A personal statement is often required when applying to universities, fellowships, grants, and sometimes companies. It is a short essay about your history and goals. It should both have your own story as well as your aspirations in life. Writing personal statements could be frustrating and tiring. Here’s a list of dos and don’ts that you could follow when writing your personal statement:

1. Do Tell Your Own Story

This personal statement is the basis for the college administrators and employers to get to know you. Don’t be afraid to show them who you are by talking about your own story. Tell them something that is unique and specific about you to make your personal statement memorable to your readers. Make sure that the story that you are telling relates to the goals that you want to achieve.

2. Do Highlight Your Skills

Most of the time, we are embarrassed to brag about our strengths, but when writing your personal statement, this is the time to highlight all your skills. Remember, you are selling yourself. You won’t be able to sell yourself by saying things like “I’m not good in math” or “I don’t work well under pressure”. Instead of talking about your weaknesses, focus on the positive attributes that make you qualified. Show the administrators what makes you better than your competitors and why they should accept you.

3. Do Make Your Goals Clear

When stating the reason why that university or program is for you, make sure that you are writing a clear goal. Saying things like “I want to hone my skills” is very generic. Administrators or employers want to know exactly what skills you are talking about. For example, you are applying for a creative writing program. You could write something like, “I want to be able to produce good quality writings and articles in the future”.

4. Do Be Specific

These administrators and employers have read hundreds of personal statements. In order to make sure that your personal statement stands out, be specific about your experiences, skills, and goals. Write things that are specifically about you. Shy away from writing generic stuff that you read everywhere, like saying, “I want to be a great doctor” or “I’m very skilled”. Instead, state exactly what specific skill you possess and what specific kind of doctor you want to be.

5. Do Read, Revise and Reread

Just like every important essay that you have written, make sure that you read your personal statement and make necessary adjustments to your writing. First drafts are usually still awkward. Don’t be disheartened or stress too much about it. Make all the revisions that you want and keep on reading it until you feel satisfied. Remember that your personal statement is what administrators look at to know if they’re going to accept you. Keep them interested and focused by having a well-written personal statement. So make sure that you give your all for this writing.

With all the things that you should do when writing your personal statement, keep in mind that there are things that you should try to avoid too.

1. Don’t Use Too Many Words

Most personal statements tend to have a word count. Don’t waste your words by using it to make your personal statement look wordy. Administrators and employers go through a lot of personal statements, and they will quickly drop your work if it’s too wordy and hard to read. Make sure that your writing is entertaining and straight to the point. You don’t need to use big flowery words to make your writing look pretty. Be concise and use fewer words when writing your personal statement.

2. Don’t Lie

It could be tempting to write false statements that will make you look good on your application, but lying is just not worth it. Your personal statement should only contain things that are true about you. Don’t write that you know how to speak multiple languages or that you were the captain of the football team if these are not true. These lies will catch up on you in the future. So just don’t do it. You have great attributes that will sell you in these programs and universities. There’s no need to make up false statements to get them to accept you.

3. Don’t Write About Sensitive Topics 

Avoid writing topics that will make your readers feel awkward or uncomfortable. Keep in mind that they are strangers who are getting to know you. There could be experiences that have happened to you like domestic or sexual abuse that you want to write to show your strength and resiliency, but these topics are just too sensitive to write in a brief personal statement. Not that these experiences are unimportant, but it’s better to write something positive and uplifting to leave your readers a positive note.

4. Don’t Procrastinate

Personal statements could feel very hard to start, but it’s best to start on it right away. Starting on your writing is actually the hardest part, the rest just comes easy. Giving yourself an ample amount of time to write your personal statement gives you the upper hand. Having time gives you the pleasure to revise your drafts multiple times until you feel satisfied with it. Writing without time pressure will help you write in a more relaxed way, thus providing you with better output. Plus, you wouldn’t be so stressed about it if you’ve already done it.

Your personal statement should feel like you. Remember, you are applying to an organization that is the best fit for you. Administrators want to read something about you and not something that you think they want to read. Write a compelling story that will get your readers hooked and understand why you are drawn to their university, fellowship, or organization. Show them why you are worth accepting. Keep in mind, though, that your writing should embody you. If it doesn’t, then maybe you should rewrite it into something that will show who you really are.