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Most college students would tell you that getting into their dream colleges is one of the toughest challenges in life. College admissions are a long and extensive process. It involves a lot of requirements that you need to accomplish and submit, from school records and examination scores to your resume and recommendation letters. But among these many requirements, perhaps the most important is the personal statement essay. For those who are unfamiliar with this type of essay, coming up with an excellent personal statement may prove to be next to impossible. But this does not have to be the case. Knowing more about the personal statement essay, its purpose, and some strategies in writing it should help you craft an essay that stands out.

What is a personal statement essay?

A personal statement essay is a type of essay that you submit to a school as part of the application process. As the term itself suggests, this essay presents a personal statement that details your reasons for applying to the school and the competencies that make you a good candidate. Admissions officers then read this essay as part of their evaluation of applicants. Essays that admissions officers find particularly engaging boost the chances of the applicants who wrote them. In this way, the personal statement essay is quite similar to a college admission essay. In fact, they are sometimes used interchangeably. If you know how to write an admission essay, you might already have some idea of what a personal statement essay entails. However, there are some differences between the two.

Firstly, the personal statement essay is not limited to college admissions. An admission essay is usually written when you’re applying to a college. By contrast, a personal statement essay can be required when you’re applying to graduate school. For example, suppose that you already have your bachelor’s degree and you want to get a master’s degree. You will likely be asked to write a personal statement essay before you get admitted to a master’s program. A personal statement essay may also be required before you enter a program. For example, if you want to enroll in nursing school, you will be asked by the school to declare your reasons for applying. A college admission essay, therefore, is usually just for college admissions but a personal statement essay may be required for a graduate school or specific programs.

Secondly, a personal statement essay has a more specific and straightforward content. A college admission essay does not always explain why you are applying to college or what makes you an ideal candidate. Instead, the topics tend to be broad and not necessarily about your life as a student. For example, many college admission essay prompts ask applicants to write about memorable experiences, overcoming challenges, or sources of inspiration. By contrast, a personal statement essay directly discusses motivations and qualifications for applying. In this regard, a college admission essay can be submitted to various schools, such as in the case of the common application that hundreds of schools across the country use in screening applicants. Meanwhile, a personal statement essay is written specifically for the college or program that you want to enroll in.

What are the important parts of a personal statement essay?

Why is a personal statement essay important?

So why exactly is a personal statement essay important? There are a number of reasons. Firstly, the personal statement essay features a lot of information that other documents do not provide. Your transcript and standardized exams scores, for example, show the school that your academic performance meets their standards. Your resume shows the extracurricular activities that you engaged with. But these do not answer a crucial question: why are you applying to this college or for this program. Other documents tell admissions officers if you have what it takes to make the cut, but a personal statement essay reveals to them if you’re doing this for the right reasons.

Secondly, a personal statement helps admissions officers decide which applicants are admitted to the program. Most of the time, schools receive more applications than the number of students they can accommodate. This means that students need to compete against each other for limited slots. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of high-performing students. Even if your academic performance is perfect, expect that there are other students out there who have the same high grades, same test scores, and equally impressive list of extracurricular activities. This presents admissions officers and students with a puzzle: in a sea of students with the uniform academic performance, how do they identify who truly deserves the slots? Similarly, as a student, how do you make yourself stand out from the rest? The answer to this is the personal statement essay. Students will have different reasons for applying and different styles of writing. Some will dazzle the admissions officers. Others will not. This essay, in other words, can make or break your application. For this reason, you need to come up with the best personal statement essay possible. 

Personal statement essay format and content

The format of a personal statement essay is similar to the format of standard academic essays. It should be composed of three main parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.

  • Introduction. The introduction serves to capture your reader’s attention. Admissions officers are extremely busy people. They may lose interest if they find the introduction dull, which means you also lose the chance to dazzle them. Your opening paragraph should therefore be appealing enough to make them continue reading your essay. The introduction should also present the main idea of your paper. This is called the thesis statement. If you are not familiar with strategies to make your introduction appealing, you will need to learn how to write an effective introduction.
  • Body. The body of your essay is where you present the main discussion. What goes into your paper depends on the instructions you receive. On the whole, this part of the paper should be logical, coherent, easy to follow, and well-organized.
  • Conclusion. The conclusion is where you wrap up your essay. This is where you restate your thesis and summarize the content of your paper. But more than just closing your essay, this part should also be well-written so that it leaves the reader with a good impression. It is advisable for you to learn how to write a conclusion.

While the format of a personal statement essay tends to be the same, the content depends on the instructions. But most personal statement essays usually contain two important elements: why you are applying and what makes you a good candidate.

  • Motivations. Your motivations are your reasons for choosing the school or the program. You need to articulate what made you choose to study in this school and the program that you want to complete. For example, if you are applying to nursing school, you may be asked why you want to become a nurse. Some of the subtopics frequently discussed in this part of the paper are your personal and professional goals, the quality of education offered by the school, and life experiences that encouraged you to choose this major.
  • Qualifications. Qualifications refer to the competencies that make you an ideal candidate. Remember, you need to convince the admissions officers to pick you. You won’t be able to do this if you do not tell them why they should. This part should therefore describe skills and traits that make you a good student. This part also often includes your plan or strategies to succeed in the school.

How to write a personal statement essay

So you finally completed most of the requirements and you’re now ready to write your personal statement. The problem is you’re not sure where to begin, let alone how to compete this task. The good thing is there are strategies that can help you get started and finish your essay. Some of these strategies are discussed below: 

Prewriting, writing, and editing

Assuming that you already received the instructions for your paper, you can begin with prewriting. Prewriting refers to the process of generating and organizing ideas. You may notice that in the early stages of writing you feel like there are a lot of ideas floating around in your mind. You don’t have to worry if they seem disorganized. The purpose of prewriting is for you to capture them first and then organize them. Begin by writing down your ideas. Once you have written them all down, start to organize them by making logical or thematic connections. For example, identify the ideas that can be considered as your motivations for choosing the school or program. In a separate group, identify the ideas that represent your qualifications. After clustering them, arrange them by creating an outline.

Once you have your outline, it will be easier for you to write since your job now is to expand on the separate points in your outline. After completing you first draft, leave it for a few days and then return to it for revision. Do not consider your first draft as the final copy. First drafts tend to have a lot of room for improvement. There may also be errors in the first version. So make sure that you go through the revision process a couple of times before finalizing a copy. Don’t forget to proofread before submitting the paper.

Avoid repetition

The key to a good personal statement essay is to present unique insight. Do not present information in your paper that’s already contained in other files. For example, do not recite your grades or test scores since doing this doesn’t tell your reader anything new. Also avoid reciting you extracurricular activities. Mention extracurricular activities only when it is relevant, such as when you’re discussing how an experience inspired you. Rather than repeat information already presented elsewhere, focus on giving a fresh discussion. Do not be afraid to write honestly. A personal statement should speak loudly about your determination, intelligence, and intent. Build your case. Articulate in your essay why they should choose you.

Ask for help

The quality of your personal statement letter plays a big part in your success. But if you’re finding it hard to write this essay, it may be time to ask for assistance from an expert. A personal statement is required in just about every field you wish to enter and succeed in. It needs to be well-written. But if you’re not a prolific writer, you might just produce an average personal story and not a personal statement. These are two different things. If you’re unsure if you can complete the task, hiring a professional writer may be the best option for you. Not only will a professional writer give you an essay that’s tailored according to your needs, but the guidance you will get from the writer will be useful in the future. This makes hiring a professional writer a wise decision that saves you a lot of trouble while giving you much-needed insight into effective writing.

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