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  • How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

Published on February 12, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 3, 2023.

A personal statement is a short essay of around 500–1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you’re applying.

To write a successful personal statement for a graduate school application , don’t just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to demonstrate three things:

  • Your personality: what are your interests, values, and motivations?
  • Your talents: what can you bring to the program?
  • Your goals: what do you hope the program will do for you?

This article guides you through some winning strategies to build a strong, well-structured personal statement for a master’s or PhD application. You can download the full examples below.

Urban Planning Psychology History

Table of contents

Getting started with your personal statement, the introduction: start with an attention-grabbing opening, the main body: craft your narrative, the conclusion: look ahead, revising, editing, and proofreading your personal statement, frequently asked questions, other interesting articles.

Before you start writing, the first step is to understand exactly what’s expected of you. If the application gives you a question or prompt for your personal statement, the most important thing is to respond to it directly.

For example, you might be asked to focus on the development of your personal identity; challenges you have faced in your life; or your career motivations. This will shape your focus and emphasis—but you still need to find your own unique approach to answering it.

There’s no universal template for a personal statement; it’s your chance to be creative and let your own voice shine through. But there are strategies you can use to build a compelling, well-structured story.

The first paragraph of your personal statement should set the tone and lead smoothly into the story you want to tell.

Strategy 1: Open with a concrete scene

An effective way to catch the reader’s attention is to set up a scene that illustrates something about your character and interests. If you’re stuck, try thinking about:

  • A personal experience that changed your perspective
  • A story from your family’s history
  • A memorable teacher or learning experience
  • An unusual or unexpected encounter

To write an effective scene, try to go beyond straightforward description; start with an intriguing sentence that pulls the reader in, and give concrete details to create a convincing atmosphere.

Strategy 2: Open with your motivations

To emphasize your enthusiasm and commitment, you can start by explaining your interest in the subject you want to study or the career path you want to follow.

Just stating that it interests you isn’t enough: first, you need to figure out why you’re interested in this field:

  • Is it a longstanding passion or a recent discovery?
  • Does it come naturally or have you had to work hard at it?
  • How does it fit into the rest of your life?
  • What do you think it contributes to society?

Tips for the introduction

  • Don’t start on a cliche: avoid phrases like “Ever since I was a child…” or “For as long as I can remember…”
  • Do save the introduction for last. If you’re struggling to come up with a strong opening, leave it aside, and note down any interesting ideas that occur to you as you write the rest of the personal statement.

Once you’ve set up the main themes of your personal statement, you’ll delve into more detail about your experiences and motivations.

To structure the body of your personal statement, there are various strategies you can use.

Strategy 1: Describe your development over time

One of the simplest strategies is to give a chronological overview of key experiences that have led you to apply for graduate school.

  • What first sparked your interest in the field?
  • Which classes, assignments, classmates, internships, or other activities helped you develop your knowledge and skills?
  • Where do you want to go next? How does this program fit into your future plans?

Don’t try to include absolutely everything you’ve done—pick out highlights that are relevant to your application. Aim to craft a compelling narrative that shows how you’ve changed and actively developed yourself.

My interest in psychology was first sparked early in my high school career. Though somewhat scientifically inclined, I found that what interested me most was not the equations we learned about in physics and chemistry, but the motivations and perceptions of my fellow students, and the subtle social dynamics that I observed inside and outside the classroom. I wanted to learn how our identities, beliefs, and behaviours are shaped through our interactions with others, so I decided to major in Social Psychology. My undergraduate studies deepened my understanding of, and fascination with, the interplay between an individual mind and its social context.During my studies, I acquired a solid foundation of knowledge about concepts like social influence and group dynamics, but I also took classes on various topics not strictly related to my major. I was particularly interested in how other fields intersect with psychology—the classes I took on media studies, biology, and literature all enhanced my understanding of psychological concepts by providing different lenses through which to look at the issues involved.

Strategy 2: Own your challenges and obstacles

If your path to graduate school hasn’t been easy or straightforward, you can turn this into a strength, and structure your personal statement as a story of overcoming obstacles.

  • Is your social, cultural or economic background underrepresented in the field? Show how your experiences will contribute a unique perspective.
  • Do you have gaps in your resume or lower-than-ideal grades? Explain the challenges you faced and how you dealt with them.

Don’t focus too heavily on negatives, but use them to highlight your positive qualities. Resilience, resourcefulness and perseverance make you a promising graduate school candidate.

Growing up working class, urban decay becomes depressingly familiar. The sight of a row of abandoned houses does not surprise me, but it continues to bother me. Since high school, I have been determined to pursue a career in urban planning. While people of my background experience the consequences of urban planning decisions first-hand, we are underrepresented in the field itself. Ironically, given my motivation, my economic background has made my studies challenging. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship for my undergraduate studies, but after graduation I took jobs in unrelated fields to help support my parents. In the three years since, I have not lost my ambition. Now I am keen to resume my studies, and I believe I can bring an invaluable perspective to the table: that of the people most impacted by the decisions of urban planners.

Strategy 3: Demonstrate your knowledge of the field

Especially if you’re applying for a PhD or another research-focused program, it’s a good idea to show your familiarity with the subject and the department. Your personal statement can focus on the area you want to specialize in and reflect on why it matters to you.

  • Reflect on the topics or themes that you’ve focused on in your studies. What draws you to them?
  • Discuss any academic achievements, influential teachers, or other highlights of your education.
  • Talk about the questions you’d like to explore in your research and why you think they’re important.

The personal statement isn’t a research proposal , so don’t go overboard on detail—but it’s a great opportunity to show your enthusiasm for the field and your capacity for original thinking.

In applying for this research program, my intention is to build on the multidisciplinary approach I have taken in my studies so far, combining knowledge from disparate fields of study to better understand psychological concepts and issues. The Media Psychology program stands out to me as the perfect environment for this kind of research, given its researchers’ openness to collaboration across diverse fields. I am impressed by the department’s innovative interdisciplinary projects that focus on the shifting landscape of media and technology, and I hope that my own work can follow a similarly trailblazing approach. More specifically, I want to develop my understanding of the intersection of psychology and media studies, and explore how media psychology theories and methods might be applied to neurodivergent minds. I am interested not only in media psychology but also in psychological disorders, and how the two interact. This is something I touched on during my undergraduate studies and that I’m excited to delve into further.

Strategy 4: Discuss your professional ambitions

Especially if you’re applying for a more professionally-oriented program (such as an MBA), it’s a good idea to focus on concrete goals and how the program will help you achieve them.

  • If your career is just getting started, show how your character is suited to the field, and explain how graduate school will help you develop your talents.
  • If you have already worked in the profession, show what you’ve achieved so far, and explain how the program will allow you to take the next step.
  • If you are planning a career change, explain what has driven this decision and how your existing experience will help you succeed.

Don’t just state the position you want to achieve. You should demonstrate that you’ve put plenty of thought into your career plans and show why you’re well-suited to this profession.

