course and module content and having researched the university’s values you will have far more confidence in sharing why you want to dedicate the next three years to your chosen course.

Promote the knowledge you already have and why you would fit in 

Make it clear you have thoroughly researched the course and explain why you have made the decision to study it at university. Highlight the relevant skills and subject knowledge you already have and outline any relevant work experience that you have too, which will help to round out your personal statement. 

Show how capable you are

Your personal statement needs to convince universities that you have the study skills to motivate yourself and work hard. Give relevant examples of how you have developed your independent learning skills and what motivates you.

Be original

You know why you got excited about the degree when you read the course information or when you attended a Q&A with one of the lecturers during an open day. Use your personal statement as an opportunity to share your enthusiasm.

Outline any life experience you’ve had that relates to your course, any transferable skills, voluntary work, work experience and goals and aspirations to support your application. 

Don’t use unsupported clichés

It’s a good idea to try to stay away from clichés as a rule, but if you do think that one will work in your favour make sure it’s supported. If it is the truth that you have wanted to study something from a young age then you may want to include this kind of statement.

What is more important is that you explain how this has inspired you to study supporting subjects and dedicate time to hobbies or interests that relate directly to what you would like to study at university and how this will help you.

Some phrases and words to try to avoid include:

1. Mentioning your work experience at your “father’s company” 2. Using the phrase “quenched my thirst for…” 3. Any metaphors using fire, such as “sparked my interest” or “burning desire” 4. Starting the statement with “ever since I was a child” or “from a young age” 5. Using any of the following words:

  • passion/passionate
  • furthermore
  • ground-breaking
  • thought-provoking

Ask for feedback

Don’t be shy about asking people to proofread for you. When you have been working on something for a while it can be hard to spot any mistakes or tweaks you should make. Ask friends, family or a teacher to proofread it and give their honest opinion.

They should feed back on whether your personal statement is well structured, do a spell check for any spelling or grammar mistakes and check whether it portrays your academic achievements and academic interests. 

How long should a personal statement be?

Your personal statement can be up to 4,000 characters long, which is around two sides of A4 paper. 

How to start a personal statement

The introduction of the personal statement is the most important part as this is what will draw the attention of the admission tutor reading it. 

Consider your main reasons for choosing your course and lead with that. There are some more tips below on how to structure your personal statement. 

And if possible try to avoid these common opening lines for your Ucas personal statement. 

How to structure a personal statement

Admissions tutors will read a lot of personal statements, so you'll want to grab their attention from the beginning. A rough structure would include an introduction of yourself, your reasons for choosing your subject, the subjects you are studying now and how they relate to your chosen degree, any experiences you’ve had that relate to your chosen subject, interests and hobbies that relate to your chosen subject, your career goals after you leave university and why you would make a good addition to the university. 

If you are writing a personal statement for a postgraduate degree , there are many more tips here. 

Can I use ChatGPT to write a personal statement?

While ChatGPT or any other kind of generative AI technology can be a useful tool to write your personal statement, it is important that they are used with the right guidance. 

Ucas does not necessarily ban the use of ChatGPT for writing a personal statement, however applications are run through anti-plagiarism software so if it does detect that whole paragraphs are plagiarised, Ucas will notify any universities that you have applied to and any offers might be revoked. 

Some universities and colleges may also consider the use of ChatGPT as cheating so it might be better to avoid using these programs in case your universities take a stricter approach. 

The main thing to remember is that admissions tutors will want to see your character and personality so using a program like this would remove any kind of personality from your personal statement. 

More information on using AI for your personal statement can be found here . 

This article was updated by THE Student Editor Seeta Bhardwa in July 2023. This article was originally published in December 2015. 

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Advice for Writing Personal Statements

(but provide context and relevance of everything included)

Structure and Style

“I hope that young adults will be inspired to participate in the political process”

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  • Career Services is dedicated to career and graduate school preparation. Their website includes a timetable for the application process and resources for the application process as a whole:  SUB I, room 3400

Recommended Books

Graduate Admissions Essays: Write Your Way into the Graduate School of Your Choice by Donald Asher

Writing Personal Statements and Scholarship Application Essays: A Student Handbook by Joe Schall

How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School by Richard Stelzer

The Synonym Finder by J. I. Rodale

“The Paradox of Self-Expression: As you revise personal essays, concentrate on exuding an affirmative, positive tone. Be upbeat but not overbearing. Explain but don’t equivocate. Be realistic but not pessimistic. Speak confidently but don’t brag. Be idealistic but not naïve. Tell the truth about yourself and your background but don’t apologize for either.”

— from Joe Schall’s Writing Personal Statements and Scholarship Application Essays

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Podcast: Law School Personal Statement Deep Dive—Advice from Former Admissions Officers

In this episode of Status Check with Spivey , Anna Hicks-Jaco has a conversation with three Spivey consultants—Anne Dutia, Paula Gluzman, and Derek Meeker, former law school admissions officers at Michigan, UCLA, Penn, and more—diving deep into the law school personal statement. They discuss the brainstorming and topic selection process, how to structure a personal statement, writing tips, broad-level traits of A+ personal statements, common mistakes, and more.

You can watch the video Derek mentions in this episode, in which he walks through how to choose a personal statement topic, here . You can read bios for Anne, Paula, Derek, and Anna here .

You can listen and subscribe to  Status Check with Spivey  on  ⁠⁠Apple Podcasts⁠⁠ ,  ⁠⁠Spotify⁠⁠ , and  ⁠⁠YouTube⁠⁠ .

Full Transcript:

Anna: Hello, and welcome to Status Check with Spivey, where we talk about life, law school, law school admissions, a little bit of everything. I'm Anna Hicks-Jaco, Spivey Consulting's President, and today we're really drilling down into law school admissions, and specifically the personal statement. How to brainstorm and choose the ideal topic, how to structure the personal statement, advice for the writing process, common mistakes to avoid, tons of valuable information.

I am fortunate to be joined for this episode by three of our amazing Spivey consultants, Anne Dutia, Paula Gluzman, and Derek Meeker, all former admissions officers at various law schools including Penn, UCLA, and Michigan, but I will go ahead and let them introduce themselves.

Anne: Hi everyone, I'm Anne Dutia, and I have been with Spivey Consulting Group since 2017. Before that, I practiced law for a bit before moving to Michigan and ending up working at the law school in the admissions office. After that, I was a pre-law advisor for a number of years, and I really enjoyed working on the other side of the process. So when the opportunity came to work with Spivey Consulting Group and some of my dear friends and people I really respected in the business, I jumped at it, and I've been here ever since!

Paula: Hi, everyone. I am Paula Gluzman. I have been a consultant at Spivey Consulting Group since 2018; I'm also the Director of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee here at Spivey. I started my career practicing civil defense litigation and transitioned into student legal services where I was working at a university helping students through legal issues. I was very fortunate to get break in law school admissions at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, and then transitioned over to UCLA School of Law when I moved back to California. I loved admissions, and then the opportunity came to work in career services at a law school, so all the students that I was helping bring into the school through recruiting and application review, I was now getting to work with them for three years on all of their resume and cover letter and employment assessment work. I loved that job as well; I did that at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and at University of San Diego School of Law. And then the opportunity came to work back with students in admissions one-on-one through Spivey, and I have been here ever since.

I am also a first-generation immigrant, I am a first-generation college student in America, and also a first-generation law student. And so my passion for working with students and diverse individuals has been a long-lived passion that I get to do every single day as a consultant here.

Derek: Hi, everyone, hello from Los Angeles! My name is Derek Meeker. I am a partner at Spivey Consulting and have been here since 2014. I've worked in law school admissions and legal recruiting for well over 20 years now—about eight years on the school side, I worked as the Assistant Director of Admissions at William Mitchell in the Twin Cities, and then as the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. I also worked in big law as a global recruiting manager for Paul Hastings, and I have now been a law school admissions consultant for a total of 14 years.

But I also want to talk about my writing background and experience since today's podcast is about personal statements. I basically started writing from the time I could hold a pencil. I've always loved writing. I started writing stories in elementary or middle school. I was the editor of the yearbook and newspaper in high school. I majored in journalism in college. This has just always been a passion for me and something I knew I wanted to do in my professional career. And since then, I've transitioned to writing my own personal essays and memoir and have taken a lot of continuing education classes in those areas of writing.

So I love talking about writing. I love helping people tell their stories, and I'm excited to share some advice with all of our listeners.

Anna: Well, thank you all for joining me here today for this podcast about personal statements, which is such a big and important topic in law school admissions, so I hope we're able to give tons of helpful advice, and I know with the three of you on board we'll have plenty of value to add! Let's jump right in; we have limited time.

I think the first topic that I would like to cover is how personal statements and what law schools are looking for in personal statements has changed over the years. Spivey Consulting has been around since 2012, and the advice that we gave about personal statements in 2014, Derek, when you joined, was different from the personal statement advice that we give today in 2024, and that's for some good reasons. Derek, do you want to talk a little bit about how things have changed?

Derek: Absolutely. I think the biggest change is that now, I would advise people to include why they're going to law school or why they're pursuing a legal career in their personal statement. It used to be, it could very much be a personal essay for your personal statement, which you could tell an interesting story about the coolest experience you ever had. We have examples of these. One of my favorite essays of all time that I've talked about numerous times on podcasts and written about is the cattle ranch essay, where I worked with someone who spent every summer of his college years working with Mexican cowboys, living and speaking in a different language and a different culture. It's just such a beautiful story. There was absolutely no mention in there about law school. And while it was once one of my favorite personal statements, maybe my favorite ever, I couldn't advise someone to write that essay now—or at least not in the same way, right?

So, now law schools really want to know why you're going to law school, or as Dean Natalie Blazer from the University of Virginia put it, why a legal education or a legal career makes sense for you. You don't have to know exactly what you want to do, you don't have to write about your specific practice area, but at least talk about experiences or an experience in your essay that shows how you've grown and perhaps cultivated skills or qualities or developed passion for particular subjects or issues that somehow connect to why you're going to law school or why you would make a great lawyer.

To be clear, it still should be a personal statement, right? It still has to be an entertaining story. It's just that now you have to find a way to connect it to where you are today, which is, why am I applying to law school? That's what I would say is the biggest change.

Anna: Paula, Anne, thoughts to add?

Anne: I absolutely agree. I think that we used to be able to let people indulge their passions and talk about maybe things that they loved or that were a little esoteric or could be entertaining, as long as they demonstrated a self-awareness, helping the readers understand what made them tick.

Now it has to be a little bit more focused towards, how does that apply to the study and practice of law? And I think that for most of our clients, that's a pretty easy shift. For others, it might require a little bit more self-examination.

Paula: You hit the nail on the head with regards to exactly what I put for this question as what I wanted to talk about. It’s that, no longer are the days where you can just talk about an interesting story that is a theme or a metaphor for how you handle conflict or how you persevere through difficult situations or maybe even just simply saying things that are important to you and how that's going to transfer into the kind of lawyer that you're going to be. If you are able to sort of connect the dots to the journey of journeys in your life, and find the initial reason, maybe before you even knew what law was, and what connected you to the idea of fairness or justice or advocating for others or standing up for the underdog, or maybe it was just a talent that you had that is a really great transferable skill, like strong reading and writing or really enjoying research or really enjoying critical thinking. And connect the dots between who you are as a person, the characteristics that you want to convey in your essay to how it all connects to the choices that you've made to lead you to the doorsteps of these schools. You are going to be covering all the things that an admissions person wants to know about you that can give them an idea of what you bring to the table.

So it can't just be personal, it can't just be all about law. There needs to be a really great meshing of both to be a successful essay for this climate in admissions.

Derek: And just to add something that Paula, that was stated at the end. I think I would just say yes, it's now somewhere between personal essay and statement of purpose. And I still feel like, in most cases, it's mostly personal statement, because you still want that interesting story that shows how you grew or all the things that both Anne and Paula talked about. But at some point, there needs to be that shift more toward statement of purpose.

