1. Multiple people should read itThe best part about beginning your personal statement early on is that you can ask more than one person to read it. This is an excellent way to receive outside opinions about your admissions essay. It is also easier to ask an editor to spend real quality time on your essay if he or she has an appropriate amount of time to work with it. For instance, if you give a teacher your personal statement the same week that 30 other students need their recommendation letters written, your essay will not get the same amount of attention that it would if you gave it to an instructor two months prior instead. This is also a great opportunity to connect with teachers and mentors who you may later ask to write you recommendation letters.
2. How you write matters more than what you writeYour ability to tell a story and write well is much more important than how incredible the story may be by itself. Giving yourself plenty of time to figure out how to accomplish this is crucial. Remember, however, that this is more so an opportunity to write about a cake-eating contest or your beloved dog—not to express your feelings about an almost-arrest or another inappropriate incident. Choose a topic that you can speak volumes about, and note that this may mean you need to begin by writing a number of different essays. Your personal statement should answer the prompt, be relevant to you as a person, remain accurate (i.e. no lies), and be clearly written. Staying true to your voice, or keeping your personal writing voice present within the essay, is also important within reason. Try to keep your overall story arc in mind—the story should be set up, reach a climax, and then finish with any loose ends resolved.
3. You should talk about itThe best way to gauge how the committee at any one school will respond to your essay is by seeing how a number of different people react. While you cannot ask everyone you encounter to read your essay, it may be wise to develop a 30 second “elevator pitch” about your topic. Try to cover what it is about, what it says about you, and one relevant detail that you will discuss in it. This will not only help you measure other people's initial reactions to the topic, but it will also help you clarify your essay verbally in terms of themes, goals, and personal relevance. Starting a personal statement early is never a poor choice. Whatever your college goals may be, the more you practice your essay and the greater the number of people who read and discuss your personal statement, the more your work is likely to impress an admissions committee. Good luck!
Andrea Deck is a professional GRE tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She is a graduate student at Columbia University in the class of 2015.
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