Why are personal statements difficult to write? Being the sole expert in the subject matter of me, it should be a breeze to write a highlight reel. Alas, it is like drawing blood from a stone. It’s worse than sitting in the dentist’s chair.
The last time I wrote a personal statement for a university application, I was a sheltered eighteen year old girl with tall ambitions. Now, I am wiser, wealthier and womanly. Ok, that’s far-fetched, I’m a whole lot of woman and maybe a touch more wiser. At the very least, I have a wealth of work and life experiences to write about.
After staring at a blank computer screen for ages, I took the easy way out and googled how to write a personal statement.
Sell yourself. Highlight achievements. Make it interesting. Be concise. Show the admissions team why they should accept your application. Focus on relevant work and volunteering experiences.
How do you even sell yourself these days? I’ve been out of the game far too long being in my last job for almost a decade. And spruiking my strengths and achievements feels conceited and boastful. It doesn’t come naturally for me. After much deliberation, I wrote my first draft and read it to my husband for a second opinion.
“You’re a mature aged student. No one cares about your high school score or your university grades.” Slashed that section out.
“I think highlighting work experience and achievements isn’t necessary. It’s in your résumé.” Slashed that section out.
“It sounds like you’re trying too hard to sound clever. People will see right through that and think you’re a chump.” Simplified the language. Stopped googling synonyms for every second word.
“Get to the point. Don’t use unnecessary words.” Edited text to be more concise.
“Meticulous, quick to learn, independent… everyone uses them. The reader has probably read thousands of these.” Removed trite phrases and words. Tried to be original.
“Think of who might be reading this. Who is your audience? What are their incentives to say yes or no?”
At this point, I got mad at all the feedback and cracked the sads. I demanded my husband tell me the answer and stop trying to get me to think critically. I don’t know who will read my personal statement but they probably want people who are capable of completing the course and can pay the fees.
“What do they want to know about a non-school leaver who obviously has the capabilities to do the course?”
I scrapped the whole damn thing and started again. In fact, I scrapped many drafts and slept on it for a few more before it finally dawned on me.
Know your audience. Why am I applying? What has led me to this point? What is my story?
I left my job to become a primary caregiver to two young children and started volunteering at the local neighbourhood community centre. That is when this journey began and so that was where I started my personal statement.
I wrote about how I enjoyed the challenges of helping students from diverse backgrounds. I highlighted my admiration for the dedicated teachers who taught the courses. I chose to remove the fluff of achievements, work experiences and skills to simply express my passion in seeking a career in education. I showcased my desire to make a difference in the community and to help others.
Hopefully, by being authentic and truthful, whoever reads my personal statement will look beyond grades, scores and experiences to see the capable woman who is really excited for the next chapter of her life.
As proud as I am of what I’ve written as my personal statement and the lessons learned from the task, I’m nervous about the outcome. I’m checking the email every day for that rejection letter.
Update: I got in! Come July, I’ll be starting a course to become an adult and vocational educator. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I had the kind of courage needed to dr
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