One thing that fascinated me about the field during my undergraduate studies was the sheer number of different elements whose interactions constitute a person’s experience of an urban environment. Any number of factors could transform the scene I described at the beginning: What if there were no bus route? Better community outreach in the neighborhood? Worse law enforcement? More or fewer jobs available in the area? Some of these factors are out of the hands of an urban planner, but without taking them all into consideration, the planner has an incomplete picture of their task. Through further study I hope to develop my understanding of how these disparate elements combine and interact to create the urban environment. I am interested in the social, psychological and political effects our surroundings have on our lives. My studies will allow me to work on projects directly affecting the kinds of working-class urban communities I know well. I believe I can bring my own experiences, as well as my education, to bear upon the problem of improving infrastructure and quality of life in these communities.

Tips for the main body

  • Don’t rehash your resume by trying to summarize everything you’ve done so far; the personal statement isn’t about listing your academic or professional experience, but about reflecting, evaluating, and relating it to broader themes.
  • Do make your statements into stories: Instead of saying you’re hard-working and self-motivated, write about your internship where you took the initiative to start a new project. Instead of saying you’ve always loved reading, reflect on a novel or poem that changed your perspective.

Your conclusion should bring the focus back to the program and what you hope to get out of it, whether that’s developing practical skills, exploring intellectual questions, or both.

Emphasize the fit with your specific interests, showing why this program would be the best way to achieve your aims.

Strategy 1: What do you want to know?

If you’re applying for a more academic or research-focused program, end on a note of curiosity: what do you hope to learn, and why do you think this is the best place to learn it?

If there are specific classes or faculty members that you’re excited to learn from, this is the place to express your enthusiasm.

Strategy 2: What do you want to do?

If you’re applying for a program that focuses more on professional training, your conclusion can look to your career aspirations: what role do you want to play in society, and why is this program the best choice to help you get there?

Tips for the conclusion

  • Don’t summarize what you’ve already said. You have limited space in a personal statement, so use it wisely!
  • Do think bigger than yourself: try to express how your individual aspirations relate to your local community, your academic field, or society more broadly. It’s not just about what you’ll get out of graduate school, but about what you’ll be able to give back.

You’ll be expected to do a lot of writing in graduate school, so make a good first impression: leave yourself plenty of time to revise and polish the text.

Your style doesn’t have to be as formal as other kinds of academic writing, but it should be clear, direct and coherent. Make sure that each paragraph flows smoothly from the last, using topic sentences and transitions to create clear connections between each part.

Don’t be afraid to rewrite and restructure as much as necessary. Since you have a lot of freedom in the structure of a personal statement, you can experiment and move information around to see what works best.

Finally, it’s essential to carefully proofread your personal statement and fix any language errors. Before you submit your application, consider investing in professional personal statement editing . For $150, you have the peace of mind that your personal statement is grammatically correct, strong in term of your arguments, and free of awkward mistakes.

A statement of purpose is usually more formal, focusing on your academic or professional goals. It shouldn’t include anything that isn’t directly relevant to the application.

A personal statement can often be more creative. It might tell a story that isn’t directly related to the application, but that shows something about your personality, values, and motivations.

However, both types of document have the same overall goal: to demonstrate your potential as a graduate student and s how why you’re a great match for the program.

The typical length of a personal statement for graduate school applications is between 500 and 1,000 words.

Different programs have different requirements, so always check if there’s a minimum or maximum length and stick to the guidelines. If there is no recommended word count, aim for no more than 1-2 pages.

If you’re applying to multiple graduate school programs, you should tailor your personal statement to each application.

Some applications provide a prompt or question. In this case, you might have to write a new personal statement from scratch: the most important task is to respond to what you have been asked.

If there’s no prompt or guidelines, you can re-use the same idea for your personal statement – but change the details wherever relevant, making sure to emphasize why you’re applying to this specific program.

If the application also includes other essays, such as a statement of purpose , you might have to revise your personal statement to avoid repeating the same information.

If you want to know more about college essays , academic writing , and AI tools , make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

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Shona Barrie – Director of Admissions, University of Stirling

UCAS asked admissions tutors – the people who read and score your personal statement – for their advice on what you should and shouldn’t do when writing your personal statement. 

The most common piece of advice was not to worry about it – and don’t be tempted to copy anyone else’s.

Read our step-by-step guide to writing your personal statement

Then follow our simple tips below.

  • Do talk about why you’re a good candidate – talk about you, your motivations and what brings you to this course.
  • Do be enthusiastic – if you show you’re interested in the course, it may help you get a place.
  • Do make it relevant . Connect what you’re saying with the course and with your experiences.
  • Do outline your ideas clearly .
  • Do avoid the negatives – highlight the positives about you, and show you know your strengths.
  • Do expect to produce several drafts of your personal statement before being totally happy with it.
  • Do ask people you trust for their feedback.
  • Don’t be modest or shy . You want your passions to come across. 
  • Don’t exaggerate – if you do, you may get caught out in an interview when asked to elaborate on an interesting achievement.
  • Don’t use quotes from someone else, or cliches.
  • Don’t leave it to the last minute – your statement will seem rushed and important information could be left out.
  • Don’t let spelling and grammatical errors spoil your statement , but don't just rely on a spellchecker. Proofread as many times as possible.
  • Don’t copy and paste – make yours original.
  • Don’t post your personal statement on the internet or on social media or share your personal statement with anyone including your friends and family, unless asking for feedback from people you trust.
  • Don’t worry about it – we have all the advice you need to help you stand out in your personal statement. 

The personal statement tool image

Don’t be tempted to copy or share your statement.

UCAS scans all personal statements through a similarity detection system to compare them with previous statements.

Any similarity greater than 30% will be flagged and we'll inform the universities and colleges to which you have applied. 

Find out more

Ana ghaffari moghaddam – third year law student and careers coach, university of liverpool.

You’ve got this. Follow those simple steps and use your personal statement as your chance to shine .Use the below as a checklist to make sure you've avoided all common pitfalls.

Want more tips on what to include in your personal statement? Use the links below.

  • Get started with our personal statement builder . 
  • Five things all students should include in their personal statement. 
  • See how you can turn your personal statement into a CV, apprenticeship application or covering letter. 
  • Read How to start a personal statement: The attention grabber .

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Home › University › How To Write A Personal Statement? 10 Tips + Student Questions Answered › What Not To Put In A Personal Statement

What Not To Put In A Personal Statement

  • Published October 19, 2021

A woman writing on her notebook.

Table of Contents

Are you wondering what not to put in a personal statement ? If you are then this is the guide for you!

A personal statement can be thought of as an essay that you write to describe who you are. The content of a personal statement is one of the most critical factors in determining if you have a chance to be accepted to your chosen university.

It’s no secret that there are wordings and styles of writing you should avoid putting in your personal statement . A single sentence written out of context can potentially ruin your personal statement!

So if you want to avoid that from happening, you need to go over this list, discussing what not to put in your personal statement.

Let’s crack on!

Claims With No Evidence

You might be thinking, “What could possibly go wrong with listing down what I’m good at?” Well, for one, listing down your strengths without evidence is a fatal mistake.

Related Read : How To Write A Personal Statement?

If you say you have good leadership skills, why not write down the awards you received to back up your claim? Mentioning prominent positions you’ve had in your organisations is also an excellent way to prove your skills.

Listing down your strengths without evidence shows poor credibility on your part. Remember this when you’re thinking of what not to put in a personal statement!

