Getting Personal: Writing Effective Personal Statements
The Process of Writing an Effective Personal Statement
Scott R. Furtwengler
Dean, Honors Program, San Jacinto College
What is a personal statement?
Focus on the approach to the content of your
personal statement: Your Vision
The general, comprehensive personal
statement (a.k.a., goal statement, course-of-
Responses to specific questions, for example:
Describe a book that you’ve recently read.
Did it affect you? How?
An indication of priorities and judgment
An academic paper with you as the subject
A résumé in narrative form
A journal entry
A plea or justification
Answer the questions that are asked
Tell your story. Show rather than tell.
Be specific. Strive for depth, not breadth
Concentrate on your opening
Write well and correctly. Proofread!
Address setbacks, if necessary
Adhere to word limits and formatting
Revise. Revise. Revise.
Don’t use clichés or hyperbole
Don’t list or restate information from your
résumé or other material
Don’t use the same essay for each college
Don’t complain or whine
Don’t discuss money as a motivator
Don’t submit supplemental material unless
requested (papers, letters of support, etc.)
In 1,000 words, explain….
Your dreams, goals, aspirations
Your career goals
Your educational goals
Why you are applying to our program
What can be?
What should be?
Lund & Finch, Lessons in Leadership Mostly Learned
the Hard Way (1987)
What challenges and obstacles have taught
you something important about yourself?
When have you been so immersed in what
you were doing that time seemed to
evaporate while you were actively absorbed?
What ideas, books, theories, or movements
have made a profound effect on you?
Who are the influential people in your life,
To what extent do your current commitments
reflect your core values?
Where or how do you spend most of your
Under what conditions do you do your best or
most creative work?
To what extent are you a typical product of
your generation or culture? How might you
deviate from the norm?
What is your potential within your proposed
major? Within the college? Why?
In what ways will this education benefit you?
What do you bring to the table?
How do your core values align with theirs?
What about the institution appeals to you?
Why are you choosing it from other
Address the school’s unique features that
Do some research: websites; promotional
material; campus visits; and conversations
with current students, alumni, faculty, and
Read it out loud
Let others who will give you honest feedback
The Personal Statement
Examples of statements
Advice from admissions officers
Top 10 Rules and Pitfalls
Perfect Personal Statements by Mark Alan
How to Write a Winning Personal Statement
for Graduate and Professional School by
Richard Stelzer, 1989.
Scott R. Furtwengler
Dean, Honors Program, SJC