Anna: I think that's all great advice. Part of that difference comes just from the fact that law school admissions is more competitive now than it was a decade ago. Ten years ago, it was very much an applicant's market. Things are very different, things are more competitive, and I think the personal statement is more important than ever.

Another part of it is just that law schools are looking more and more at ways to assess employability, and having a clear purpose somewhere in your application is key to establishing that employability, because that's the employment that you're going to go out and seek once you are in law school.

So that personal statement, very, very important, especially now. Probably everyone listening to this podcast would ideally write an A+ personal statement. You know, if they're listening to this, they are looking for advice to be able to write an excellent, top 5% personal statement. So my question to you all is, what are qualities of those really excellent, those top-of-the-line personal statements?

Paula: I wrote down five things that I think make a really strong, well-rounded personal statement. So if you can indulge me I'll go through them. One, in making a personal statement, it should have your genuine voice and be well written so that it's first, informative—think about the key points of relevant facts about you you want the reader to take away when they're done reading your essay.

You want it to be compelling, so again, told in a way that elicits an emotional pull or a connection to you as a writer and as an applicant. Also, so it shows your personality, right? So that makes a compelling aspect of it. You want to leave a lasting mark in the minds and in the hearts of your reader.

Three, intentionally interesting. So really think about the stories that you're choosing to tell about yourself and how they best convey your interest and the purpose in entering law school.

Four, it's reflective. Anna, you had a great TikTok about this, talking about personal statements and how important that reflection aspect of the personal statement is. The reason for that is because it shows your maturity and it shows your EQ and it shows your ability to go back and actually reflect and be self-actualized, which is huge for handling the rigor of law school and the legal profession.

And then lastly, you want it to be professional, error-free, no typos, follow grammar and formatting rules. Think about the audience of who is listening to or reading your application, right? So this is not going to be the same type of language that you're going to use with your friends or in social settings. Think more about how you would talk or speak about yourself to a mentor or to a grown-up in your life, a parent, a strong family member, a professor that you really value, and how you would speak about yourself and your life to that person. Those would be my top five elements of an A+ personal statement.

Derek: I had five also, and some of them are going to overlap, but that's good because it shows that...

Paula: Confirming.

Derek: Right, there's some agreement on this! So my number one is authenticity, which Paula touched on. I think it's just so important to be who you are and to write in your genuinely authentic voice. There's a lot of talk about differentiation and trying to differentiate in the application process and in your essay writing. You know, I think that differentiation is certainly important, but I sometimes feel like too much emphasis gets placed on that, or at least that sometimes people will prioritize differentiation over authenticity. And so they end up trying to create something, right, that maybe doesn't actually exist or just is like they're stretching it too much, because they're trying too hard to differentiate or feel like that they need to impress the admissions committee. And I often feel like some of the simplest, most everyday sorts of topics can be really engaging and some of the best personal statements, because they're just so real and so human, and you just get a sense of, you really know the person. And I'm going to talk about one of them later, I think, when we talk about some essays that we love. So authenticity is my number one.

Related to that, conversational in tone. It's not an academic piece. That doesn't mean, of course, that you can't talk about academic experiences. But I just feel like admissions people are reading, they might be reading 50 applications a day. And I always say, you don't know if you're going to be the first or the 50th that day or what's going on when they're reading it, right? So make it conversational, so it's engaging. Don't try to take on a stilted or like a “writer's voice,” as I say, right? Obviously, good grammar, all of those things apply. If you read personal essays or memoirs, you'll see that most of them are just very conversational. They draw you in, right?

I think number three, somewhat narrowly tailored. You don't want to write a mini biography. You don't want to try to cover too much. You have to really try to hone in on, what is an experience or a couple of experiences that have shaped me the most, and try to make it somewhat narrowly tailored.

I would also say number four, growth journey or arc, which is also something that Paula touched on. I feel like all the great essays, the reader goes through something. They are intrigued, or confused, or challenged, and then they discover, or they navigate, or problem solve, or they overcome something. There's a lesson, there are skills or qualities that they develop, values formed or reinforced or changed. So you want it to have that element of journey or arc to it.

And then my final one is the “three Cs”—compelling, cohesive, concise. Compelling, Paula talked about, keep the reader interested. Cohesive, make sure that it logically flows and makes sense. Each paragraph should build on the next. You don't want abrupt shifts or tangents or introducing new topics late in the essay, which I saw so often. And concise. Look, there are a lot of law schools that don't give you a page limit. Most of my clients still write a two-page essay. Some occasionally go longer and sometimes it makes sense, but the ones that do that, when they have to then do a two-page version for a school that requires it, they almost always say, you know what, I like this one better. It's tighter. I'm going to send it to every school.

Anna: I had four, but with an implied five.

Paula: Can you tell we've all practiced law?

Anne: Yeah, and they overlap with Paula and Derek's advice. One thing that I wanted to just build on a little bit is, both of you touched on self-awareness or self-examination. And what I stress to my clients also is being self-aware, but also aware of how you got to this point in your life and how you're situated within the world. Whether it's in your small environment or globally, having a pretty pragmatic sense of how you fit into the world. What kind of things you need to get to the next place you want to be. Which then I think conveys this growth, the need for growth or the trajectory that you're on. I talk to my clients a lot about trajectory, because we want to have a sense of where we are now, but how law school fits into your plan to get you to the point you want to be, or the kind of life you envision for yourself or how you envision yourself using the skills that law school will give you.

One thing that I think is a little bit different from what my colleagues said is, I suggest either universal or relatable themes or making them so. Write about your story in a way that people are going to connect to it. You want them to root for you.

And then my implied last one was, of course, that it has to be well written and my colleagues have covered that very well.

Anna: I love the focus on authenticity here, that's something that I feel like, any time we give any personal statement advice, that is such a big point of emphasis. Speaking to—here I am in this group of four people who have read law school applications for a living and who have lived this life—and I think we could all agree that law school admissions officers develop over time a real keen eye for that authenticity, being able to tell who is putting on a show, and who is really speaking from their heart. So I think that's such an important point.

Derek: Yeah, well, I think that sometimes there is this tendency to think, “Oh, I shouldn't write about teaching because so many people write about that,” or “I shouldn't write about being a first-generation American because that's so common now,” or, “I shouldn't write about working in politics, because doesn't everyone who goes to law school write about politics?” But look, if those are the most informative experiences, or if those are the things that challenged you the most, that cultivated critical skills for you, and that somehow connect to why you're interested in law school, that's what you should write about!

It gets back to authenticity. You can always find a way to make it your own and to differentiate within the story—

Anne: Absolutely.

Derek: —by finding those great, those very specific moments that mattered. A conversation you had with a student, a speech that you gave or had to write when you were working in politics. There are ways to do that. I mean, because look, the reality is, most people applying to law school are somewhere between 22 and 25, right? You've only had so many experiences, and a lot of them are going to be common. That's okay. Be authentic, be true to yourself and to the experiences that have mattered to you.

Anne: And it's your take!

Paula: And that's exactly what I was going to say, is that your experiences are your own. The path may have been followed by people before you and will be followed by people after you, but no one can take away the fact that you have perceived and experienced a common experience in your own way because of the person that you are, the life that you've lived, and the experiences that have shaped you up to that point. So if you can take the time to dig a little bit deeper and ask yourself those critical questions of, “how has that experience changed me or changed my viewpoint or propelled me further towards the law?” that is what admissions cares about, not necessarily that you had an internship with a senator, or you worked on a campaign like maybe other people that applied that year. What distinguishes your application, what makes it authentic, is how you talk about your experiences as a building block to the rest of your life. So don't shy away from common experiences—make it your own.

Anne: Or the insights that you developed from those experiences, right? Because the insights that you develop from them could be entirely different from what I did.

Paula: Exactly.

Anne: Or what your colleague did. What we want to see are the connections between your perspectives, your background, your education, and then the experiences that you had and how that shaped you and what that means for you going forward.

Derek: Yes, and if you happen to be in that very small percentage of people who did found or build a school in an underserved community or moved to a quaint town in the middle of nowhere and opened a bakery, wonderful. Write about it. You have an amazing story, right? Not going to be most people applying to law school, so don't sweat it if you haven't done something like that.

Anna: Let's talk about that a little bit more.

Anne: I think that there is that fear that I don't have something that is a really memorable story. They feel like they have to have had a challenge or done something that was differentiating. And I spend a lot of time coaching my clients that everyone has something that is interesting or differentiating.

Anna: Yes, absolutely. Let’s talk about that a little bit more, choosing a topic. Because we're starting to get into that realm of things in our discussion. And it is the first hurdle for a lot of people that you have to face when you are thinking about writing your personal statement is, okay, what am I going to write about? How do you choose a topic? Let's talk about that. What does the brainstorming process look like ideally for a law school personal statement, and then how do you choose the best topic out of that brainstorming process?

Derek: So one of the things I always talk about—and we actually have a video on YouTube that maybe our listeners have seen or listened to, and if not, please do—but I always talk about the best advice I've ever gotten from one of my writing instructors, was to think about—she used to say the “moments when everything changed” and called them “MWECs,” M-W-E-C. She was one of my professors at UCLA. But I changed that slightly to “moments when something changed,” because again, if you're 22 or 23 years old, “everything” is a bit overwhelming. But what that means is just really thinking back to those inflection points. Those points in time where something happened—and it could be personal, it could be academic, it could be extracurricular or community related, it could be professional—but those moments when something happened that caused you to, “Oh, this is new,” or, “Oh, I never realized this. I want to learn more about this.” It caused you to take action and maybe to do something differently.

So I think really tapping into those and kind of doing a life inventory of those moments in the different periods of your life and in the different settings—again, your personal, family life, the community or town that you grew up in, and in academic settings and in professional settings—that's where I always suggest starting. And then from there, again, knowing that you have to somehow get to why you're going to law school and where you are today, what are the stories within that, that somehow, you can connect to that?

Anna: Yeah, Derek, I love the terminology of “life inventory.” That reminds me a lot of how Mike Spivey and I, when we work with clients, how we talk about this, which is that, if you were to go back and look at every single experience that you've ever had in your life and then rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 on how much they have impacted the person who you are today, your personal statement should ideally be written about those 9s and those 10s, or you know, one or maybe two of those 9s and those 10s. And if they've impacted greatly the person who you are today, that is the person who now wants to go to law school, so hopefully the connection is there. But I really like the “moments when everything changed,” those “moments when something changed”; another way to think of it is rating on that 1 to 10 scale, and what are your 9s and your 10s?

Anne: So I think about it not just as formative experiences, but also formative influences, like sometimes it's family, sometimes it's where you grew up, sometimes it's being a reader or a particular challenge that you faced, and trying to derive some insight from those things, right? Maybe there's connections between the kind of problems you want to solve in the world and some of the challenges that you faced earlier in your life.

Much like Derek's process, I look for those connections, those kind of formative things, the things that shaped who a person is, and is really important to them, and then interrogate like, why are those things important? How do they affect who you are now? And what are they going to be like for you going forward?

Derek: How are they going to make you a better law student or a better lawyer?

Anne: Yeah.

Paula: Exactly. Going back and connecting it to the whole point of why you're applying to law school and not, say, medical school or to be an accountant or a social worker or a painter or whatever.

The one thing that I always emphasize when I talk to anybody about personal statements is to actually do the brainstorming. Some people come in very, very hot—and it's great!—saying, “I know exactly what I want to write about.” And I always encourage that idea to stay, because at the end of the day, if that's genuinely what somebody wants to write about, it will definitely be an element of their personal statement or somewhere in their application. But do yourself a favor and take the time to take a couple of steps back and look at it from a bird's eye view, and consider the fact that what you're going to be writing about in your personal statement also has to coalesce and work well with what might go into a diversity statement or other supplemental essays and optional essays or an addendum that you might be able to write.