Skills Or Extracurricular Activities Irrelevant For Your Course

You’ve listed down your strengths with sufficient evidence to back up your claim. Now ask yourself the question: how do your strengths relate to your course?

Sure, you have outstanding leadership skills, but how will you use that in the field of chemistry? Say you’re an excellent debater; will that give you an edge when applying for engineering?

Make sure you tie your strengths back to the course you’re applying for. If you don’t, you might as well not put them in. You only have 4,000 characters to convince the panel that you are worth accepting. 

Make each word count!

what not to put in a personal statement

Poor Grammar And Spelling

Poor grammar and spelling are essential criteria when talking about what not to put in a personal statement. Spelling and grammatical errors can ruin decent content for a personal statement. 

They show that you didn’t care enough to go over your personal statement and improve the quality.

Are you a budding medic? Here’s how to write a medical personal statement .

If you want to prove that you are a worthy applicant for your course, demonstrate your careful attention to detail by eliminating spelling and grammatical errors. Make it easy and pleasant for the admissions committee to read.

Doing so increases your chances of admittance by a hundredfold!

Failures And Regrets

Failures and regrets are some of the biggest things to remember on what not to put in a personal statement.

Why? Because your personal statement is a personal essay that sells you to universities for acceptance. Not an autobiography for you to inspire somebody like self-help books often do.

Mentioning how you failed Statistics or regret not trying out for the football team doesn’t accomplish very much when convincing the admissions committee that you’re potential student material.

But there is an exception to this rule. If your failure contributed significantly to developing your relevant skill, you may go ahead and write it down. As long as you make the connection explicit, you’re good to go!

Keep this progression in your mind: failure, skill development, then tie it back to your course. This narration structure demonstrates your grit and determination to try harder.

Sentences That Lead Nowhere

Avoid one-liners or sentences that don’t fit the context of your personal statement. If you’re writing about what inspired you to study engineering, don’t just mention inspirations and leave them hanging. Did a particular invention spark your interest?

Discuss why it sparked your interest. Could it be that the invention helped lift thousands of people from energy shortage? Perhaps it has helped alleviate global warming?

If so, how is that invention relevant in the 21st century? Then, if given the opportunity, what improvements would you make to enhance its usefulness in society? Perhaps this is the perfect opportunity for you to discuss technology ideas you have in mind. You may want to pursue it if the universities accept you.

From the universities’ point of view, they’ll be thrilled to accept a student who plans to invent a potentially groundbreaking tech. Do you see where this is going?

Each sentence in your personal statement has to build upon one another to come across as coherent. One sentence that leads nowhere will leave your reader hanging and perplexed. You can quickly lose the momentum you’ve worked so hard to gain.

So “sentences that lead nowhere” should be in your “what not to put in a personal statement” list!

Quotes That Don’t Fit

Quotes are powerful, authoritative, and timeless. They can easily lift your personal statement to a higher level. But you need to know how to use them to their fullest potential. Or they may end up ruining your personal statement!

So if you want to use quotes, make sure they fit the context of your personal statement. You cannot drop in a random quote by Theodore Roosevelt with no connection to your story and how your experience relates to your determination to study the course.

One of the best ways to make quotes work is to interweave them throughout your personal statement. Explain how the quote inspired you to be a volunteer in the local kitchen soup. Then explain how your experience in the kitchen soup motivated you to apply for the course.

For a full-blast ending, mention your quote again in your conclusion.

Related Read: How To Conclude Your Personal Statement?

Facts With No Context

By now, you have substantial know-how on what not to put in a personal statement. But there’s more – facts with no context.

You don’t have to demonstrate your knowledge by discussing facts or histories. Chances are, the admissions already know what you’re talking about. They probably know more than you do!

So steer clear of textbook-type explanations. Your personal statement is not a research paper! It’s a personal essay aimed at showing the reader why you should be admitted as their student. That’s why you need to nail your facts or histories in context by explaining how these helped you in your personal development. What realisations did you have that urged you to hone your skills? 

Don’t forget to tie your skills in with your course, writing why they’re essential for you to succeed in the field. 

Made Up Stories

Making up stories is an absolute red line you must never cross. But it’s not easy to resist when you feel the pressure to impress and stand out. When you do feel the pressure, think of the effects down the road.

How would you prepare for a university interview if they were to ask you a question about the made-up story? Slight exaggerations, no matter how believable, can still knock you out cold when caught off-guard!

Say you mentioned that you read a particular journal article. Here comes an up-to-date professor who knows the latest research papers like the back of their hand. They ask you a question about it, but your poor answers reveal the truth that you made the story up.

Do you feel the chills crawling down your spine at the very thought? Good! Please don’t do it! It’s not worth it.

Not only can it ruin your chances of being admitted. But it can also potentially damage your career options years later!

Childhood Aspirations

Childhood aspirations carry little weight in personal statements. Why? Because you didn’t have the knowledge, experience, or skills yet to make an informed choice of your course.

The admissions committee is not looking to know your whole life story. What they want to know is if you’re a great fit as a student of your course.

Do you have the necessary experience and skills to succeed in your chosen field of study? What’s your purpose? What are your long-term plans?

Mentioning your childhood aspirations will only waste much-needed space in your personal statement. Replace what’s not needed with what’s necessary. Choose only the best and most relevant of your experience and strengths and put them on your personal statement.

If you want to avoid writing what not to put in your personal statement, this list should be a great starting point.

The main idea is to nail down each sentence in context. Every line should support the whole point of your personal statement. That is, to convince the admissions committee that you are qualified to be their student.

So keep your personal statement clear of these common errors, and you’ll have greater chances of succeeding!

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personal statement what not to do

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How to Write an Impactful Personal Statement (Examples Included)

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A personal statement stands out from other educational documents in that it’s intended to be personal, as the name suggests. It offers the admissions committee a glimpse of your personality and not just your abilities and accomplishments. 

A personal statement requires just the right amount of vulnerability, accompanied by passion and enthusiasm. But first, you need to know what is a personal statement. Let’s take a look.

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is a personal essay required by selection committees for jobs, scholarships, or universities. It is a summary of your accomplishments, interests, experiences, and goals.  

A personal statement is often confused with a statement of purpose, but these are completely different documents. 

A statement of purpose highlights your career path, academic and professional achievements, and motivations for choosing a particular field of study in a much more formal manner. 

A personal statement, on the other hand, emphasizes both academic achievements and personal aspects. 

An effective personal statement answers questions like:

What are my strengths and weaknesses?

What are my talents and accomplishments?

Why am I applying to the school of my choice?

What are the experiences that piqued my interest in my chosen field of study?

What are the special aspects of the school I’m applying to?

How to write a personal statement

Similar to most writing assignments, breaking down a personal statement into smaller parts can make the writing process much easier. A personal statement follows the standard format of the introduction, body, and conclusion, but you need not write them in that order. 

We recommend writing the introduction at the end, as it’s the most challenging part and requires a higher level of creativity. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty about how to write a personal statement for grad school or for college:

1. Craft an attractive hook or introduction.

Starting your introduction with your name is the biggest mistake you can make. The admissions committee already has access to your personal information and academic credentials and is looking to gain deeper insights into your personality, interests, and motivations. 

