Personal statement writing prompts: being confident

Most of the time, it is impolite to trumpet your own achievements and brag about your many admirable qualities. However, the one glaring exception to the rule is writing personal statements. Your personal statement is an opportunity to “sell” yourself to your admissions committee. While you may also be submitting letters of recommendation, no person is as familiar with your achievements and qualifications as you are. You should really let them shine in your statement, if you want to be admitted.

It can be difficult and awkward to confidently write about your academic and career successes and your best traits. However, it is a necessary and expected component of a strong personal statement. Here are some suggestions for writing a more effective, convincing, and confident statement.

  1. Do not use adjectives when you can use verbs. Instead of describing yourself as “conscientious”, describe a time when you actually behaved conscientiously.
  2. Illustrate every trait with a concrete example. If you claim to be passionate about social justice, provide a career or volunteering position that you actually participated in.
  3. Do not second guess your achievements or speak lightly of them. Accurately represent how much of an accomplishment your actions were.
  4. Provide your readers a strong narrative of your career progress. Start with an anecdote that illustrates how and why you came to be passionate about the things you care for. Progress chronologically through your academic life.
  5. Avoid describing failures or personal flaws. If something did not work out how you planned, leave it out of the essay.
  6. Focus on skills and achievements that are relevant to the program to which you are applying. If you are applying to be a history grad student, you do not need to describe your time on the cheer squad.
  7. Do not equivocate when you write about your achivements. Do not say “I think I am the best fit”; say that you are the best fit.
  8. Do not be overly braggy or come across as desperate. Simply state the positive facts about yourself.
  9. Demonstrate your knowledge of the area of study you will be pursuing. Use the proper terms and mention your past experiences with the field, to appear competent.
  10. Provide your readers with some examples of areas you would like to study once you are in school. Name some subfields you are interested in.
  11. End on a strong, triumphant note. Express or reaffirm your interest in the program and your passion for the field of study.