Tips for Writing an Exceptional Personal Statement

Tips for Writing an Exceptional Personal Statement

What do admissions officers want to see in your personal statement? YOU! Take this opportunity to show them aspects of yourself that they wouldn’t be able to figure out by reading your transcript or activities list. Below are some simple, concrete steps you can follow to get yourself on the track to personal statement success.

Begin With Pre-writing and Free-writing:

Engage in Pre-Writing and Free-writing for half an hour a day. Pre-writing can involve any kind of brainstorming that is helpful to you: lists, charts, or pictures. The important thing is that you record some words or images that convey information about what makes you unique. Try brainstorming/pre-writing for ten minutes a day. Then “free-write” about one or two of the topics you came up with for another twenty minutes. Tip: Consider doing the pre-writing with a good old pen and paper, not on a keyboard.

Circle the “Hot Spots”:

After you’ve compiled a good amount of free-writing, it’s time to organize your thoughts and fragments into an idea. Go through your pages of free writing, and circle anything that strikes you as important or cool— these are the “Hot Spots,” or the compelling and rich moments in your writing.  Ask yourself: is there a thread travelling through these Hot Spots and linking them together? If so, you may have landed on a topic for your statement.

After You’ve Identified Possible Topics:

Turn to the Common application essay prompts! Do any of the prompts resonate with what you’ve already been writing about? If so, this prompt can help you elaborate on the topic. It’s okay to stretch your topic to fit a question, but don’t stretch it too far!

Once you’ve settled on a topic, it’s time to develop the essay. Start with the hook. The golden rule for the hook is: Show, don’t tell. What does this mean? Here’s an example:

Which of these sentences is more engaging?

o  “My team won three soccer championships in the past four years.”

o  “The Tuesday afternoon was hot, and like many afternoons, I was busy waiting; as a goalie on a winning team, I spent a lot of time crouched in the mud, eyes straining from the sun, alert, ready, and focused—but simply waiting.”

Hopefully, you found the second sentence more engaging! The second sentences uses description of one specific moment, as well as sensory details in order to dramatize the moment being described. This dramatization helps draw your reader in.

As you continue to develop your topic, keep in mind the need to keep the reader engaged, and to communicate to them what makes you special: the unique qualities only you possess.

Get in touch with Signet if you need help writing an exceptional personal statement. Our professional admissions consultant are ready to help!

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Maura Roosevelt

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