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How to Write a Personal Statement (with Tips and Examples)

Hannah Yang headshot

Hannah Yang

How to write a personal statement

Table of Contents

What is a personal statement, 6 tips on how to write a personal statement, personal statement examples (for college and university), faqs about writing personal statements, conclusion on how to write a personal statement.

How do you tell someone who you are in just a few hundred words?

It’s certainly no easy task, but it’s one almost every college applicant must do. The personal statement is a crucial part of any college or university application.

So, how do you write a compelling personal statement?

In this article, we’ll give you all the tools, tips, and examples you need to write an effective personal statement.

A personal statement is a short essay that reveals something important about who you are. It can talk about your background, your interests, your values, your goals in life, or all of the above.

Personal statements are required by many college admission offices and scholarship selection committees. They’re a key part of your application, alongside your academic transcript, standardized test scores, and extracurricular activities.

The reason application committees ask you to write a personal statement is so they can get to know who you are. 

Some personal statements have specific prompts, such as “Discuss a period of personal growth in your life” or “Tell us about a challenge or failure you’ve faced.” Others are more open-ended with prompts that essentially boil down to “Tell us about yourself.”

No matter what the prompt is, your goal is the same: to make yourself stand out to the selection committee as a strong candidate for their program.

Here are some things a personal statement can be:

It can be funny. If you have a great sense of humor, your personal statement is a great place to let that shine.  

It can be vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to open up about hardships in your life or failures you’ve experienced. Showing vulnerability can make you sound more like a real person rather than just a collection of application materials.  

It can be creative. Candidates have got into top schools with personal statements that take the form of “a day in the life” descriptions, third-person short stories, and even cooking recipes.

Now we’ve talked about what a personal statement is, let’s quickly look at what a personal statement isn’t:

It isn’t a formal academic paper. You should write the personal statement in your natural voice, using first-person pronouns like “I” and “me,” not in the formal, objective language you would use to write an academic paper.

It isn’t a five-paragraph essay. You should use as many paragraphs as you need to tell your story instead of sticking to the essay structure you learned in school.

It isn’t a resumé. You should try to describe yourself by telling a clear and cohesive story rather than providing a jumbled list of all of your accomplishments and ambitions.

personal statement definition

Here are our top six tips for writing a strong personal statement.

Tip 1: Do Some Serious Self-Reflection

The hardest part of writing a personal statement isn’t the actual process of writing it.

Before you start typing, you have to figure out what to write about. And that means taking some time to reflect on who you are and what’s important in your life.

Here are some useful questions you can use to start your self-reflection. You can either answer these on your own by writing down your answers, or you can ask a trusted friend to listen as you talk about them together.

What were the key moments that shaped your life? (e.g. an important friendship, a travel experience, an illness or injury)

What are you proud of? (e.g. you’re a good listener, you always keep your promises, you’re a talented musician)

How do you choose to spend your time? (e.g. reading, practicing soccer, spending time with your friends)

What inspires you? (e.g. your grandmother, a celebrity, your favorite song)

Doing this self-reflection is crucial for figuring out the perfect topics and anecdotes you can use to describe who you are.

Tip 2: Try to Avoid Cliché Topics

College application committees read thousands of personal statements a year. That means there are some personal statement topics they see over and over again.

Here are a few examples of common personal statement topics that have become cliché:

Winning a tournament or sports game

Volunteering in a foreign country

Moving to a new home

Becoming an older sibling

Being an immigrant or having immigrant parents

If you want to make a strong impression in the application process, you need to make your personal statement stand out from the crowd.

But if your chosen personal statement topic falls into one of these categories, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t use it. Just make sure to put a unique spin on it so it still delivers something the committee hasn’t seen before.

what not to add in a personal statement

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Tip 3: Show, Don’t Tell

One common mistake you might make in your personal statement is to simply tell the reader what you want them to know about you, such as by stating “I have a fear of public speaking” or “I love to cook.”

Instead of simply stating these facts, you should show the committee what you’re talking about through a story or scene, which will make your essay much more immersive and memorable.

For example, let’s say you want the committee to know you overcame your fear of public speaking. Instead of writing “I overcame my fear of public speaking,” show them what it was like to be onstage in front of a microphone. Did your palms get clammy? Did you feel light-headed? Did you forget your words?

Or let’s say you want the committee to know you love to cook. Instead of writing “I love to cook,” show them why you love to cook. What’s your favorite dish to cook? What does the air smell like when you’re cooking it? What kitchen appliances do you use to make it?

Tip 4: Connect the Story to Why You’re Applying

Don’t forget that the purpose of your personal statement isn’t simply to tell the admissions committee who you are. That’s an important part of it, of course, but your ultimate goal is to convince them to choose you as a candidate.

That means it’s important to tie your personal story to your reasons for applying to this specific school or scholarship. Finish your essay with a strong thesis.

For example, if your story is about overcoming your fear of public speaking, you might connect that story to your ambition of becoming a politician. You can then tie that to your application by saying, “I want to apply to this school because of its fantastic politics program, which will give me a perfect opportunity to use my voice.”

Tip 5: Write in Your Own Voice

The personal statement isn’t supposed to be written in a formal tone. That’s why they’re called “personal” statements because you have to shape it to fit your own voice and style.

Don’t use complicated or overwrought language. You don’t need to fill your essay with semicolons and big words, unless that’s how you sound in real life.

One way to write in your own voice is by speaking your personal statement out loud. If it doesn’t feel natural, it may need changing. 

Tip 6: Edit, Edit, Edit!

It’s important to revise your personal statement multiple times in order to make sure it’s as close to perfect as possible.

A single typo won’t kill your application, but if your personal statement contains multiple spelling errors or egregious grammar mistakes, you won’t be putting your best foot forward.

ProWritingAid can help you make sure your personal statement is as clean as possible. In addition to catching your grammar errors, typos, and punctuation mistakes, it will also help you improve weaknesses in your writing, such as passive voice, unnecessary repetition, and more.

Let’s look at some of the best personal statements that have worked for successful candidates in the real world. 

Harvard Personal Statement Example

Love. For a word describing such a powerful emotion, it is always in the air. The word “love” has become so pervasive in everyday conversation that it hardly retains its roots in blazing passion and deep adoration. In fact, the word is thrown about so much that it becomes difficult to believe society isn’t just one huge, smitten party, with everyone holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.” In films, it’s the teenage boy’s grudging response to a doting mother. At school, it’s a habitual farewell between friends. But in my Chinese home, it’s never uttered. Watching my grandmother lie unconscious on the hospital bed, waiting for her body to shut down, was excruciatingly painful. Her final quavering breaths formed a discordant rhythm with the steady beep of hospital equipment and the unsympathetic tapping hands of the clock. That evening, I whispered—into unhearing ears—the first, and only, “I love you” I ever said to her, my rankling guilt haunting me relentlessly for weeks after her passing. My warm confession seemed anticlimactic, met with only the coldness of my surroundings—the blank room, impassive doctors, and empty silence. I struggled to understand why the “love” that so easily rolled off my tongue when bantering with friends dissipated from my vocabulary when I spoke to my family. Do Chinese people simply love less than Americans do?

This is an excerpt from a personal statement that got the applicant admitted to Harvard University. The applicant discusses her background as a Chinese-American by musing on the word “love” and what that means within her family.

The writer uses vulnerable details about her relationship with her grandmother to give the reader an understanding of where she comes from and how her family has shaped her.  

You can read the full personal statement on the Harvard Crimson website.

Tufts Personal Statement Example

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go,” and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon. Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration. Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear. I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.

This is the beginning of a personal statement by Renner Kwittken, who was admitted into Tufts University as a pre-medical student.

Renner uses a humorous anecdote about being a pickle truck driver to describe his love for nanomedicine and how he got involved in his field. You can feel his passion for medicine throughout his personal statement.

You can find Renner’s full essay on the Tufts Admissions page.

Law School Personal Statement Essay Example

For most people, the slap on the face that turns their life around is figurative. Mine was literal. Actually, it was a punch delivered by a drill sergeant at Fort Dix, New Jersey, while I was in basic training. That day’s activity, just a few weeks into the program, included instruction in “low-crawling,” a sensible method of moving from one place to another on a battlefield. I felt rather clever for having discovered that, by looking right rather than down, I eliminated my helmet’s unfortunate tendency to dig into the ground and slow my progress. I could thus advance more easily, but I also exposed my unprotected face to hostile fire. Drill sergeants are typically very good at detecting this type of laziness, and mine was an excellent drill sergeant. So, after his repeated suggestions that I correct my performance went unheeded, he drove home his point with a fist to my face. We were both stunned. This was, after all, the New Army, and striking a trainee was a career-ending move for a drill sergeant, as we were both aware. I could have reported him; arguably, I should have. I didn’t. It didn’t seem right for this good sergeant, who had not slept for almost four days, to lose his career for losing his temper with my laziness. Choosing not to report him was the first decision I remember making that made me proud.

These are the first three paragraphs of an anonymous personal statement by a Wheaton College graduate, who used this personal statement to get into a top-25 law school.

This statement describes a time the applicant faced a challenging decision while in the army. He ended up making a decision he was proud of, and as a result, the personal statement gives us a sense of his character.

You can find the full essay on the Wheaton Academics website.

Here are some common questions about how to write a personal statement.

How Long Should a Personal Statement Be?

The length of your personal statement depends on the specific program you’re applying to. The application guidelines usually specify a maximum word count or an ideal word count.  

Most personal statements are between 500–800 words. That’s a good general range to aim for if you don’t have more specific guidelines.  

Should Personal Statements Be Different for Scholarships?

Many scholarship applications will ask for personal statements with similar prompts to those of college applications.

However, the purpose of a personal statement you’d write for a scholarship application is different from the purpose of one you’d write for a college application.

For a scholarship application, your goal is to showcase why you deserve the scholarship. To do that, you need to understand the mission of the organization offering that scholarship.

For example, some scholarships are meant to help first-generation college students get their degree, while others are meant to help women break into STEM.

Consider the following questions:

Why is this organization offering scholarships?

What would their ideal scholarship candidate look like?

How do your experiences and goals overlap with those of their ideal scholarship candidate?

You can use the same personal anecdotes you’d use for any other personal statement, but you’ll have a better chance of winning the scholarship if you tailor your essay to match their specific mission.

How to Start a Personal Statement

You should start your personal statement with a “hook” that pulls the reader in. The sooner you catch the reader’s attention, the more likely they’ll want to read the entire essay.

Here are some examples of hooks you can use:

A story (e.g. When the spotlight hit my face, I tried to remind myself to breathe. )

A setting description (e.g. My bedroom floor is covered with dirty laundry, candy wrappers, and crumpled sheet music. )

A funny anecdote (e.g. When I was a little kid, my friends nicknamed me Mowgli because of my haircut. )

A surprising fact (e.g. I've lived in 37 countries .)

There you have it—our complete guide to writing a personal statement that will make you stand out to the application committee.

Here’s a quick recap: 

A personal statement is a short essay that shows an application committee who you are

Start with a strong hook that pulls the reader in

Tell a story to engage the reader 

Write in your own voice, not in a formal tone

Good luck, and happy writing!

Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on hannahyang.com or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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How to Write an Amazing Personal Statement (Includes Examples!)

what not to add in a personal statement

Lisa Freedland is a Scholarships360 writer with personal experience in psychological research and content writing. She has written content for an online fact-checking organization and has conducted research at the University of Southern California as well as the University of California, Irvine. Lisa graduated from the University of Southern California in Fall 2021 with a degree in Psychology.

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Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

what not to add in a personal statement

Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

what not to add in a personal statement

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

How to Write an Amazing Personal Statement (Includes Examples!)

The personal statement. It’s one of the most important parts of the entire college application process. This essay is the perfect opportunity to show admissions officers who you are and what makes you stand out from the crowd. But writing a good personal statement isn’t exactly easy. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate guide on how to nail your personal statement, complete with example essays . Each essay was reviewed and commented upon by admissions expert Bill Jack. Let’s dive in!

Related: How to write an essay about yourself  

What is a personal statement? 

A personal statement is a special type of essay that’s required when you’re applying to colleges and scholarship programs. In this essay, you’re expected to share something about who you are and what you bring to the table. Think of it as a chance to reveal a side of yourself not found in the rest of your application. Personal statements are typically around 400 – 600 words in length. 

What can I write about? 

Pretty much anything, as long as it’s about you . While this is liberating in the sense that your writing options are nearly unlimited, it’s also overwhelming for the same reason. The good news is that you’ll probably be responding to a specific prompt. Chances are you’re applying to a school that uses the Common App , which means you’ll have seven prompts to choose from . Reviewing these prompts can help generate some ideas, but so can asking yourself meaningful questions. 

Below you’ll find a list of questions to ask yourself during the brainstorming process. For each of the following questions, spend a few minutes jotting down whatever comes to mind. 

  • What experiences have shaped who you are? 
  • What’s special or unique about you or your life story? 
  • Who or what has inspired you the most? 
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of? 
  • What are your goals for the future? How have you arrived at those goals? 
  • If your life was a movie, what would be the most interesting scene? 
  • What have been some of the biggest challenges in your life? How did you respond and what did you learn? 