And so as long as you're thinking that the personal statement is going to be the core written document that is going to be read about who I am and why law, knowing that there's going to be other essays that are going to be a part of your application process, it takes a little bit of the pressure off to have to write about everything in that two-page double-spaced essay.

So take the time to brainstorm, what can go into the personal statement, and then the purpose of the other documents that are going to be a part of your application, and what can also go into those as topics that will fuse really well with your whole story.

“I know exactly what I want to write about.” Right, if your gut is silent, and you have no idea what to write about, go through some of the prompts of the law schools that you're interested in going in, the last year's application, even if the new updated essays are not up, you'll have very similar ideas of what they might ask about by looking at prompts that are provided from the years prior. And take out some of the common themes that you see in those prompts. So why law? Of course. We've talked about personal characteristics, outside influences, learning from mistakes, obstacles overcome. And start asking yourself those “life inventory” questions of, what could I talk about in these topics that could be compelling parts of my life that I can cover?

I think the biggest thing in strategy for brainstorming is not picking just one of those topics to write about that maybe you had a really great stream of consciousness of writing down some information that came out of your brain, but then think about how you can possibly be multidimensional in combining them together. Are any of those stories in those topics connected in some way? Is there maybe a personal characteristic that is influenced by somebody or an experience from outside of just yourself? Or maybe learning from a mistake built that personal characteristic that then led you to seek something that brought you closer to the law? So if you can add dimension—if you can really show that you are a student of learning from your own life—and then reflecting that in your personal statement, that is where it gets compelling. That is where somebody in admissions is going to feel connected to you. And we've seen so many people be able to distinguish themselves authentically by being able to combine those themes by personal aspects of themselves, just by doing a little extra brainstorming and reflection and not just running straight in to write and then be done.

Anne: I have joked with some of my clients that sometimes these connections are like therapy realizations, right?

Paula: Yes.

Anne: There are things that you put together that maybe you hadn't considered were connected.

Derek: I hear that so much from the people I work with—both things, right? “Oh this was like a therapy session.”

Anne: “This was so cathartic.”

Derek: Yes, I mean, great. I mean it should be, because you're—if you're doing it right, you want to think broadly and deeply about all of your experiences. How often they say, “I would have never thought to connect those things together,” that is what's so valuable about the brainstorming process, right? Because then, so maybe it's not one particular compelling experience, but as Paula said, it might be several distinct ones that maybe don't even seem related on their face, right? But there's a theme there. “Pioneer.” I was the first in my family to go to college; that might be one part of it. And then, that leads me to be someone who has initiative and who likes to start things, and so I start a new student organization when I'm in college, and then maybe there's something from professional. So they could be very distinct experiences, but they're centered around this theme, and that's such a beautiful way of sharing multiple experiences, but they're all connected.

Paula: The one other thing that I was going to add about brainstorming that I think creates such a critical elevation and change to the final product is, when you brainstorm, give yourself the opportunity to just write a stream of consciousness. Meaning, let your brain think out loud through your fingertips as you type or as you write. Because it's through that stream of consciousness that your actual voice, your vernacular, the way you speak, that conversational element of your thinking and writing comes out. And I can't tell you how many times I've read through a brainstorming worksheet that we give our clients at Spivey Consulting, and a line is written in such a unique, creative way that in the hundreds or thousands of essays that I have read and reviewed, I've never heard a topic talked about that way or written about in that way or reflected about in that specific wording, and I highlight it.

Anne: And that makes such an impression, right?

Paula: It makes such an impression! It's like I've never—that is so unique, I've never heard that before or like, wow, that changes the way I think of it. What a beautiful way of conveying that idea, and I will highlight it. And then we will talk a little bit more about, how can we infuse this in your statement? And it's something that they probably didn't even think twice about doing.

So again, your brainstorm is yours as an applicant. Nobody needs to see that. It can be as simple or as deep as you want it to be, whatever you need during that brainstorming process. And then give it the actual look over to see, “Okay what in here is really my authentic voice, and how can I include that in my personal statement to add that authentic, conversational, unique, compelling aspect?” So don't be afraid of the brainstorming, like really lean into it, because sometimes that's where the magic happens, and then you just refine it when you finalize and edit your document.

Anne: One last thing that I wanted to mention for the brainstorming process is, when you come up with these themes to engage in like what Paula said, the stream of consciousness, there's going to be some throwing ideas on paper, and then there's going to be some weeding out. Save those ideas. I think one of our colleagues calls it the editing graveyard. Save those things because you may be able to use them for something else, an additional essay. And the things that you came up with early on may have a kernel of relevance for a ‘why [X] law school’ essay or one of the essays about grit or your connection to the rule of law. Hang on to all of those things.

Anna: Yeah, that's excellent advice.

So let's say an applicant has gone through this brainstorming process. They have selected their topic or their theme. Maybe they did the free writing, but they haven't come up with something that resembles a draft yet, so this person is starting from zero, starting with a blank page. How do you all walk people through actually structuring and starting to write that personal statement?

Anne: Can we all agree that the big, dramatic opening statement or the big “hook” is overdone and that law school admissions officers are over it? There used to be something that would, you know, required that there had to be something overly dramatic at the beginning.

Derek: Yeah, of course, if there is something that's rather dramatic, right?

Anne: Right.

Derek: I'll just give a quick example because it's pretty extreme, but it worked. I had someone whose most formative experience seared in their head was seeing their cousins who were in rival gangs actually get into a knife fight—incredibly dramatic. When we had the conversations about those moments that really stood out and changed. For this person, that was when they realized, “education is my way out of these circumstances.” But I think what you're getting at is that many of them are inauthentic, right?

Anne: Manufacturing the drama.

Derek: Right, they “have” to have a dramatic open, so it's manufactured. Yes, it can actually be very subtle.

Whoa, I have a lot to say about structuring. I mean, there's so many ways that you can do it. And I think part of it is just the painful process of the rough drafts and figuring out what's going to work. Really think about the ending. I think that that can really help for someone who's sort of lost and confused. Because if you know where you need to get to, that might help you in mapping it out. And we all know basically, at least generally, where you need to get to, which is where you are today and why you are where you are today, right, i.e., why does law school make sense for you? So it could help in thinking about that. “This is where I need to get to. So what's the story that I can tell that's going to get me there?”

Strictly chronological works very well. And so one of my favorite essays, and I think we're actually going to add it to our website, is someone who writes about dissecting electronics, like he liked taking things apart when he was a kid. He starts in the opening as a child, doing this dissecting of electronics, right? So he's establishing something that is meaningful to him, and then that leads him to choose his major in college, something in engineering, and key experiences as far as internships, and then that leads to a key professional experience, and then that leads to why he's going to law school. Right? So very chronological. An incredibly compelling essay. One of my favorites.

But I work with a lot of clients who do the “in medias res”—just to show off my Latin a little bit.

Paula: I’m impressed!

Derek: “In medias res,” in the middle of things. Very common structure for a personal statement. Again, I'll use an example. Another one of my favorite essays is someone who opens the essay, he's in Amman, Jordan, and he's meeting an Iraqi refugee that he's working with for the first time. So we start in the middle where the meeting is about to take place, and then the rest of the essay backtracks. So from there it's in chronological order, because you still want it to logically make sense and for your reader to feel grounded and to know what's happening. How did he get there? Right, so that's always a good way. Open in the middle of the plot and then the narrative, the body becomes, “How did I get here?” I first became interested in this issue or whatever, and so I learned Arabic, and then I studied these classes, and then I did an internship, and now I'm working with refugees. Ultimately, the essay loops back to the meeting, where it opens, and then he takes us through this conflict, or you know the problem that he has to resolve with this refugee that he’s working with.

You could also start with the end. This is more rare, but I've seen this also be a very effective structure. Quick example, someone who became the leader of a local chapter of a volunteer organization opens with giving a speech before the state legislature, which is the culmination of the work they put into getting a piece of legislation introduced about an issue that was personally very important to them. So they're basically starting at the end. That's the culmination. I got to this point, we're giving a speech, and then they take us through the journey of getting there.

So structure is incredibly important, but hopefully that's at least helpful in giving some ideas as to ways that it can be done. But I think the tricky part is just figuring out what's going to work best for the story that you're telling, and just trust it as you put those drafts together.

Anne: What are the insights that you're offering, right? What is the takeaway? And then think about how you can convey that in an effective way, whether it's narrative or chronological or even like a pastiche that's all fit together with an inevitable conclusion showing the connections between all of the things you shared about yourself.

Paula: I think everything that you all said is a way more intellectual, fancy way of the way I was going to describe it, which was go back to elementary school storytelling where you have an introduction, character development, plot development, some sort of a story arc where there is growth or a conflict that needs to be resolved. There's some sort of a resolution, and then a conclusion that brings everything together. And whether that's done with a theme or a metaphor or symbolism or weaving vignettes of stories together that all come together in the conclusion, that's going to be so applicant-specific, but make sure there is a strong and compelling intro. Make sure somewhere in there, you're talking about who you are and what makes you tick and how you operate in the world. Tell your story, that life inventory, and then make sure somewhere in there, the conclusion or otherwise, leads it back to the law. I think that's maybe the simplest way. And then of course adding in any of these other writing techniques that my colleagues have shared will only make your application and your personal statement stronger.

Derek: Forward movement, right?

Paula: Forward movement.

Derek: It's that—move the essay forward, move the story forward. And just getting back to where we opened, too, as far as like the whole dramatic thing. I do love an essay that opens in a scene or an action. It doesn't have to be dramatic, but just, that's often a nice way to draw the reader in, because it's active. Something is happening. And again, it's—you know, if they're, it's the 49th essay they're reading that day—it might be nice to have something where there's a little bit of movement.

If I could just read the first couple of sentences as an example, because this is another one of my favorites, but this is an example of starting with an act, not super dramatic, but here it is.

“At five o'clock, the printer screeches. Our first table has arrived. Eight burners ignite at once, and our bodies begin to move together with salt, pans, and knives.” I love it! It's like—

Anna: Compelling but not dramatic.

Derek: Compelling but not dramatic. It's action, and so we know where the writer is, and then of course—I mean, I'm not going to continue reading, but.

Anne: I feel like I'm watching an episode of The Bear!

Derek: Right, yeah, it was very timely in that.

But expositional, not a scene, not action, but just sort of explanatory can work very well too. And a couple of quick examples of those that I love. “The best gift I ever received didn't work.” Okay, I want to hear about that. That's cool. “One of my closest friends in college was an 83-year-old man named Bill the Boxer.”

Anna: Hmm, love that one.

Paula: I feel like each one of these makes me want to hear more. It didn't smack me across the face, but it still really made me want to read more. I think the best way I can describe what a reader feels like is, when we are reading 50 of these a day, you want to feel as if you're in a cozy couch with a fuzzy blanket wrapped around you with whatever beverage of choice you're deciding to have that day, and you just want to like crawl into the story that you read. I'm telling you, I'm living proof that it is so possible to fall in love with a personal statement. Those are great examples, Derek, of how to start off a story to do that.

Switching gears a little bit with regards to structuring, there are so many examples of wonderful ways to storytell in real life. One of the things that I recommend doing is take a look at some of your favorite TED Talks, or go online and find videos of the top 10 TED Talks that exist. It's not a written essay, but it is a concise, time-limited way of conveying information that has to be compelling and has to be informative. Listen to some TED Talks and see if that inspires you to structure your essays in a certain way.

Anne, you had mentioned a source of inspiration as well with regards to personal statements.

