Tips and Tricks

In addition to the information above, the following advice taken from Purdue's Online Writing Lab can also help you craft a captivating personal statement: 

Answer the questions that are being asked. This seems obvious, but if you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar. Don't be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It’s important to answer every question as specifically as possible, and if slightly different answers are needed, you need to write separate statements.

Tell a story. Create your application so that it shows and demonstrates who you are through concrete experiences, stories, and examples. One of the worst things you can do is bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourself memorable.

Be specific. Don't, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to become a lawyer, dentist, etc., should be logical and the result of concrete experience that is described in your statement. Your application should emerge as a rational conclusion to your story.

Concentrate on your opening paragraph. The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It’s here that you either grab the reader's attention…or lose it. This paragraph also serves as the framework for the rest of the statement.

Tell what you know. While being as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field, be sure to use the profession’s jargon to convey this information. Refer to experiences (work, research, etc.), classes, conversations with people in the field, books you've read, seminars you've attended, or any other source of detailed information about the career you want and why you're suited for it.

There are certain subjects you should avoid. References to experiences or accomplishments in high school (or earlier) are generally not a good idea to mention in a personal statement for graduate or professional school, focus on something more recent. Avoid potentially controversial subjects (for example, religious or political issues). If your reader disagrees with you, your application may be unfairly scrutinized.

Do your research. If a school wants to know why you're applying to their school rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention.

Pay attention to the technicality of your writing. Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits.

Avoid clichés. A medical school applicant who says that he’s good at science and wants to help other people isn’t exactly expressing an original thought. Stay away from often-repeated or tired statements and stories.