The purpose of these questions is to prompt you to think about your life at a deeper level. Hopefully by reflecting on them, you’ll find an essay topic that is impactful and meaningful. In the next section, we’ll offer some advice on actually writing your essay. 

Also see:  How to write a 500 word essay

How do I write my personal statement? 

Once you’ve found a topic, it’s time to start writing! Every personal statement is different, so there’s not really one formula that works for every student. That being said, the following tips should get you started in the right direction:  

1. Freewrite, then rewrite 

The blank page tends to get more intimidating the longer you stare at it, so it’s best to go ahead and jump right in! Don’t worry about making the first draft absolutely perfect. Instead, just get your ideas on the page and don’t spend too much time thinking about the finer details. Think of this initial writing session as a “brain dump”. Take 15-30 minutes to quickly empty all your thoughts onto the page without worrying about things like grammar, spelling, or sentence structure. You can even use bullet points if that helps. Once you have your ideas on the page, then you can go back and shape them exactly how you want. 

2. Establish your theme 

Now that you’ve got some basic ideas down on the page, it’s time to lock in on a theme. Your theme is a specific angle that reflects the central message of your essay. It can be summarized in a sentence or even a word. For example, let’s say you’re writing about how you had to establish a whole new group of friends when you moved to a new city. The theme for this type of essay would probably be something like “adaptation”. Having a theme will help you stay focused throughout your essay. Since you only have a limited number of words, you can’t afford to go off on tangents that don’t relate to your theme. 

3. Tell a story

A lot of great essays rely on a specific scene or story. Find the personal anecdote relevant to your theme and transfer it to the page. The best way to do this is by using descriptive language. Consult the five senses as you’re setting the scene. What did you see, hear, taste, touch, or smell? How were you feeling emotionally? Using descriptive language can really help your essay come to life. According to UPchieve , a nonprofit that supports low income students, focusing on a particular moment as a “ revised version of a memoir ” is one way to keep readers engaged. 

Related: College essay primer: show, don’t tell  

4. Focus on your opening paragraph

Your opening paragraph should grab your reader’s attention and set the tone for the rest of your essay. In most cases, this is the best place to include your anecdote (if you have one). By leading with your personal story, you can hook your audience from the get-go. After telling your story, you can explain why it’s important to who you are. 

Related:  How to start a scholarship essay (with examples)

5. Use an authentic voice 

Your personal statement reflects who you are, so you should use a tone that represents you. That means you shouldn’t try to sound like someone else, and you shouldn’t use fancy words just to show off. This isn’t an academic paper, so you don’t have to adopt a super formal tone. Instead, write in a way that allows room for your personality to breathe. 

6. Edit, edit, edit…

Once you’re done writing, give yourself some time away from the essay. Try to allow a few days to pass before looking at the essay again with fresh eyes. This way, you’re more likely to pick up on spelling and grammatical errors. You may even get some new ideas and rethink the way you wrote some things. Once you’re satisfied, let someone else edit your essay. We recommend asking a teacher, parent, or sibling for their thoughts before submitting. 

Examples of personal statements 

Sometimes viewing someone else’s work is the best way to generate inspiration and get the creative juices flowing. The following essays are written in response to four different Common App prompts: 

Prompt 1: “Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.”

When I was eight years old, I wanted a GameCube very badly. For weeks I hounded my dad to buy me one and finally he agreed. But there was a catch. He’d only get me a GameCube if I promised to start reading. Every day I played video games, I would have to pick up a book and read for at least one hour. At that point in my life, reading was just something I had to suffer through for school assignments. To read for pleasure seemed ludicrous. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this proposed agreement. But I figured anything was worth it to get my hands on that shiny new video game console, so I bit the bullet and shook my dad’s hand. Little did I know that I had just made a life-changing deal. 

At first, the required hour of reading was a chore — something I had to do so I could play Mario Kart. But it quickly turned into something more than that. To my complete and utter surprise, I discovered that I actually enjoyed reading. One hour turned into two, two turned into three, and after a while I was spending more time reading than I was playing video games. I found myself captivated by the written word, and I read everything I could get my hands on. Lord of the Rings , Percy Jackson , Goosebumps — you name it. I was falling in love with literature, while my GameCube was accumulating dust in the TV stand. 

Soon enough, reading led to writing. I was beginning to come up with my own stories, so I put pen to paper and let my imagination run wild. It started out small. My first effort was a rudimentary picture book about a friendly raccoon who went to the moon. But things progressed. My stories became more intricate, my characters more complex. I wrote a series of science fiction novellas. I tried my hand at poetry. I was amazed at the worlds I could create with the tip of my pen. I had dreams of becoming an author. 

Then somewhere along the way my family got a subscription to Netflix, and that completely changed the way I thought about storytelling. My nose had been buried in books up until then, so I hadn’t really seen a lot of movies. That quickly changed. It seemed like every other day a pair of new DVDs would arrive in the mail (this was the early days of Netflix). Dark Knight, The Truman Show, Inception, Memento — all these great films were coming in and out of the house. And I couldn’t get enough of them. Movies brought stories to life in a way that books could not. I was head over heels for visual storytelling. 

Suddenly I wasn’t writing novels and short stories anymore. I was writing scripts for movies. Now I wanted to transfer my ideas to the big screen, rather than the pages of a book. But I was still doing the same thing I had always done. I was writing, just in a different format. To help with this process, I read the screenplays of my favorite films and paid attention to the way they were crafted. I kept watching more and more movies. And I hadn’t forgotten about my first love, either. I still cherished books and looked to them for inspiration. By the end of my junior year of high school, I had completed two scripts for short films. 

So why am I telling you all this? Because I want to turn my love of storytelling into a career. I’m not totally sure how to do that yet, but I know I have options. Whether it’s film production, creative writing, or even journalism, I want to find a major that suits my ambitions. Writing has taken me a long way, and I know it can take me even further. As I step into this next chapter of my life, I couldn’t be more excited to see how my craft develops. In the meantime, I should probably get rid of that dusty old GameCube. 

Feedback from admissions professional Bill Jack

Essays don’t always have to reveal details about the student’s intended career path, but one thing I like about this essay is that it gives the reader a sense of the why. Why do they want to pursue storytelling. It also shows the reader that they are open to how they pursue their interest. Being open to exploration is such a vital part of college, so it’s also showing the reader that they likely will be open to new things in college. And, it’s always fun to learn a little bit more about the student’s family, especially if the reader can learn about how the students interacts with their family. 

Prompt 2: “The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?”

I remember my first impression of Irvine: weird. It was foggy, stock-full of greenery and eucalyptus trees, and reminded me of my 5th grade trip to a “science camp” which was located in the San Bernardino mountains. Besides Irvine, that was one of the few places in Southern California where you’d find so many non-palm trees. 

Of course, perhaps my initial impression of Irvine was biased, motivated by a desire to stay in my hometown and a fear of the unknown. While that was true to an extent, Irvine was certainly still a little peculiar. The city itself was based on a “master plan” of sorts, with the location of each of its schools, parks, shops, and arguably its trees having been logically “picked” before the foundation was poured. Even the homes all looked roughly the same, with their beige, stucco walls almost serving as a hallmark of the city itself.

Thus, this perfectly structured, perfectly safe city seemed like a paradise of sorts to many outsiders, my parents included. I was a little more hesitant to welcome this. As I saw it, this was a phony city – believing that its uniformity stood for a lack of personality. My hometown, although not as flawlessly safe nor clean as Irvine, was where most of my dearest memories had occurred. From the many sleepovers at Cindie’s house, to trying to avoid my school’s own version of the “infamous” cheese touch, to the many laughs shared with friends and family, I shed a tear at the prospect of leaving my home.

Moving into the foreign city, remnants of the hostility I held towards Irvine remained. Still dwelling in my memories of the past, I was initially unable to see Irvine as a “home.” So, as I walked into my first-ever Irvine class, being greeted by many kind, yet unfamiliar faces around me, I was unable to recognize that some of those new faces would later become some of my dearest friends. Such negative feelings about the city were further reinforced by newer, harder classes, and more complicated homework. Sitting in the discomfort of this unfamiliar environment, it started to seem that “change” was something not only inevitable, but insurmountable.

As the years went on, however, this idea seemed to fade. I got used to my classes and bike racing through Irvine neighborhoods with my friends, watching the trees that once seemed just a “weird” green blob soon transform into one of my favorite parts of the city. While I kept my old, beloved memories stored, I made space for new ones. From carefully making our way over the narrow creek path next to our school, to the laughs we shared during chemistry class, my new memories made with friends seemed to transform a city I once disliked into one I would miss. 

Through this transformation, I have come to recognize that change, although sometimes intimidating at first, can open the door to great times and meaningful connections. Although Irvine may have once seemed like a strange, “phony” place that I couldn’t wait to be rid of, the memories and laughs I had grown to share there were very real. As I move onto this next part of my life, I hope I can use this knowledge that I have gained from my time in Irvine to make the most of what’s to come. Even if the change may be frightening at first, I have learned to embrace what’s on the other side, whether green or not.

One huge plus to writing an essay that focuses on a place is that you might have it read by someone who has been there. Yet, what’s really helpful about this essay is that even if someone hasn’t been there, a picture is painted about what the place is like.  Admission officers have the hard task of really understanding what the student sees, so the use of adjectives and imagery can really help.  It’s also really clever to see that the green that’s mentioned at the beginning is mentioned at the end.  It’s a nice way to bookend the essay and tie it all together.

Prompt 6: “Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?”

I like getting lost. Not literally, of course, but figuratively. Whether it be in the story of a love song by Taylor Swift, or in the memories brought back by listening to my favorite childhood video game’s background music, I’ve always appreciated music’s ability to transport me to another place, another time, another feeling. 

Alas, I cannot sing, nor have I practiced an instrument since my middle school piano class days. So, perhaps Kurt Vonnegut was right. As he puts it, “Virtually every writer I know would rather be a musician.” While I cannot speak for others, I have certainly not debunked his theory. Writing allows many, including myself, to attempt to mimic the transformative power of music – even if our singing voices aren’t exactly “pleasant.” Just as you can get lost in music, you can do so in a story. Whether it is in George Orwell’s totalitarian Oceania, or Little Women’s Orchard House, the stories outlined in novels can provide an amazing look into the lives and worlds of others, and an escape from the worries and problems of those in your own.

While I am certainly not claiming to have the storytelling abilities of the Orwells or Alcotts before me, I’ve had fun trying to recreate such transformative feelings for others. When I was nine, I attempted to write a story about a little girl who had gotten lost in the woods, only managing to get a couple pages through. As I got older, whenever I was assigned a creative writing assignment in school, I wrote about the same pig, Phil. He was always angry: in my 8th grade science class, Phil was mad at some humans who had harbored his friend captive, and in my 9th grade English class, at a couple who robbed him. 

Thus, when I heard about a writing club being opened at my school in 11th grade, I knew I had to join. I wanted to discern whether writing was just a hobby I picked up now and then, or a true passion. If it was a passion, I wanted to learn as much as possible about how I could improve. Although my high school’s writing club certainly wasn’t going to transform me into Shakespeare, I knew I could learn a lot from it – and I did. The club challenged me to do many things, from writing on the spot, to writing poetry, to even writing about myself, something that’s hopefully coming in handy right now. 

From then on, I started to expand into different types of writing, storing short ideas, skits, and more in appropriately-labeled Google Drive folders. At around the same time, I became interested in classic literature, which largely stemmed from a project in English class. We had been required to choose and read a classic on our own, then present it to the class in an interesting way. While my book was certainly interesting and unique in its own right, nearly everyone else’s novels seemed more captivating to me. So, I took it upon myself to read as many classics as I could the following summer.

One of the books I read during the summer, funnily enough, was Animal Farm, which starred angry pigs, reminiscent of Phil. I had also started going over different ideas in my head, thinking about how I could translate them into words using the new skills I learned. While the writing club helped reaffirm my interest in writing and allowed me to develop new skills, my newfound affinity for classics gave me inspiration to write. Now, I am actually considering writing as part of my future. In this endeavor, I hope that Phil, and the music I inevitably listen to as I write, will accompany me every step of the way.

Admission officers might read 70 (or more!) essays in one day. It’s not uncommon for them to start to blend together and sound similar. This essay might not make you laugh out loud. But, it might make the reader chuckle while reading it thanks to the subtle humor and levity. Being able to incorporate a little humor into your essay (if it is natural for you to do… do not force it), can really be a great way to shed additional light into who you are. Remember, the essay isn’t merely about proving that you can write, but it should also reveal a little bit about your personality.

Prompt 5: “Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.”

I learned a lot of things during the summer I worked at Tropical Smoothie. I discovered the value of hard work. I figured out how to save money. I even mastered the art of the Mango Magic smoothie (the secret is lots of sugar). But most importantly, I learned the power of perspective. And I have Deja to thank for that. 

Deja was my shift supervisor, and one of Tropical Smoothie’s best employees. She was punctual, friendly, and always willing to lend a helping hand. She knew the store from top to bottom, and could handle pretty much any situation thrown her way. She made everyone around her better. On top of all that, she was four months pregnant! I was always impressed by Deja’s work ethic, but I gained an entirely new level of respect for her one day.

