Personal Statement: Top 10 Rules and Pitfalls
This handout provides information about writing personal statements for academic and other positions.
Contributors:Jo Doran, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2010-04-25 08:50:45
Writing the Personal Statement: Top 10 Rules
- Strive for depth rather than breadth. Narrow focus to one or two key themes, ideas or experiences
- Try to tell the reader something that no other applicant will be able to say
- Provide the reader with insight into what drives you
- Be yourself, not the 'ideal' applicant
- Get creative and imaginative in the opening remarks, but make sure it's something that no one else could write
- Address the school's unique features that interest you
- Focus on the affirmative in the personal statement; consider an addendum to explain deficiencies or blemishes
- Evaluate experiences, rather than describe them
- Proofread carefully for grammar, syntax, punctuation, word usage, and style
- Use readable fonts, typeface, and conventional spacing and margins
Writing the Personal Statement: Top 10 Pitfalls
- Do not submit an expository resume; avoid repeating information found elsewhere on the application
- Do not complain or whine about the "system" or circumstances in your life
- Do not preach to your reader. You can express opinions, but do not come across as fanatical or extreme
- Do not talk about money as a motivator
- Do not discuss your minority status or disadvantaged background unless you have a compelling and unique story that relates to it
- Do not remind the school of its rankings or tell them how good they are
- Do not use boring clichéd intros or conclusions
- "Allow me to introduce myself. My name is..."
- "This question asks me to discuss..."
- "I would like to thank the admissions committee for considering my application."
- "It is my sincere hope that you will grant me the opportunity to attend your fine school."
- "In sum, there are three reasons why you should admit me..."
- Do not use unconventional and gimmicky formats and packages
- Do not submit supplemental materials unless they are requested
- Do not get the name of the school wrong
- Do not incorporate technical language or very uncommon words
Stewart, Mark Alan. Perfect Personal Statements. New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1996.