How to Start a Personal Statement Essay

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Personal statement essays are a big part of many college and work-related applications. The most common types of personal statement essays include the universal, all-encompassing statement and a statement of response that addresses any particular questions asked. For both categories, the personal statement essay gives you the opportunity to illustrate who you are, what sets you apart from the other candidates and why you'll be an asset.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Paper
  • Writing instruments

Preparation and Brainstorming

  • Make an inventory of the events, people and work/life experiences that helped shape you as a person and influenced your decision to pursue the major, program or school for which you're writing the essay.

  • List the skills, characteristics and qualifications you have. These should be relevant to the program or position and serve as persuasive reasons for the application committee to choose you.

  • Provide an overview of your educational and career goals and how the particular program can help you fulfill them.

  • Become familiar with the program's mission, and jot down reasons why you'll be a good fit (including activities and groups you intend on joining).

Writing the Statement

  • Look through the lists and ideas from the above steps, and pick the focus or theme that you will center your essay around. For example, if the personal statement is for a psychology program, your experiences and characteristics should paint a picture of your passion and capability within that field.

  • Create an opening paragraph and frame to serve as the central point of your statement. Make sure it's interesting and strong enough to provide a good structure for the remainder of your essay. As noted on the Carnegie Mellon University website, the frame of your essay should introduce you as a candidate, establish the occasion of the focus and be original enough to ignite interest for the rest of your essay.

  • Write the rest of your essay sections to exemplify your interest, knowledge, experience and enthusiasm within the program, position or field.

  • Take a quick break so you have a fresh set of eyes to look over and edit your statement.

  • Check for grammatical errors, and make sure that the transitions are smooth and the essay adheres to any word limits indicated. When it comes to writing a personal statement, it's critical for the essay to be meticulous, clear and to the point. The Purdue Online Writing Lab points out that "many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements."

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep in mind that application committees read through many essays, so you want yours to grab their attention from the beginning and not drag on
  • Avoid including things that the committee already knows such as your grades, test scores and other information that's included in your application or letters of recommendation.

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