Write A Strong Personal Statement with These Four Tips


Selecting potential schools, taking standardized tests, and securing letters of recommendation stress out students and professionals applying for college, fellowships, and graduate school; but more than any other part of the application process, many fear writing their personal statement. And with good reason: competitive programs look to personal statements to distinguish between otherwise similar applicants. You can prepare your best personal statement with these tips:

Do your research.

You’re likely applying to multiple schools, and while you might be applying to as many as you can just hoping one will take you (I’m looking at you, potential med students), you chose each school for a reason. Reusing part of your essay for each school is fine, but tailoring part of your personal statement to each program shows admissions you identified concrete, compelling reasons you want to attend their institution. Connecting your interests or history with a professor’s research or a relevant student organization shows you want to be involved in that school, not just show up for classes.

Don’t worry about word counts for your first draft.

Outlines, lists, unrelated paragraphs – first drafts take different forms. However you write your first draft, remember it’s not your final draft and need not abide by the word limit or every punctuation rule you’ve ever learned. You just need to get your ideas on paper; expanding on or condensing them can come later.

Maintain your voice.

It’s easy to be intimidated by a school’s admissions team and try to modify your writing voice and style in a way you think will “sound better,” but you want to present the best version of yourself, not someone else. Your final personal statement should follow spelling and grammar conventions, but don’t write it to sound hyper-professional if that’s not who you are. Show authenticity. If you’re changing yourself to get into an institution, you probably won’t be happy there.

Choose your editors carefully.

You obviously want to choose editors who write well, but it’s also important that they know you well. Your friend’s sister’s girlfriend who works as a copy editor might make good grammar suggestions, but she won’t know if you’re writing in your own voice. And don’t get caught up in spelling and grammar errors before you know you’ve expressed the ideas you want to convey. Friend’s sister’s girlfriends and editing software like WordRake will be there when you’re ready to polish your draft.

The key to writing a good personal statement (or any other document) lies in revising and editing until you create a polished piece that explains why you have applied to a specific school or fellowship. Editing features in Microsoft Word’s grammar checker and spell checker can help, and add-ins like WordRake will suggest ways to clean up and clarify your writing so your message is clear to the reviewing committee. WordRake will also help you meet word limits. Try WordRake on your personal statement (and anything else you write for the next seven days) for free at wordrake.com/trial.

About the Author

Caroline Engle is WordRake’s Marketing Communications Specialist. She convinced WordRake to hire her as an intern after placing in editing competitions and writing a novel in a month. When she isn’t editing or writing copy, coordinating conference logistics, or helping improve WordRake’s functionality, she’s reading, going on ten-mile walks, or looking up flight prices. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

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About Gary Kinder

Gary Kinder
Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for the American Bar Association, the Social Security Administration, PG&E, Kraft, Microsoft, and law firms like Jones Day, Sidley, and WilmerHale. His critically-acclaimed Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea hit #7 on the New York Times Bestsellers List.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to provide writers a full-time, reliable editor; to save them time and money; and to give them the confidence their writing is as clear and concise as they can make it. The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has awarded nine patents to WordRake's unique technology, and Harvard Law School has recognized WordRake as "Disruptive Innovation."