To make a strong impression, it’s better to begin with what motivated you to study your chosen field or why you’re interested in studying at a particular university. Let’s look at an example:

One summer while running around in my backyard, I fell down and scraped my knee. My grandfather, being an established doctor, carefully bandaged my wound. His calm, prompt, and comforting demeanor left a lasting impression on me. It sparked my interest in medicine.

2. Elaborate on your accomplishments, relevant skills, and experience.

A personal statement should be authentic to you and should help you stand out amongst your peers. You have to sell yourself to the admissions committee and let them know your skills, accomplishments, and talents without sounding conceited. 

A good way to do this is to avoid mentioning academic achievements which are already mentioned in your transcripts. Instead, mention qualities and insights you’ve gained over the years with the help of real-life experiences. For example:

Leading my school’s basketball team taught me the values of teamwork, coordination, agreeableness, and leadership.  

You can also mention insights gained from a job or internship, a paper or a journal that had an impact on you or a course or session you conducted that taught you something new. 

Working as a nurse in the children’s hospital was an eye-opening experience for me. It not only made me a kinder, more compassionate person but also taught me practical skills such as suturing a wound. 

3. Draft a logical conclusion.

Make sure to tie the conclusion with the body of the personal statement to create a story arc. The concluding statements should carry information about how your chosen field of study or the facilities provided by the universities will be useful to you in your professional career.

Make sure to use emphatic and expressive language to make your personal statement more impactful. For example:

Gaining hands-on experience with the state-of-the-art operating machine provided by your medical department will give me a head-start in my chosen field of neuroscience. 

4. Edit and proofread.

Just like it is with any other important document, proofreading your personal statement is crucial. It ensures that your statement is free of errors and presents you in the best possible light.

You have a few options for proofreading your personal statement. One option is to proofread it yourself, but it can be difficult to catch all of your own mistakes. Another option is to ask a friend or family member to proofread it for you. They can provide a fresh perspective and may catch errors that you missed.

If you want to take your proofreading to the next level, it’s a good idea to have your work proofread by a professional. A personal statement editing service has the critical eye and experience necessary to catch even the most subtle errors.

Note : Although its content and structure remain the same, the length and complexity of a personal statement depending on its purpose. Personal statements for universities and scholarships are typically longer and more detailed as compared to those required for jobs.

Tips for writing a personal statement

Let’s take a look at the tips and tricks to write a personal statement along with relevant examples:

1. Keep it personal.

Although there are certain rules to be followed when writing a personal statement, it is important not to lose your own voice. The admissions committee wants to get to know you as a person and not just as a student.

2. Avoid unnecessarily complicated language.

Using appropriate technical terms in your field can showcase your expertise and understanding of the subject matter to the admissions committee. But overusing or misusing jargon can confuse, or even put them off.

3. Avoid simply listing achievements and experiences.

While highlighting your achievements and experiences is essential, simply listing them is not enough. It’s important to provide insights into what you’ve learned from these experiences since the admissions committee already has access to your transcripts and wants to know more about your personality.

4. Keep a light, positive tone.

Even when writing about a serious topic such as “How I overcame homelessness”, the tone should be inspirational and insightful.

5. Use action words.

Make use of action words to make your text more conversational and engaging. For instance, instead of writing “I was the captain of the volleyball team and we won many tournaments” you can say “As the volleyball captain, I consistently lead my team to victory”. 

Personal statement example

Let’s better understand how to write an impactful personal statement with the help of an effective personal statement example:

As a child, I always found it difficult to relate to children my age. I was quiet, timid, and very vulnerable. I was 17 when I was first diagnosed with depression. With the help of professionals, I was not only able to function better but was also able to integrate into groups. 

The effects of therapy and medication amazed me. The underrated field of psychology had a powerful impact on me. It helped me understand myself as well as those around me better. This is why, when it came to choosing a field of study, I chose abnormal psychology.

In college, I not only topped my course but also conducted drives and free therapy sessions to help those in need. I also published a paper on the effects of appreciation and criticism on mental health. 

I believe that my experiences with mental illness will give me a unique perspective in the field of abnormal psychology. I believe I’ll be able to provide more effective and practical solutions to patients because of my own struggles. My goal is to make a difference in the lives of others by helping them overcome their struggles and find happiness.

Frequently Asked Questions

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15 Effective Strategies for Writing a Compelling Personal Statement

personal statement what not to do

By Eric Eng

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Writing a personal statement is an essential step in the college application process. By employing effective strategies, you can showcase your strengths, aspirations, and what makes you stand out. A compelling personal statement serves as your unique voice in a sea of candidates.

How? Consider the following tips:

1. Start with a captivating hook.

The opening lines of your personal statement are your first opportunity to make a lasting impression on the admissions committee. Think of it as the equivalent of a firm handshake or a confident introduction at an interview. A well-crafted hook can distinguish your application from hundreds of others.

Young man using a laptop in a table.

For example, beginning with a vivid account of the moment you found your passion for environmental science during a volunteer project not only grabs attention but also sets a thematic tone for your statement.

To achieve this, start with a powerful or intriguing statement, a question, or a brief anecdote related to your field of interest. This should be something personally significant or a defining moment that sparked your interest in the subject you wish to pursue. Be creative but authentic. Your goal is to engage the reader from the very first sentence.

2. Showcase your authentic voice.

Your authentic voice is what makes your personal statement genuinely yours. Admissions officers are keen on identifying applicants who present a genuine reflection of themselves. Infusing your essay with your sense of humor, for instance, can make your statement memorable.

To showcase your authentic voice, write in a way that feels natural to you while maintaining a professional tone. Avoid overly formal language if it doesn’t reflect how you normally express yourself. Instead, use a style that feels comfortable and is reflective of your personality. This authenticity makes your essay more relatable and engaging to the reader.

3. Tell a compelling story.

Writing a compelling story within your personal statement is an effective strategy for illustrating your character, values, and aspirations. Consider narrating your journey of organizing community clean-up events; this can highlight your leadership skills and commitment to environmental advocacy. This storytelling approach makes your application stand out by showcasing your active engagement in your passions.

To tell your story, focus on a specific event, experience, or insight that has significantly shaped your personal or academic life. Structure your narrative to build towards a revelation or learning experience that highlights personal growth or a deepening of your intellectual interests.

The most impactful stories are those that allow your personal qualities and convictions to shine through.

4. Highlight your unique experiences.

The experiences that set you apart from other applicants are invaluable in painting a picture of who you are beyond grades and test scores. For instance, sharing your experience working in a family business during high school, illustrating how it fostered your interest in entrepreneurship and developed your work ethic, effectively highlights your uniqueness.

To highlight your unique experiences, focus on what you’ve learned from them and how they’ve shaped your perspective or skills. It’s not just about what you did, but also about how these experiences contribute to your personal narrative. Importantly, be specific about your role, your contributions, and the impact these experiences had on your personal and academic growth.

5. Focus on your passions and interests.

Colleges are looking for passionate individuals who will bring enthusiasm and energy to their campus. An applicant’s personal statement that vividly describes their passion for a particular subject area, such as a detailed account of their ongoing project in robotics, can significantly bolster their application by showing depth of interest and proactive engagement in their field.

Young woman using a microscope to analyze a specimen.

