College Admissions Essays - Advice on the Personal Statement

College Admissions Essays - Advice on the Personal Statement
In the application process, the personal statement marks an opportunity to lend a face to the

facts, through what can be a very flat colorless medium: paper and ink. Do not, however, think

of the personal statement as a mini-autobiography, where the emphasis is on listing the facts in

chronological order. Instead, treat the noun on equal par with the adjective; just as important as

the personal content of your essay is its ability to make a statement, to perform as an argument.
Generally speaking, to write in this difficult genre?the personal statement?you need to find a

balance between the descriptive and the analytical. Find ways to generalize out from your life

so that it speaks to others, but do not let abstract arguments supplant the specific detail that

lends authenticity to your beliefs. Narration, storytelling, example, and illustration are all

important rhetorical strategies that help your readers see a face or picture a scene.

Choosing what to write about is the first hard step, but ultimately what will prove more

important is not your handling of what but your attention to how and why. In short, the

personal statement is not a statement about your person; it is a statement about how you think

about your preparation, about your anticipated field, about events or theories someone else

could interpret differently. This is where your voice comes in: the committee reading your

statement wants to hear you think out loud about your selections.

The ultimate challenge becomes this: Can you shape your life, your education, your habits of

observation into an argument? The personal statement will require a combination of

vulnerability and editorial distance, emotional risk and intellectual objectivity. What will secure

this combination is 1) time spent pre-writing, brainstorming the content of the essay, and 2)

time spent revising the essay. Expect to produce multiple drafts to achieve a concise and

powerful personal statement.

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