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How to Write Your Personal Statement

Ivy Divider

So you want to know how to write your personal statement, huh? Well, let me tell you this: the best personal essays tell a story. And like all good stories, they have (drumroll, please) a beginning, a middle, and an end. As you pull the notes from your brainstorm into your outline, think about the order of events.

Where is the turning point? What is the lesson? What should an admissions officer know about you or the situation upfront for proper context? What should they remember about you when they finish reading your essay?

Once you determine these answers, you can figure out how to write your personal statement and work to set up the key points by building dramatic tension. The heart of your message will often be revealed, or at least start to unveil itself, about ¾ of the way through your essay.

Maybe breaking your leg in a pogo sticking accident taught you a lesson about balance and led you to develop a plan to bring more literal and figurative balance to your life. Maybe you should let the admissions officer know that you made a full recovery and invented pogo stick yoga (or poga).

The order in which you reveal these events does not have to be the order in which they occurred, but it does have to emphasize the point you find most valuable: was it your ability to draw inspiration from your life or your resilience in the face of broken bones?

Are you sure want to start your story at the chronological beginning of the action? Maybe you want to begin with the ending and flashback to the events that led up to your opening paragraph. Perhaps you want to dive right into the middle of the action and unpeel the story from the inside out.

However you decide to write your personal statement, be sure to identify a main point and organize the rest of your story around it. And don’t look down on or outright dismiss the classic chronological layout. Some of the best college essays ever submitted have taken the form of a straightforward and insightful personal story, thoughtfully told.

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