Personal vs. practical: How private to get in your PS?

There is a fine line between an essay that’s bold enough to make a lasting mark on the admission committee, and one that oversteps the boundaries.


A personal statement’s goal is to give the reader a glimpse of your personality. This can be done by sharing a story from your upbringing, a challenge you overcame, or a special interest that makes you unique. Basically, the school wants to see if you can be descriptive and interesting while sharing traits about yourself that demonstrate why you are a good candidate.


This does not mean to pull out your diary and write about your first breakup or your tennis tournament when you were 7. Stay relevant and focused.


It’s okay to write about events that were difficult for you, but only if you feel like you’ve learned, and grown into a better person because of them. You can write about your parents' divorce or a particularly difficult time if you can relate it to how you overcame the struggles these events posed.


DO: Be engaging. Set the stage for your reader and begin the essay with a feeling. Describe the emptiness you felt after being rejected from a club, or the smell of the grass as you laid down after scoring the winning goal. Then, build the rest of the essay around how you came back from, or reached, that particular moment.


If you are having a hard time sharing how you learned from an experience, it might be better to switch topics. That is not to say that you haven’t learned something from a hard situation, it just means that maybe you’re still struggling with it, or it needs more introspection- off paper.


So, to test if your personal statement is sharing too much without giving enough positive explanation, ask the question: what does this say about me?


If the answer is not directly answerable by a line or paragraph in your essay, it’s time to start from scratch.


You want to be sure that whatever you chose to talk about demonstrates good qualities about yourself and your personality. The reader should finish your essay and be able to describe you in at least two words based off of what you’ve shared in your statement.


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