Personal statement tips on beginnings and endings
As with many important documents, the beginnings and endings of personal statements can be by far the trickiest parts. Ramping up to such a decisive piece of writing - and one that’s so short - can be a real challenge. And finding a memorable and impactful way to sum up succinctly is also difficult! Luciana had some great insights though.
The crux of it is quite simple. Students should try to tap into authenticity and inspiration, and carefully balance the two.
What does that mean in practice? Well, while it’s a good idea for students to bring in figures and ideas that have spurred their interest, they shouldn’t let their own voices be drowned out.
Luciana recalls her experiences of reading personal statements in which - as is natural - students were really keen to impress their readers. They therefore chose to begin their statements with “a very grand introduction” which mentions “Martin Luther King, or Gandhi, or other big names in history and things they have said.”
While admissions reps are certainly keen to know what moves students, and are impressed with their being well-read, these introductions can easily become too long and give too many words away to the students’ idols rather than keeping the focus on themselves and the course they want to study. That should be their starting point: what do they want to study and why?
For Luciana, beginning with somebody else’s words isn’t the best move, but she has found effective examples of students using that approach for their ending.
“I personally like when students conclude their statement with a saying from an author, that relates to the story they’ve told me [within their statement].” That story is who that student is, their academic and career goals, and what motivates them.
Another good personal statement tip to avoid what Luciana admits has become something of a cliche is to get a bit more specific with the people students choose to reference. Instead of huge names like the ones she mentioned, students should consider referencing big names within their field. What are some recently published works in their subject that students found really interesting and engaging?
Bonus points if the academic works at one of the institutions they’re applying to!
Again, whoever they reference students need to focus on their reaction to the work. The main thing to avoid is getting lost in somebody else’s words, ideas or story. It’s a personal statement after all!
For students who don’t want to bring in outside voices, other compelling conclusions can be:
- Their expectations of the course/university life/their long-term aspirations
- An ending to a personal story they’ve alluded to
- A simple summing up of what they’ve written