It was a Friday night, and Deja and I were working the closing shift together. It was very busy, and Deja and I were the only ones on shift. We managed to get by, but we were exhausted by the end of the evening. After wiping down the counters and mopping the floors, we closed up shop and went our separate ways. I was eager to get home. 

I walked a couple blocks to where I had parked my car. Well, it wasn’t my car actually. It was my dad’s ‘98 Chevy pickup truck, and it was in rough shape. It had no heat or A/C, the leather seats were cracked beyond repair, and the driver’s side door was jammed shut. I sighed as I got in through the passenger side and scooted over to the driver’s seat. The whole reason I was working at Tropical Smoothie was to save up enough money to buy my own car. I was hoping to have something more respectable to drive during my senior year of high school. 

I cranked the old thing up and started on my way home. But soon enough, I spotted Deja walking on the side of the road. There was no sidewalk here, the light was low, and she was dangerously close to the passing cars. I pulled over and offered her a ride. She got in and explained that she was on her way home. Apparently she didn’t have a car and had been walking to work every day. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was complaining about my set of wheels, while Deja didn’t have any to begin with.

We got to talking, and she confessed that she had been having a tough time. You would never know from the way she was so cheerful at work, but Deja had a lot on her plate. She was taking care of her mother, her boyfriend had just lost his job, and she was worried about making ends meet. And of course, she was expecting a baby in five months. On top of all that, she had been walking nearly a mile to and from work every day. The whole thing was a real eye opener, and made me reconsider some things in my own life. 

For one, I didn’t mind driving my dad’s truck anymore. It was banged up, sure, but it was a lot better than nothing. My mindset had changed. I appreciated the truck now. I began to think about other things differently, too. I started making mental notes of all the things in my life I was thankful for — my family, my friends, my health. I became grateful for what I had, instead of obsessing over the things I didn’t. 

I also gained more awareness of the world outside my own little bubble. My encounter with Deja had shown me first-hand that everyone is dealing with their own problems, some worse than others. So I started paying more attention to my friends, family members, and coworkers. I started listening more and asking how I could help. I also gave Deja a ride home for the rest of the summer. 

These are all small things, of course, but I think they make a difference. I realized I’m at my best when I’m not fixated on my own life, but when I’m considerate of the lives around me. I want to keep this in mind as I continue to grow and develop as a person. I want to continue to search for ways to support the people around me. And most importantly, I want to keep things in perspective.

Too often we can be focused on our own problems that we fail to realize that everyone has their own things going on in their lives, too.  This essay showcases how it’s important to put things in perspective, a skill that certainly will prove invaluable in college… and not just in the classroom.  Another reason I like this essay is because it provides deeper insight into the student’s life.  Sure, you might have mentioned in your activities list that you have a job.  But as this essay does, you can show why you have the job in the first place, what your responsibilities are, and more.

A few last tips

We hope these essay examples gave you a bit of inspiration of what to include in your own. However, before you go, we’d like to send you off with a few (personal statement) writing tips to help you make your essays as lovely as the memories and anecdotes they’re based off of. Without further ado, here are some of our best tips for writing your personal statements:

1. Open strong

College admissions officers read many, many essays (think 50+) a day, which can sometimes cause them to start blending together and sounding alike. One way to avoid your essay from simply fading into the background is to start strong. This means opening your essay with something memorable, whether an interesting personal anecdote, a descriptive setting, or anything else that you think would catch a reader’s attention (so long as it’s not inappropriate). Not only might this help college admissions officers better remember your essay, but it will also make them curious about what the rest of your essay will entail.

2. Be authentic

Perhaps most important when it comes to writing personal statement essays is to maintain your authenticity. Ultimately, your essays should reflect your unique stories and quirks that make you who you are, and should help college admissions officers determine whether you’d truly be a good fit for their school or not. So, don’t stress trying to figure out what colleges are looking for. Be yourself, and let the colleges come to you!

3. Strong writing

This one may seem a little obvious, but strong writing will certainly appeal to colleges. Not only will it make your essay more compelling, but it may show colleges that you’re ready for college-level essay writing (that you’ll likely have to do a lot of). Just remember that good writing is not limited to grammar. Using captivating detail and descriptions are a huge part of making your essay seem more like a story than a lecture.

4. Proofread

Last but not least, remember to proofread! Make sure your essay contains no errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. When you’re done proofreading your essay yourself, we would also recommend that you ask a teacher, parent, or other grammatically savvy person to proofread your essay as well.

Final thoughts 

With those in hand, we hope you now have a better sense of how to write your personal statement. While your grades and test scores are important when it comes to college admissions, it’s really your essays that can “make” or “break” your application. 

Although this may make it seem like a daunting task, writing an amazing personal statement essay is all about effort. Thus, so long as you start early, follow the advice listed above, and dedicate your time and effort to it, it’s entirely possible to write an essay that perfectly encapsulates you. Good luck, and happy writing!

Also see:  Scholarships360’s free scholarships search tool

Key Takeaways

  • It may take some people longer than others to know what they want to write about, but remember that everyone, including you, has something unique to write about!
  • Personal statements should be personal, which means you should avoid being too general and really strive to show off what makes you “you”
  • Time and effort are two of the most important things you can put into your personal statement to ensure that it is the best representation of yourself
  • Don’t forget to ask people who know you to read your work before you submit; they should be able to tell you better than anyone if you are truly shining through!

Frequently asked questions about writing personal statements 

How do you write a powerful personal statement, what makes an amazing personal statement, how do you start an amazing personal statement, scholarships360 recommended.

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How to Write a Strong Personal Statement

  • Ruth Gotian
  • Ushma S. Neill

what not to add in a personal statement

A few adjustments can get your application noticed.

Whether applying for a summer internship, a professional development opportunity, such as a Fulbright, an executive MBA program, or a senior leadership development course, a personal statement threads the ideas of your CV, and is longer and has a different tone and purpose than a traditional cover letter. A few adjustments to your personal statement can get your application noticed by the reviewer.

  • Make sure you’re writing what they want to hear. Most organizations that offer a fellowship or internship are using the experience as a pipeline: It’s smart to spend 10 weeks and $15,000 on someone before committing five years and $300,000. Rarely are the organizations being charitable or altruistic, so align your stated goals with theirs
  • Know when to bury the lead, and when to get to the point. It’s hard to paint a picture and explain your motivations in 200 words, but if you have two pages, give the reader a story arc or ease into your point by setting the scene.
  • Recognize that the reviewer will be reading your statement subjectively, meaning you’re being assessed on unknowable criteria. Most people on evaluation committees are reading for whether or not you’re interesting. Stated differently, do they want to go out to dinner with you to hear more? Write it so that the person reading it wants to hear more.
  • Address the elephant in the room (if there is one). Maybe your grades weren’t great in core courses, or perhaps you’ve never worked in the field you’re applying to. Make sure to address the deficiency rather than hoping the reader ignores it because they won’t. A few sentences suffice. Deficiencies do not need to be the cornerstone of the application.

At multiple points in your life, you will need to take action to transition from where you are to where you want to be. This process is layered and time-consuming, and getting yourself to stand out among the masses is an arduous but not impossible task. Having a polished resume that explains what you’ve done is the common first step. But, when an application asks for it, a personal statement can add color and depth to your list of accomplishments. It moves you from a one-dimensional indistinguishable candidate to someone with drive, interest, and nuance.

what not to add in a personal statement

  • Ruth Gotian is the chief learning officer and associate professor of education in anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, and the author of The Success Factor and Financial Times Guide to Mentoring . She was named the #1 emerging management thinker by Thinkers50. You can access her free list of conversation starters and test your mentoring impact . RuthGotian
  • Ushma S. Neill is the Vice President, Scientific Education & Training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She runs several summer internships and is involved with the NYC Marshall Scholar Selection Committee. ushmaneill

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Mastering the Personal Statement Format: A Guide

Craft a standout personal statement with essential elements. Impress admissions committees with your compelling narrative.

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When it comes to college and university admissions, the personal statement assumes a paramount role in setting applicants apart from their peers. A meticulously constructed personal statement becomes an instrument of utmost significance, empowering individuals to exhibit their distinctive qualities, experiences, and aspirations to discerning admissions committees. 

Recognizing the significant influence of a well-crafted personal statement on an individual’s academic journey, this article aims to provide aspiring students with a comprehensive guide to excel in the art of creating impactful personal statements.

By exploring the definition and purpose of personal statements and offering invaluable writing tips and strategies, this guide assists users in mastering the format of a compelling personal statement.

Definition Of Personal Statement

A personal statement is a written document typically required as part of the application process for educational institutions, scholarships, job opportunities, or other significant life events. It serves as a unique and personalized representation of an individual’s background, experiences, achievements, and aspirations. 

The personal statement offers applicants a chance to showcase their personality, passions, and motivations, allowing them to stand out and make a compelling case for their suitability for the position or opportunity they are seeking.

Purpose Of A Personal Statement

The primary purpose of a personal statement is to provide the admissions committee, employer, or selection panel with deeper insights into the applicant’s character, values, and potential. Beyond the information provided in other application materials, such as grades or resumes, a personal statement delves into the applicant’s story, offering a glimpse into their life journey and how it has shaped their ambitions and goals.

By presenting a well-crafted personal statement, applicants aim to:

  • Demonstrate their suitability: Applicants can use the personal statement to highlight how their skills, experiences, and passions align with the requirements of the institution or position they are applying for.
  • Convey their uniqueness: A personal statement enables applicants to showcase what sets them apart from other candidates and demonstrate their individuality, perspectives, and strengths.
  • Exhibit strong communication skills: Crafting an engaging and articulate personal statement reflects an applicant’s ability to express ideas clearly and persuasively, a crucial skill in many fields.
  • Show commitment and motivation: By explaining their motivations and aspirations, applicants can convey their dedication and determination to succeed in the chosen field of study or profession.

Admissions Process Overview

The admissions process varies depending on the institution or opportunity being pursued. However, the general steps involved in the admissions process include:

  • Research and exploration: Prospective applicants research various educational institutions, job opportunities, or scholarships to identify the ones that align with their interests and goals.
  • Application submission: Applicants complete the required application forms and submit supporting documents, which may include academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, resumes, and the personal statement.
  • Review by admissions committee or employer: The admissions committee or employer evaluates all received applications, assessing candidates based on their academic achievements, experiences, qualifications, and the content of their personal statements.
  • Selection and decision-making: After careful evaluation, the institution or employer makes decisions regarding acceptance, job offers, or scholarship awards.

Components Of A Successful Personal Statement

A successful personal statement should incorporate the following components:

  • Introduction: A compelling opening that grabs the reader’s attention and provides a glimpse of the applicant’s personality and background.
  • Personal narrative: A well-structured and engaging account of the applicant’s life experiences, including challenges faced, significant achievements, and pivotal moments.
  • Clear goals and aspirations: A demonstration of the applicant’s future plans, showing how the opportunity they seek aligns with their long-term objectives.
  • Relevance to the opportunity: A clear connection between the applicant’s experiences, skills, and motivations with the specific program, job, or scholarship they are applying for.
  • Demonstration of qualities and strengths: Showcase of key attributes, such as leadership, adaptability, problem-solving abilities, and teamwork skills, supported by relevant examples.
  • Reflection and growth: Demonstrating how past experiences have shaped the applicant’s personal and professional development and how they have learned from challenges.
  • Conciseness and clarity: Effective communication with a focus on coherence, relevance, and avoiding unnecessary details or jargon.
  • Positive tone: A positive and optimistic outlook that leaves a lasting impression on the reader.
  • Proofreading and editing: Thoroughly reviewed and edited to ensure impeccable grammar, spelling, and overall presentation.

Personal Statement Format: The Basics

The personal statement is a critical component of various applications, providing applicants with a platform to present their unique qualities, experiences, and aspirations. 

In this section, let’s explore the fundamental format of a personal statement, comprising the introduction paragraph, body paragraphs, and conclusion paragraph . Understanding these elements will empower applicants to effectively communicate their story and convince the reader of their suitability for the desired opportunity.

Introduction Paragraph

The introduction paragraph marks the beginning of the personal statement and serves as a gateway to the applicant’s narrative. Here, applicants aim to capture the reader’s attention, provide essential background information about themselves, and present the overarching theme or purpose of their personal statement. The introduction sets the tone for the entire document and offers the opportunity to make a memorable first impression.

Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs constitute the heart of the personal statement, where applicants delve into their experiences, accomplishments, and motivations in greater detail. Each body paragraph should revolve around a distinct topic or aspect of the applicant’s life that aligns with the central theme established in the introduction. Here, applicants can showcase their personal growth, relevant skills, and how specific experiences have shaped their aspirations. By providing compelling evidence and anecdotes, the body paragraphs reinforce the applicant’s suitability for the opportunity they are pursuing.

Conclusion Paragraph

In the conclusion paragraph, applicants bring their personal statement to a thoughtful close. This section restates the main points highlighted in the body paragraphs, emphasizing the alignment between the applicant’s journey and the sought-after opportunity. The conclusion may also include reflective insights, demonstrating self-awareness and an understanding of the potential impact they could make in the future. A well-crafted conclusion leaves a lasting impression, leaving the reader with a sense of the applicant’s character and potential.

