Top 10 Tips To Elevate Your Personal Statement

This is the 2nd part of our "Crafting the Perfect Statement" blog post. Here we share some of the tips we give our seniors after they've put together an initial draft.

 

Hopefully you're feeling inspired to share your story of personal growth and highlight your tremendous potential! Now that you've put some ideas on paper, it's time to fine-tune your statement to an exquisite piece of writing. To help you with that, here are 10 useful strategies and techniques that can quickly elevate your personal statement.

1. Be aware of your point of view. You've probably heard of the different POVs (1st, 2nd, and 3rd person). You'll most likely be writing your personal statement in the 1st person (using "I" or "me"), but make sure to be consistent. It can be easy to slip into 2nd person (addressing your reader). Shifting between POVs can be distracting for your audience unless you're doing it for stylistic reasons.

2. Vary your pronoun usage. Since you'll likely be writing in the 1st person, the pronouns "I," "me," and "my" will be used a lot. Try varying the way you start your sentences. (The same is true if you're writing the 2nd or 3rd person.) Lead with verbs or transition phrases that establish time or location. This helps break up the monotony of say "I did this" multiple times and creates a smoother flow to your essay.

3. Vary your verb usage. Déjà vu. But actually, try to expand your "verb vocabulary." Using standard verbs like "joined," "helped," or "made" is not very descriptive of the actions you actually took. Stronger action verbs like "managed" or "designed" can give your audience a better scope of the work you put in while eliminating unneeded descriptions.

4. "Right Click > Synonyms." We're all guilty of it. A lot of students think that the personal statement has to be an ultra-sophisticated piece of writing and that obscure (or just long) vocabulary words translate into being "smart." This couldn't be farther from the truth. If you try using words from a "synonyms" list, you're likely to use them incorrectly or awkwardly. Instead of focusing on "sounding smart," make sure your statement is eloquent--meaning that it reads naturally.

5. Be concise and comprehensive. Strong writers understand the idea of "word real-estate." This means that every word on your page needs to add value. Even without a word limit, there is such a thing as using too many words. Eliminate words that are redundant, or consolidate multiple words into a couple that effectively convey your meaning (like a strong action verb). 

6. Vary your sentence structure. Yes, it may seem like now we're the ones being redundant, but making sure your sentences vary in length is vital for developing a good "flow" or rhythm. Short sentences are a great way to recap a lesson you learned. Longer sentences, with dependent clauses and appositives, can effectively establish cause-and-effect. By utilizing different structures, you better engage your reader and demonstrate advanced writing skills.

7.. Understand your scope. In telling your story, it's easy to get carried away. You may feel like you need to share every single detail of an experience or trace back to the origins of an important decision you made. Providing context is important, but context should lead to your main point, not distract from it. Focus on the pivotal moments.

8. Avoid clichés and platitudes. Your personal statement should be unique to you. Clichés are, by definition, not. It might seem sage or enlightened to share a lesson such as "every story has two sides" or "even the best of us make mistakes," but those phrases tell nothing about your experience. In fact, using platitudes takes away from the importance of the story you're sharing. Develop a statement that guides your reader through the lesson you learned instead of just stating it point-blank.

9. Ask for criticism. Having someone help with your editing and revising can be really beneficial. However, when sharing your personal statement with someone else, it can be difficult to hear criticism. After all, who knows your story better than you? Maybe your editor just needs to "read it again" to understand what you meant. But here's the cold truth: if your statement isn't clear in the first read through, colleges aren't going to spend the time to decipher what you "meant to say." So take the opportunity to get a fresh set of eyes on your work and try to understand the problem your reader is noticing.

10. Don't lie. OK, this one may seem weird. But let's all be honest, it can be tempting to "embellish" your story to seem more impressive. Chances are, no one's going to fact check if you did 150 or 500 hours of community service. But where "stretching the truth" can come back to bite you is when you describe how those hypothetical hours of service influenced your growth and potential. After all, it isn't the sheer quantity of your experiences that is impressive, it's the value you gained and the value you will continue to add that excites your readers.

 

We hope these blog posts have helped seniors as they begin developing their personal stories. We realize that there's a lot more that goes into crafting the "perfect statement." Therefore, we're excited to announce that this series will continue! Stay tuned for our next post that breaks down each prompt on this year's Common Application.

We'll also be starting another blog series with lifestyle tips to optimize your time and energy!