Personal statements that work. How to resonate with admission officers.

When I was wrapping up my application cycle last year, my goal was to have it wrapped up my mid January. I ended up falling way behind and not finishing applications until over a month later. The big holdup: My personal statement.

After working on it for a (possibly excessive) month, my efforts paid off. My personal statement ended up resonating with the admission committee which landed yours truly a named scholarship. Here are my tips for anyone applying and stuck on their personal statement.

Start with options.

I had two different topics I was thinking about writing on and couldn’t decide which I preferred. I started by writing very quick rough drafts of both and reading them to a friend. Even as I read them to her I could tell that one was most impactful and we mutually agreed which to choose.

Go back and outline.

This one seems out of place and counter intuitive but has always worked well for me. Once I get a rough draft, I go back and outline the rough draft to make sure there is a flow to what I’m saying and that I’m not rambling.

Think like the admission committee.

Once I outline what I have, I start thinking about what my reader is looking for in a statement. To clarify, I don’t mean spew every positive asset they’re looking for at them. In my rough draft I used my work experience as the basis of the story and hit it home by explaining why my experience mattered.

Add the details.

After I had a solid personal statement, I took a few days to add a pinch of tasteful statistics. Admissions officers read thousands of essays so I didn’t add detailed or complex information that would be tiring to read. However, as a STEM graduate my ability to look at data was a major strength that I wanted to showcase.

Check the story.

An old boss would constantly obsess over ‘telling stories’. It was great advice. Everything you say and write should be a little story-like, especially your personal statement. I took a lot of time to make sure my writing not only told a fluid story, but was purposeful and meaningful. I have a few bad habits. When I write, I tend to use the same words (really, a lot, very, ie) and sometimes sound like a thesaurus threw up on my essay. All of that sloppy language makes the story stutter and cleaning that up helped make my story enjoyable to read.


The worst part. I proofread three times and it wasn’t enough, one of my applications had a (small, I swear) typo. Having someone ready your essay will help catch the small typos that authors tend to read through.

This was a quick guide and I’m definitely missing a lot of my little steps but hopefully it helps get others going. If you ever need someone to proofread and give thoughts feel free to send me a message and I’ll be happy to help!

Forward and Onward,


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