Formatting The Personal Statement Essay

When crafting a well-structured personal statement, the writer must not overlook the importance of proper formatting. The arrangement of text, choice of font, and adherence to specific guidelines can significantly influence the essay’s overall impact and readability. Here are the key components of formatting that contribute to the transformation of essays into polished and impactful pieces of writing.

Font And Size

The recommended font for academic essays is typically Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. The standard font size is 12 points. This size ensures that the text is clear and readable without being too large or too small. Avoid using fancy or decorative fonts as they can distract from the content and may not be as legible.

Margins And Spacing

The standard margins for an essay are usually set at 1 inch on all sides (top, bottom, left, and right). This margin size provides a neat and balanced appearance to the document. Some institutions or formatting guidelines may require specific margin sizes, so it’s essential to check the requirements provided by the institution or instructor.

For spacing, the most common format is double-spacing throughout the entire essay. Double-spacing makes the text easier to read and allows space for comments or corrections if the essay needs to be reviewed or graded. However, some guidelines may require single-spacing for specific elements like block quotes or reference lists. Always follow the specific instructions, if available. 

Essays often have a specific page limit or word count that students must adhere to. The page limit indicates the maximum number of pages that the essay can occupy. If there is no specified page limit, the general guideline is to aim for around 1.5 to 2 pages for a standard personal statement essay.

If a page limit is provided, it’s essential to stay within that limit. Going significantly over the page limit may result in a bad impression, in some cases, the essay being rejected outright. On the other hand, if the essay is shorter than the specified page limit, students should use the extra space to expand on their ideas or provide more supporting evidence.

Writing Tips And Strategies for Personal Statement Format

Crafting a compelling personal statement is a crucial step in various application processes, whether it’s for college admissions, scholarships, or job opportunities. This document offers applicants a chance to stand out from the crowd and present their unique qualities, experiences, and aspirations. To create an impactful personal statement, consider the following writing tips and strategies:

Show Don’t Tell Strategy

One of the most effective ways to engage the reader and make your personal statement memorable is by employing the “Show Don’t Tell” strategy. Rather than simply stating facts or qualities about yourself, use vivid and specific examples to illustrate your strengths, experiences, and character traits. Instead of saying, “I am a determined and resilient individual,” provide a story that demonstrates your determination and resilience in overcoming a challenging situation. By showing your qualities through compelling narratives, you allow the reader to connect with your experiences on a deeper level.

Start With An Outline Or Brainstorming Session

Before diving into writing, take the time to create an outline or engage in a brainstorming session. Jot down key points, experiences, and ideas that you want to include in your personal statement. Organize them logically to form a coherent structure. Having a clear outline or list of ideas will help you maintain focus and prevent your personal statement from becoming disjointed. It will also ensure that you cover all essential aspects of your life and aspirations, creating a comprehensive and well-rounded essay.

Reflect On Your Experiences

Take time to reflect on your life experiences, both personal and academic. Identify significant events, challenges, achievements, and moments that have shaped your character and influenced your goals.

Showcase Your Authenticity

Be genuine and authentic in your writing. Avoid using clichés or trying to present yourself as someone you’re not. Admissions committees and employers appreciate honesty and real-life experiences.

Structure Your Statement

Organize your personal statement with a clear introduction, body paragraphs, and a strong conclusion. The introduction should engage the reader, while the body paragraphs should provide evidence and examples to support your central theme. The conclusion should leave a lasting impression and reiterate your main points.

Provide Concrete Examples

Support your claims and assertions with specific examples, anecdotes, or achievements. Concrete evidence strengthens your statement and helps the reader connect with your experiences.

Address Weaknesses, But Stay Positive

If you have any weaknesses in your application, such as low grades or employment gaps, you can address them in your personal statement. However, always maintain a positive tone and focus on how you have learned from those experiences and improved.

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13 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Personal Statement

Without question, your grades and test scores are the most important part of your grad school application. But stellar grades and a high GRE score are not enough to make you stand out from the thousands of other applicants with similar scores.

So how can you distinguish yourself? The answer: A unique and thoughtfully crafted personal statement.

Think about all the study sessions, missed parties and hard work you’ve put into maintaining good grades and achieving a score that made your mother cry tears of joy. Don’t throw all that away by writing a weak personal statement. This is a valuable opportunity for you to show the admissions department why they would be remiss not to accept you.

On the other hand, it’s important to not get too creative. I’m sorry, but you should probably save your Quentin Tarantino-style statement for another time. Trust me on that one.

Instead, it’s time to channel your inner Goldilocks and express who you are in a way that’s not too much and not too little, but is “just right” to catch the admission department’s attention.

To help you navigate through the writing process, we’ve compiled a list of 13 mistakes you should avoid when writing your personal statement.

image

Cliches can be hard to avoid. They’ve been lodged in our memory since the dawn of time. (See what I did there?) But they’re uninspiring, tired, and show a lack of creativity. Instead, come up with your own metaphors and similes to say in your unique way that you “have a thirst for knowledge,” and avoid clichés like they’re going out of style.

2. Redundancy

Don’t include your GPA in your personal statement. Let me say that again. Don’t include your GPA in your personal statement. In fact, avoid including any information – such as awards you’ve received, etc. – that can be found elsewhere in your application. It’s redundant. Think of your personal statement as valuable real estate and there’s only enough space for the best, most unique information.

3. Spelling or Grammatical Errors

Personal essay 5

This cannot be overstated. Admissions directors won’t be able to fully appreciate your powerful personal statement if they have to keep stumbling over spelling and grammar errors. Avoid errors by asking a friend or family member to help you proofread your statement. Another pair of eyes is more likely to catch if you misspelled “conscientious,” for example.

4. Profanity or Slang

This should go without saying, but some students forget to leave out certain inappropriate four-letter words. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

Quotes can be very inspirational, especially when they come from great writers and charismatic people like Martin Luther King, Jr. or E.E. Cummings. But they’re not YOUR words, and they don’t tell the admissions director who you are. Leave them out of your personal statement and post them on your Instagram instead.

6. Hyperboles

Personal essay 3

You want to show enthusiasm in your statement, but it’s not necessary to say that if you don’t get into grad school your “mother will kill you.” The admissions director will also likely not be impressed if you tell them you have studied no less than a million hours to get into their school. In fact, avoid any and all exaggerations.

7. Plagiarism

These days, it’s easy to find examples of great personal statements online. However, keep in mind that universities will be able to identify if you have copied any material from another source. It’s not worth the risk and, again, it doesn’t let the school see your uniqueness.

8. Other People

Remember, keep the focus of your statement on you and what makes you stand out. Avoid too much mention of mentors, family members, or other people who may have inspired your academic goals. Keep it all about you.

9. Negativity

what not to add in a personal statement

Keep your personal statement upbeat and positive. Avoid talking about any past educational experiences. You should also avoid mentioning any personal circumstances that have caused you difficulty – unless you are able to highlight how you overcame the circumstances and what you learned from them.

Although you may be trying to secure a financial award from the school, you should leave out any mention of money in your essay. Period.

11. Arrogance

Of course you want to highlight what differentiates you from other students, but be sure to do so in a humbling way. Boasting about how awesome or great you are may be off-putting to those reviewing your application. Also, you should show , rather than tell how wonderful you are by describing certain unique experiences rather than listing superficial adjectives to describe yourself.

Often times, we immediately try to use humor to showcase what makes us unique. Being quirky, though, can be risky in an admissions essay. So proceed with caution. Keep in mind that those in the admissions department may not share your sense of humor, so it’s best to keep your weird jokes between you and your friends.

13. Confessions

This is an opportunity to describe your educational and professional goals in an intentional way. It is not an opportunity to reveal the deepest, darkest corners of your mind, so stay on point and avoid any irrelevant information.

  About the Author:

JFriend Head Shot

Jennifer is here to help you navigate college and grad school while still maintaining your sanity. She is a graduate of the University of Florida (Go Gators!), with a major in Journalism and Communications and a minor in Psychology. She’s also a certified Montessori instructor and once witnessed a four-year-old correctly label all 54 countries on a map of Africa. She prefers to sing when not in the shower, and she’s not afraid of heights as long as she’s standing on something that is less than 15-feet tall.

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  • http://tnova.fr/notes/refonder-l-aide-aux-eleves-en-grande-difficulte-scolaire

Jennifer Friend

Jennifer is here to help you navigate college and grad school while still maintaining your sanity. She is a graduate of the University of Florida (Go Gators!), with a major in Journalism and Communications and a minor in Psychology. She’s also a certified Montessori instructor and once witnessed a four-year-old correctly label all 54 countries on a map of Africa. She prefers to sing when not in the shower, and she’s not afraid of heights as long as she’s standing on something that is less than 15-feet tall.

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How to Write a Personal Statement That Wows Colleges

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10 Personal Statement Examples That Work →

what not to add in a personal statement

  Most of the college applications process is fairly cut and dry. You’ll submit information about your classes and grades, standardized test scores, and various other accomplishments and honors. On much of the application, your accomplishments must speak for themselves. 

The personal statement is different though, and it’s your chance to let your voice be heard. To learn more about the personal statement, how to choose a topic, and how to write one that wows colleges, don’t miss this post.

What is the Personal Statement?

Personal statements are used in both undergraduate and graduate admissions. For undergrad admissions, personal statements are any essays students must write to submit their main application. For example, the Common App Essay and Coalition Application Essay are examples of personal statements. Similarly, the ApplyTexas Essays and University of California Essays are also good examples .

Personal statements in college admissions are generally not school-specific (those are called “supplemental essays”). Instead, they’re sent to a wide range of schools, usually every school you apply to. 

What is the Purpose of the Personal Statement?

The personal statement is generally your opportunity to speak to your unique experiences, qualities, or beliefs that aren’t elsewhere represented on the application. It is a chance to break away from the data that defines you on paper, and provide a glimpse into who you really are. In short, it’s the admissions committee’s chance to get to know the real you.

So, what are colleges looking for in your personal statement? They are looking for something that sets you apart. They are asking themselves: do you write about something truly unique? Do you write about something common, in a new and interesting way? Do you write about an aspect of your application that needed further explanation? All of these are great ways to impress with your personal statement.

Beyond getting to know you, admissions committees are also evaluating your writing skills. Are you able to write clearly and succinctly? Can you tell an engaging story? Writing effectively is an important skill in both college and life, so be sure to also fine-tune your actual writing (grammar and syntax), not just the content of your essay.

Is your personal statement strong enough? Get a free review of your personal statement with CollegeVine’s Peer Essay Review.

How To a Choose A Topic For Your Personal Statement

Most of the time, you’re given a handful of prompts to choose from. Common personal statement prompts include:

  • Central aspect of your identity (activity, interest, talent, background)
  • Overcoming a failure
  • Time you rose to a challenge or showed leadership
  • Experience that changed your beliefs
  • Problem you’d like to solve
  • Subject or idea that captivates you

One of the questions that we hear most often about the personal statement is, “How do I choose what to write about?” For some students, the personal statement prompt triggers an immediate and strong idea. For many more, there is at least initially some uncertainty.

We often encourage students to think less about the exact prompt and more about what aspects of themselves they think are most worthy of highlighting. This is especially helpful if you’re offered a “topic of your choice” prompt, as the best essay topic for you might actually be one you make up!

For students with an interesting story or a defining background, these can serve as the perfect catalyst to shape your approach. For students with a unique voice or different perspective, simple topics written in a new way can be engaging and insightful.

Finally, you need to consider the rest of your application when you choose a topic for your personal statement. If you are returning from a gap year, failed a single class during sophomore year, or participated extensively in something you’re passionate about that isn’t elsewhere on your application, you might attempt to address one of these topics in your statement. After all, the admissions committee wants to get to know you and understand who you really are, and these are all things that will give them a deeper understanding of that.

Still, tons of students have a decent amount of writer’s block when it comes to choosing a topic. This is understandable since the personal statement tends to be considered rather high stakes. To help you get the ball rolling, we recommend the post What If I Don’t Have Anything Interesting To Write About In My College Essay?

Tips for Writing a Personal Statement for College

1. approach this as a creative writing assignment..

Personal statements are difficult for many students because they’ve never had to do this type of writing. High schoolers are used to writing academic reports or analytical papers, but not creative storytelling pieces.

The point of creative writing is to have fun with it, and to share a meaningful story. Choose a topic that inspires you so that you’ll enjoy writing your essay. It doesn’t have to be intellectual or impressive at all. You have your transcript and test scores to prove your academic skills, so the point of the personal statement is to give you free rein to showcase your personality. This will result in a more engaging essay and reading experience for admissions officers. 

As you’re writing, there’s no need to follow the traditional five-paragraph format with an explicit thesis. Your story should have an overarching message, but it doesn’t need to be explicitly stated—it should shine through organically. 

Your writing should also feel natural. While it will be more refined than a conversation with your best friend, it shouldn’t feel stuffy or contrived when it comes off your tongue. This balance can be difficult to strike, but a tone that would feel natural when talking with an admired teacher or a longtime mentor is usually a good fit.

2. Show, don’t tell.

One of the biggest mistakes students make is to simply state everything that happened, instead of actually bringing the reader to the moment it happened, and telling a story. It’s boring to read: “I was overjoyed and felt empowered when I finished my first half marathon.” It’s much more interesting when the writing actually shows you what happened and what the writer felt in that moment: “As I rounded the final bend before the finish line, my heart fluttered in excitement. The adrenaline drowned out my burning legs and gasping lungs. I was going to finish my first half marathon! This was almost incomprehensible to me, as someone who could barely run a mile just a year ago.”

