Personal statements are like very open-ended essay questions. They’re meant to give an applicant the liberty to explain who they are and why they see themselves fit to be a part of a certain job, internship, or university. However, the lack of structure and guidance with these types of essays often leaves us confused on what direction to take it. We get it.
We either feel like we have too much to share or not enough. And it brings the same expression to our faces as when we’re asked, “What do you do for fun?” during the very first day class of every new semester.
To some, it may be difficult because they are yet to narrow down what their ambitions are. Maybe they like to take it day-by-day and the internship they are applying for is more of a spur of the moment decision rather than Step B of their five-year game plan. While others are so riddled with goals that listing them all could spiral them into an overwhelmingly detailed draft of their next ten years.
Regardless of which category best mirrors your way of life, one thing remains true: trying to sum up who you are within a numbered words is a pretty difficult thing to do.
So some things to consider before you write your personal statement:
Consider the person at the other side of the paper. Think about how you want the person reading your statement to perceive you based on your essay alone. Then jot down what specific traits you possess that will help you communicate that image. Is your statement for a grad school application? Maybe sharing a story about an academic difficulty you were able to surpass during your undergrad years can be beneficial when building a case on why you’d succeed in their school. Sharing that funny story about your drunk roommate, not so much.
Think about why you are writing your personal statement. Beyond the fact that it’s required, are you applying to a specific field in a school? Or a specific job? Or internship? Address some of the reasons why you decided to apply, what you enjoy about this field, and/or why it is important to you that you pursue it further. Narrowing down why you are writing your personal statement can also help you zero in on other relevant facts about you that are suitable to mention on this specific application.
Whether it’s a work experience that helped you learn how to manage a difficult situation or a travel abroad trip that helped you learn something about yourself (or others) you would have otherwise never discovered, highlighting a certain occurrence in your life can be a good way of applying specific experiences to where you want to go with your studies/career. Are there some cool things you have already accomplished in your field? Or any specific achievements you wish to share? Talking about what you have done and connecting it to why it is relevant to your cause can be a great way of sharing “a little bit about yourself”.
Interests & Passions
This topic tends to be the most difficult to put into words (well, maybe I just speak for myself). More often than not, it’s the one that leaves me wondering if, “maybe I’m just a boring person” and there is nothing more to me than a homebody who enjoys sipping tea from the comfort of her bed and getting overly invested in TV personalities. This is [probably] not true. Everyone has something that makes them interesting and gets others interested in learning more about them. Whether that “something” is small-scale or wildly impressive, including a detail that makes you, you can go a long way in communicating who you are as a prospective student, intern, or employee. If you can’t think of anything “worth noting”, no sweats, remember, impressing is not limited to the novelty of your interests. You can just as easily impress others by communicating your skills and dedication to your success.
To sum it up: When it comes to personal statements, be specific. Don’t just regurgitate something you read online because you think that’s what they want to hear, be specific to your life. Tailor your personal statement to your experiences and your personality. Share with them what speaks to you and why. The reason the statement asks for you to share a little bit about yourself is because they want to stray away from general answers. Odds are they receive loads of applications from candidates with similar credentials that claim they want the spot because they are academically qualified. Set yourself apart and make it known that you would be a kickass asset to the team.
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