Anne: It's a little bit untraditional. It's also something that could be a little bit morbid, but some of my favorite writing is the obituary page in The Economist. The writer is just fantastic. She's able to link a person's impact and their story along with things that were happening globally during that person's life. I want to know more about the person—I almost always Google or Wiki the person to learn more, because if this person thought that that person merited mention in the Economist obituary page and then did the research to show me why, I think that I'm going to learn more. And I think that's the goal, is helping people want to learn more about you.

I used to tell my clients that when I was reading applications, I would think, “Do I want to sit down and have a cup of coffee with this person? Would they have interesting things to say? Could we talk about the world and I would want to hear their insights and feel like they were going to teach me something? Would I want to teach this person in class?” That's the kind of thing that I'm looking for when I'm reading an essay.

Derek: The writing in The Economist is so good. I don't read it, like I'm not that interested in the topic quite frankly, but I used to. I feel like it's some of the best writing, it can be really good just in terms of—here is what excellent, concise, precise writing looks like.

Also, related to Paula talked about TED Talks. The Moth. That's a great one to take a look at. So it is a story that someone writes, but then they're actually presenting it and speaking it in a radio hour. Which is great advice, by the way; you should read your essays aloud when you're getting to the point of feeling like you have a final draft—

Derek: —because it will really help you refine it and you will pick up things that you don't just from reading it.

I think Modern Love essays in the New York Times, if you've ever read Modern Love. The L.A. Times has one too. Those are great, because they have that element of, you know, a story where there's growth and some sort of lesson and certainly about self-awareness. And I think generally books on personal essays or memoirs of people that you're really interested in are great because they have that conversational tone.

And I do, if I could, one more piece of advice—because I think it gets to your original question, Anna, about like maybe someone who's struggling with the structure and how to open the essay and how to make it cohesive—a thesis statement can really help. You don't have to have a thesis statement in a personal essay. Not all of my clients do. But I will recommend it when I see that they're having some trouble just knowing how to set it up and where to go with the essay or to make it more cohesive. So think about the end of the paragraph, however you're opening it, ending with, what is this essay ultimately about? “This experience was not only one of the most challenging, but informed the values that define me today,” or right like, that's not a great example, but okay, now I at least have something that I can anchor and go from there.

Anna: Let’s dig into the writing a little bit more. What tips, what advice do you all have for the actual writing process? Let's assume structure is basically set in stone, topic set in stone. What tips do we have for the writing itself?

Anne: I suggest throwing ideas on paper. See what sticks. Because very few people fall in love with their first draft. There's that great phrase from this British school of writers, ‘kill your darlings,’ right? Sometimes you're going to write something and then you have to kill your favorite phrases. In terms of writing, there's going to be lots of stops and starts. And sometimes you just have to throw those ideas on paper, see what you like, see what you hate, and then move forward.

Anna: I think that's good advice. We've already thrown in some writing advice to some extent as we've been talking. One really good nugget was reading your writing out loud. When you are reading your personal statement out loud, it should not feel foreign in your mouth. It should be in your voice. Like Paula was talking about, it shouldn't be as if you were talking to your childhood best friend, but if you were talking to a mentor, a professor, a supervisor at your job, but you're speaking in your authentic voice, it should sound—literally sound, as you speak it out loud—it should sound authentic. I think that's a great piece of advice for anybody.

Derek: Yeah. One of the most common things that I see in personal essay writing is overuse of “was,” or the “be” verbs in general—“is,” “was,” “were.” But “was” is the biggest culprit, and it's often passive. It often causes your writing to be wordier, because you have to say, “I was this,” like you have to add an adjective or additional words. So always try to write with action verbs whenever you can. Of course, “was” has its purpose, “is” has its purpose, and sometimes it is the best choice. But there are so many times when you can change it. In fact, I'll even do a search and find “was,” and I'll sometimes point that out to people that I work with. “You have 30 uses of ‘was’ in this essay.” That is a flag, right? Go through them and see, are there any that I can change here to an action verb?

Same with adverbs too. Like adverbs have their place, but overuse of adverbs and just throwing in a lot of adjectives to fluff it up, you don't need it. Paula talked about earlier, go back to your elementary, middle school grammar lessons. Sentences with strong nouns and action verbs. Specific nouns, strong action verbs, if you're doing that, you don't need a lot of “was this” or “is that,” and you don't need a lot of adverbs and adjectives. Nouns and verbs can do most of the work.

Anne: Absolutely true. I prefer direct, clear prose over something that I have to then search back three lines to find the subject of the sentence. Eventually, when you get to your legal writing class, your instructor is going to make you do that anyway. We want your prose to be clear, direct, and not overly flowery.

Derek: Yes, and I also feel compelled now since I bragged about The Economist’s amazing writing, so The Economist, I think it might be owned by a U.S. company now, but it was a British publication, and I think its headquarters are still in London, right? The reason I point this out is because they put periods and commas outside quotation marks in the U.K.

Derek: And so you'll see that in The Economist. That is not the rule in the U.S.! Commas and periods always go inside quotation marks. It is one of the most common errors. And with good reason, because you see it in British and other countries, right, other languages, they do it the opposite.

Anne: Although, how do you feel about direct quotes in personal statements? I try to have my clients limit them, just because I think they take up a lot of space and often, it's just as effective to say what was said or paraphrase what was said, rather than saying the direct quote.

Derek: I mean, I think you hit it right on the nose, which is, I'm fine with them; just use them sparingly and wisely, because I do think that it can just break up the writing, right, the narrative a bit. So it sometimes can be very effective just in changing the cadence and keeping engaged. So mixing in a little bit of dialogue or a quote here and there is fine. But yeah, you really want to do it sparingly.

Anne: And details can often derail the narrative. But I think that's when we're talking about later drafts, going back through and removing some of the details that aren't necessary.

Anna: Anne, I think that goes back to your “killing your darlings.” Just because you write something and it's a beautiful description and you love the words you used, doesn't necessarily mean that it fits in your personal statement or that it makes sense within this particular context. I think that's good writing advice too, is, be prepared to make cuts even when something is really lovely writing that you appreciate. The purpose of the personal statement is not to show that you are a beautiful creative writer. It is to show that you can communicate well and then of course the substance to let the admissions office get to know you as a person.

Paula: That piggybacks perfectly into what I was going to say, which is, for your first draft and for your writing, write what you need to say, knowing that it's probably going to go over two pages, and that you're going to have to make some edits and some cuts to what you write. So don't necessarily start off with this restriction of a two-page double-spaced essay, because that already puts too much pressure on you to condense twenty-something years of life into two pages, and that is really daunting and scary. Write what you need to say. Obviously, within reason. You don't want a twenty-page manuscript; you have to edit to two pages. Give yourself the opportunity and the freedom to write what you need to write, and then from there, you can figure out how to condense or how to limit what it is that you need to say about a certain aspect of your essay to move your story along. I think that's just super helpful.

Paula: It sometimes makes our life as consultants a little bit more difficult because now we have to help with that, but I think it's just helpful to have authentic writing and we have more that we can work from.

Derek: You can't know what's going to work—

Derek: —in the first or even the second or third draft sometimes, right?

Derek: So at least initially, more is better.

Paula: Right.

Anne: For sure.

Derek: So we see what we have to work with and then we can shape from there.

Anne: Because we can't go back and pull stuff out of their head.

Paula: Right, right. It's harder to add in more later rather than see everything and then help differentiate what can stay or what's relevant or what is compelling.

The second thing that I was going to say, too, is, to move your essay forward, think about every concept or idea as sort of like a paragraph or a section of your essay, and conclude with transitional statements that are reflective on how it brought you to the next step. So if we're thinking of a drawbridge, or you're hiking and there is a bridge that has little wooden panels that are connected by hopefully very strong rope, that rope is going to be that transitional sentence that links that next wooden panel that takes you to the other side of the bridge.

So many times in editing essays, all the components are there, but there is just something that is missing. This human element that brings the reader on that path with you to that next step. And so take the time to think about, “Okay, I'm going to be talking about X, Y, and Z. What brought me from X to Y, or from Y to Z?” And make that be an example or a demonstration of your self-actualization, your emotional maturity, and your ability to reflect and show that growth as you've gone through. I think that sometimes is where writers get stuck, is they just don't know how to bring those two together, and the easiest way to put those two ideas together is your reflection on it.

Anna: I think you've all given some excellent writing advice. I'd like to take a moment to talk about some things not to do, some sort of common mistakes that you'll see if you read enough personal statements, if you read enough applications. And I would love to share some of those with our listeners also so that they can avoid them.

Paula: Absolutely. If you've done any research on this, Spivey blog or otherwise, I think you'll see them, but it's nice to sort of just lay the foundation.

You don't want to talk too much about other people. You want to make sure that you are talking about yourself. If you are talking about other people, it should be about your reflection or your experiences from observing or working or interacting with those folks.

Another thing, and I, I don't know if this is more of a preference thing, so I'd love your input, everyone else, but don't start with a quote from a famous person.

Paula: If I had a nickel for every Gandhi quote or—

Derek: Definitely not.

Paula: —every Martin Luther King Jr. quote or Mother Teresa quote, I would be a very rich person. So just don't do it. It's not authentic. That's not the way you want to start.

Your personal statement does not need a title.

And the other one that I think nowadays I think is getting a little bit more nuanced is, you don't want to talk too much about a law or “the law” or portray that you know already so much about the law, because your audience is most likely made up of lawyers or former lawyers or faculty at law schools, and the one thing that rubs them the wrong way is having someone who has not been in law school yet, think that they already know so much about the subject that they're going to be learning. So it's okay to talk about something that you care about or that there is a law or a policy that affects you, but keep it as general as possible without showing that you've already learned everything that you need to know about it before you get to law school.

Anne: And Paula, if I could also add on to that. Not as much anymore, but I used to see a lot of people claiming that certain experiences or certain skills would make them great lawyers, and I think that those are spurious claims or those are very tenuous connections to make when one hasn't actually practiced law. Maybe if they've had some paralegal experience or legal assistant experience, they can talk about it with a little bit more specificity. But just saying that, they're a hard worker and so they'll be a great lawyer, those kinds of claims tend to rub people the wrong way as well.

Paula: Well, and they're conclusionary, right? I'd rather see how you can demonstrate that through a story or an example rather than you telling me. I think that's a really great point.

Anne: Great point.

Derek: So I have my five points. The “resume tour,” as I like to call it right—

Anna: That’s a big one.

Derek: —is a, is a mistake. Yep, just taking us on the tour of the resume, rehashing, and so you're not delving into any particular experience.

Paula: Cover letter versus a personal statement, right?

Derek: Yep. Number two, not connecting the story to why you are where you are today, i.e., applying to law school, so we already talked about that. When you get to the end, like, okay, I love this story, but in looking at this personal statement and their other materials, I have no idea why they're going to law school or what they're interested in doing.

I mentioned this earlier, I see a lot that are disjointed, like they have fragments of interesting experiences, but they don't necessarily build on each other. There isn't a clear thread. That's where that thesis statement can really help.

Too long. I have seen essays and I've worked with some people who have done longer than two pages—two and a half, in rare cases a three-page. But I just feel like there are so many that it's like, they have this beautiful essay that could have ended, but they felt like, because Berkeley says you can write up to four pages or, you know, whatever other law school says there's no limit.

Anne: I get that question a lot.

Derek: They feel like they had to add more, and so then there's this whole other thing that they start talking about, like, what does this have to do with what you just wrote about? The other thing is now there are more essays than ever. Everyone has the opportunity to write a lived experience or perspective statement. There are multiple optional essays at most schools, so be very mindful of how much you're writing and how many essays you're doing, right? If you're also writing a lived experience essay, “why essay,” and maybe you have an addendum to explain something, do you really want a three-page personal statement? No, you don't.

