Personal Statement: Building Your Essay

In my last personal statement post I went over getting started, but it was just that. A start. In this next installment, we’re going to get to the meat of the situation and how to build up your personal statement. By adding some body. It’s what we’re here for.

Know how long your statement should be

Most personal statements have a word limit, but if they don’t they usually shouldn’t be too much longer than a single-spaced page because people just don’t want to read more than that. Chances are they have to read a lot of statements and if yours is 4 pages long, they’re going to toss it. If you’re aware of the limits at hand, then it is easier to not go horrifically over. Being under is easy to remedy, but it can be a real challenge to pare down, especially if you wrote something you really liked.

Follow your 3rd grade format

INTRO – BODY – CONCLUSION. It’s back and better than ever, the standard essay format! Yes, this is the system you should use for a personal statement (unless you’re going for an abstract statement, then go nuts). It may seem basic but it’s the best way to make a point and support it in an organized fashion that is easy to read and follow. Of course, you can go outside the box and get a little more creative with your formatting and style but it will be much easier to build your idea if you start with the base instructions.

Figure out where the heft will come from

The majority of your essay needs to come from somewhere, so whip out that list of ideas you came up with earlier in this exercise and start looking through it with fresh eyes. Maybe not even your eyes. Maybe many eyes. Point being, start filtering through your ideas and pulling out stuff that really calls to you, stuff you could really rant about it if you had to. And make sure you like it.

Play with multiple topics to see if they go

Much like fashion, writing isn’t about matching, it’s about things that can go together in new and thought-provoking way to create interest. So you might want to write about certain leadership position but also incorporate your love of mountain climbing. Who says you can’t bring these seemingly unrelated ideas together? Maybe they work, and maybe they won’t but you won’t know until you try them out. It’s some of the fun in writing.

Use the formula of topic à explanation à evidence

Once you figure out what ideas you’d like to use in your self-exploration the next step is to support those topics. Now, it seems like something of this nature could get wordy and take up valuable space, but it’s important that you give your writing the intention it needs to convince someone to take interest in you. Because really, that’s what a personal statement is all about. For example; Helping people write essays makes me happy (topic) because helping people learn to write and express themselves in a way that benefits them is incredibly important to me (explanation). I have extensive experience in writing and editing both technically and creatively (evidence). You don’t need to do this for every single point, just the ones you really need to get across. You can also change the actual formatting around if you’re feeling feisty and if the flow works.

Don’t be afraid to write many different versions of the same thing.

The whole idea of getting started early on your personal statement is so that you can flesh it out and make something amazing that represents you. It’s like anything else that requires creativity to stand out. That’s right, creativity and fresh ideas can be practiced and honestly it’s how some of the best ideas become great solid pieces. It takes a lot of variations and changes to get something that looks like inspiration feels.


If you’re at this point, congrats. You made it through the important part of your personal statement. There’s still aways to go, like working out form and style and getting it properly edited, but those can be worked in and around what it is you want to say. This is what will make them want more and maybe to take a chance on you.

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