I have never considered myself much of a creative writer. The “right” words just never seemed to come to me. However, I’ve always loved the visual arts—drawing and painting in particular. In every art class, the most challenging assignment was always the self-portrait. It was easy to capture a still life with a pencil or paintbrush but the same could not be said for myself.
The personal statement reminds me of the self-portrait in art class as it is often the most challenging writing assignment for students. How do you decide what to write about? How do you capture what makes you “you” in 1,000 words while simultaneously grabbing the attention of an admissions committee?
The next series of blog posts will give you ideas on how to overcome writer’s block and write a standout personal statement.
The first step is journal to help you brainstorm. Students often don’t realize how many interesting and unique qualities and experiences they actually have. Before diving into the personal statement, I encourage you to get out a journal and start writing just to brainstorm. Below are some prompts to help get you thinking about everything that makes you the person you are today. These are not meant to be your actual personal statement, so don’t worry about grammar and organization. Just let the ideas flow. Then, you can look back at the journal and see if some ideas for a personal statement start forming.
- What are your favorite hobbies? How did you become interested in them?
- What was the best day of your life? Why was it so great?
- What was your most embarrassing moment?
- What is your favorite food? Describe the experience of eating it to someone who has never tried it. Be as descriptive as possible. What does it taste like, look like, smell like, feel like? Do you eat it with your hands, a fork and knife, chopsticks, etc?
- In what place do you feel most at peace? Describe that place in detail. Is it somewhere you travelled? Is it a well-loved family place like your grandparent’s house or a vacation home?
- What makes you “you”?
- Who has been the most influential person in your life?
- Do you play a sport? Was there a very challenging or inspiring day through the course of participating in this sport?
- What experiences have shook you to your core? Have you had an experience that has made you question what you believed or stood for up to that point?
- What was the most difficult obstacle that you have overcome at this point in your life?
- Look around your room. What are some of your most treasured items? What makes them special? Is there a story about how you got them? Did an important person give them to you? Do they speak to your culture or heritage?
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