Personal Statements Dos and Donts

An important part of your college application package will be your personal statement. This written piece is a great opportunity to make your application look more attractive and help you stand out.

By selecting your words carefully and cultivating a strong statement, you can really make yourself shine. This is the opportunity to demonstrate and outline what you intend to achieve and how you plan to integrate your past learning experiences with your future ones. This is a statement where you want to “wow” them with your words.

What You Should Do
*Be open and honest

Committees who review applications have read tons of them and they can usually spot someone who is trying to create a false image in order to impress. Be yourself. This doesn’t mean you should air all your bad points, but focus and highlight your good qualities in a straight-forward fashion.

*Use your own distinctive style of writing

Making a personal statement in your voice is the best course of action. Reviewers don’t want to read someone else’s words or thoughts, they want to see your creativity and style, after all, it’s your application, stamp it with your individuality.

*Share points you are proud of with a modest approach

The goal is to write your statement in a way to impress, but to avoid sounding like a braggart and overly arrogant about your accomplishments.

*Stick to the topic that’s been asked

Going off on a tangent that detracts from the requested subject is seldom a wise idea. This will immediately turn off your reader.

*Follow all instructions

One of the most important keys to writing a strong personal statement is to follow directions down to the letter. Any mistake or omission can potentially put you at an immediate disadvantage.

*Proofread! After you’ve proofread it carefully, ask a family or friend to also take a look at it. After they’ve taken a look, proofread it once more, you can’t be too careful with typos and grammar.

What You Should Not Do
*Be redundant

Before assembling your personal statement, take a minute to review everything you’ve already submitted or what information you’ve written in essays, cover letters and other documents.

You want your personal statement to be unique and to reflect you in a good light, but sending the college information that they’ve read or will be reading in the other attached documents defeats the purpose.

*Drone on about your past

Talking about times of yesteryear probably doesn’t accurately reflect the person you are today (unless a situation has directly impacted your current status).

The college you are applying to wants to know the present you; don’t live in yesterday, talk about more recent events and goals for the future. While your past does shape who you are today, dated accomplishments doesn’t necessarily impact who you are at this time.

*Write on subjects such as politics or controversial social issues

Unless it’s specifically asked to write a piece on one of these volatile topics, you are better off sticking to more benign ones. It’s definitely a good idea to try and remain more on the traditional side for this one. You don’t want to submit a document that comes across as judgmental, harsh or aggressive.

*Make assumptions

If you are discussing a specific topic or telling a story about yourself that directly relates to the purpose of your statement, omitting details and assuming your reader knows them will make your statement weak.

Your personal statement is exactly what its title suggests; it’s a document that is about you. By keeping it clear, concise, accurate and honest, and by making note of the essential “do’s and don’ts”, you should be able to construct a terrific personal statement that is sure to impress.

The University Writing Center