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June 15, 2021

Writing an Effective College Personal Statement


Your personal statement is a critical component of your college application. But why is this so? You have your grades and possibly your SAT/ACT/Subject Tests. Shouldn’t they tell the full story? Well….. perhaps in India, China or Japan where objective measures determine your ascent and collegiate trajectory. In America, colleges use a holistic approach to admissions. In other words, they look at the whole applicant. Not just the students academics, but their growth and potential, their primary interests and activities, their character, values and likely contributions. Universities want to get to know you, the candidate, in a deep and personal way. The personal statement is one way to accomplish this. So let’s dive in!


  • The Persuasive Essay
  • Brainstorming
  • The Outline
  • Showing and not Telling a Story
  • Mistakes to Avoid


  • The Persuasive Essay


  • Your primary goal with the personal statement is to convey a clear message as to why you’ve chosen your academic and career path, and why; what truly matters to you and how do you know this; and how does college allow you to accomplish your long-term goals. It’s that simple.


  • Fundamentally, you must highlight your values and describe the influences (experiences) and the influencers (mentors) that inspire you to pursue your chosen career. The purpose of the persuasive essay is to get the admissions committee to agree with your premise, that you are a worthy candidate for acceptance into their freshmen class. It is that simple. It just isn’t easy!


  • Brainstorming


  • Often it is worthwhile to go back in time, think about middle school, high school and college for experiences that introduced, confirmed and reaffirmed your decision to learn a particular field of endeavor. Having done this, and after reflection, you’ll discover meaningful events that validate your.


  • The Outline


  • Next, you’ll need to put your thoughts to paper in a way like the table of contents in the beginning of a book. This outline provides you a map, a process for making your case that you’ve given due dilligence to your decision to attend medical school. The first paragraph might begin with a quote or an interesting anecdote that precedes your all-important thesis statement that clearly states your past, current and future as it relates to life as a physician. Each subsequent paragraph validates and substantiates your thesis statement, making your case just as a lawyer does in the courtroom.


  • Showing and not telling your Story


  • The key here is using description and action to assist the reader experience your story. The less compelling way to convey your story is to tell it. Telling is when the author summarizes or merely explains their story leading the narrative to appear “third hand,” as opposed to a personal statement.


  • Mistakes to Avoid


  • Neglecting to answer the question
  • Failing to state your thesis statement early and clearly
  • Appearing arrogant or bragging
  • Providing few details
  • Failing to describe your values, interests, lessons learned and your goals and long-term vision
  • Declining to highlight your strengths and providing clear evidence of your understanding of the profession you say you are committed to
  • Appearing to lack self-awareness
  • Overthinking, overcrafting, and overwriting


If you need assistance with your personal statement or AMCAS application, including interview skills, contact Dr. Richardson at mrichardson@ivybound.com  or text to 609.608.6258.