A Fresh Take on Writing The Personal Statement

When crafting a personal statement — whether it’s for a college application, an internship, or prospective employer — the writer knows to draw from real experiences, to call on memory and nostalgia to serve as the core of their work. It is, after all, a personal statement.

The writer will look back on their accolades, awards, and accomplishments over the years, thinking of ways to weave the experiences into the fabric of the statement. For some, this train of thought is a successful endeavor. For others, try as they might, they just cannot piece together a statement that is functional while still being creative, professional while still pouring a bit of themselves into the passage.

It can certainly be difficult at times to promote yourself, for better or for worse.

Happy moments and positive episodes will give a writer plenty, if not seemingly too much, to write about. Too much to digest. There is so much room for fluff and for ways to spin the story ‘just right’ so that, while it was a ‘terrific night,’ one still thinks that they can portray the moment as being EVEN BETTER. Ah yes, a yearning to take something great to make it EVEN BETTER — a well-known characteristic of everyone today. Add these words and we’ll make that essay even better. Stand in this light and the photo will come out even better. Use that filter on Instagram and the picture will come out even better.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. Except that now you’ve spent so much time perfecting your statement that it is due tomorrow, and somehow you haven’t even come close to finishing it yet.

At almost no such time will the writer consider drafting a statement that had a negative outcome in their lives. They will not look back on an obstacle that they had to overcome, or a loss that made them stronger. The writer does not realize that, oftentimes, writing about the bad in one’s life can indeed make for a more powerful statement. This is not to be a downer, or to darken your mood…it’s actually the opposite. Even though you probably do not want to think about past negativity, it’s easier for us to write about these events — the words will ultimately be more concise and clear. You will not be puffing up your experience to make it seem like it had dream land qualities. Instead, you will be genuine, crisp, and true, both to yourself and your reader. The real you will be reflected on the page, and the fact that ‘you made it’, that you survived, will reflect your resilient nature and the fact that you grew from the experience.

Go a step further and put yourself in the reader’s shoes. What statements would stand out to you? The hundreds of essays where everything went right for the writers? Or the one or two pieces where the writer had a tough time, had to fight through adversity, and is now a better, stronger person because of it? The statement of positives may read like a structured resume of talent and skill, but the statement that portrays the applicant negotiating difficulty is much more powerful to read and proves to the school, or the employer, that this individual is up for a challenge and will not wilt in a moment of hardship. Those are the statements that are certainly more memorable.

Originally published at www.leonardandrew.com.

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