I recently came across some guidelines for the personal statement on website of the Dutton E-Education Institute for Penn State that I thought were worth sharing for students just diving into writing their main college essays.

Here's a quick share of the four main ways to view your personal statement:

  1. It's a picture. Provide a snapshot of who you are as a person.
  2. It's an invitation. Your job is to "bridge the assumed distance of strangers." Invite your reader to get to know you.
  3. It's an indication of your priorities & judgment. Your selection of material reveals your priorities & ability to discern effectively.
  4. It's a story, or more precisely, your story. The personal statement allows you room for creative, meaningful self-reflection.

Just as importantly are the four things a personal statement is NOT:

  1. An academic paper with you as the subject. The objective distance of academic writing disengages the reader from you in a personal statement.
  2. A resume in narrative form. Other parts of your application, which might include a resume, already tell readers about your accomplishments. A personal statement must reveal and interpret well beyond a resume.
  3. A journal entry. A common mistake is allowing your personal statement to read like a diary. Share only relevant material selectively, in a voice that remains both individual and professional.
  4. A plea or justification. Don't beg and don't defend the (incorrect) assertion that you are more worthy than other candidates—it only backfires.

Keep these guidelines in mind and PRESS ON!