To effectively focus on your passions and interests, delve into the specifics of what excites you about your chosen field or hobby. Discuss any projects, research, or reading you’ve undertaken on your own initiative. Illustrating your dedication and enthusiasm helps admissions officers envision you as a committed and vibrant part of their college community.

6. Address the specific prompt or question.

Adhering closely to the prompt or question provided by the college is another strategy for writing an effective and compelling personal statement. Meticulously addressing the prompt by relating each part of your essay back to how your experiences have prepared you for the challenges and opportunities of the college program demonstrates thoughtfulness and a clear direction in your application.

To address the specific prompt or question, first ensure you understand what is being asked. Then, organize your response to directly address each component of the prompt. Use your experiences and reflections to provide concrete examples that answer the question thoroughly.

7. Show self-awareness and reflection.

Self-awareness and the ability to reflect on your experiences are qualities that colleges value highly, as they indicate maturity and a capacity for growth. For example, discussing a failure or challenge you faced, such as struggling with a particular subject, and then outlining the steps you took to overcome this, demonstrates resilience and self-improvement.

To exhibit self-awareness and reflection in your personal statement, focus on how specific experiences have contributed to your personal or academic development. Discuss what you learned about yourself through these experiences and how they have shaped your future aspirations. Be honest and introspective, recognizing both strengths and areas for growth.

8. Demonstrate your skills and achievements.

Highlighting your skills and achievements gives the admissions committee a sense of your accomplishments and potential contributions to their campus. An effective approach is to integrate your achievements into your narrative, like detailing how leading a volunteer project honed your leadership and organizational skills, rather than simply listing accolades.

To demonstrate your skills and achievements, select examples that are most relevant to your college goals and the program you’re applying to. Describe the context and your involvement in detail, focusing on the impact of your actions and what they reveal about your character, work ethic, and capabilities.

In short, avoid boasting. Present your achievements as reflections of your commitment and drive.

9. Use concrete examples and anecdotes.

Citing concrete examples and anecdotes is an effective strategy for writing a vivid and compelling personal statement. It allows admissions officers to see the real person behind the application. For instance, rather than stating you have a strong work ethic, describe the time you balanced a part-time job with your studies to support a family project, illustrating your determination and responsibility.

Incorporate specific examples and anecdotes that highlight your qualities, skills, and experiences. Choose stories that are meaningful and demonstrate your values, such as teamwork, perseverance, or creativity. These real-life examples provide a solid foundation for your claims, making your personal statement more compelling and persuasive.

10. Connect your experiences to your future goals.

Linking your past experiences to your future ambitions demonstrates forward-thinking and a clear vision for your college journey and beyond. An applicant who articulates how their volunteer work with a local environmental group inspired them to pursue a degree in environmental science, with the goal of developing sustainable solutions, effectively bridges their past actions with their future aspirations.

a female student thinking intently

To connect your experiences to your future goals, first identify the key experiences that have shaped your interests and aspirations. Then, articulate how these experiences have prepared you for the challenges you anticipate in college and your career. Explain how the program you are applying to fits into your long-term plans, showing that you have a direction and are committed to achieving your goals.

11. Maintain a clear and concise structure.

A well-organized personal statement makes your narrative accessible and engaging, guiding the reader through your experiences, reflections, and aspirations with ease. For instance, structuring your essay with a clear introduction, body paragraphs that each focus on a specific theme or experience, and a cohesive conclusion, ensures that your narrative flows logically and coherently.

To maintain a clear and concise structure, plan your personal statement before writing. Outline the main points you want to cover and decide on the best order to present them. Each paragraph should serve a clear purpose and lead smoothly to the next. Avoid tangents and overly complex sentences that could distract or confuse the reader, focusing instead on delivering your message with clarity and precision.

12. Edit and revise meticulously.

Editing and revising are critical strategies in the writing process, for they ensure your personal statement is polished and error-free. A personal statement with typos, grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing can detract from the overall impression it makes. Meticulous editing can make your personal statement more effective and compelling.

To edit and revise, start by reviewing your statement for any spelling or grammatical errors. Then, read it aloud to catch awkward phrasings or inconsistencies in flow. Seek feedback from teachers, mentors, or peers, as fresh eyes can catch errors you might have missed and provide valuable perspectives on the clarity and impact of your narrative.

Ultimately, be open to constructive criticism and willing to make changes to strengthen your statement. This iterative process is crucial for refining your message and ensuring it accurately reflects your voice and aspirations.

13. Seek feedback from others.

Getting feedback from others is invaluable for refining your personal statement. It offers perspectives on how your narrative is received, highlights areas for improvement, and confirms the clarity of your message.

To effectively seek feedback, choose individuals who know you well and others who may not be as familiar with your story, such as teachers or mentors, to provide a balanced view. Ask specific questions about how your personal statement comes across: Does it convey my passion? Is my narrative clear and engaging?

Use this feedback to make targeted improvements, ensuring your statement accurately and effectively communicates your strengths and aspirations.

14. Show enthusiasm and passion.

Expressing enthusiasm and passion in your personal statement can significantly enhance its impact. Admissions committees are drawn to candidates who demonstrate genuine excitement for their field of study and future career paths. For instance, a detailed description of your science fair project and its influence on your decision to pursue biomedical engineering can vividly showcase your passion for the subject.

a female high school student looking happy

To convey enthusiasm and passion, use vivid and energetic language when describing your interests and experiences. Reflect on why these areas excite you and how they align with your personal and academic goals. Your enthusiasm will naturally shine through when you discuss something you truly love and are committed to pursuing further in your college career.

15. Tailor your personal statement to the institution or program.

Customizing your personal statement to reflect your fit with the specific institution or program you’re applying to shows that you’ve done your research and are genuinely interested in what they offer. This is one of the most effective strategies for writing a compelling personal statement.

For example, mentioning specific faculty members you wish to work with or unique aspects of the program that align with your career goals demonstrates a proactive and thoughtful approach to your application.

To tailor your statement, research the college or program thoroughly. Identify specific courses, faculty, research opportunities , or community aspects that align with your interests and goals. Then, weave these details into your statement to illustrate how you see yourself contributing to and benefiting from the program.

Why is the personal statement important in college admissions?

The personal statement is a critical component of your college application, offering a unique opportunity to present your voice and personality to the admissions committee. Unlike standardized test scores and GPAs, which provide a quantitative measure of academic achievement, the personal statement allows you to share your personal journey, challenges, successes, and aspirations.

In essence, it serves as a narrative that ties together the various elements of your application into a cohesive story. It helps admissions officers understand who you are beyond the numbers, showcasing your writing skills, self-awareness, and potential to contribute to the college community.

What are the common mistakes to avoid in my personal statement?

One of the most common pitfalls in writing a personal statement is failing to make it personal enough. Many applicants fall into the trap of reiterating their resume or writing what they think admissions officers want to hear, resulting in a statement that lacks authenticity and personal insight.

Another frequent mistake is overlooking the importance of storytelling and structure, leading to a personal statement that feels disjointed or aimless. Successful personal statements are those that not only provide a glimpse into the applicant’s life but also engage the reader through a well-organized narrative that clearly communicates the applicant’s aspirations and how the college fits into their future plans.

How can my cultural and personal identity enhance my personal statement?

