Chapter 7: Making the Most of the Sample Personal Statements and Commentary

Published November 2009

Read the personal statement samples in this book carefully. They are categorized according to both structure and topic, since either can be the main organizing force. Notice that many statements fit into multiple categories. Each statement has been assigned a number out of ten (ten being the highest) and a letter grade, evaluating its success based on the style and content issues discussed in Part One. Notice that the statements with the longest lists in the category “Committee Appeal” generally receive the highest scores. It is important to read both good examples and bad examples of personal statements so that you know what works and what to avoid. The commentary will help you understand the concepts and categories the introduction discussed. Study the commentary or, better yet, come up with your own response to each statement before reading the book’s commentary. Can you tell the difference between a sentence that uses a logical appeal from an emotional appeal? Are you able to identify which structure or combination of structures each writer has chosen to use? Can you differentiate between a weak and a strong sentence? Can you identify ways that even the best essays might still be improved? Ideally, a personal statement will show all of the following qualities in the applicant; these are the main accomplishments and attributes that appeal to the admissions committee:

  • Intellectual Excellence
  • Tangible Impact on Individuals or Groups
  • Good Leadership Skills
  • Pro-Active Starter Skills
  • Real World Experience
  • Ability to See Multiple Perspectives on Issues
  • Attributes that Make the Applicant Unique

This is one of the most important lists in this guide. Aim to give the admissions committee specific examples of how you possess these qualities. Tie these examples together with a common theme, and you are well on your way to a great personal statement.


» Continue to Chapter 8: The Personal Narrative (Structure)
« Back to Chapter 6: The Personal Statement Checklist