The other thing, too, again, a lot of what we talked about is just not being authentic as another common mistake. It can be helpful to share your essay with other people that you trust. But I think you really have to be careful about that, because I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone with a great story and essay share it with someone, and then that person, whether it's a faculty member or a lawyer—for some reason, I don't know, lawyers are often the worst at giving advice on personal statements. I should probably be careful about saying that! But the thing is, I feel like professors often feel like it needs to be more academic, lawyers often feel like it needs to be “why I want to be a lawyer.”

Anne: And people want to be helpful.

Derek: And people want to be helpful, right. They're doing it with good intention. But what happens many times is that it takes away the reader's authentic voice, right? Because it becomes more of an academic piece or it becomes a story of “why I want to be a lawyer.” You don't want an entire essay to just be about, “I've wanted to be a lawyer since I was five years old, and here's why I'm interested in being a lawyer,” right? So.

Paula: It loses a little bit of that roundedness of who you are when it comes from a lens that is very specific. That's oftentimes what I see when I have clients who come back and they say, “Oh, my dad's best friend is a partner at a law firm,” or, “My professor really wanted to review my essay and so here's this new draft,” and it loses everything that we had worked so hard strategically, specifically for law school admissions.

I recommend, if you want somebody to read your statement, have them read it for your voice. Ask them, does this sound like me? Is this my story?

Derek: And is it cohesive?

Derek: Does the story make sense, right?

Derek: So for those reasons, absolutely.

Anna: And then proofreading. Other people can be helpful in catching mistakes that you've made.

Anna: So, although, certainly double-check for things like punctuation inside of quotation marks and things like that.

I'll throw in one more common mistake that ties in with a lot of what we're talking about—don't look at your personal statement in a vacuum. And when we're talking about getting feedback from others, oftentimes they are looking at your personal statement in a vacuum. They're not seeing all of your other materials.

Anna: Something that I've seen when an applicant gets feedback from their friend, or from their professor, or from whomever, is that person will say, “Hey, why didn't you talk about this great thing that you did?” or, “Why didn't you mention your experience here?” And it's because that is in other parts of the application, that's in your optional essays, that's on your resume. Don't feel like you have to put everything in, because the admissions office is reading, in almost every single case, your full application all at once. They're not just reading your personal statement and then going back to your resume next week.

The other way that that can lead to another common mistake—your personal statement, because it's not being read in a vacuum, should not conflict with any other element of your application.

Paula: 100%.

Anna: I can't tell you the number of times I read someone say, “I want to do XYZ with my law degree,” in their optional essay, and then in their personal statement they're talking about a whole other topic and a whole other area of law that they're saying is deeply important to them and core to their being. And I'm like, but you just said that you wanted to practice corporate law right after law school in this other essay. Everything has to come together. Don't ever think of your personal statement purely in a vacuum. It is a part of a full application. That's my last piece of advice on common mistakes.

Paula: And just to follow up a little bit on that, that is exceptionally true and important if you're writing a character and fitness addendum. And so if you are going to be writing about an element of your life through the perspective of growth or something else, and you're writing a character and fitness addendum about a conduct or a criminal activity or something like that, your reflection and your growth doesn't match with what you wrote in the character and fitness, that negates so much about your character and your fitness to go to law school. So just be critically careful about using the podium or the forum of a personal statement to really speak from your voice if there is something bigger and more objectively viewed in your application that needs to be handled in a more delicate way.

Derek: To Anna's point really quickly, because this gets to a writing tip that can be really helpful. Once you have what you think are your final drafts, read your personal statement, and then read any supplemental essays, and then read your addenda. Law schools might read things in different order, but I think that's the most common way. In most cases, it's going to be personal statement first, followed by the optional essays, and then addenda. And that can be really helpful too, because then you might avoid the mistake that Anna just talked about, right? Because you see, “Oh, I've been too repetitive in this essay. I need to maybe tweak that,” or, “These things aren't all aligning. There's not a synthesis here.” They have to synthesize and come together.

Paula: And a great way to be able to do that is, once you've completed your application—even at the very end, right, as consultants, this is a service that we offer our clients—go through, save a PDF preview of your full application, and you can actually see how a school orders your essays for that particular school.

Paula: And that may or may not affect how you word something or how you do or do not bury the lead on a certain topic once you review your application. There is so much to be gleaned by being able to read your application as an admissions officer will read it, and you will probably catch something that you wouldn't have caught looking at everything separate, even if it's a finalized, perfect document.

Anne: And I think that a good example of that is University of Virginia's essay or question about compassion, grit—

Derek: Resilience.

Anne: Resilience. That’s within the application. So that's actually the first essay that they read. That's something that I mentioned to clients about. Think about how that's going to come across as well before they read your personal statement.

Anna: This is all such great advice, and thank you all. We are reaching the end of our time, so I would love to end on, what was the best or what are the couple of best personal statements that you have ever read? Because you have all had long careers in admissions and working with applicants as they craft their personal statements. So what are the ones that stand out to you from all of those years of reading personal statements?

Anne: I had one where a client mentioned that he couldn't figure out why he was the only person in his family who hated cilantro. Hated it. It was in all of the food that they had, but he couldn't stand it. It tasted like soap to him. As he went on in his education and got into science, he learned there's a genetic component that makes it taste like soap to some people, which then sparked a question of, why does the rest of my family not think it tastes like soap? That led to his discovering that he was adopted—

Paula: Whoa.

Anne: —and a period of great reflection for him. So I thought that was a really interesting and told a story. It also led to an interest in him wanting to do intellectual property work, because he had majored in biotech in college. So I thought it all tied very well together.

Another, which is probably back from my first or second year in admissions reviewing applications, was a young man talking about working in the fields with his migrant worker parents. They lived in different places every couple of months as they followed the crop rotation, and after college, he was going to get his master's in social work and then to law school, but his dad said something to him, “You're following the same path we did, whereas we were following the crops, you're following your dreams,” and that stuck with me so well that, when he actually ended up going on recruiting trips for Michigan and I was with him, I heard him say it, and I turned to him and said, I remember that from three, four years ago.

Paula: That's amazing. That's a compelling, memorable personal statement.

Anne: Absolutely. So those are two of my favorites.

Paula: I'll go next if that's okay. And the ones that I'll share are ones that, again, are still memorable from the years that I've reviewed applications and helped clients, and I'll also put in some of the literary tools that were used in writing them.

So one of the ones that used symbols was a client who wrote about packing for this next chapter in their life, and they used three items that they packed that symbolized aspects of their past, their present, and their future. And it was a beautiful way of being able to say how this one item reminded them of their family history, and one reminded them of how they make connections with people through this activity that they did. And then the next one was why they're pursuing law. And at the end, it ended with closing up the suitcase and going forward to start that new chapter.

There was one using the metaphor of a bag of Cheetos, and I will never forget it because it started off in that action of being in their office as a physical therapist and hearing this popping sound of crinkly aluminum paper and “the scent of cheesy nirvana filled the air,” and it made them smile. And it was because in being a physical therapist, when they work with their patients, it's not about the physical thing that they are trying to fix on their body, but what is an action in their life that they want to be able to do independently on their own. And they were working with a child who couldn't open—because of whatever was going on with their hands and wrist—couldn't open their own favorite bag of their favorite snack. She used that as a way of talking about working with insurance companies and learning about health law to get her patients more sessions in physical therapy, realizing she loved the law more than she loved physical therapy work. So I'll never forget the bag of Cheetos metaphor.

Anne: That’s great.

Paula: There was a use of bookends starting off with childhood trauma of being in the court system through family and divorce, and then ending with, “I want to be back in the courtroom as the person who advocates for clients who are just like me as a child.”

Formative event. A client was a really competitive dancer and broke their ankle on stage during like a key huge top performance and refusing to give up and working all the way through that performance with a broken ankle, and how that resolve of never giving up and working through the pain is going to be how they approached everything in life and in law school at the end.

And then sort of a life story, common thread of pursuit of truth. This was a philosophy major who realized that, even from childhood through things and hardships that they had to overcome and a broken family, to pursuing the work that they did at school, to getting to college as a first-generation college student, it was always in the theme of pursuing truth. And then law school was just another aspect of that, and becoming a lawyer was another aspect of that.

So lots of amazing stories told through these amazing literary tools that really bring the reader to a nice closing at the end of those two pages.

Derek: That is another example of great structure for a personal statement.

Paula: Yeah.

Derek: I mean, I have so many that I love, so this is not easy. But so this is just the two that immediately came to my mind.

I wanted to do one that was more like just a sort of everyday one, because I feel like people get intimidated and feel like, “Oh, I don't have that major epiphany or moment or cool experience.” So, I had someone who wrote about being the only introvert in their family. When he went to college, he was just being an introvert, got his own single room and was just keeping to himself. And one day in the hall, someone says something like, “Hey, other Bob.” And so he had this moment of, “Oh my goodness, is that how people think of me? I’m ‘other’ whoever?” Right? And so, just a common, like, a little thing that happened, but it made him go through a period of self-reflection. There's nothing wrong with being an introvert, but he just started thinking, maybe I need to do a better job of connecting with people, and so he goes through the narrative of becoming more engaged and then becoming a leader. I love that story. He had great results because it was so authentic and so real.

Then I also wanted to give one that was more surprising or unusual. I think we're going to put this one on our website soon too. The skateboarding one, I talked about it in a TikTok video too. But I had a client who, through our post-brainstorming discussion, starts talking about skateboarding. It never occurred to them that they could write about skateboarding in an essay. But when I was asking questions about it, it was clear that this was the thing that was the most formative growing up. Skateboarding was a refuge for them from difficult circumstances at home. But beyond that, it opened their eyes to racial and social inequity because the skateboarding community is very diverse. They were treated differently than the friends they made who were skateboarders that were people of color. They have this awareness of, “Oh there's a problem here.” And then they ultimately become a teacher, and the lessons that they learned from skateboarding and the awareness of inequity and social justice, they see that playing out in the education system too.

Paula: Wow.

Derek: And so ultimately that is why they want to go to law school, to address those issues. And so it encompassed so much, you learned skateboarding terms, and he takes you into the life of a skateboarder, but it's also about awareness of social justice issues and how that informs their path moving forward.

Paula: Skateboarding is life.

Anna: Derek, you sent me that essay. It was beautiful and so compelling. That was an excellent personal statement.

Paula: Oh and just another way of saying, too, to think outside the box for your topics.

Anna: I think that's what all of these favorite personal statements collectively should tell anyone listening to this podcast, is that a truly excellent, stays-with-the-admissions-officer-for-years type personal statement, can come from all of these different directions. It does not need to be the world's most dramatic thing that's ever happened. Some personal statements will be about something very dramatic and something hugely formative that jumps off of the page, and many of those will be great essays. But there are excellent essays that are about things that probably have happened to a large number of applicants who are applying, that aren't super differentiating in their topic in and of themselves.

So I hope that that is helpful and reassuring to anyone who's listening and doesn't know yet what they are going to be writing about. You can write an A+ personal statement. I strongly believe anyone can write an A+ personal statement.

Paula: I was just going to end with trust yourself. Look, you've gotten to this point, and you're making the really difficult decision to engage in a very challenging, rigorous, and very rewarding degree. Trust yourself to be able to write about who you are and why.

Derek: You know yourself better than anyone else.

Derek: No one can write your story but you.

Anne: Mike used to say that your target audience is you. If you're writing about something that is interesting and compelling, then you'll be able to write about it in a way that's compelling to others.

Anna: I think that is a great place to end. Thank you all so much for your time and for all of this wisdom and advice that you have imparted to our listeners. Those of you who are listening, if you found this helpful, please feel free to like and subscribe, and tune in next time. Thanks, everybody!

Paula: Thank you.

Anne: Thanks.

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Please note that there is no expectation to share detailed sensitive information and you should refrain from including anything that you would not feel at ease sharing. Please also note that the Personal Statement should complement rather than duplicate the content provided in the Statement of Purpose. 

