A personal statement, also known as an autobiographical narrative essay, is an important part of the college application process. It provides a way to share how events in your life have shaped who you are. College admissions officers gain valuable insight, beyond your grades and standardized test scores, from your personal statement. Focus on how your family, community, life experiences or education led you to apply to that particular school and why you should be admitted.
Tell a Story
Start your personal statement with a compelling introduction that explains what makes you interesting and unique. Admissions officers like to read admissions essays that aren't ordinary and common, according to the University of Chicago. The goal is to tell your story in a personal way, focusing on one or two major achievements, hardships or positive experiences that have molded you into the person you are today. Your personal statement should reflect your personality, goals and passions. Don't restate information that's already listed in your transcript or on the application. Make sure your personal statement follows a logical sequence of events and contains an introduction, body and conclusion.
Stress Life-Changing Experiences
Focus on how your experiences or hardships have changed your perspectives, made you a better person or challenged you to set specific goals. Discuss important lessons you learned and how those life-changing moments have led you down this specific educational course. Admissions officers want to read about the choices you've made and what you've gained or accomplished in the process, according to the University of California at Berkeley. Even though you won't receive a grade on your personal statement, proper grammar, logical sentence structure and error-free spelling will help you stand out as a polished applicant.
Explain Why the School is a Perfect Fit
Discuss any unique or special attributes about the school that fit your academic goals or interests, recommends the Purdue University Online Writing Lab. For example, if you want to go to Syracuse University because you're interested in media and want to study at the Newhouse School of Public Communications, mention that in your personal statement. Make sure you explain why those school attributes are important to you. For example, you might discuss that your aunt is a local news reporter and you want to follow in her footsteps. The goal is to present a solid -- yet personal -- argument as to why you should gain admittance.
End on a Strong Note
Conclude your admissions essay by discussing how your experiences have prepared and equipped you for the next stage in life -- college. For example, if your personal statement is about rebuilding your life and your community after a devastating tornado, explain how that experience has made you a dedicated, strong and tenacious student. Assure admissions officers that you have those same attitudes when it comes to succeeding in college. End on a positive note by stressing how your life experiences have helped you develop leadership skills or have given you the opportunity to serve others.
- USA Today: 6 Tips for Writing Great Personal Statements
- University of California, Los Angeles -- Undergraduate Admission: The Personal Statement
- University of Chicago -- College Admissions: Tips for that Pesky Personal Statement!
- University of California, Berkeley -- Office of Undergraduate Admissions: The Personal Statement
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Personal Statement -- Top 10 Rules and Pitfalls
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.