If you find yourself starting to write your essay like a report, and are having trouble going beyond “telling,” envision yourself in the moment you want to write about. What did you feel, emotionally and physically? Why was this moment meaningful? What did you see or hear? What were your thoughts?

For inspiration, read some memoirs or personal essays, like The New York Times Modern Love Column . You could also listen to podcasts of personal stories, like The Moth . What do these writers and storytellers do that make their stories engaging? If you didn’t enjoy a particular story, what was it that you didn’t like? Analyzing real stories can help you identify techniques that you personally resonate with.

3. Use dialogue.

A great way to keep your writing engaging is to include some dialogue. Instead of writing: “My brothers taunted me,” consider sharing what they actually said. It’s more powerful to read something like:

“Where’s the fire, Princess Clara?” they taunted. “Having some trouble?” They prodded me with the ends of the chewed branches and, with a few effortless scrapes of wood on rock, sparked a red and roaring flame. My face burned long after I left the fire pit. The camp stank of salmon and shame. 

Having dialogue can break up longer paragraphs of text, and bring some action and immediacy to your story. That being said, don’t overdo it. It’s important to strike a balance between relying too much on dialogue, and using it occasionally as an effective writing tool. You don’t want your essay to read like a script for a movie (unless, of course, that’s intentional and you want to showcase your screenwriting skills!).

Want free essay feedback? Submit your essay to CollegeVine’s Peer Essay Review and get fast, actionable edits on your essay. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Personal Statements

1. giving a recap or report of all the events..

Your essay isn’t a play-by-play of everything that happened in that time frame. Only include relevant details that enrich the story, instead of making your personal statement a report of the events. Remember that the goal is to share your voice, what’s important to you, and who you are. 

2. Writing about too many events or experiences. 

Similarly, another common mistake is to make your personal statement a resume or recap of all your high school accomplishments. The Activities Section of the Common App is the place for listing out your achievements, not your personal statement. Focus on one specific experience or a few related experiences, and go into detail on those. 

3. Using cliche language.

Try to avoid overdone quotes from famous people like Gandhi or Thoreau. Better yet, try to avoid quotes from other people in general, unless it’s a message from someone you personally know. Adding these famous quotes won’t make your essay unique, and it takes up valuable space for you to share your voice.

You should also steer away from broad language or lavish claims like “It was the best day of my life.” Since they’re so cliche, these statements also obscure your message, and it’s hard to understand what you actually mean. If it was actually the best day of your life, show us why, rather than just telling us.

If you want to learn more about personal statements, see our post of 11 Common App Essay Examples .

Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.

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what not to add in a personal statement

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In addition to standardized test scores and transcripts, a personal statement or essay is a required part of many college applications. The personal statement can be one of the most stressful parts of the application process because it's the most open ended.

In this guide, I'll answer the question, "What is a personal statement?" I'll talk through common college essay topics and what makes for an effective personal statement.

College Essay Glossary

Even the terminology can be confusing if you aren't familiar with it, so let's start by defining some terms:

Personal statement —an essay you write to show a college admissions committee who you are and why you deserve to be admitted to their school. It's worth noting that, unlike "college essay," this term is used for application essays for graduate school as well.

College essay —basically the same as a personal statement (I'll be using the terms interchangeably).

Essay prompt —a question or statement that your college essay is meant to respond to.

Supplemental essay —an extra school or program-specific essay beyond the basic personal statement.

Many colleges ask for only one essay. However, some schools do ask you to respond to multiple prompts or to provide supplemental essays in addition to a primary personal statement.

Either way, don't let it stress you out! This guide will cover everything you need to know about the different types of college essays and get you started thinking about how to write a great one:

  • Why colleges ask for an essay
  • What kinds of essay questions you'll see
  • What sets great essays apart
  • Tips for writing your own essay

Why Do Colleges Ask For an Essay?

There are a couple of reasons that colleges ask applicants to submit an essay, but the basic idea is that it gives them more information about you, especially who you are beyond grades and test scores.

#1: Insight Into Your Personality

The most important role of the essay is to give admissions committees a sense of your personality and what kind of addition you'd be to their school's community . Are you inquisitive? Ambitious? Caring? These kinds of qualities will have a profound impact on your college experience, but they're hard to determine based on a high school transcript.

Basically, the essay contextualizes your application and shows what kind of person you are outside of your grades and test scores . Imagine two students, Jane and Tim: they both have 3.5 GPAs and 1200s on the SAT. Jane lives in Colorado and is the captain of her track team; Tim lives in Vermont and regularly contributes to the school paper. They both want to be doctors, and they both volunteer at the local hospital.

As similar as Jane and Tim seem on paper, in reality, they're actually quite different, and their unique perspectives come through in their essays. Jane writes about how looking into her family history for a school project made her realize how the discovery of modern medical treatments like antibiotics and vaccines had changed the world and drove her to pursue a career as a medical researcher. Tim, meanwhile, recounts a story about how a kind doctor helped him overcome his fear of needles, an interaction that reminded him of the value of empathy and inspired him to become a family practitioner. These two students may seem outwardly similar but their motivations and personalities are very different.

Without an essay, your application is essentially a series of numbers: a GPA, SAT scores, the number of hours spent preparing for quiz bowl competitions. The personal statement is your chance to stand out as an individual.

#2: Evidence of Writing Skills

A secondary purpose of the essay is to serve as a writing sample and help colleges see that you have the skills needed to succeed in college classes. The personal statement is your best chance to show off your writing , so take the time to craft a piece you're really proud of.

That said, don't panic if you aren't a strong writer. Admissions officers aren't expecting you to write like Joan Didion; they just want to see that you can express your ideas clearly.

No matter what, your essay should absolutely not include any errors or typos .

#3: Explanation of Extenuating Circumstances

For some students, the essay is also a chance to explain factors affecting their high school record. Did your grades drop sophomore year because you were dealing with a family emergency? Did you miss out on extracurriculars junior year because of an extended medical absence? Colleges want to know if you struggled with a serious issue that affected your high school record , so make sure to indicate any relevant circumstances on your application.

Keep in mind that in some cases there will be a separate section for you to address these types of issues, as well as any black marks on your record like expulsions or criminal charges.

#4: Your Reasons for Applying to the School

Many colleges ask you to write an essay or paragraph about why you're applying to their school specifically . In asking these questions, admissions officers are trying to determine if you're genuinely excited about the school and whether you're likely to attend if accepted .

I'll talk more about this type of essay below.

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

What Kind of Questions Do Colleges Ask?

Thankfully, applications don't simply say, "Please include an essay about yourself"; they include a question or prompt that you're asked to respond to . These prompts are generally pretty open-ended and can be approached in a lot of different ways .

Nonetheless, most questions fall into a few main categories. Let's go through each common type of prompt, with examples from the Common Application, the University of California application, and a few individual schools.

Prompt Type 1: Your Personal History

This sort of question asks you to write about a formative experience, important event, or key relationship from your life . Admissions officers want to understand what is important to you and how your background has shaped you as a person.

These questions are both common and tricky. The most common pit students fall into is trying to tell their entire life stories. It's better to focus in on a very specific point in time and explain why it was meaningful to you.

Common App 1

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Common App 5

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

University of California 2

Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.

University of California 6

Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

Prompt Type 2: Facing a Problem

A lot of prompts deal with how you solve problems, how you cope with failure, and how you respond to conflict. College can be difficult, both personally and academically, and admissions committees want to see that you're equipped to face those challenges .

The key to these types of questions is to identify a real problem, failure, or conflict ( not a success in disguise) and show how you adapted and grew from addressing the issue.

Common App 2

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Harvard University 7

The Harvard College Honor Code declares that we “hold honesty as the foundation of our community.” As you consider entering this community that is committed to honesty, please reflect on a time when you or someone you observed had to make a choice about whether to act with integrity and honesty.

Prompt Type 3: Diversity

Most colleges are pretty diverse, with students from a wide range of backgrounds. Essay questions about diversity are designed to help admissions committees understand how you interact with people who are different from you .

In addressing these prompts, you want to show that you're capable of engaging with new ideas and relating to people who may have different beliefs than you.

Common App 3

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Johns Hopkins University

Tell us about an aspect of your identity (e.g., race, gender, sexuality, religion, community) or a life experience that has shaped you as an individual and how that influenced what you’d like to pursue in college at Hopkins.  This can be a future goal or experience that is either [sic] academic, extracurricular, or social.

Duke University Optional 1

We believe a wide range of personal perspectives, beliefs, and lived experiences are essential to making Duke a vibrant and meaningful living and learning community. Feel free to share with us anything in this context that might help us better understand you and what you might bring to our community. 

body_oddpencilout

Prompt Type 4: Your Future Goals

This type of prompt asks about what you want to do in the future: sometimes simply what you'd like to study, sometimes longer-term career goals. Colleges want to understand what you're interested in and how you plan to work towards your goals.

You'll mostly see these prompts if you're applying for a specialized program (like pre-med or engineering) or applying as a transfer student. Some schools also ask for supplementary essays along these lines. 

University of Southern California (Architecture)

Princeton Supplement 1

Prompt Type 5: Why This School

The most common style of supplemental essay is the "why us?" essay, although a few schools with their own application use this type of question as their main prompt. In these essays, you're meant to address the specific reasons you want to go to the school you're applying to .

Whatever you do, don't ever recycle these essays for more than one school.

Chapman University

There are thousands of universities and colleges. Why are you interested in attending Chapman?

Columbia University

Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia.

Rice University

Based upon your exploration of Rice University, what elements of the Rice experience appeal to you?

Princeton University

Princeton has a longstanding commitment to understanding our responsibility to society through service and civic engagement. How does your own story intersect with these ideals?

Prompt Type 6: Creative Prompts

More selective schools often have supplemental essays with stranger or more unique questions. University of Chicago is notorious for its weird prompts, but it's not the only school that will ask you to think outside the box in addressing its questions.

University of Chicago

“Vlog,” “Labradoodle,” and “Fauxmage.” Language is filled with portmanteaus. Create a new portmanteau and explain why those two things are a “patch” (perfect match).

University of Vermont

Established in Burlington, VT, Ben & Jerry’s is synonymous with both ice cream and social change. The “Save Our Swirled” flavor raises awareness of climate change, and “I Dough, I Dough” celebrates marriage equality. If you worked alongside Ben & Jerry, what charitable flavor would you develop and why?

body_uchicago

What Makes a Strong Personal Statement?

OK , so you're clear on what a college essay is, but you're still not sure how to write a good one . To help you get started, I'm going to explain the main things admissions officers look for in students' essays: an engaging perspective, genuine moments, and lively writing .

I've touched on these ideas already, but here, I'll go into more depth about how the best essays stand out from the pack.

Showing Who You Are

A lot of students panic about finding a unique topic, and certainly writing about something unusual like a successful dating app you developed with your friends or your time working as a mall Santa can't hurt you. But what's really important isn't so much what you write about as how you write about it . You need to use your subject to show something deeper about yourself.

Look at the prompts above: you'll notice that they almost all ask you what you learned or how the experience affected you. Whatever topic you pick, you must be able to specifically address how or why it matters to you .

Say a student, Will, was writing about the mall Santa in response to Common App prompt number 2 (the one about failure): Will was a terrible mall Santa. He was way too skinny to be convincing and the kids would always step on his feet. He could easily write 600 very entertaining words describing this experience, but they wouldn't necessarily add up to an effective college essay.

To do that, he'll need to talk about his motivations and his feelings: why he took such a job in the first place and what he did (and didn't) get out of it. Maybe Will took the job because he needed to make some money to go on a school trip and it was the only one he could find. Despite his lack of enthusiasm for screaming children, he kept doing it because he knew if he persevered through the whole holiday season he would have enough money for his trip. Would you rather read "I failed at being a mall Santa" or "Failing as a mall Santa taught me how to persevere no matter what"? Admissions officers definitely prefer the latter.

Ultimately, the best topics are ones that allow you to explain something surprising about yourself .

Since the main point of the essay is to give schools a sense of who you are, you have to open up enough to let them see your personality . Writing a good college essay means being honest about your feelings and experiences even when they aren't entirely positive.

In this context, honesty doesn't mean going on at length about the time you broke into the local pool at night and nearly got arrested, but it does mean acknowledging when something was difficult or upsetting for you. Think about the mall Santa example above. The essay won't work unless the writer genuinely acknowledges that he was a bad Santa and explains why.

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Eloquent Writing

As I mentioned above, colleges want to know that you are a strong enough writer to survive in college classes . Can you express your ideas clearly and concisely? Can you employ specific details appropriately and avoid clichés and generalizations? These kinds of skills will serve you well in college (and in life!).

Nonetheless, admissions officers recognize that different students have different strengths. They aren't looking for a poetic magnum opus from someone who wants to be a math major. (Honestly, they aren't expecting a masterwork from anyone , but the basic point stands.) Focus on making sure that your thoughts and personality come through, and don't worry about using fancy vocabulary or complex rhetorical devices.

Above all, make sure that you have zero grammar or spelling errors . Typos indicate carelessness, which will hurt your cause with admissions officers.

