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Writing a Personal Statement

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012 | Posted in USF Writing Center Blog: Tips, News, and Updates by Karen Langbehn | No Comments »

Whether you’re applying to graduate school, medical school, or that awesome scholarship, chances are you’ll have to develop a personal statement to submit with your application. Personal statements go by many names – statements, letters of intent, statements of research – and is often considered to be one of the most difficult genres of writing.
Why is a personal statement so difficult to write?
Ina personal statement, you’re being asked to tell someone something about yourself. It should be something they should (or need) to know about you, that speaks to why you’re interested in this career, scholarship, or opportunity, and it should be something that isn’t seen anywhere else in your application. That includes a lot, and it leaves out a lot. Making the decision of what to add and what to omit is a daunting task.

How do I start?
Before you jump into your first draft, take some time to pre-write. If you generate lots of ideas before you begin writing the essay itself, the actual writing process may be easier, and if you get stuck, you have a whole pool of resources to take from. Here are some questions to get you started: What unique experiences have helped you decide to pursue this degree? What makes you interesting, special? How has your academic career so far prepared you for this next step?
Ok, I have some ideas, now what?
Use the skills you use to write an essay or paper for class. Consider who is reading this and what he or she may be expecting (clear grammar, developed ideas, a controlling thought or thesis, etc.). Now write. Strong personal statements undergo a lot of revision and drafting. Don’t let that discourage you! You want to make a strong first impression, so put the time and effort in to show your best.

What are some tips for writing my personal statement?

  • There are two things you do not want to do in a personal statement: don’t sound arrogant and don’t sound self-deprecating.
  • Show the admissions committee who YOU are and what YOU will bring to their school or organization.
  • Put yourself in the committee’s shoes and think about who you would want coming to your school or receiving your scholarship.
  • Finally, follow the word or character count carefully. You don’t want to lose that awesome closing sentence because you didn’t check your word count. Many online applications will cut off the essay once it hits the limit and the committee won’t see what was lost.

Even the strongest writers find personal statements difficult. Don’t let that get you down. Talk it through, brainstorm, and write write write.

 

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