What To Write Your Personal Statement On

By: Samantha Baugh

Campus Sherpa Blog Contributor, New York University 

It seems like every year that writing a “good” personal statement falls under narrower and narrower categories. You aren’t supposed to write about a struggle that is too cliché, you aren’t supposed to write about something too typical, you aren’t supposed to showboat your accomplishments. However on the other side you are somehow supposed to write about your greatest intellectual achievement but make it spiritual and unique without it sounding like a Lifetime movie.

The truth is writing your personal statement, a good one, is much easier than it seems. Okay, maybe in retrospect now that I’m in university it seems like that. I think I may have gone through a handful of ideas before I figured out what and more importantly how I was going to write on.

The hot tip for a personal statement is simple: write about something you actual care about. If you genuinely care about the impressive non-profit you started, absolutely do it. If you genuinely care about how playing football changed your life, absolutely do it. If you genuinely care about cooking hot dogs on Sundays, absolutely do it. The trick with personal statements is not really about the topic, but how clearly your passion for it, whatever it is, comes through the page.

My own personal statement was about how I love watching movies. It was not about how I love making movies or coming up with stories (which are both true) but how I just enjoy watching them, and watching them with people I love. It worked because it was honest. It worked because it was something I actually dedicated my time and thoughts to. If you love what you are talking about, it will show.

Granted, that cannot be the only thing carrying your statement. Coming up with a creative way to tell your story is also very helpful. With my own statement I started it by setting a scene at a dinner table like I was describing shots in a film. It connected my passion to the style of the writing. Keep in mind your writing skills are what they are looking at the most on this statement. So, if you come up with a creative way to hook them in, it’s perfect. These admissions officers are reading personal statements all the time, give them something that will feel refreshing.

I will relent, you won’t want to get too liberal with that. You cannot write a five word poem or a bunch of letters arranged creatively that make up a literal picture of your passion. However poignant that may be, it won’t hit the word limit and it won’t tell them anything about your writing.

You can’t phone in the personal essay. Proofread it at least three times. Get a second opinion, maybe even a third. It would be good to get at least one person who doesn’t know you too well. That way, you can see what your statement looks like to a stranger. After all, it will be a stranger reading it in the end. It is called personal for a reason. Show them what you are really like as a person. No matter how talented a writer you are, if what you are writing about doesn’t stand out in your own life, you won’t stand out to the school.


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