A Formula for Turning Failure into Success in your PS

Personal Statement Tips

A Formula for Turning Failure into Success in your PS


The most important part about writing about disappointment and failures is about illustrating the success afterwards, not the negativity of both disappoint and failure. While writing about disappointment and failures is a very popular topic that many applicants touch on with their personal statements, this topic can still be very tricky to handle. Many applicants don’t do a good job of measuring just how much disappointment that they would want to put into their personal statements.


"If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate"- Thomas Watson, IBM


The reason why people write about disappointment/failure is usually that they want to illustrate a change in their personal histories for others to see. They want others to see how they have changed from disappointments/failures into successful figures. Therefore, it is very important that the applicant illustrate that type of change in her statement.


A common mistake that applicants make while writing about disappointment/failures is that they get caught up in developing and writing too much about how much of a disappointment/failure they used to be. This is not necessarily the write way to write because others are more interested of what kind of person the applicant is now as opposed of who she was before.


A good formula to go by when one decide to write about disappointment/failure is to split the total content of failure and success into three parts. The applicant should spend:

  • as much as around 1/3 of her essay talking about her past (disappoints/failures…)
  • the majority, or 2/3 of the rest of her essay talking about both the change and who she was after experiencing the disappointment/failure.
Again, do not get too caught up with talking about the disappointment/failure in the essay such that one starts rambling on with negativity. Focus on the change and positivity that were brought about as a direct result of the disappointment/failures.