Crafting the Perfect Personal Statement (EdUSA Webinar)

Hello and welcome to a short webinar hosted by the Commission for Educational Exchange between the United States, Belgium and Luxembourg. In addition to administering the Fulbright Programs for Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union, the Commission for Educational Exchange also offers educational advising for students in Belgium who are thinking about studying in the United States. EducationUSA makes applying to a U.S. college or university clear by identifying your five steps to U.S. Study. In today’s video, we’ll talk briefly about the personal statement, which is one of the most important parts of an undergraduate application. Is the personal statement really that important? According to an admissions official from Princeton University, “It’s possible to redeem yourself or to kill your chances of admission with the personal statement.

What’s most important to me is for the candidate to make a compelling case for himself or herself. I want to be persuaded that I should admit this person.” Your personal statement is an opportunity to present a well-rounded view of yourself, your past experiences, and your motivations for applying. It is a narrative statement describing how you have achieved your current goals and what your plans are for the future…not a mere summary of your resume! You should include information about education, practical experience, special interests, and career plans and try to describe any significant factors that have influenced your educational or professional development to this point. Before sitting down to write your personal statement, it may be helpful to reflect on your motivations. Some helpful questions include: Why are you applying (to this scholarship, program, position, etc.)?

What do you hope to get out of this experience? What are your long-term goals and how will this help you achieve them? How does your academic and professional experience make you a good candidate for this application? What would someone NOT know about you from looking at your CV or school transcript? It may be helpful to consider your personal statement as a story with a past, present, and future.

First, why are you interested in the subject or field? How do your past experiences demonstrate that you are a qualified candidate for this program? Second, why are you applying for this program now? And lastly, how do you plan to use this degree in the future?

As you begin writing, remember that your personal statement should be selective (include the right information and avoid superfluous details), original (be creative and sincere), and clear (express your ideas correctly and logically). Carnegie Mellon University suggests for students to choose a focus. An admissions representative says, “It should be unique. It does not have to be life shattering, but you should be able to write about it with conviction, enthusiasm and authority. It should be an experience you feel some passion for. You must be able to support it as a “turning point” in your life.

Ask yourself, “How did I change as a result of this experience?” For example, did it give you a new perspective or understanding, did it give you a new direction in life, or help you come to an important realization?” When writing the personal statement, consider these helpful hints. Be honest. You should put your best foot forward and feel comfortable to brag a little bit in your personal statement. However, it’s important to be honest: do not lie about your accomplishments! Embrace the narrative.

It’s important to tell a story or find a specific angle from which to approach your personal statement. Avoiding recapping information from your CV or application (e.g., test scores, biographical data) and opt for specific narrative examples. Proofread. For international students, your personal statement is yet another opportunity to prove your proficiency in English. Proofread to avoid grammatical errors, misspellings, etc.

One of the most valuable things you can do with your personal statement is to have an outside source edit it for you. Ask them to point out irrelevant information, repetitive passages, and statements that need to be clarified or reworded. A good personal statement should make the reader want to keep reading, give them a clear understanding of your motivations and experiences, and leave them with a positive impression. It is a good idea to avoid clichés and unnecessarily large vocabulary words! While using big words and wordy sentences might make you feel intelligent, the admissions office will not see it that way. Simpler language is preferable, as it clearly demonstrates that you can think and express yourself clearly – without resorting to a thesaurus!

Want to learn more about crafting the perfect personal statement? Do your research by perusing college and university websites, consulting non-profit educational organizations like The College Board, taking advantage of events in your home country, like Brussels College Night. Of course, you can always contact your local EducationUSA Advising Center for personalized advice. Good luck!