Top Five Essay-Writing Tips

Now that you have a sense of what colleges are looking for, let's talk about how you can put this new knowledge into practice as you approach your own essay. Below, I've collected my five best tips from years as a college essay counselor.

#1: Start Early!

No matter how much you want to avoid writing your essay, don't leave it until the last minute . One of the most important parts of the essay writing process is editing, and editing takes a lot of time. You want to be able to put your draft in a drawer for a week and come back to it with fresh eyes. You don't want to be stuck with an essay you don't really like because you have to submit your application tomorrow.

You need plenty of time to experiment and rewrite, so I would recommend starting your essays at least two months before the application deadline . For most students, that means starting around Halloween, but if you're applying early, you'll need to get going closer to Labor Day.

Of course, it's even better to get a head start and begin your planning earlier. Many students like to work on their essays over the summer, when they have more free time, but you should keep in mind that each year's application isn't usually released until August or September. Essay questions often stay the same from year to year, however. If you are looking to get a jump on writing, you can try to confirm with the school (or the Common App) whether the essay questions will be the same as the previous year's.

#2: Pick a Topic You're Genuinely Excited About

One of the biggest mistakes students make is trying to write what they think the committee wants to hear. The truth is that there's no "right answer" when it comes to college essays . T he best topics aren't limited to specific categories like volunteer experiences or winning a tournament. Instead, they're topics that actually matter to the writer .

"OK," you're thinking, "but what does she mean by 'a topic that matters to you'? Because to be perfectly honest, right now, what really matters to me is that fall TV starts up this week, and I have a feeling I shouldn't write about that."

You're not wrong (although some great essays have been written about television ). A great topic isn't just something that you're excited about or that you talk to your friends about; it's something that has had a real, describable effect on your perspective .

This doesn't mean that you should overemphasize how something absolutely changed your life , especially if it really didn't. Instead, try to be as specific and honest as you can about how the experience affected you, what it taught you, or what you got out of it.

Let's go back to the TV idea. Sure, writing an essay about how excited you are for the new season of Stranger Things  probably isn't the quickest way to get yourself into college, but you could write a solid essay (in response to the first type of prompt) about how SpongeBob SquarePants was an integral part of your childhood. However, it's not enough to just explain how much you loved SpongeBob—you must also explain why and how watching the show every day after school affected your life. For example, maybe it was a ritual you shared with your brother, which showed you how even seemingly silly pieces of pop culture can bring people together. Dig beneath the surface to show who you are and how you see the world.

When you write about something you don't really care about, your writing will come out clichéd and uninteresting, and you'll likely struggle to motivate yourself. When you instead write about something that is genuinely important to you, you can make even the most ordinary experiences—learning to swim, eating a meal, or watching TV—engaging .

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#3: Focus on Specifics

But how do you write an interesting essay? Focus.

Don't try to tell your entire life story or even the story of an entire weekend; 500–650 words may seem like a lot, but you'll reach that limit quickly if you try to pack every single thing that has happened to you into your essay. If, however, you just touch on a wide range of topics, you'll end up with an essay that reads more like a résumé.

Instead, narrow in on one specific event or idea, and talk about it in more depth . The narrower your topic, the better. For example, writing about your role as Mercutio in your school's production of Romeo and Juliet is too general, but writing about opening night, when everything went wrong, could be a great topic.

Whatever your topic, use details to help draw the reader in and express your unique perspective. But keep in mind that you don't have to include every detail of what you did or thought; stick to the important and illustrative ones.

#4: Use Your Own Voice

College essays aren't academic assignments; you don't need to be super formal. Instead, try to be yourself. The best writing sounds like a more eloquent version of the way you talk .

Focus on using clear, simple language that effectively explains a point or evokes a feeling. To do so, avoid the urge to use fancy-sounding synonyms when you don't really know what they mean. Contractions are fine; slang, generally, is not. Don't hesitate to write in the first person.

A final note: you don't need to be relentlessly positive. It's OK to acknowledge that sometimes things don't go how you want—just show how you grew from that.

#5: Be Ruthless

Many students want to call it a day after writing a first draft, but editing is a key part of writing a truly great essay. To be clear, editing doesn't mean just making a few minor wording tweaks and cleaning up typos; it means reading your essay carefully and objectively and thinking about how you could improve it .

Ask yourself questions as you read: is the progression of the essay clear? Do you make a lot of vague, sweeping statements that could be replaced with more interesting specifics? Do your sentences flow together nicely? Do you show something about yourself beyond the surface level?

You will have to delete and rewrite (potentially large) parts of your essay, and no matter how attached you feel to something you wrote, you might have to let it go . If you've ever heard the phrase "kill your darlings," know that it is 100% applicable to college essay writing.

At some point, you might even need to rewrite the whole essay. Even though it's annoying, starting over is sometimes the best way to get an essay that you're really proud of.

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What's Next?

Make sure to check out our other posts on college essays , including our step-by-step guide to how to write your college essay , our analysis of the Common App Prompts , and our collection of example essays .

If you're in need of guidance on other parts of the application process , take a look at our guides to choosing the right college for you , writing about extracurriculars , deciding to double major , and requesting teacher recommendations .

Last but not least, if you're planning on taking the SAT one last time , check out our ultimate guide to studying for the SAT and make sure you're as prepared as possible.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.

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  • Personal Statements

10 things not to put in your personal statement

To help you figure out which things are best to leave out of your personal statement here is a list of 10 things to avoid writing:

  • Skip the quotes and clichés - If you’re using a popular quote or phrase then other applicants will be too. The aim of your personal statement is to show you’re unique, not make you sound like everyone else.

Skip the jokes too - The admissions tutor doesn’t know you and you aren’t there to explain why something is funny, so leave the jokes for your friends.

  • Irrelevant personal facts -  Your personal statement is meant to show why you are the right candidate for the course so filling it with irrelevant facts such as you like to swim on holiday is just taking up valuable space that could be better used.
  • Lies -  If you haven’t done it or can’t do it, don’t say that you have or can. It’s as simple as that.
  • Plagiarism -  All universities use plagiarism detection software so as much as you might like the personal statement examples you find on the internet you will get caught if you copy them.
  • Negative comments -  Talk about prizes, awards, qualifications, and any other relevant experience that makes you look good. Don’t say you were a mediocre student or couldn’t play football to save your life.
  • Random lists -  Lists are boring, fact. Listing every book you’ve ever read or all the countries you’ve visited isn’t going to impress anyone or demonstrate why you’re the candidate the university should pick.
  • Boasting -  Ok so you should sell yourself but making sweeping boasts about your abilities will just make it harder for you to live up to the university’s expectations if you get accepted.
  • “I like socialising” etc -  Statements like this make admissions tutors yawn. They don’t care where you like to party or hang out so leave it out.
  • Poor grammar, spelling, and punctuation -  Your personal statement needs to be 100% perfect, make sure it is before you submit it.  

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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Writing the Personal Statement

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The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories:

1. The general, comprehensive personal statement:

This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms.

2. The response to very specific questions:

Often, business and graduate school applications ask specific questions, and your statement should respond specifically to the question being asked. Some business school applications favor multiple essays, typically asking for responses to three or more questions.

Questions to ask yourself before you write:

  • What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story?
  • What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
  • When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
  • How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
  • If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre LSAT or GRE scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
  • Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
  • What personal characteristics (for example, integrity, compassion, and/or persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
  • What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
  • Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession or field than other applicants?
  • What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?

General advice

Answer the questions that are asked

  • If you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar.
  • Don't be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It is important to answer each question being asked, and if slightly different answers are needed, you should write separate statements. In every case, be sure your answer fits the question being asked.

Tell a story

  • Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is to bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourself memorable.

Be specific

  • Don't, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to become a lawyer, engineer, or whatever should be logical, the result of specific experience that is described in your statement. Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story.

Find an angle

  • If you're like most people, your life story lacks drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle or a "hook" is vital.

Concentrate on your opening paragraph

  • The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement.

Tell what you know

  • The middle section of your essay might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as some of your knowledge of the field. Too many people graduate with little or no knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the profession or field they hope to enter. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information. Refer to experiences (work, research, etc.), classes, conversations with people in the field, books you've read, seminars you've attended, or any other source of specific information about the career you want and why you're suited to it. Since you will have to select what you include in your statement, the choices you make are often an indication of your judgment.

Don't include some subjects

  • There are certain things best left out of personal statements. For example, references to experiences or accomplishments in high school or earlier are generally not a good idea. Don't mention potentially controversial subjects (for example, controversial religious or political issues).

Do some research, if needed

  • If a school wants to know why you're applying to it rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention.

Write well and correctly

  • Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits.

Avoid clichés

  • A medical school applicant who writes that he is good at science and wants to help other people is not exactly expressing an original thought. Stay away from often-repeated or tired statements.

For more information on writing a personal statement, see the personal statement vidcast .

Personal statements: What not to do

Sometimes I will unexpectedly stumble across an item I wrote at some point in the distant past, and upon rereading, I’ll be thrilled to discover I still like it. That’s a wonderful feeling—very self-affirming.

That is not the feeling I get when rereading my law school personal statement. More accurate adjectives include “shame,” “revulsion,” and “horror.”

After a couple of seasons in this position, way back in 2003 or so, I got up the nerve to go dig out my application file from the huge storage room hidden deep in the recesses of Hutchins Hall . Given the weight I put on personal statements when I read them, going back to check out my own seemed like a clever idea. Without actually remembering, I’m going to guess that I expected a nice self-affirming experience, but alas, no. I loathed my personal statement to such a degree that I had the Looper -style existential crisis of realizing that if I had been my own dean of admissions, I would not have admitted myself. I returned my personal statement to the vault, resolving never to speak or think of it again.

But as Freud got famous for observing, repressed thoughts have a tricky way of coming back on you. My stupid personal statement would worm its way into my brain every once in a while, and finally, about a year and a half ago, I got the idea of tearing it apart for this blog: part philanthropic, educational gesture; part exorcism. It took me another year or so to get the nerve to go dig out my application file folder again, and yet another six months to beat back the waves of nausea that washed over me every time I peeked at the essay inside. But here we are. I think I’m ready. Let’s just tackle this horrifying task bird by bird . 1

Often I am asked, “What’s a good subject for a personal statement? Do I have to explain why I want to attend law school?” No!, I unambiguously respond. (I say it just like that, with an exclamation mark.) While your life path to law school might very well be in the background of whatever you write, it is certainly not necessary—and usually not desirable—to make it an explicit rendering. Often, even well-considered reasons behind wanting to attend law school are fairly mundane and simply expressed, not to mention shared by many candidates, with the result that any essay focusing principally on them is not particularly compelling. Occasionally, candidates will have very targeted, well-established career interests (e.g., the emergency room doctor who wants a career in health law; the school superintendent who wants a career in education law), and those make for compelling essays. But “I would like to have intellectual challenge in my career; I like unraveling problems; I like research and writing,” are such bland—though completely valid—explanations that they inevitably fail to engage the “personal” part of the personal statement mission. So, while those motivations might be the undercurrent of a personal statement, constructing the essay as an explicit “because A, then B” endeavor is not likely to be riveting.

Another bit of advice I frequently give along those lines is that people who have had experiences very early in life that set them on the path toward law should focus instead on something of more recent vintage. Don’t tell me about how you got an idea as a child about wanting to be a lawyer—I would prefer to know why, now that you’re an adult, your application is in front of me.

Given my standard advice, how much, on a scale of 1 to 10, do you think I loved reading this opening line? “My interest in law school began when I was eight.” Really, just terrible.

From there, my long-ago self went on to explain that that was the year my mother went to law school. Now, my mother’s move was a pretty bold one in 1972 for a 38-year-old mother of three in Main Line Philadelphia, and 40 years later, I still find it admirable and inspiring. I may have just finished generally criticizing this sort of theme (and this shows the danger of general advice), but it seems not impossible that this could have been an interesting topic. Yet, for reasons mysterious to me now, I seem to have made a deliberate choice back in 1989 to explore my topic in the most ham-handed imaginable way. (And let’s just politely avert our gazes from my having identified my mom’s degree, in the second sentence, as a juris doctorate .)

Mostly, my personal statement is hard to read because of the hyper-formal tone I took. I can dimly remember writing with my unknown audience in mind, and picturing them as super, super, super stiff and humorless and scary—also, for some reason, I pictured at least 10 of them simultaneously reading my application. Unsurprisingly, writing to please an audience like that turns out to make for clunky prose—not to mention really awkward, unnatural phrasing.

The whole thing is peppered with words that seem a little—off. I don’t remember doing this, but it reads as if wrote it out normally and then went back to up the syllable count, substituting five-dollar words for my daily quotidian vocabulary, like some horrible Google translate feature gone awry. Here’s a little writing advice from Stephen King on that score: “Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.” 2 (I would have been better served to use a dictionary, given that on at least one occasion I misused a word completely: “disinterest,” which means “lack of bias,” when in fact I meant “lack of interest.”)

Doubtless, it was this same classing-it-up impulse that led me to quote Judge Learned Hand, whose work I had never actually read. Again, I don’t remember doing this, but I presumably combed through a book of quotations to find something inspiring. (Remember, this debacle occurred pre-Internet; I actually had to go to a lot of effort to produce such an unreadable mess.) I’m going to take as an article of faith that, however much you may love the one sentence you have stumbled upon, quoting people whose work you do not actually know is always a bad idea.