Incorporating your cultural and personal identity into your personal statement is an effective writing strategy that can significantly enrich your narrative, making it compelling. This approach allows you to showcase how your unique background has shaped your perspectives, values, and goals. It provides a deeper understanding of your character and the diverse experiences you bring to the college community.

Young man holding different blogs of countries.

To effectively highlight your cultural and personal identity, focus on specific experiences, traditions, or challenges that have played a pivotal role in your development. Discuss how these elements have influenced your academic interests, career aspirations, or personal growth. This not only adds depth to your application but also demonstrates your ability to contribute to the campus’s cultural diversity and intellectual life.

How do I balance professionalism with personality in my personal statement?

Finding the right balance between professionalism and personality is key to crafting a compelling personal statement. While it’s important to maintain a professional tone to demonstrate your readiness for college-level work, infusing your statement with your unique voice and personality makes it genuinely engaging. This balance shows admissions committees that you are a well-rounded candidate who can communicate effectively while staying true to yourself.

To achieve this balance, write in a tone that is reflective of your natural speaking style, but be mindful of grammar, syntax, and appropriateness. Use anecdotes and examples that highlight your personality traits, such as humor, empathy, or curiosity, without overshadowing the overall professionalism of your statement. This approach ensures that your personal statement is both polished and personal, offering a true reflection of who you are.

How does feedback help me revise my personal statement?

Using feedback effectively is crucial in refining your personal statement. It offers insights into how your personal story is perceived by others and highlights areas that may need clarification, expansion, or reduction. Seek feedback from a variety of sources, including teachers, mentors, family members, and peers, to gain diverse perspectives on your writing.

When revising your personal statement based on feedback, prioritize comments that align with your goal of presenting a clear, cohesive, and compelling narrative. Consider each piece of feedback carefully, but also stay true to your voice and the core message you want to convey. This process of revision and refinement is essential for crafting a statement that truly resonates with admissions committees.

Crafting a compelling personal statement requires effective strategies such as introspection, creativity, and a willingness to share your unique story. Write a personal statement that not only showcases your achievements and aspirations but also leaves a lasting impression on college admissions officers. Remember, your personal statement is your opportunity to shine. Make it count.

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How To Write A Personal Statement (With Examples)

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Whether you want to apply to colleges, graduate programs, or competitive jobs, writing a persuasive personal statement will give you a leg up over the other applicants. A personal statement gives you a chance to express your qualifications, motivations, and long-term objectives in a way that gets hiring managers and admissions boards excited to meet you.

No matter why you’re writing a personal statement, we’re here to help you stand out from the crowd.

Key Takeaways:

To write a personal statement, first brainstorm, then narrow down your ideas, and start with an intro that leads into your qualifications.

Make sure to proofread your personal statement before submitting.

Personal statements describe your interests, skills, and goals, with a particular focus on your passion.

Personal statements are typically found in academia, however some professional organizations may also request one.

How To Write A Personal Statement (With Examples)

What Is a Personal Statement?

How to write a personal statement, tips for writing a strong personal statement, questions to ask yourself when writing a personal statement, when do i need a personal statement, academic personal statement examples, professional personal statement example, personal statement faq.

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A personal statement is a written work that describes your skills, areas of interest, accomplishments, and goals. It is typically included with a college or scholarship application, and sometimes used as part of job applications as well.

Personal statements are a chance for you to show an admissions board or a hiring committee what makes you special outside of your resume . Think of it as an in-depth cover letter where you get to detail not only your skills, but why you’re so passionate about the subject.

Short of an interview, it’s the best way to show your personality in a way that (hopefully) convinces someone to hire or admit you.

When you’re ready to write your statement, there are a few ways you can approach it. We’re going to go over a seven-step process so you can keep your thoughts organized and work through a process. Feel free to switch up the method, so it works for you.

Understand the prompt. Before you put pen to paper, make sure you understand the prompt and what is being asked of you. If there’s a specific set of questions you need to respond to, make sure you frame your thinking that way instead of just choosing a topic.

Brainstorm. Think of some ideas and an outline before you start writing. Consider how you can answer the prompt you’re given and what unique experiences you can bring to the table. The more options you have, the better off you’ll be.

Narrow it down. An excellent way to pick your final approach to draft a statement would be to jot down a few sentences for each idea you had. This helps you tell what topic is easiest to write about or what you feel most confident. No matter how you narrow down your ideas, you need to settle on the strongest one to convey your qualifications.

Start with an intro. Once you’re ready to write, you’ll want to write your opening paragraph first. This is a chance for you to introduce yourself and let people know who you are. Try to keep this paragraph short since it’s just an intro, and you’ll have more space to get into your qualifications in the next paragraph.

Write about your qualifications. When you write about your skills, make sure you align them with the job description or the program’s goals or university.

You can expand this section to a few paragraphs (if word count allows) and be sure to cover your achievements, qualifications, skills, talents, goals, and what you can bring to the program or organization.

One to three body paragraphs should suffice, with scholarship and graduate school personal statements being the longest of the bunch, and job personal statements being the shortest.

Sum up your argument. Your statement is a persuasive argument for why the committee should pick you. It should be a compelling summary of your qualifications, and it should show that you have a clear desire to work for the company.

Proofread. Look for any spelling or grammar errors and check to make sure your writing is clear and concise. Cut out anything that doesn’t fit or help paint a good picture of what kind of student or employee you are. You might want to show your draft to a few people to ensure everything sounds right.

No matter what approach you take to writing your statement, a few things hold. We’ll give you some tips to make your statement stand out from the rest.

Write to your audience. Chances are you have a good idea of who will be reading your application and personal statement, so try to gear your writing toward them. Think of what will persuade or impress them and incorporate that into your writing.

Stay truthful. It might be tempting to exaggerate the truth or smudge a little bit, but make sure you stay truthful. If you claim to have skills or experience that you don’t have and land the job, it might be pretty easy to tell that your writing doesn’t exactly align with your experience.

Tell a story. If you can, try to weave your narrative into a story. Not only will it be more engaging for your reader, but it will also show if you can use your skill to create a story. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but tying everything together into a narrative will impress your readers.

Use your voice. To make your statement more personal and unique, you should write in your voice. Don’t try to copy examples of statements you find or let your editor drown out what makes you unique. Make sure you keep your personality and qualifications front and center since it’s a personal statement.

Get specific. Instead of generally talking about skills you have, find ways to show your reader when you used those skills. Being specific and giving examples will make your argument more compelling and show your reader that you’re a master.

Use simple language. Since personal statements are so short, it’s not the time for long and complex sentences. Keep it concise and easy to read. You don’t want to risk confusing your reader since committees usually have a few minutes to consider your candidacy, and you don’t want to lose their attention.

Sometimes, especially during the brainstorm process, it can help to ask yourself questions to get your mind focused. These questions can help realize what you want to write in your personal statement.

Some questions you can ask yourself include:

“Why am I interested in this application? What about it makes me want to apply?”

“What are my strengths and weaknesses?”

“What type of work gets me excited and deeply engaged?”

“What is my life story and how does it relate to this application?”

“Where do I want to go?”

“Who do I want to be?”

“What have I learned from my past?”

“How can I explain my past experiences?”

“How would my friends and family describe me to a stranger?”

“What obstacles have I overcome and how does it make me who I am today?”

