Writing a Personal Essay

Personal Statement Tips

Writing a Personal Essay


The hardest essay I have ever had to write was the personal statement for my graduate school applications. It was so hard to know where to begin. You need to make it unique, memorable, persuasive, and professional.  Highlighting your accomplishments without sounding arrogant, and this is not an easy task.


In your first paragraph, you need to grab the reader’s attention.  It often helps if you tell a brief story, or include a favourite quote.  The goal is to make it interesting and personable. It is your chance to show your personality. You should conclude your first paragraph with the specific program you want to apply to and a few words about why. The body of your essay should describe any experiences that seem relevant. It is important to emphasize your unique role or contribution to a project, what you learned, and how it motivated you to submit this application.


You should end your essay with what you hope to do if accepted to the program. Describe your specific research interests and name a few researchers who you are hoping to work with. Be careful to name people who are all working on similar research topics. You don’t want to seem unfocused by wanting to work with researchers who are tackling completely different questions.


My advice is to start drafting your ideas early. I didn't write my essay in one sitting. I knew I had to write it and kept a pen and note pad with me for weeks. Whenever I felt inspired by something I would write down my thoughts, which was a huge help when I finally sat down to write.


Writing about yourself and your motivations should be easy, but my personal essay was one of the hardest and most important essays I have ever had to write.