My personal statement is also tedious; it is totally expositive, completely devoid of detail or anecdote. I could have told the funny story about the time I got dragged along to a meeting my mom had with her scariest professor, and announced upon exiting (while still in the doorway, mind you) in my loudest eight-year-old voice, “ I think he’s NICE !,” and segued from that to something about how I should be admitted because I had already gotten over Paper Chase -style neuroses. Or I could have told the story about how I once got dragged along to class and sat in the back row next to one of her classmates, another non-traditional student (Episcopal priest turned Vietnam War protester turned would-be lawyer), who gave me whispered explanations of everything that was going on in the discussion, and credited him with some inspirational force. Or I could have told the story about her very young study group partner, who pulled me aside one day (in our living room, mind you) and whispered, “Go away, kid; you bother me,” and explained that I was devoted to the cause of a jackass-free law school. And so on. But I chose instead to explicate in ponderous prose that I was Called To The Law. Shudder.

The flaws are not merely stylistic and thematic. The specific content stinks, too. I veered wildly between being braggy in a quite direct, unnuanced way, and talking excessively about other people, without clearly explaining the significance of those other people to me. And, as if I had never, ever been taught anything about constructing an essay, every paragraph is essentially a stand-alone endeavor. I did not seem to have any particular point I wanted to build to—I was, instead, largely throwing out separate thoughts that seemed potentially persuasive. Focusing on one particular thought or event, and developing that thoroughly, would have been likely to be more productive.

Have I mentioned it was awful?

In retrospect, I have a pretty good idea of how I came to write something so misguided. What I intended to write was something like this: My mom went to law school when I was young. It was an unusual move, and I admired her. In fact, though, she ended up absolutely hating being a lawyer, and then she died when I was in college, still hating it. That combination of circumstances made me really second-guess my previous certainty that The Law Was For Me. I therefore took some time to work in a law office and experiment with some other activities, and consider what I wanted from a career. Mission accomplished, and here I am, Michigan Law School. So, why didn’t I just write that? Because at the time, I was really uncomfortable with the idea of writing about my mom to strangers; even four years after she died, it was still very much an open wound for me, and I was leery of in any way exploiting it. So, instead, I wrote in a completely elliptical way, and never connected the dots—to the extent, weirdly, that I never even said that she had died, just that she had gotten sick. There were two possible solutions for my fundamental writing problem: either pick some less-fraught subject or force myself to be direct.

The good news is, the hot waves of mortification that wash over me when I read it carry with them some helpful perspective. The personal statement is very important, but it is just one piece of the puzzle, balanced by the considerable amount of information elsewhere in the application. (At a completely practical level, this is one of the great virtues of the optional essay prompts we provide; for people tormented by the task of writing a free-form personal statement, the direct, focused questions often lead to a much better result.) Even though I retain a hard little nugget of disdain in my heart for my 24-year-old self, I have learned to be more generous to others. Knowing how badly I flubbed it makes me very admiring of those who don’t, but also more forgiving of those who do. (And very thankful to Allan Stillwagon for having been forgiving of me.) Approach your personal statement as a five-minute conversation with a normal human being, at the end of which you hope the normal human being is thinking, “This person would be well-suited to be at XYZ law school when fall (or, perhaps, summer) comes.”

And for heaven’s sake, go easy with the thesaurus and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations .

-Dean Z. Senior Assistant Dean for Admissions, Financial Aid, and Career Planning

1 Bird by Bird by Annie Lamott is my all-time favorite book on writing. Shout-out to Lisa Rudgers , who recommended it.

2 Stephen King’s On Writing is my second-favorite book about writing. I have to dissent a bit from his anti-thesaurus edict, though. As one blogger noted , “Actually, I can think of one exception to this rule. I generally don’t pluck words I don’t know out of a thesaurus unless I’m trying to be funny, but if a word is on the tip of my tongue and I can’t for the life of me think what it is, the thesaurus is a good way to find it.”

What To Include In The Personal Statement on Your CV

what not to add in a personal statement

The personal statement section of your CV is a crucial part of it, offering a small yet clear snapshot of the skills and experiences that you can offer a company or organisation, as well as your career goals and aspirations. This shows to an employer that you are both motivated and ambitious. By carefully composing the personal statement and taking time to choose the wording carefully to make a maximum and effective impact upon the reader, you can make a strong first impression and stand out from competition. Remember to customise your personal statement for each job application to ensure that it aligns with the job requirements and the culture of the company.

The statement should aim to showcase your personality traits as well as your professional suitability and unique qualities for the role you are applying for and as it's only a short paragraph at the beginning of your CV, it’s not as difficult as you may think. As your experiences and skills evolve, make sure to update your personal statement accordingly as keeping it current will accurately reflect your qualifications and objectives.

You should start with a strong and distinctive opening. Think about how you want to capture the reader’s attention immediately with  a few powerful words which highlight your most relevant  skills and achievements for the job. Focus on what makes you unique from everyone else and avoid using generic phrases, instead highlight your professional individuality.

Identify your main key skills and qualities that are most relevant for the role and place emphasis on these. You can include for example, soft skills, technical skills or any specific industry expertise that you have gained.

Provide brief examples of how you have been able to demonstrate your skills in previous roles which may include successful projects you have completed or initiated, awards you have received and any relevant positive feedback or implications due to your dedication and commitment within your area of expertise.

Researching a company beforehand is most important when applying for a job within its structure and this is where you can utilise your prior knowledge to your advantage by using  carefully selected words which reflect the company’s unique values, priorities and culture.

Once you have finalised your personal statement, check at least twice for any errors as a well written statement reflects positively on your attention to detail and professionalism. Seek feedback from someone you trust as they may be able to offer valuable insights and help you to refine and convey your message.

It takes time and effort to create a compelling personal statement which effectively highlights key information to prospective employers but by creating a statement which will have a positive impact, you will be placing yourself on the right path to success in your job search.

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Your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars, application requirements for university of south carolina.

Hi everyone! I'm planning on applying to the University of South Carolina and was wondering if y'all could help me with their application requirements. Are there any specific documents or additional materials I should be aware of? Thanks for your help!

Sure, I can help you with the application requirements for the University of South Carolina (USC). Here's a rundown of what you'll need to submit when applying to USC:

1. Application: You can use either the Coalition Application or USC's custom application. The latter is recommended for the most streamlined experience, since it's designed specifically for USC.

2. Application fee: There's a $65 non-refundable application fee. However, fee waivers are available for those who qualify, based on financial need.

3. High school transcript: You'll need to submit your official high school transcript, which should include all your coursework and grades from grades 9 through 11, as well as your senior year schedule. Be sure to ask your counselor to send it directly to USC.

4. Test scores: USC is test-optional for Fall 2023 and Fall 2024, so submitting SAT or ACT scores is not required. However, if you have strong test scores and think they will enhance your application, you can still choose to submit them.

5. Letters of recommendation: Although USC does not require letters of recommendation, you can still submit up to two if you feel they'll add value to your application. It's recommended to obtain letters from teachers or other individuals who can speak to your academic abilities and personal qualities.

6. Personal statement: The USC application includes a section for a personal statement to help the admissions committee learn more about you. You can choose which prompt you'd like to respond to, and your response should be between 250 and 650 words.

7. Honors College: If you're interested in applying to the South Carolina Honors College, keep in mind that you'll need to submit additional materials, such as supplemental essays and an academic résumé showcasing your achievements.

8. Scholarship consideration: To be considered for academic scholarships at USC, you need to apply by December 1st, which is the priority deadline.

To ensure a smooth application process, I'd recommend visiting USC's Undergraduate Admissions website to check for any updates or additional details on their requirements. Good luck with your application!

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NFL Says They Do Not Agree with Harrison Butker's 'Views' in Graduation Speech, Are Committed to 'Inclusion'

Butker took aim at the LGBTQ+ community, working women, abortion rights and more in his controversial speech at Benedictine College

what not to add in a personal statement

The NFL is batting down comments made by kicker Harrison Butker in the wake of his controversial commencement address.

In his speech at the graduation ceremony at Benedictine College on Saturday, May 11, the 28-year-old Georgia Tech alum took aim at the LGBTQ+ community, working women, abortion rights and more, drawing heavy criticism.

Commenting on Butker's speech for the first time May 15, the NFL said that his views differ from those of the organization.

“Harrison Butker gave a speech in his personal capacity,” Jonathan Beane, the NFL’s senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer, tells PEOPLE in a written statement. “His views are not those of the NFL as an organization. The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger.”

During his speech, Butker opined on various “diabolical lies told to women,” and offered his take on abortion, in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy, as well as President Joe Biden . He also said Pride Month represented "deadly sins."

Then, seeking out the men in the audience, the athlete advised them to “be unapologetic in your masculinity," and to "fight against the cultural emasculation of men."

Butker’s comments were met with widespread disapproval.

Cooper Neill/Getty

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Former Kansas City commissioner Justice Horn slammed Butker in a post, writing , "Harrison Butker doesn’t represent Kansas City nor has he ever. Kansas City has always been a place that welcomes, affirms, and embraces our LGBTQ+ community members."

Others took issues with Butker for referencing Taylor Swift — who has long been an ally of the LGBTQ+ community.

"One of the worst parts of this NFL player's awful speech is that he quoted a Taylor Swift song before telling women they should be homemakers and serve their man's career,” OutSports said in a post on X. 

Butker also singled out the female graduates, and then effectively put them down.

"For the ladies present today, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment," he began. "I want to speak directly to you briefly because I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you."

He continued, “Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world."

Flavor Flav, who stood up as recently as last week for women by sponsoring the Olympic water polo team, had issues with the kicker’s alignment.

“Sounds like some players 'need to stay in their lanes' and shouldn’t be giving commencement speeches," the founding member of Public Enemy and longtime Swiftie wrote on X .

Related Articles

NFL

NFL distances itself from Chiefs’ Harrison Butker’s Benedictine College speech

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 7: Harrison Butker #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs on the sideline during a game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on January 7, 2024 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Getty Images)

In response to the controversy surrounding Harrison Butker’s commencement speech at Benedictine College, the NFL distanced itself from the ideas expressed in the speech, saying the league doesn’t share the beliefs the Kansas City Chiefs kicker voiced while addressing the graduating students.

During the commencement speech, Butker referred to Pride Month as an example of the “deadly sins.” He also addressed gender ideologies and said a woman’s most important title is “homemaker.”

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“Not the deadly sins sort of Pride that has an entire month dedicated to it,” Butker said, “but the true God-centered pride that is cooperating with the holy ghost to glorify him.”

Butker spoke for more than 20 minutes to students at the Catholic school in Atchison, Kan., saying he wanted the graduating class to prevent political leaders from interfering with social issues that impact their relationship with the church.

In response, NFL senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer Jonathan Beane said in a statement to The Athletic that Butker gave the speech “in his personal capacity.”

“His views are not those of the NFL as an organization. The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger,” Beane said. His statement was first reported by People.

The Chiefs declined to comment when reached Thursday by The Athletic .

While Pride Month, which is in June, falls outside the NFL’s season, the league participates in LGBTQ+ initiatives. On the Wednesday before Super Bowl LVIII, the NFL hosted a “Night of Pride” event in partnership with GLAAD, the LGBTQ+ advocacy organization.

The Chiefs are among the NFL teams that have a Pride selection of apparel with rainbow colors. Kansas City is also among the many North American cities that host Pride events during June, led by the KC Pride Community Alliance.

Later Thursday, legendary college football coach and TV analyst Lou Holtz took to X to thank Butker “for standing strong in your faith values.”

“Your commencement speech at Benedictine College showed courage and conviction and I admire that,” Holtz wrote, later linking to a form from America First Works for people to sign and offer their thanks to Butker for his comments.

Required reading

  • Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker says Pride Month is example of ‘deadly sin’ during commencement speech

(Photo: Ric Tapia / Getty Images)

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Tess DeMeyer is a Staff Editor for The Athletic working on the live/breaking news team. Prior to joining The Athletic, she worked as an associate digital producer at Sports Illustrated. Tess attended Brown University and originates from a small town outside of Savannah, GA. Follow Tess on Twitter @ tess_demeyer

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Ascension continues to make progress towards restoration and recovery following the recent ransomware attack. We continue to work with industry leading forensic experts from Mandiant to conduct our investigation into this attack and understand the root cause and how this incident occurred. In parallel, we have brought in additional cybersecurity experts from Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 and from CYPFER to help supplement our rebuild and restoration efforts. We are focused on getting systems back up and running as safely and as quickly as possible. We are also working on reconnecting with our vendors with the help of our recovery experts. Please be aware that it may still take some time to return to normal operations.

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If we determine sensitive data was potentially exfiltrated or accessed as part of this incident, we will notify applicable individuals and parties in accordance with our obligations.

Patient - Frequently Asked Questions

Caring for our patients remains our highest priority. We understand there may be concerns, but our workforce is well trained in providing patient care with established downtime procedures.

Our teams are working directly with any patient whose appointment or procedure will need to be rescheduled. Unless instructed otherwise by their care team, patients should continue to attend appointments as scheduled.

