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Successful Personal Statement: Clarifying Your Purpose

This post is the first in our Successful Personal Statement series, come along with us on this ride and get closer to achieving your goals!


Writing a successful personal statement can be daunting and you might not want to start due to how overwhelming it appears to be. However, it is crucial that you give yourself enough time to do your best. Firstly, you need to give yourself enough time for the sake of application, the sooner you can submit, the more time you have before the deadline if there is one in case something needs to be addressed. Generally, you don’t have to start writing right away, but start the process as soon as you can, and that process is going to include, clarifying purpose and expectations, planning, writing, and editing. 

Let’s break down what should go down before you start writing the piece that is going to be your key to doors of opportunity!


You may be intimidated by the idea of writing a personal statement because you think you don’t have anything to talk about, or anything worthwhile. But that’s not the point of the task. You will be getting in your own way by holding back or putting yourself down. The point isn’t always to be the best, it’s to show that you fit with what the organization is looking for. Whatever position or institution you’re applying to, more likely than not you’re writing to them because you want to grow in some way. If it’s academic, you may want to be accepted into their program, if it’s a job you may want to be hired and gain the experience. 

First of all, before you begin, clarify what is your purpose in applying, in writing this statement. Being clear on your purpose will help you present yourself as a focused and dedicated candidate. Also, it will help guide your process and be consistent with your goals, writing, and results. 

When it comes to the other party receiving your application, what is their purpose, what are their objectives? At the end of the day, they’re not judging you on a personal level, the people looking at your applications have some need they need to fulfill and have criteria for doing so. They’re going to want someone that will fit with their institution, they want someone that’s going to bring them value. 


How do you figure out what they want? 

There are several things you can look at 

  1. The Prompt 
  2. The Organization
  3. Successful Applicants


The Prompt is the question you are answering or their requirement. It’s your biggest hint as well as the most significant criteria that you’ll be judged on. Whether you addressed the question or requirement will make or break your application. After looking closely at the prompt you’ll see that it’s no secret what they want from you.

The Organization can take the guesswork out of figuring out what they want by examining resources such as their official website, and publications. What do they offer? What do they do? What do they aspire to do? Learn more about them from their, their values, mission, vision, or similar programs. Use this to help you clarify what their expectations are.

Successful Applicants are the going to serve as real life examples of what works and what doesn’t. Granted, every person is different and may have a different experiences before and after attaining the position. Past applicant or alumni experiences can help give you better picture of what it would be like if you were to succeed in your own application. Using this information to write a personal statement may allow you to across as more prepared to be accepted.


Bring together all the insight you have gathered and come up with the image of their ideal candidate. What traits and skills would they have? For your own reflection, how would you be able to embody those traits with your unique attributes and background. This is not to say, be somebody that you’re not just to please them. What we are trying to do is understand what they’re looking for and show them how you can provide them that.

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