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The Personal Statement Topics Ivy League Hopefuls Should Avoid

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A compelling personal statement is a critical component of an Ivy League application, as it offers students the unique opportunity to showcase their personality, experiences, and aspirations. Kickstarting the writing process in the summer can give students a critical advantage in the admissions process, allowing them more time to brainstorm, edit, and polish standout essays. However, as students begin drafting their essays this summer, they should bear in mind that selecting the right topic is crucial to writing a successful essay. Particularly for students with Ivy League aspirations, submitting an essay that is cliche, unoriginal, or inauthentic can make the difference between standing out to admissions officers or blending into the sea of other applicants.

As ambitious students embark on the college application process, here are the personal statement topics they should avoid:

1. The Trauma Dump

Many students overcome significant hurdles by the time they begin the college application process, and some assume that the grisliest and most traumatic stories will attract attention and sympathy from admissions committees. While vulnerability can be powerful, sharing overly personal or sensitive information can make readers uncomfortable and shift focus away from a student’s unique strengths. Students should embrace authenticity and be honest about the struggles they have faced on their path to college, while still recognizing that the personal statement is a professional piece of writing, not a diary entry. Students should first consider why they want to share a particular tragic or traumatic experience and how that story might lend insight into the kind of student and community member they will be on campus. As a general rule, if the story will truly enrich the admissions committee’s understanding of their candidacy, students should thoughtfully include it; if it is a means of proving that they are more deserving or seeking to engender pity, students should consider selecting a different topic. Students should adopt a similar, critical approach as they write about difficult or sensitive topics in their supplemental essays, excluding unnecessary detail and focusing on how the experience shaped who they are today.

2. The Travelogue

Travel experiences can be enriching, but essays that merely recount a trip to a foreign country without deeper reflection often fall flat. Additionally, travel stories can often unintentionally convey white saviorism , particularly if students are recounting experiences from their charity work or mission trips in a foreign place. If a student does wish to write about an experience from their travels, they should prioritize depth not breadth—the personal statement is not the place to detail an entire itinerary or document every aspect of a trip. Instead, students should focus on one specific and meaningful experience from their travels with vivid detail and creative storytelling, expounding on how the event changed their worldview, instilled new values, or inspired their future goals.

3. The Superhero Narrative

Ivy League and other top colleges are looking for students who are introspective and teachable—no applicant is perfect (admissions officers know this!). Therefore, it’s crucial that students be aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and open about the areas in which they hope to grow. They should avoid grandiose narratives in which they cast themselves as flawless heroes. While students should seek to put their best foot forward, depicting themselves as protagonists who single-handedly resolve complex issues can make them appear exaggerated and lacking in humility. For instance, rather than telling the story about being the sole onlooker to stand up for a peer being bullied at the lunch table, perhaps a student could share about an experience that emboldened them to advocate for themselves and others. Doing so will add dimension and dynamism to their essay, rather than convey a static story of heroism.

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Best 5% interest savings accounts of 2024, 4. the plan for world peace.

Similarly, many students feel compelled to declare their intention to solve global issues like world hunger or climate change. While noble, these proclamations can come across as unrealistic and insincere, and they can distract from the tangible achievements and experiences that a student brings to the table. Instead, applicants should focus on demonstrable steps they’ve taken or plan to take within their local community to enact positive change, demonstrating their commitment and practical approach to making a difference. For instance, instead of stating a desire to eradicate poverty, students could describe their extended involvement in a local charity and how it has helped them to discover their values and actualize their passions.

5. The Sports Story

While sports can teach valuable lessons, essays that focus solely on athletic achievements or the importance of a particular game can be overdone and lack depth. Admissions officers have read countless essays about students scoring the winning goal, dealing with the hardship of an injury, or learning teamwork from sports. Students should keep in mind that the personal essay should relay a story that only they can tell—perhaps a student has a particularly unique story about bringing competitive pickleball to their high school and uniting unlikely friend groups or starting a community initiative to repair and donate golf gear for students who couldn’t otherwise afford to play. However, if their sports-related essay could have been written by any high school point guard or soccer team captain, it’s time to brainstorm new ideas.

6. The Pick-Me Monologue

Students may feel the need to list their accomplishments and standout qualities in an effort to appear impressive to Ivy League admissions officers. This removes any depth, introspection, and creativity from a student’s essay and flattens their experiences to line items on a resume. Admissions officers already have students’ Activities Lists and resumes; the personal statement should add texture and dimension to their applications, revealing aspects of their character, values and voice not otherwise obvious through the quantitative aspects of their applications. Instead of listing all of their extracurricular involvements, students should identify a particularly meaningful encounter or event they experienced through one of the activities that matters most to them, and reflect on the ways in which their participation impacted their development as a student and person.

7. The Pandemic Sob Story

The Covid-19 pandemic was a traumatic and formative experience for many students, and it is therefore understandable that applicants draw inspiration from these transformative years as they choose their essay topics. However, while the pandemic affected individuals differently, an essay about the difficulties faced during this time will likely come across as unoriginal and generic. Admissions officers have likely read hundreds of essays about remote learning challenges, social isolation, and the general disruptions caused by Covid-19. These narratives can start to blend together, making it difficult for any single essay to stand out. Instead of centering the essay on the pandemic's challenges, students should consider how they adapted, grew, or made a positive impact during this time. For example, rather than writing about the difficulties of remote learning, a student could describe how they created a virtual study group to support classmates struggling with online classes. Similarly, an applicant might write about developing a new skill such as coding or painting during lockdown and how this pursuit has influenced their academic or career goals. Focusing on resilience, innovation, and personal development can make for a more compelling narrative.

Crafting a standout personal statement requires dedicated time, careful thought, and honest reflection. The most impactful essays are those that toe the lines between vulnerability and professionalism, introspection and action, championing one’s strengths and acknowledging weaknesses. Starting early and striving to avoid overused and unoriginal topics will level up a student’s essay and increase their chances of standing out.

Christopher Rim

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The best statements tend to be genuine and specific from the very start. You'll be on the right track if you show your enthusiasm for the subject or course, your understanding of it, and what you want to achieve.

Admissions tutors – the people who read and score your personal statement – say don’t get stressed about trying to think of a ‘killer opening’. Discover the advice below and take your time to think about how best to introduce yourself.

Liz Bryan: HE Coordinator and Careers Advisor, Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College

Preparing to write your personal statement.

Start by making some notes . The personal statement allows admissions tutors to form a picture of who you are. So, for the opener, think about writing down things, such as:

  • why you’re a good candidate
  • your motivations
  • what brings you to this course

If you’re applying for multiple courses , think about how your skills, academic interests, and the way you think are relevant to all the courses you've chosen.

advice for personal statement

Top tips on how to write your statement opener

We spoke to admissions tutors at unis and colleges – read on for their tips.

1. Don't begin with the overkill opening

Try not to overthink the opening sentence. You need to engage the reader with your relevant thoughts and ideas, but not go overboard .

Tutors said: ‘The opening is your chance to introduce yourself, to explain your motivation for studying the course and to demonstrate your understanding of it. The best personal statements get to the point quickly. Go straight in. What excites you about the course and why do you want to learn about it more?’

Be succinct and draw the reader in, but not with a gimmick. This isn't the X Factor. Admissions tutor

2. Write about why you want to study that course

Think about why you want to study the course and how you can demonstrate this in your written statement :

’Your interest in the course is the biggest thing. Start with a short sentence that captures the reason why you’re interested in studying the area you’re applying for and that communicates your enthusiasm for it. Don't waffle or say you want to study something just because it's interesting. Explain what you find interesting about it.’

It's much better to engage us with something interesting, relevant, specific and current in your opening line… Start with what's inspiring you now, not what inspired you when you were six. Admissions tutor

3. Avoid cliches

Try to avoid cliches and the most obvious opening sentences so you stand out from the very first line . UCAS publishes a list of common opening lines each year. Here are just some overused phrases to avoid using in your personal statement:

  • From a young age…      
  • For as long as I can remember…
  • I am applying for this course because…
  • I have always been interested in…
  • Throughout my life I have always enjoyed…

And try not to use quotes . Quotations are top of the list of admissions tutors' pet hates.

4. Maybe don't begin at the start?

’Concentrate on the main content of your statement and write the introduction last. I think the opening line is the hardest one to write, so I often say leave it until the end and just try and get something down on paper.’

It may be easier to get on with writing the main content of your statement and coming back to the introduction afterwards –that way you will also know what you’re introducing.

I often advise applicants to start with paragraph two, where you get into why you want to study the course. That's what we're really interested in. Admissions tutor

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The personal statement tool image

Don’t be tempted to copy or share your statement.

UCAS scans all personal statements through a similarity detection system to compare them with previous statements.

Any similarity greater than 30% will be flagged and we'll inform the universities and colleges to which you have applied. 

Find out more

Joseph bolton: year 2 history& politics student, university of liverpool.

  • Do talk about you and your enthusiasm for the subject from the very start.
  • Do be specific. Explain what you want to study and why in the first two sentences.
  • Do come back to the opening sentences if you can’t think what to write straightaway.
  • Don’t waste time trying to think of a catchy opening.
  • Don't waffle – simply explain what you find interesting about the subject and show that you know what you are applying for.
  • Don't rely on someone else's words. It's your statement after all – they want to know what you think.

One final thought

Think about making a link between your opening sentence and closing paragraph – a technique sometimes called the 'necklace approach’.

You can reinforce what you said at the start or add an extra dimension. For example, if you started with an interesting line about what’s currently motivating you to study your chosen degree course, you could link back to it at the end, perhaps with something about why you’d love to study this further at uni.

Need more advice?

  • Struggling with the conclusion to your personal statement? Read our guide on how to finish your statement the right way .
  • Read more dos and don’ts when writing your personal statement . 
  • Discover what to include in your personal statement .
  • Start your opening sentences with our personal statement builder now.

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Rising Unemployment Could Force Interest Rate Cuts Before Inflation Hits 2%, Powell Says

The Fed Chair's monetary update raises the possibility of an interest rate cut as early as September.

Tiffany Connors

Tiffany Connors

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a senior editor for CNET Money with a focus on credit cards. Previously, she covered personal finance topics as a writer and editor at The Penny Hoarder. She is passionate about helping people make the best money decisions for themselves and their families. She graduated from Bowling Green State University with a bachelor's degree in journalism and has been a writer and editor for publications including the New York Post, Women's Running magazine and Soap Opera Digest. When she isn't working, you can find her enjoying life in St. Petersburg, Florida, with her husband, daughter and a very needy dog.

Courtney Johnston

Senior Editor

Courtney Johnston is a senior editor leading the CNET Money team. Passionate about financial literacy and inclusion, she has a decade of experience as a freelance journalist covering policy, financial news, real estate and investing. A New Jersey native, she graduated with an M.A. in English Literature and Professional Writing from the University of Indianapolis, where she also worked as a graduate writing instructor.

CNET staff -- not advertisers, partners or business interests -- determine how we review the products and services we cover. If you buy through our links, we may get paid.

Key takeaways

  • A softening labor market could potentially outweigh inflationary risks when deciding whether to cut interest rates, said Chair Jerome Powell during today’s congressional testimony.
  • The US economy has made “considerable progress” toward the Fed’s 2% inflation goal over the past two years, according to Powell.
  • The latest Consumer Price Index inflation data is set to be released on Thursday, but it’s unlikely to affect how the Fed votes on interest rates during its meeting at the end of the month.

The job market’s “considerable cooling” is now potentially a greater threat to the economy than high inflation, strengthening the case for interest rate cuts, according to US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.

“Elevated inflation is not the only risk we face,” Powell said during his two-day semiannual address to Congress on monetary policy.

It turns out, waiting until inflation hits the Fed’s 2% target before cutting interest rates is a bad idea.