Yes. Our hospitals and facilities remain open and are providing care. Caring for our patients remains our highest priority. We understand there may be concerns, but our workforce is well trained in providing patient care with established downtime procedures.

Our hospitals and facilities remain open and are providing care. However, due to downtime procedures, several hospitals are currently on diversion for emergency medical services in order to ensure emergency cases are triaged immediately. Safely caring for our patients remains our highest priority as we navigate this cybersecurity incident.

Our hospitals and facilities, including emergency departments, remain open and are providing care. Caring for our patients remains our highest priority. We understand there may be concerns, but our workforce is well trained in providing patient care with established downtime procedures.

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact 911 and your local emergency services will bring you to the nearest hospital emergency room.

Previous Media Statements

May 13 - 4:30pm CT

Ascension previously reported that it experienced a ransomware attack that has caused disruptions to patient care in its network. Our priority remains on providing safe patient care. Ascension, with the support of leading cybersecurity experts, worked around the clock over the weekend to respond to the ransomware incident affecting our systems. We are focused on restoring systems safely. We are making progress, however, it will take time to return to normal operations. As systems and services come back online, we will share those updates so that our patients and communities can plan accordingly. We have established a dedicated website to share any updates we have across our system. We will be expanding the site this week to provide updates related to healthcare services as they relate to specific regions.

May 11 - 2:00pm CT

We continue to diligently investigate and address the recent ransomware incident, working closely with industry leading cybersecurity experts to assist in our investigation and restoration and recovery efforts. Additionally, we have notified law enforcement, as well as government partners including the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the American Hospital Association (AHA). We remain in close contact with the FBI and CISA, and we are sharing relevant threat intelligence with the Health Information Sharing and Analysis Center (H-ISAC) so that our industry partners and peers can take steps to protect themselves from similar incidents.

While our restoration work continues in earnest, our focus is on restoring systems as safely as possible. While we expect this process will take time to complete, we are making progress and systems are being restored in a coordinated manner at each of our care sites. We will continue to share updates on our recovery process.

On May 8, Ascension detected unusual activity in our network systems. We have determined this is a cybersecurity incident. We are working around the clock with internal and external advisors to investigate, contain, and restore our systems following a thorough validation and screening process. Our investigation and restoration work will take time to complete, and we do not have a timeline for completion.

Safely caring for patients remains our highest priority as we navigate this cybersecurity incident. We are actively supporting our ministries as they continue to provide safe, patient care with established downtime protocols and procedures, in which our workforce is well trained. It is expected that we will be utilizing downtime procedures for some time. Patients should bring to their appointment notes on their symptoms and a list of current medications and prescription numbers or the prescription bottles so their care team can call in medication needs to pharmacies.

Systems that are currently unavailable include our electronic health records system, MyChart (which enables patients to view their medical records and communicate with their providers), some phone systems, and various systems utilized to order certain tests, procedures and medications. We have implemented established protocols and procedures to address these particular system disruptions in order to continue to provide safe care to patients. Out of an abundance of caution, however, some non-emergent elective procedures, tests and appointments have been temporarily paused while we work to bring systems back online. Our teams are working directly with any patient whose appointment or procedure will need to be rescheduled. We understand the frustration this may cause and sincerely regret any inconvenience to our patients.

Due to downtime procedures, several hospitals are currently on diversion for emergency medical services in order to ensure emergency cases are triaged immediately. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact 911 and your local emergency services will bring you to the nearest hospital emergency room.

We are beyond grateful for the hard work and dedication of our care teams across the system, and their continued commitment to our patients. We also thank our patients and our community for their continued support and patience during this time as we work through a diligent, time-intensive process to restore systems as quickly, and as safely, as possible. To ensure all patients, staff, and stakeholders are kept informed during this event, we will continue to post updated information on our website as it becomes available.

Note for Media: The statement below can be attributed "to an Ascension spokesperson". For updates, please visit about.ascension.org/cybersecurity-event

On Wednesday, May 8, we detected unusual activity on select technology network systems, which we now believe is due to a cybersecurity event. At this time we continue to investigate the situation. We responded immediately, initiated our investigation and activated our remediation efforts. Access to some systems have been interrupted as this process continues.

Our care teams are trained for these kinds of disruptions and have initiated procedures to ensure patient care delivery continues to be safe and as minimally impacted as possible. There has been a disruption to clinical operations, and we continue to assess the impact and duration of the disruption.

We have engaged Mandiant, a third party expert, to assist in the investigation and remediation process, and we have notified the appropriate authorities. Together, we are working to fully investigate what information, if any, may have been affected by the situation. Should we determine that any sensitive information was affected, we will notify and support those individuals in accordance with all relevant regulatory and legal guidelines.

We are reaching out to our business partners to ensure they are aware of the situation so they can take appropriate steps to safeguard their systems. We encourage all business partners to coordinate with the Ascension Technology partners to address any specific questions.

This is an ongoing situation and we will provide updates on our website as we learn more.

IMAGES

  1. How to End a Personal Statement With a Lasting Impression

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  2. 10 Best Personal Statement Examples (How to Write)

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  3. 🔥 Research personal statement examples. How to Draft Personal Statement

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  4. What Not To Write In A Personal Statement: Expert Advice

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  6. Amazing 300 word personal statement samples that you can use to get

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VIDEO

  1. MY GKS PERSONAL STATEMENT + TIPS

  2. It's crucial to have someone review your personal statement for content, grammar, and flow to ensure

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  4. These 10 personal statement mistakes will hurt your MSW application

  5. How to Start a Personal Statement

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COMMENTS

  1. Personal statement dos and don'ts

    Don'ts. Don't be modest or shy. You want your passions to come across. Don't exaggerate - if you do, you may get caught out in an interview when asked to elaborate on an interesting achievement. Don't use quotes from someone else, or cliches. Don't leave it to the last minute - your statement will seem rushed and important ...

  2. 16 Winning Personal Statement Examples (And Why They Work)

    Here are 16 personal statement examples—both school and career—to help you create your own: 1. Personal statement example for graduate school. A personal statement for graduate school differs greatly from one to further your professional career. It is usually an essay, rather than a brief paragraph. Here is an example of a personal ...

  3. How to Write a Personal Statement (Tips + Essay Examples)

    In a great personal statement, we should be able to get a sense of what fulfills, motivates, or excites the author. These can be things like humor, beauty, community, and autonomy, just to name a few. So when you read back through your essay, you should be able to detect at least 4-5 different values throughout.

  4. How to Write Your Personal Statement

    Strategy 1: Open with a concrete scene. An effective way to catch the reader's attention is to set up a scene that illustrates something about your character and interests. If you're stuck, try thinking about: A personal experience that changed your perspective. A story from your family's history.

  5. How to write an excellent personal statement in 10 steps

    2. Show off your experience. Some things are worth adding to your personal statement, some things are not. Firmly in the second camp are your qualifications. You don't need to mention these as there's a whole other section of your personal statement where you get to detail them very precisely.

  6. How to Write a Personal Statement (with Tips and Examples)

    Tip 4: Connect the Story to Why You're Applying. Don't forget that the purpose of your personal statement isn't simply to tell the admissions committee who you are. That's an important part of it, of course, but your ultimate goal is to convince them to choose you as a candidate.

  7. How to Write an Amazing Personal Statement (Includes Examples!)

    5. Use an authentic voice. Your personal statement reflects who you are, so you should use a tone that represents you. That means you shouldn't try to sound like someone else, and you shouldn't use fancy words just to show off. This isn't an academic paper, so you don't have to adopt a super formal tone.

  8. How to Write a Personal Statement

    Insert a quote from a well-known person. Challenge the reader with a common misconception. Use an anecdote, which is a short story that can be true or imaginary. Credibility is crucial when writing a personal statement as part of your college application process. If you choose a statistic, quote, or misconception for your hook, make sure it ...

  9. 9 Do's and Don'ts of Writing Personal Statements

    Here are five don'ts of the writing process to keep in mind: 1. Don't write about sensitive topics. When outlining your personal statement, try to avoid writing about sensitive, controversial topics that may cause a reader to feel uncomfortable or overly emotional. While it's worthwhile to write about your personal hardships in your statement ...

  10. How to Write a Strong Personal Statement

    Address the elephant in the room (if there is one). Maybe your grades weren't great in core courses, or perhaps you've never worked in the field you're applying to. Make sure to address the ...

  11. Mastering the Personal Statement Format: A Guide

    A personal statement is a written document typically required as part of the application process for educational institutions, scholarships, job opportunities, or other significant life events. It serves as a unique and personalized representation of an individual's background, experiences, achievements, and aspirations. ...

  12. 13 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Personal Statement

    But they're uninspiring, tired, and show a lack of creativity. Instead, come up with your own metaphors and similes to say in your unique way that you "have a thirst for knowledge," and avoid clichés like they're going out of style. 2. Redundancy. Don't include your GPA in your personal statement. Let me say that again.

  13. How To Write a Good Personal Statement (With Examples)

    Include information that describes more about you than the details in your transcript. 5. Identify your plans for the future. Part of your personal statement can include future goals and ambitions. Explain what can happen if you gain acceptance to the university of your choice or you receive the job you want.

  14. How to Write a Personal Statement That Wows Colleges

    Tips for Writing a Personal Statement for College. 1. Approach this as a creative writing assignment. Personal statements are difficult for many students because they've never had to do this type of writing. High schoolers are used to writing academic reports or analytical papers, but not creative storytelling pieces.

  15. What Is a Personal Statement? Everything You Need to Know About the

    Personal statement —an essay you write to show a college admissions committee who you are and why you deserve to be admitted to their school. It's worth noting that, unlike "college essay," this term is used for application essays for graduate school as well. College essay —basically the same as a personal statement (I'll be using the terms ...

  16. What Not To Include In A Personal Statement

    10 things not to put in your personal statement. To help you figure out which things are best to leave out of your personal statement here is a list of 10 things to avoid writing: Skip the quotes and clichés - If you're using a popular quote or phrase then other applicants will be too. The aim of your personal statement is to show you're ...

  17. The art of how to write a personal statement fabulously

    Do not talk about some event in your life by adding too much. Do not ask or complain, even if you belong to certain minorities. Do not turn your personal statement into narrative or overly dramatic writing. Do not copy from a personal statement template, as it leads to plagiarism risks. ...

  18. The Personal Statement

    1. The general, comprehensive personal statement: This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms. 2. The response to very specific questions: Often, business and graduate school applications ask specific questions, and your statement ...

  19. 12 Outstanding Personal Statement Examples + Why They Work 2024

    Example #3 - 12. Example #4 - Flying. Example #5 - Arab Spring in Bahrain. Example #6 - Poop, Animals and the Environment. Example #7 - Entoptic Phenomena. Example #8 - The Builder & Problem Solver. Example #10 - The Little Porch and a Dog (With Spanish Translation) Example #10 - Life As an Undocumented Student.

  20. Personal statements: What not to do

    Approach your personal statement as a five-minute conversation with a normal human being, at the end of which you hope the normal human being is thinking, "This person would be well-suited to be at XYZ law school when fall (or, perhaps, summer) comes.". And for heaven's sake, go easy with the thesaurus and Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.

  21. 9 winning personal statement examples for a job

    Here are some examples of personal and professional statements: 1. Personal statement for a postgraduate programme. Joan David Personal statement for master's programme in Public Policy and Administration London School of Policy 'I held my first textbook when I was a 23-year-old undergraduate.

  22. What To Include In The Personal Statement on Your CV

    The personal statement section of your CV is a crucial part of it, offering a small yet clear snapshot of the skills and experiences that you can offer a company or organisation, as well as your career goals and aspirations. This shows to an employer that you are both motivated and ambitious. By carefully composing the personal statement and ...

  23. Application requirements for University of South Carolina?

    Personal statement: The USC application includes a section for a personal statement to help the admissions committee learn more about you. You can choose which prompt you'd like to respond to, and your response should be between 250 and 650 words. ... Although USC does not require letters of recommendation, you can still submit up to two if you ...

  24. NFL Says They Do Not Agree with Harrison Butker's 'Views' in Graduation

    NFL Says They Do Not Agree with Harrison Butker's 'Views' in Graduation Speech, Are Committed to 'Inclusion' Butker took aim at the LGBTQ+ community, working women, abortion rights and more in his ...

  25. NFL distances itself from Butker's Benedictine College speech

    In response, NFL senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer Jonathan Beane said in a statement to The Athletic that Butker gave the speech "in his personal capacity ...

  26. How to Write a Powerful Personal Statement

    For a university application, discuss what parts of the program or school align with your passions. Your university introduction should be a full paragraph. 2. Expand on relevant skills, interests and experiences. The body of your personal statement lets you share more about your relevant skills, interests and experiences.

  27. Cybersecurity Event Update

    Cybersecurity Event Update. Note for Media: The statement below can be attributed "to an Ascension spokesperson". May 13 - 4:30pm CT. Ascension previously reported that it experienced a ransomware attack that has caused disruptions to patient care in its network. Our priority remains on providing safe patient care.

  28. Shock Miss USA resignations are just the tip of the iceberg ...

    But in a resignation letter provided to the Miss USA organization and obtained by CNN, Voigt outlined a number of concerns, ranging from frustrating managerial issues to more serious allegations ...