How To Write A Personal Statement (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 6, 2021
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No matter what your next step in your career is, writing a powerful personal statement will help you advance yourself. Whether you want to apply to college, graduate programs, or a competitive job, writing a persuasive personal statement will give you a leg up over the other applicants.

There are plenty of instances where writing a personal statement will come in handy. Sometimes you’re given a prompt, and you need to decide what direction you’ll take. Other times you need to conform to a stricter prompt with clear expectations. No matter the personal statement, we’re here to help you stand out from the crowd.

What Is a Personal Statement?

Personal statements are a chance for you to show an admissions board or a hiring committee what makes you special outside of your resume. Think of it like an in-depth cover letter where you get to explain your skills, qualifications, desires, and personality to convince someone to hire or admit you.

Writing a clear and persuasive personal statement will give you an advantage in the selection process. You’ll want to make sure that whatever you submit is well-written and convincing so you can show your mastery of skills.

When you’re writing a personal statement for a school application, you’ll usually have a few paragraphs to get your point across. These prompts tend to be more open-ended and give you a chance to explain why you want to attend that school, how you align with their program, and why you are an excellent fit for the school’s culture.

Similarly, you might need to write a personal statement for a grant or scholarship application. In those cases, you want to make sure you align your values and purpose with the providers. These can be tricky to write, but they’re like a careful balance between personal statements for school and work.

For work-related personal statements, you’ll want to focus on your skills and qualifications more than your personality. Employers are more concerned with how you can meet their skill requirements. Professional personal statements tend to be shorter, so there’s less space to talk about anything but your qualifications.

How to Write a Personal Statement

When you’re ready to write your statement, there are a few ways you can approach it. We’re going to go over a seven-step process so you can keep your thoughts organized and work through a process. Feel free to switch up the method, so it works for you.

  1. Understand the prompt. Before you put pen to paper, make sure you understand the prompt and what is being asked of you. If there’s a specific prompt you need to respond to, make sure you frame your thinking that way instead of just choosing a topic.

  2. Brainstorm. You’ll also want to think of some ideas and an outline before you start writing. Think about how you can answer the prompt you’re given and what unique experiences you can bring to the table. It would help if you came up with a list of ideas to narrow down your options to the best one. The more options you have, the better off you’ll be.

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time
    Internship
    Temporary
  3. Narrow it down. An excellent way to pick your final approach to draft a statement would be to jot down a few sentences for each idea you had. This helps you tell what topic is easiest to write about or what you feel most confident. No matter how you narrow down your ideas, you need to settle on the strongest one to convey your qualifications.

  4. Start with an intro. Once you’re ready to write, you’ll want to write your opening paragraph first. This is a chance for you to introduce yourself and let people know who you are. Try to keep this paragraph short since it’s just an intro, and you’ll have more space to get into your qualifications in the next paragraph.

  5. Write about your qualifications. When you write about your skills, make sure you align them with the job description or the program’s goals or university. You can expand this section to a few paragraphs (if word count allows) and be sure to cover your achievements, qualifications, skills, talents, goals, and what you can bring to the program or organization.

  6. Sum up your argument. Your statement is a persuasive argument for why the committee should pick you. It should be a compelling summary of your qualifications, and it should show that you have a clear desire to work for the company. To make this strong, you should summarize your qualifications, discuss your long term goals and how those experiences all align with each other.

  7. Proofread. Look for any spelling or grammar errors and check to make sure your writing is clear and concise. Cut out anything that doesn’t fit or help paint a good picture of what kind of student or employee you are. You might want to show your draft to a few people to ensure everything sounds right.

Tips for Writing a Strong Personal Statement

No matter what approach you take to writing your statement, a few things hold. We’ll give you some tips to make your statement stand out from the rest.

  • Write to your audience. Chances are you have a good idea of who will be reading your application and personal statement, so try to gear your writing toward them. Think of what will persuade or impress them and incorporate that into your writing.

  • Stay truthful. It might be tempting to exaggerate the truth or smudge a little bit, but make sure you stay truthful. If you claim to have skills or experience that you don’t have and land the job, it might be pretty easy to tell that your writing doesn’t exactly align with your experience.

  • Tell a story. If you can, try to weave your narrative into a story. Not only will it be more engaging for your reader, but it will also show if you can use your skill to create a story. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but tying everything together into a narrative will impress your readers.

  • Use your voice. To make your statement more personal and unique, you should write in your voice. Don’t try to copy examples of statements you find or let your editor drown out what makes you unique. Make sure you keep your personality and qualifications front and center since it’s a personal statement.

  • Get specific. Instead of generally talking about skills you have, find ways to show your reader when you used those skills. Being specific and giving examples will make your argument more compelling and show your reader that you’re a master.

  • Use simple language. Since personal statements are so short, it’s not the time for long and complex sentences. Keep it concise and easy to read. You don’t want to risk confusing your reader since committees usually have a few minutes to consider your candidacy, and you don’t want to lose their attention.

Powerful Personal Statement Examples

If you need to write a professional personal statement, here’s a sample you can model yours after:

As a recent graduate of State University with a B.A. in Communications, I am prepared to take what I have learned in the classroom and bring my work ethic and go-getter attitude to ABC Company. I believe that I have the skills and experience to excel as a Marketing Coordinator from my first day. My classes in Digital Communication, Social Media Marketing, and Business Management and my work as Outreach Chair of the university newspaper have prepared me to take on responsibilities as I learn more about the field. I also believe that my dedication to animal welfare aligns with the ABC Company’s goal of finding loving homes for all of their foster pets and makes me especially interested in this position.

If you’re applying to a graduate program, here’s an example of a short personal statement that can help you land an acceptance letter.

From the moment I stepped into the lab, smelled the clean scent of fresh lab coats, and saw the beakers glistening under the light, I felt an excitement to learn that hasn’t left me since. Each time I enter the lab, I feel the same flutter of my heart and a sense of purpose. I want to continue to chase this feeling while contributing to a broader scientific knowledge catalog, which I know the Graduate Biology Program at City University will allow me to do.

I want to continue the research I started in college on communicable diseases while gaining a critical education. City University’s program emphasizes in-class and hands-on learning, a perfect combination for my learning style.

As a graduate of State University with a B.S. in Biology, I have the foundation to build my knowledge and experience. While at State University, I worked in a lab researching the efficacy of a new flu vaccine. There, I managed other student researchers, worked as a liaison between the professor running the lab and students and managed the data reports. I am ready to bring my extensive experience to City University classrooms while learning from my peers.

I am eager to begin the coursework at City University, and I believe I am uniquely prepared to contribute to the campus culture and research efforts. I look forward to stepping into City University’s lab in the fall and feeling the familiar excitement that drives me to pursue a graduate program and learn more about public health.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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