“You don’t want to wait until inflation gets all the way down to 2% because inflation has a certain momentum,” he told the House Committee on Financial Services today. “If you waited that long, you’ve probably waited too long.”

Powell’s comments come on the heels of last week’s job numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics . Although still low, unemployment inched up again slightly in June to 4.1%. The gradual softening of the labor market has led some experts to anticipate that the Fed could finally cut interest rates before the end of the year, and maybe more than once.

“I now expect the Fed to cut their federal funds rate target in September and again in December,” said Robert Fry, chief economist at Robert Fry Economics.

After ticking back up in the first quarter of 2024, we’ve seen “modest” progress in slowing inflation, Powell noted. US consumer prices were unchanged month over month in May , according to Consumer Price Index data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Annual inflation increased by 3.3%, slightly down from April’s 3.4% annual increase.

But the committee needs to see a sustained improvement in inflation numbers before it makes adjustments to the federal funds rate, according to Powell. That means even if Thursday’s CPI report shows inflation cooling again, it won’t likely alter the Federal Open Market Committee’s vote later this month. The Fed is expected to once again hold interest rates at a target rate of 5.25% to 5.5%, the level they’ve been at since July 2023.

Here’s why everyone is trying to interpret Powell’s tea leaves, and what it means for your money.

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How could interest rate cuts affect you?

The federal funds rate is the interest rate banks charge each other for borrowing and lending. When this rate goes up, banks tend to also raise rates on consumer products like credit cards and loans, making it more costly to borrow money. The Fed raised interest rates throughout 2022 and 2023 to put the brakes on runaway inflation, which spiked in the wake of the pandemic.

Even if the Fed votes to cut the federal funds rate in September, it would likely be incremental. One interest rate cut alone is unlikely to lower your credit card APR much. So if you have high-interest debt, consider implementing a debt payoff strategy or applying for a balance transfer card or debt consolidation loan .

If you’re waiting for rates to fall to buy a home, experts suggest focusing on the factors you can control , instead. And while it isn’t a buyer’s market in most areas of the country, slowing home sales could offer an opportunity to negotiate with a motivated seller for a lower price. 

Lastly, if you’re working on saving more money, take advantage of higher interest rates with a high-yield savings account or high-yield certificate of deposit , to grow your savings faster.

Recommended Articles

Feeling the pinch of inflation don’t expect relief anytime soon, one expert says, the fed decides on interest rates today. here’s why that matters for your money, 12 budget hacks to beat inflation.

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Thesis Statement for Narrative Essay

Thesis statement generator for narrative essay.

advice for personal statement

In a narrative essay, the journey of your story is pivotal, but it’s the thesis statement that gives your tale its essence and purpose. Serving as a guidepost, the thesis captures the core message or emotion, ensuring readers are primed for what’s to come. Whether you’re narrating a personal experience or weaving a fictional tale, your thesis should be clear, evocative, and compelling. Dive in to explore examples, discover writing techniques, and imbibe tips to craft the perfect narrative essay thesis.

What is a Narrative Essay Thesis Statement? – Definition

A narrative essay thesis statement is a concise summary or main point of your personal story or experience. Unlike argumentative or analytical thesis statements, it doesn’t necessarily present an argument or a point of debate. Instead, it sets the tone for the narrative and provides a glimpse into the lesson, theme, or insight the story intends to convey. Essentially, it captures the essence of your narrative and gives readers an idea of what to expect.

What is the Best Thesis Statement Example for Narrative Essay?

While “best” is subjective and can vary based on the specific narrative, a compelling example might be:

“Despite the biting cold and fatigue, reaching the mountain’s summit at sunrise illuminated not just the world below, but also a truth: challenges, no matter how insurmountable, can be conquered with perseverance and a dash of courage.”

This statement provides a hint about the narrative’s setting (mountain summit at sunrise) and its central theme (overcoming challenges through perseverance and courage).

100 Thesis Statement Examples for Narrative Essay

Thesis Statement Examples for Narrative Essay

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  • “The summer of ’09 wasn’t about the places I went, but the journey of self-discovery I embarked on.”
  • “In the midst of city lights, I found solace not in people but in the night’s embrace.”
  • “The relentless waves on that fateful day taught me about nature’s might and the fragility of life.”
  • “Grandma’s tales, woven with age-old wisdom, became my compass in life’s unpredictable journey.”
  • “Amidst the hustle of the market, I learned that life’s most profound lessons can come from unexpected places.”
  • “The old treehouse was more than wood and nails; it was a testament to childhood dreams and boundless imagination.”
  • “Lost in a foreign land, I discovered the universal language of kindness and smiles.”
  • “The train journey painted a tapestry of landscapes, emotions, and fleeting encounters.”
  • “Under the autumn sky, I found that letting go can be as beautiful as holding on.”
  • “The melody of mom’s lullaby was my anchor in stormy nights and sunny days alike.”
  • “A chance encounter in a coffee shop served as a reminder of the serendipities life often throws our way.”
  • “As leaves crunched underfoot in the forest, I felt the weight of the world lift off my shoulders.”
  • “Through the pages of my childhood diary, I journeyed back to dreams forgotten and hopes untarnished.”
  • “In the quiet corridors of the museum, art whispered tales of ages gone and worlds unseen.”
  • “The mountain’s shadow at dusk taught me that even in darkness, there’s an inherent light waiting to shine.”
  • “At the crossroads of choices, I found that destiny is but a collaboration between chance and decision.”
  • “Amongst the ruins of ancient cities, I felt the pulse of time and the stories etched in stone.”
  • “The carnival’s lights and sounds were a dance of joy, chaos, and the spectrum of human emotions.”
  • “In the heart of winter, I learned that endings often herald new beginnings.”
  • “The winding path through the meadow was a reminder that life’s journeys are seldom straight.”
  • “By the lakeside, with ripples as companions, I understood the profoundness of simple moments.”
  • “In the silence of the library, words spoke louder, echoing tales and truths of generations.”
  • “The chrysalis’s metamorphosis mirrored my own transformation – from doubt to self-belief.”
  • “As sand slipped through my fingers, I grasped the fleeting nature of time.”
  • “The orchestra’s crescendo was a celebration of unity, diversity, and the magic of coming together.”
  • “Within the walls of my childhood home, memories played in vivid colors and comforting echoes.”
  • “The pathway lit by fireflies was an enchanting journey through nature’s wonders.”
  • “On the city’s outskirts, the countryside taught me about life’s simple pleasures and unadulterated joys.”
  • “The ocean’s horizon was an emblem of endless possibilities and adventures yet to unfold.”
  • “Amidst the symphony of raindrops, I found rhythm, solace, and life’s refreshing melodies.”
  • “In the tapestry of the bustling bazaar, every thread wove a story of hopes, dreams, and daily triumphs.”
  • “Racing against the wind on that hilltop, I felt an exhilarating freedom and the weightlessness of being.”
  • “Beneath the canopy of stars, I was a mere speck, yet infinitely connected to the vast universe.”
  • “The gentle hum of the countryside at dawn brought lessons of patience and the beauty of the mundane.”
  • “As snowflakes adorned the earth, I was reminded of nature’s ability to transform the familiar into wonder.”
  • “Locked in a dance with my shadow, I confronted my fears and emerged stronger.”
  • “Every stroke of my paintbrush on canvas was a step towards understanding my inner chaos and colors.”
  • “The aroma from grandma’s kitchen wasn’t just about food, but a mix of tradition, love, and cherished memories.”
  • “Navigating the city’s labyrinthine alleys, I discovered hidden gems and facets of my own adaptability.”
  • “With every sunset on the beach, I learned about endings, reflections, and the promise of tomorrow.”
  • “Amidst the pages of an old book, I embarked on journeys to realms unknown and feelings unexplored.”
  • “The echo in the valley wasn’t mere sound; it was nature’s way of teaching me about resonance and reactions.”
  • “In the theater’s dim light, the play unraveled not just a story but facets of human emotions and complexities.”
  • “On the rollercoaster, as I soared and plunged, I experienced the highs and lows of life in mere minutes.”
  • “Gazing into the campfire’s flames, I saw tales of passion, change, and the cyclical nature of existence.”
  • “The footsteps on a snow-clad path were more than impressions; they were my journey’s evolving narrative.”
  • “In the ruins of an old castle, I felt the weight of history and the stories that walls can whisper.”
  • “The kaleidoscope wasn’t just a toy, but a lesson on perspective and the ever-changing patterns of life.”
  • “Aboard the night train, every passing landscape and shadow spoke of transitions and the journey of life.”
  • “The empty theater, with its echoing silence, taught me about presence, absence, and the spaces in between.”
  • “Gazing at my reflection in the serene lake, I pondered on identity, change, and the depths beneath the surface.”
  • “The forgotten trail in the forest was a testament to nature’s resilience and life’s unexpected detours.”
  • “On the pottery wheel, molding clay, I understood the balance of control, creativity, and surrender.”
  • “Within the confines of a photograph, I found a world of memories, emotions, and frozen moments.”
  • “Beneath the city’s neon lights, I discovered a mosaic of dreams, struggles, and undying hopes.
  • “Sailing on the tranquil sea, each wave whispered tales of depth, vastness, and the mysteries of the deep.”
  • “The aroma of the first rain on parched earth wasn’t just a scent, but a renewal of life’s promises.”
  • “Through the corridors of my old school, I journeyed back in time, reliving lessons beyond textbooks.”
  • “The meandering river, with its twists and turns, mirrored life’s unpredictability and the beauty of going with the flow.”
  • “The intricate dance of fireflies on a summer night showcased nature’s synchronicity and the magic of small wonders.”
  • “In the heart of the desert, amidst endless sands, I realized the value of persistence and the oasis of hope.”
  • “Each note from the old piano was more than a sound; it was an echo of love, memories, and bygone days.”
  • “Scaling the urban walls, the graffiti wasn’t mere paint; it was a voice, a rebellion, and a canvas of urban tales.”
  • “The ancient bridge, standing tall against time, was a testament to endurance, connections, and bridging divides.”
  • “Beneath the wizened banyan tree, I found tales of time, roots of wisdom, and the shade of legacy.”
  • “The labyrinth of mirrors in the carnival wasn’t just a maze but a reflection on perspectives, realities, and self-discovery.”
  • “On the cobbled streets of the old town, every stone had a story, an echo of footsteps from a time long gone.”
  • “The spectrum of autumn leaves was not just a display of colors but a lesson in change, acceptance, and renewal.”
  • “The cocoon, in its silent transformation, taught me about growth, patience, and the wings of change.”
  • “In the stillness of the frozen lake, I saw beauty in pauses, depths in calm, and the strength beneath the surface.”
  • “The mosaic on the cathedral floor wasn’t just art; it was a confluence of faith, history, and countless footprints.”
  • “The whispering winds atop the cliff carried tales of freedom, infinity, and the wild dance of nature.”
  • “The diary, with its faded pages, was a portal to youthful dreams, heartaches, and the purity of first experiences.”
  • “Amidst the bustling market square, I discerned life’s barter of dreams, efforts, and the currency of human connections.”
  • “The silhouette of birds at dusk was a painting of transitions, homeward journeys, and the cyclic rhythm of days.
  • “Walking through the quiet library halls, I felt a silent dialogue with countless authors, ideas, and epochs gone by.”
  • “The symphony of the city, from honks to hushed whispers, was an orchestra of life’s chaos and harmonies.”
  • “Each footprint on the moonlit beach spoke of transient moments, eternal tides, and the dance of time.”
  • “The annual rings on the old tree stump bore witness to seasons, storms, and the silent growth of years.”
  • “With every strike of the blacksmith’s hammer, metal sang a song of transformation, will, and fiery passion.”
  • “The abandoned mansion, with its cobwebbed chandeliers, whispered tales of opulence, time’s decay, and forgotten tales.”
  • “The tapestry of constellations in the night sky wasn’t just stars; it was a map of dreams, myths, and cosmic wonder.”
  • “Amidst the pages of a handwritten letter, I found not just words, but heartbeats, distance, and undying bonds.”
  • “The vintage carousel, with its painted horses, spun tales of childhood, nostalgia, and the cycles of joy.”
  • “On the fog-covered moors, every misty silhouette held a mystery, an allure of the unknown, and nature’s veiled beauty.”
  • “The keys of the old typewriter were more than letters; they were conduits of emotions, stories, and a bygone era’s charm.”
  • “In the quiet of the woods, every rustling leaf and chirping cricket sang a lullaby of nature’s embrace and serenades.”
  • “The tapestries in the old hall weren’t just decor; they were woven tales of valor, love, and historical tapestry.”
  • “The chessboard, in its monochrome squares, was a battlefield of strategies, patience, and life’s checkmates.”
  • “Amid the hustle of the train station, every departure and arrival was a chapter of hellos, goodbyes, and life’s journeys.”
  • “The blooming lotus in the muck was not just flora; it epitomized resilience, beauty in adversity, and nature’s wisdom.”
  • “The street musician, with his soulful tunes, strummed stories of dreams, hustle, and the universal language of music.”
  • “Gazing at the distant mountains, I saw challenges, majesty, and the alluring call of horizons yet explored.”
  • “The hourglass, with its fleeting sands, was a silent reminder of time’s passage, moments grasped, and the inevitability of change.”
  • “In the rhythm of the heartbeat, I heard life’s cadence, fragility, and the unyielding pulse of existence.
  • “The echoing chime of the ancient bell tower wasn’t just a sound; it was a call to remembrance, history, and moments that once were.”
  • “The cascade of water in the hidden waterfall narrated tales of nature’s might, hidden gems, and the music of wilderness.”
  • “As petals unfurled in the first bloom of spring, I saw life’s rebirth, new beginnings, and the eternal cycle of existence.”
  • “Amidst the ruins of a forgotten citadel, I felt the palpable presence of erstwhile grandeur, time’s passage, and stories etched in stone.”
  • “The winding pathways of the old garden maze weren’t just hedges; they symbolized life’s puzzles, choices, and the thrill of discovery.