Asking yourself questions like these will open up your mind to new ideas on how to write your personal statement.

You may need to write a personal statement for a university, scholarship, or job application.

University application. When you’re writing a personal statement for a school application, you’ll usually have a few paragraphs to get your point across. These prompts tend to be more open-ended and give you a chance to explain why you want to attend that school, how you align with their program, and why you are an excellent fit for the school’s culture.

A personal statement for a graduate program needs to be much sharper and more focused. At this point in your education, you’re expected to know precisely where you’d like to turn your academic focus and be able to communicate that efficiently.

Scholarship application. When you need to write a personal statement for a grant or scholarship application, you want to make sure you align your values and purpose with the providers. These can be tricky to write, but they’re like a careful balance between personal statements for school and work.

Job application. For work-related personal statements, you’ll want to focus on your skills and qualifications more than your personality. Employers are more concerned with how you can meet their skill requirements. Professional personal statements tend to be shorter, so there’s less space to talk about anything but your qualifications.

Here are two examples of shorts personal statement for graduate program applications:

From the moment I stepped into the lab, smelled the clean scent of fresh lab coats, and saw the beakers glistening under the light, I felt an excitement to learn that hasn’t left me since. Each time I enter the lab, I feel the same flutter of my heart and a sense of purpose. I want to continue to chase this feeling while contributing to a broader scientific knowledge catalog, which I know the Graduate Biology Program at City University will allow me to do. I want to continue the research I started in college on communicable diseases while gaining a critical education. City University’s program emphasizes in-class and hands-on learning, a perfect combination for my learning style.
As a graduate of State University with a B.S. in Biology, I have the foundation to build my knowledge and experience. While at State University, I worked in a lab researching the efficacy of a new flu vaccine. There, I managed other student researchers, worked as a liaison between the professor running the lab and students and managed the data reports. I am ready to bring my extensive experience to City University classrooms while learning from my peers. I am eager to begin the coursework at City University, and I believe I am uniquely prepared to contribute to the campus culture and research efforts. I look forward to stepping into City University’s lab in the fall and feeling the familiar excitement that drives me to pursue a graduate program and learn more about public health.

If you need to write a professional personal statement, here’s a sample you can model yours after:

As a recent graduate of State University with a B.A. in Communications, I am prepared to take what I have learned in the classroom and bring my work ethic and go-getter attitude to ABC Company. I believe that I have the skills and experience to excel as a Marketing Coordinator from my first day. My classes in Digital Communication, Social Media Marketing, and Business Management and my work as Outreach Chair of the university newspaper have prepared me to take on responsibilities as I learn more about the field. I also believe that my dedication to animal welfare aligns with the ABC Company’s goal of finding loving homes for all of their foster pets and makes me especially interested in this position.

What do I write in a personal statement?

A personal statement should include an introduction, your relevant skills/experiences, and your goals. You want to keep your personal statement relevant for the program or job in question. Make sure to show your passion and indicate what you’d like to do with the degree or opportunity.

How do you start off a personal statement?

Start your personal statement by introducing yourself. Give a brief snapshot of your background that also describes why you’re passionate about this field or area of study in particular. Another powerful way to start off a personal statement is with a significant accomplishment that immediately speaks to your relevant skill set and experience.

What exactly is a personal statement?

A personal statement is a brief statement that sums up your qualifications. A personal statement is a brief written document that university admissions boards, scholarship programs, and sometimes hiring managers require from applicants. A personal statement’s purpose is to show the reader that you are qualified, fully invested in the aims of the program, and have plans for what you would do if granted the opportunity.

How do you write a 500-word personal statement?

To write a 500-word personal statement, start by writing without worrying about the word count. If your personal statement is too long, look for sentences that include skills, experiences, or qualifications that aren’t strictly related to the requirements or aims of the program/job you’re applying for and remove them.

If your personal statement is too short, go back to the program, scholarship, or job description. Make note of the preferred experiences and required skills. For example, if you’ve included a skill in your personal statement without experience to back it up, consider adding a brief story that shows you putting that skill into action.

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Amanda is a writer with experience in various industries, including travel, real estate, and career advice. After taking on internships and entry-level jobs, she is familiar with the job search process and landing that crucial first job. Included in her experience is work at an employer/intern matching startup where she marketed an intern database to employers and supported college interns looking for work experience.

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Personal Statement for College: 8 Common Mistakes to Avoid

September 20, 2016

personal statement what not to do

Writing a good personal statement for college is a tricky task. There are endless ways to write a good essay, as well as endless ideas to draw upon from your own individual life. The smallest experience can be the perfect example of a stand-out quality you want to highlight, and sometimes it is difficult to pinpoint these good experiences to write about. A good personal statement for college is one that is unique, well-written, and demonstrates who you are. The key word here is personal.

But while most of your experiences, honors, and activities are fair game to that end, there are certain topics which are either overly used, poorly executed, poorly received, or a combination of all three. The following list outlines topics to avoid in your personal statement for college.

1. Writing your resumé twice makes you seem boring and uncreative

Perhaps the most common mistake that college applicants make is to re-write their resumé or activities list and call it a personal statement. This is bad for several reasons.

First, it gives admissions officers no information about you that they didn’t already have. In general, the less they know about you, the less likely you are to be admitted.

Second, rewriting your resumé makes you seem uncreative. If you are incapable of writing a 2-3 page paper that doesn’t repeat the other 12 pages you’ve sent the admissions office, then you seem uncreative, or, worse, lazy.

This does not mean that you cannot discuss activities or experiences which also appear on your application; indeed, you almost always should discuss activities and experiences which appear elsewhere. Your personal statement for college is a great time to reinforce and highlight your unique interests and views. However, those activities which you discuss must be related to the broader theme of your personal statement. They should not be a simple recitation of your most impressive awards, honors, etc.

2. Overcoming adversity is only a viable topic in your personal statement for college if you’ve actually overcome adversity

A classic mistake is for college applicants to “invent” adversity in their lives. This often takes the form of re-imagining a small set-back as being equivalent to a life of hardship and tribulation. Students might write about having difficulty in a class, failing a test, or being unpopular in middle school, as evidence that they too have overcome adversity. While it is certainly true that everyone experiences hardship differently, you must understand that from a third party perspective, these sorts of problems do not register as true adversity.

Thus, if you are going to discuss how you overcame adversity in your personal statement for college , be sure that you are discussing a matter with which anyone could sympathize.

On the other hand, if you had to work the night shifts of a part-time job to save up for college, you can feel fairly confident that most admissions officers will not question the challenges you’ve faced. In short, if you have to ask yourself, “Is this really adversity?” the answer is almost certainly no. Remember that you will be applying against individuals who have endured unquestionable adversity: people who have endured war, crippling disease, traumatic violence. That is the standard by which you should assess your struggles.

3. Save the diversity for the diverse candidates

If you lack genuine racial, ethnic, or national diversity, do not depict yourself otherwise in your personal statement. Many applicants try to trump up their distant and attenuated lineage, in the hopes of getting “diversity points” for their application. This is almost always a bad idea. Admissions officers are easily able to spot this sort of ploy for the “diversity points.” So, if your diversity isn’t related to succeeding in college, then it doesn’t belong in your personal statement. That being said, colleges do look for people with varied backgrounds and perspectives - i.e. diversity - so if you come from a unique background, then you should of course highlight this in your personal statement for college or elsewhere on your application.  

