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What defines an excellent personal statement?

There are a number of characteristics that can define a successful personal statement that stands out in a crowd of personal statements, according to universities, colleges, and professional schools that receive thousands of these personal statements each year:

  • Honest: You have not embellished your experiences or abilities just to make you sound better or more appealing to the university.
  • Thoughtful and reflective: You have thought deeply about your experiences and yourself and that comes through in how you have written the personal statement.
  • Personal: You explain what you feel and believe rather than regurgitate what others have said or put down what you think the university wants to read about.
  • Descriptive: You create a vivid picture of who you are so the person reading the personal statement can see you.
  • Focus: You write about you – your challenges, your achievements, your philosophy and your values. You do not usually get much chance to toot your horn, but a personal statement is one of the very few times so make the most of it!
  • Depth: It’s not about quantity; you want to be all about the quality and diversity in terms of what you offer.
  • Good writing: You need to make sure you have no spelling mistakes or grammar errors as well as use correct wording and phrasing.
  • Directions: You are on the right track if you conform to all the guidelines given in terms of length, paper size, etc. Be sure to read all the instructions for the personal statement from your University and tick off each requirement to ensure you have covered everything.
  • Answers: Most importantly, an excellent personal statement answers the essay question and addresses all aspects of the question.  It should be descriptive and directly address the question to let the University know that you understood the question.
  • Hooks: The introduction gets the reader’s attention and stands out due to a good hook that keeps the reader wanting to know more and reading further. You can use some unique language or create a vivid picture with your words.
  • Revisions: Your personal statement should undergo many revisions and receive feedback from others before you reach the final product. Having others look at it will help catch mistakes that you might have missed from reading and revising so many times.  They can also provide an objective opinion as to what type of picture you have created of yourself.
  • Positives: Sometimes, you may face some negatives or blemishes in terms of your grades or test scores, so it is important to directly address those as part of your personal statement and turn them into a positive in relation to overcoming these obstacles.
  • Research: A University wants to make sure that you have done your research and include that knowledge about your major and/or the University within your personal statement in a brief, subtle way.
  • Confidence: Although it is important to toot your horn, you do not want to brag about your accomplishments but simply exude a level of confidence that demonstrates you know that you would be an excellent candidate for their University. By listing your interests, community involvement, personal drive and accomplishments, you are stating that confidence in an excellent way.

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