Your application to a college or vocational program gives information about the classes you took, the grades you earned and the extracurricular activities you participated in, but it does not tell the whole story. Your personal statement is your chance to help complete the picture, telling the admissions staff who you are, what you are made of and why you would be a great addition to the school. Look at your personal statement as a chance to distinguish you from other students and help you to rise above the crowd.
Read the essay questions and requirements carefully. Some personal statements have rather open-ended questions, while others require you to respond to one or more very specific prompts. Your personal statement may also have length and formatting requirements. No matter how good your statement is, if you don't write it in accordance with the instructions, it will not help you to get into the school.
Make a list of experiences you have had that might make you stand out to the college. List challenges you've overcome, goals that you have, people who have inspired you and specific abilities that you have that you want to develop at the school.
Pick one topic from your list that satisfies the essay prompt and feels very strong to you. If you feel passionate about a particular event or experience in your life, that passion will come through in your writing.
Write the body of the essay. Explain the experience, show how it changed you and demonstrate why you would be a good fit for the school because of the experience. For example, you might talk about a learning disability you had when you were young, explain how you struggled with it and were able to overcome it and then discuss the fact that you'd like to become a special education teacher to help others with similar problems. This relates your life experience directly to the program you are applying for. For a normal personal statement, this should be about three paragraphs, but it may be longer or shorter depending on the length requirements.
Write a conclusion. Tie the experience you had into the school and your future, showing clearly why they need you to be a student there. Restate the main points of your essay, but don't repeat them. Instead, show how your experiences apply to a future you want to create in that program.
Write an introduction. Build interest with a catchy hook and introduce the reader to the topic. You can start with an interesting detail and observation, a question, or something else to draw the reader in. Use this hook to introduce the topic of this essay.
Revise at least three times. First, read through your essay and make sure that everything flows. Rewrite sentences that feel awkward, and add details that you feel would enhance the essay or make it clearer. Then, have a friend, parent, teacher or other person with good writing skills read your essay for content. Ask him if the essay makes sense and if it seems moving and powerful. Make any necessary changes. Finally, read for mechanics, or have someone else read for mechanics. Correct misspellings, grammatical errors, sentence fragments and other problems in the essay. You may want to check it a second time for errors just to make sure you don't make any technical mistakes.
- Although the introduction is the first part of the essay, you should write it last in most cases. It's difficult to write a compelling introduction to an essay you haven't worked through yet.
Isaiah David is a freelance writer and musician living in Portland, Ore. He has over five years experience as a professional writer and has been published on various online outlets. He holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Michigan.