Tips for drafting your personal statement

This guide offers top tips on how to go about drafting your personal statement so that you know what you can do at each stage of the revision process to enhance and refine what you have written. After all, a personal statement is not something that can be written and submitted in one go – it is a work in progress that evolves as you think about what you want to say and reflect on yourself and what you believe in.

First Draft of a Personal Statement

The first draft of a personal statement is going to be rough. It will consist mostly of ideas and maybe look more like an outline. Here is where the brainstorming is necessary to just get down everything you can think about in relation to the question and what it means to you. Don’t be caught up in getting sentences just right; just get it on paper (or on the screen!) so you have a place to start.  You can add the language, refine the sentences, and add transitions later.

Second Draft of a Personal Statement

This is where revising and refining begin as well as where style and perception are important. Think about the reader’s perspective and try to write from that point-of-view. You may have to take a step back but here is how to approach it:

  • Look at the personal statement structure and begin to follow the format of introductory paragraph, body paragraphs, and conclusions. Be sure to check out our guide on writing the personal statement by clicking here.
  • Ask yourself if the reader will be able to follow your current roadmap or if they will get lost or hit a dead end. Make sure that the reader knows where one section ends and the next one begins as well as can follow your train of thought in terms of how you made connections between each section.
  • Check for continuity in what you have written in your personal statement draft.  That means that your ideas flow in a logical order and align with the question. This continuity not only comes from arranging your ideas, but it is also based on your structure, so make sure you follow the pattern of topic/transition sentence, expansion of ideas from topic sentence, and concluding/transition sentence for each section of your personal statement.
  • Include personal examples in each paragraph to personalise and individualise your personal statement.

Third Draft of a Personal Statement

On your next round of revisions to your personal statement, it is important to look at clarity and depth to make sure that you have created meaningful examples, sophisticated wording and transitions, and truly answered the question to the level that sets it apart from other applicants. This is where the style of your personal statement should be the focus of your revision efforts. Here are some style tips to enhance your revision efforts:

  • Use simple words; don’t try to fill up your personal statement with big words or words that you found out of the Oxford Dictionary but no one uses on a regular basis. You are not impressing the University because you are not really being yourself by using these words. Write in a way that someone else who knows you can read it and feel you in what they are reading.
  • Remove any fluff or filler words, like “for example,” “basically,” “also,” etc. It takes up valuable space.
  • Do not refer to yourself in the third person. Be sure to use first person. This is about you after all!
  • Be active when it comes to your verbs by selecting dynamic ones and staying away from every form of the “to be” family of passive verbs, including “is,” “are,” etc.
  • Avoid anything that is contrite and might be found in any one of hundreds of other personal statements, including phrases like “it was challenging,” and “I learned a lot.”  Also stay away from clichés and often-heard phrases.
  • When it comes to graphic design style, use a standard font and stay away from any fonts that are script-style or fancy as these are difficult to read. That means to also avoid using bold or italics in your personal statement. Also, do not handwrite your personal statement. You want to make it as easy as possible for the University to read your personal statement; otherwise, all your effort to make it unique and interesting will be useless.

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