By: Joellyn Powers
Personal statements can be overwhelming: in one or two pages, you have to, essentially, summarize yourself. Be it for a potential job, for graduate school, or for a scholarship, a personal statement requires you to explain to a complete stranger why you are the right choice for a particular position. Here are some Do’s and Dont’s to follow as you begin writing a personal statement:
DO highlight your unique life experiences. Studied abroad? Had a cool internship? Been in a leadership position? Make sure to let the reader of your personal statement know! Keep in mind that the people reading your statement will likely be reading dozens of other statements, so what can you say that sets you apart from the pack? But —
DON’T tell your full life story. Most personal statements should not be more than two pages in length. Again: the committees reading these statements are reading LOTS of them; keep it brief and to the point — be specific! Make sure to highlight all of your relevant life experiences, education, and work experience, but don’t go into intricate detail for each and every thing.
DO answer the specific questions that are being asked. Make sure to read the guidelines carefully: most places that require a personal statement will pose certain questions, such as: What are your future goals? Why do you see yourself as a good fit for this position? How will you use this graduate degree to accomplish your future goals? Make sure you’re addressing these questions; not following specific rules will only make the process of reading your personal statement more challenging for a particular committee. Which brings me to —
DON’T write the same personal statement for multiple jobs/graduate school applications/scholarships. While you can definitely utilize the same information (and even some of the same paragraphs), make sure there is something unique about each personal statement that applies to each job or school you are applying to. You want to highlight the fact that you have done your research, and that you are excited about these places you’re applying to. Is there a particular class at one school that sounds interesting to you? Is there something about a particular company’s past successes that you want to comment on? By making each personal statement an individual one, you show that you care enough to take the time to do so, which will only count in your favor as the committee reads through your statement.
And, finally —
DO be yourself. Don’t worry about coming across as the “ideal” applicant; be specific about what you see as your strengths and disregard any concerns that they may not be “good” enough. Again: committees want to see what sets YOU apart from the rest of the applicants, not how you fit into a cliched pack.
For more info on writing personal statements, visit the Purdue OWL website!