How to Write Authentic Personal Statements for College & Graduate Schools

Schools ask open-ended questions for their application essays. The right way to answer these questions is from your soul. Write what is right by writing about who you are. No one else is you or has had your life. That’s why the essays are called personal statements.

What has your journey been? What experiences brought you to this point, right here, right now? Only you know the answers to these questions.

View Yourself Through These Frames of Reference

  • How would you become someone the school would be proud to call an alum?
  • Make yourself sound as though you are someone they would want at their school? However, find out enough about the school to think you would want to be there. It’s a two-way relationship you are looking for — not just their wanting you!
  • What is it about the school that made you apply?
  • Why are you a match? Future occupation (if you know) and why the school is a fit.
  • Are there family members or friends who went to the school or influenced you to apply? Name specifically the people with whom you have spoken at the school.
  • What interests have you pursued on your own, academic or not?
  • In what ways have you experienced life as a teacher, instead of a student?
  • Have you had a transformational experience? It doesn’t need to be a big event by the world’s standards — just yours.
  • Have you responded in a special way in an emergency or an unusual situation?
  • How have you turned a bad experience into the jump-start of a good viewpoint or experience (for example, gotten in trouble and turned it around)?
  • How do you envision yourself in 10 or 20 years? Work backwards from there.
  • Write about entries listed on your application with their “back stories,” that is, the stories behind the listed activities.

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