The US personal statement is a unique essay within the higher education landscape. Though most universities across the globe want a writing sample to assess your academic ability and interest in a specific course, US universities ask for a personal narrative that highlights key values and qualities that you will bring to the university community. Writing this essay will require a significant shift in your thinking about yourself in terms of your university ambitions.
Though this shift in emphasis may seem strange there are good reasons for this different approach. The US university application review process is holistic—meaning an admissions committee will take into account your grades and test scores but will also carefully review your extracurricular activities, work experience, teacher recommendations, and essays. Though your grades are the cornerstone of your application, these other components carry significant weight and should be thoughtfully developed and finely honed as well. In particular, the personal statement is an opportunity to share something about your character, personality, and life experience that makes you unique and an ideal candidate for a university.
A-List UK college consultants work with students to craft compelling personal statements to help them get accepted to Ivy League schools and other selective US universities. Our college advising programme recommends the following when crafting a US personal statement.
Personal Statement: Necessary Features
Regardless of the personal statement’s topic and structure, every successful personal statement will have:
- Personal reflection: Though your essay may address a topic you are passionate about (the environment for example) or may tell the reader about how a music teacher shaped your love for the piano, the essay must also incorporate thoughtful personal reflection about your values and who you are, not just what you do.
- Vivid details: Even if you are writing a conceptually rich personal statement, a successful essay will contain vivid details so the reader can imagine you and what you are doing and thinking. Your writing should be filled with visual rich details which will metaphorically transport the reader from the scene of reading to the where, when, and what you are describing.
- Clear examples: Though this essay works to present your values and qualities that will appeal to admissions committees, these intangible personal traits must be tied to real life examples! Saying you are dedicated to others isn’t as compelling as describing in detail a time you were self-sacrificing in order to meet another person’s needs. As with an academic paper that requires evidence for your claims, your personal statement requires the evidence of concrete examples for claims about your character.
- Clear takeaways: Though the structure and content of your essay may look very different than other personal statements, every successful personal statement as clearly identifiable takeaway points for the reader. This essay serves to prove why you would be a wonderful addition to the larger university community and the reader will not work to interpret or decipher why that is— rather—it should be made obvious. This isn’t a mystery genre!
If you are planning on applying to selective US universities, A-List UK college advising team can help. Our Webinar Library has a great video on the US Personal Statement! Also, if you want personalised support, schedule a private consultation with one of our expert college advisors.