Crafting narrative essay thesis statements is an art of encapsulating vast experiences, emotions, and lessons into a singular, guiding sentence. Each statement becomes the beacon, illuminating the depths of the tale, ensuring that readers are anchored and deeply engaged, from the first word to the last.

Thesis Statement Examples for Personal Narrative Essay

Narrative essays centered around personal experiences often dive deep into emotions, lessons, and realizations. A Good thesis statement acts as a snapshot of the core emotion or takeaway, allowing readers a quick glimpse into the writer’s soulful journey.

  • “In my quest for my family roots, I unearthed more than lineage; I discovered stories that defined generations.”
  • “Living in four countries in five years taught me resilience, adaptability, and the universal language of kindness.”
  • “Adopting Luna wasn’t just about getting a pet; it was a lesson in love, responsibility, and understanding life through feline eyes.”
  • “The summer of ’89 wasn’t just a season; it was my initiation into the world of rock music, rebellion, and teenage epiphanies.”
  • “Learning to dance was never just about the steps; it was my journey of embracing imperfections and finding rhythm in chaos.”
  • “As a caregiver to my grandmother, I realized that roles reverse, and sometimes, love means becoming a parent to your parent.”
  • “Backpacking solo taught me more about self-reliance, the beauty of fleeting encounters, and the silent revelations in solitude.”
  • “Battling an illness wasn’t just a physical challenge; it was an emotional odyssey of fears, hope, and rediscovering inner strength.”
  • “Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro wasn’t just about reaching the summit; it was a metaphorical ascent of confronting my fears and limitations.”
  • “Building my first robot was not just an academic project; it was a dance of creativity, failures, and the magic of invention.”

Thesis Statement Examples for Narrative Essay Writing

Narrative essay writing captures moments, stories, or experiences with a wider scope, often resonating with universal truths. The Strong thesis statement must encapsulate the essence, laying down the central theme or emotion the narrative seeks to convey.

  • “The city’s heartbeat at midnight is more than nightlife; it’s an orchestra of dreams, hustlers, and silent wishes under the stars.”
  • “The forest, with its myriad sounds, isn’t just nature’s realm; it’s a symphony of life, balance, and unspoken tales.”
  • “A potter’s wheel doesn’t just shape clay; it’s a dance of hands, earth, and the beautiful journey of creation.”
  • “Festivals in a multicultural neighborhood aren’t just about celebrations; they’re a tapestry of traditions, unity in diversity, and the magic of shared joys.”
  • “The old bookstore, with its musty pages, wasn’t just a shop; it was a treasure trove of histories, fantasies, and timeless conversations.”
  • “Watching a total solar eclipse isn’t just an astronomical event; it’s a humbling spectacle of cosmic alignments, darkness, and ethereal light.”
  • “A farmer’s day isn’t just about toil; it’s a testament to patience, harmony with earth, and the silent prayer for bounty.”
  • “Ancient monuments aren’t just stone and art; they are timekeepers, storytellers, and guardians of civilizations long gone.”
  • “Migratory birds, with their seasonal journeys, don’t just traverse distances; they weave a tale of instinct, survival, and the incredible navigational wonders of nature.”
  • “The vibrant hues of a sunset aren’t merely a visual delight; they paint the sky with the day’s adieu, promises of tomorrow, and the cyclical dance of time.

How do you write a thesis for a narrative essay? – Step by Step Guide

  • Identify the Central Theme or Message: Before you write your thesis, ask yourself: what is the main point or message I want to convey through my narrative essay?
  • Be Precise: A thesis statement should be a concise sentence or two that clearly outlines the main point or message of your essay. Avoid unnecessary words or overly complex sentences.
  • Position Appropriately: Although narrative essays are flexible, it’s common to place the thesis statement at the end of the introduction, setting the scene for the narrative to unfold.
  • Connect Emotionally: Given that narrative essays often delve into personal experiences, it’s important for your thesis to evoke emotion or a sense of anticipation in the reader.
  • Ensure It’s Debatable: Even though it’s a narrative essay, your thesis should still be debatable. This doesn’t mean it should be controversial, but rather it should encourage readers to think or feel a certain way.
  • Revise as Needed: As you develop your narrative, you might find your focus shifting slightly. Make sure to adjust your thesis accordingly to ensure it aligns with the content of your essay.
  • Seek Feedback: Share your thesis with peers or mentors to get their perspective. Sometimes, an outsider’s view can provide clarity.

Can a narrative essay have a thesis statement?

Absolutely! While narrative essays primarily tell a story or share an experience, a thesis statement offers readers a preview of the essay’s main theme or message. It provides direction and sets the tone for the entire narrative. Even though it’s not argumentative in nature, a thesis in a narrative essay effectively conveys the essay’s purpose or the writer’s reason for telling that particular story. It serves as an anchor, ensuring the narrative remains centered on its core message.

Tips for Writing a Personal Essay Thesis Statement

  • Introspect: Before you begin, spend some time introspecting. Understand the main emotion, lesson, or realization you want to convey. This will become the foundation of your thesis.
  • Be Authentic: Personal essays are about real experiences and feelings. Ensure your thesis genuinely represents your thoughts and isn’t something you believe readers will want to hear.
  • Use Active Voice: Active voice makes your statement sound assertive and clear. This clarity is essential for readers to grasp the main idea immediately.
  • Avoid Clichés: While it can be tempting to use commonly accepted phrases or ideas, originality will make your thesis and essay more memorable.
  • Stay Relevant: Ensure your thesis is directly relevant to the personal narrative you’re sharing. Every part of your essay should reflect or relate back to the thesis.
  • Seek Clarity: A good thesis is not about using highfalutin words. It’s about being clear and precise, ensuring readers instantly understand the essay’s central theme.
  • Test Your Thesis: Before finalizing, ask yourself: “If someone reads only my thesis statement, will they understand the crux of my personal essay?” If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track.


Text prompt

  • Instructive
  • Professional

Write a Thesis Statement for Narrative Essay on a transformative travel experience.

Create a Thesis Statement for Narrative Essay about overcoming a significant obstacle.


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    Key Takeaways: To write a personal statement, first brainstorm, then narrow down your ideas, and start with an intro that leads into your qualifications. Make sure to proofread your personal statement before submitting. Personal statements describe your interests, skills, and goals, with a particular focus on your passion.

  19. Top tips for writing an original personal statement

    Mentioning your work experience at your "father's company". 2. Using the phrase "quenched my thirst for…". 3. Any metaphors using fire, such as "sparked my interest" or "burning desire". 4. Starting the statement with "ever since I was a child" or "from a young age". 5. Using any of the following words:

  20. 9 winning personal statement examples for a job

    Here are some examples of personal and professional statements: 1. Personal statement for a postgraduate programme. Joan David Personal statement for master's programme in Public Policy and Administration London School of Policy 'I held my first textbook when I was a 23-year-old undergraduate.

  21. Advice for Writing Personal Statements

    Captures the reader's attention. An excellent way to begin your personal statement. Makes you more vivid and personable as an applicant. Establish your intent early on. Within the first two paragraphs, succinctly provide your objective. Do not make your reader search for your purpose. Create an overarching theme.

  22. Personal statement dos and don'ts

    Don'ts. Don't be modest or shy. You want your passions to come across. Don't exaggerate - if you do, you may get caught out in an interview when asked to elaborate on an interesting achievement. Don't use quotes from someone else, or cliches. Don't leave it to the last minute - your statement will seem rushed and important ...

  23. Podcast: Law School Personal Statement Deep Dive—Advice from Former

    In this episode of Status Check with Spivey, Anna Hicks-Jaco has a conversation with three Spivey consultants—Anne Dutia, Paula Gluzman, and Derek Meeker, former law school admissions officers at Michigan, UCLA, Penn, and more—diving deep into the law school personal statement.They discuss the brainstorming and topic selection process, how to structure a personal statement, writing tips ...

  24. Statement of Purpose, Personal Statement, and Writing Sample

    Please also note that the Personal Statement should complement rather than duplicate the content provided in the Statement of Purpose. Visit Degree Programs and navigate to your degree program of interest to determine if a Personal Statement is required. The degree program pages will be updated by early September indicating if the Personal ...

  25. The Personal Statement Topics Ivy League Hopefuls Should Avoid

    Yale University. Moment Editorial/Getty Images. A compelling personal statement is a critical component of an Ivy League application, as it offers students the unique opportunity to showcase their ...

  26. How to start a personal statement: The attention grabber

    Top tips on how to write your statement opener. We spoke to admissions tutors at unis and colleges - read on for their tips. 1. Don't begin with the overkill opening. Try not to overthink the opening sentence. You need to engage the reader with your relevant thoughts and ideas, but not go overboard. Tutors said: 'The opening is your chance ...

  27. Here's Some Advice: You're Asking the Wrong Person for Advice

    For non-personal use or to order multiple copies, please contact Dow Jones Reprints at 1-800-843-0008 or visit ... You're Asking the Wrong Person for Advice The best person ...

  28. The 7 most important phrases, says veteran advice columnist Ask Amy

    These are "the most important statements I believe anyone can make," says Amy Dickinson in her final "Ask Amy" column after over 20 years.

  29. Rising Unemployment Could Force Interest Rate Cuts Before ...

    Previously, she covered personal finance topics as a writer and editor at The Penny Hoarder. She is passionate about helping people make the best money decisions for themselves and their families.

  30. Thesis Statement for Narrative Essay

    Tips for Writing a Personal Essay Thesis Statement. Introspect: Before you begin, spend some time introspecting. Understand the main emotion, lesson, or realization you want to convey. This will become the foundation of your thesis. Be Authentic: Personal essays are about real experiences and feelings. Ensure your thesis genuinely represents ...