4. The “Injured Athlete” Cliché

“After years spent honing my talents, it was devastating to leave the team...”

This is one of the essay topics that appears so frequently in the average  personal statement for college  that they make every admissions officer’s eyes roll. Most students applying to college participate in athletics at some point throughout their high school careers. Many get injured. Unless you were the top Division I field hockey recruit in the country, steer clear of this topic (and even if you were, this topic is still clichéd). The “injured athlete” story is usually similar to the “overcoming adversity” motif. So, to reiterate, you need to make sure that the adversity you face is objectively true.  

5. The “International Sojourn or Tropical Vacation” Cliché

“I learned so much about Mexican culture during my extended stay in Cabo San Lucas.” It is worth noting that tons of students write about the time they spent traveling. For the most part, admissions officers can easily determine when these trips were glorified vacations and when they were meaningful academic, intellectual, or philosophical experiences. It is tempting to write about global connections and experiences in your personal statement for college , but unless your experience abroad was highly standout and unique, this topic is best to avoid because it is overdone.

6. The “Inspiring Relatives” Cliché

“My grandmother has an incredible life story.”

Most of us can relate to being inspired by someone close to us. Our family members have gone through great lengths to help us get to where we are are today. But recounting the great feats that your grandmother met to arrive successfully at the present moment is a bad idea. An admissions officer in most cases would commend your inspiring relative. But they are not evaluating your grandmother’s application. They want to find out about you. Your personal statement for college needs to be, first and foremost, personal . You should be the main character in your essay. Always.

7. Writing about middle school

If you write about your middle school achievements, admissions officers will think you have accomplished nothing of value in high school. Unless your achievements were truly outstanding (for example, you started a successful company that is still in place today), or if the topic you write about is ongoing and still relevant, you should avoid writing about middle school. It is a personal statement for college - make it personal, and make it relevant to college.

8. Trying to do too much

You have 650 words on your personal statement for college , which in the grand scheme of things, is not very many. There is certainly not enough space to highlight everything you have ever done or achieved. Instead, you should focus on choosing a specific time or experience or topic that can stand as an example of your interests and background more generally. In trying to accomplish too much, you will in turn, accomplish very little.

Every part of the application is important. Your GPA and standardized test scores qualify you for certain schools. But sometimes you don’t have the highest SAT score . You can still get into top schools by using your personal statement for college as a chance to set yourself apart. Draw from experiences that are unique, that are personal, and that clearly display your individual interests.

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Personal Statement

7 Things to Avoid in Your Personal Statement

🚫 make sure you're not doing anything from this list..

If you're still writing your essay, start with this guide on writing a personal statement . But if you have a first draft, then go through this checklist and make sure you're NOT doing any of these 7 things.

1. Whining. Don't whine in your essay! Definitely talk about challenges you've faced in your life, and how you've grown, but don't spend too much time talking about how tough you've had it. You're not looking for pity; you're looking for respect. Take a look at this paragraph:

"Every time he cries, no matter what the reason is, my parents always blame me for making him cry. I have tasted the injustice, but I cannot do anything to it. Since the birth of my brother, half of my time has been spent on him instead of hanging out with friends after school. My mom has stopped attending anything related to my education. I feel like I am not only the foreigner to this country, but also to this family that I belong to. My family always tells me that it is my responsibility to care about my brother, meaning I need to fill out every form for him, everything!"

See how it just feels like a list of complaints? Avoid doing this.

2. Someone else is the hero. Your essay might talk about someone else in your life who has had a positive or negative influence on you. But, make sure you're still the hero of the story! If you have more than 1-2 paragraphs talking about someone else, you might need to rewrite your essay. Take a look at this paragraph:

"Ultimately, my sister did a lot of seemingly spontaneous and irrational things. But, I realized these moments were some of the most satisfying and transformative moments growing up. I realized that my sister’s humor worked its way into my heart and loosened the constraints I put myself through previously. Progressively, I went from somebody who, in their frantic, stressed life, became discouraged when not getting what they expect to someone who finds value in every moment."

Tbh, the sister in this story seems the most interesting - as a reader, I want to know more about her. She seems pretty cool. On the flip side, we haven't learned much about the narrator.

3. Reads like a resume. Your resume is like the polished, fancy version of you. Your essay is your chance to be honest, personal, and vulnerable. Don't list off your accomplishments and only focus on all the shiny, good parts of your life. Give the reader a chance to connect with you.

Don't fake smile - be your true, authentic self.

4. Lack of focus. This is the most common issue we see. Don't throw in details that aren't relevant to the story you're telling. Every sentence you write should contribute to the overall story you're telling. Take a look at this paragraph:

"After exams, my father took us out to dinner. I cherished every single dish, licking my plate clean while my mother chided me on how improper that is. Back home, she scolded me about tiny stains of food on my shirt, all the while trying to hide a smile. I studied for these moments too. She suffers from depression, so it is rare to see her smile. On an oddly cold Tuesday morning, I got a call from the British Council; I had scored the highest marks in Economics in Pakistan."

See how there are too many distracting details? It's like, each sentence gives us something that we want to know more about, but then just moves on. Why does the narrator cherish each dish? How has his mother's depression affected him? Unless you're planning to dig deep into details like these, don't include them.

Stay focused! Don't try to do too many things at once.

5. Leaves out personal growth. If your essay is about overcoming a challenge or changing as a person, make sure you focus the bulk of your essay on how you grew and changed. Don't just brush over it. Check out these paragraphs:

"After a male teacher directly asked if synchronized swimming took any effort, I vowed never to tell another soul about my sport. My floral swim cap, which once stood proudly on my dresser like a brightly colored flag, slowly inched its way deeper into my dresser. Now at sixteen, I have accepted my existence in floral swim caps."

See how we're set up to learn how the narrator changed? She talks about how she was hiding herself and her passions. But, then she never actually talks about the process of accepting herself. What happened? Did she find support from her friends? Did winning a competition change her perspective? But she never addresses it, and just says that she accepts herself now.

Don't hide the tough moments or challenges - overcoming obstacles in your life make you who you are, and this essay is about sharing who you are.

6. Overcomplicated language. Don't overcomplicate your sentences. Don't use super long sentences - limit it to 2 independent clauses per sentence unless you have a REALLY good reason for something longer.

And try not to sound like a thesaurus. Don't say things like "I was already being informed about the divergent underlying notions encompassing gender." Just say "I was already learning about the different expectations for different genders."

Be you, don't be pretentious.

7. Incorrect grammar or spelling. Check your grammar! Use spellcheck or grammarly to make sure you don't have any grammar issues in your essay.

Now, make sure you also know the 5 things you SHOULD do in your personal statement.

MORE GUIDES

What not to do in your personal statement

Your personal statement is a critical component of your law school application. Here are the top five pitfalls to avoid when writing your personal statement:

1. Do NOT repeat your resume

Remember, you will already submit a resume or CV as part of your law school application. The admissions committee will already have all that information readily available. Your personal statement should tell a story and provide more color. This is an opportunity to get, well, personal! Let your personality shine and use this as a chance to say things that your resume won’t necessarily convey.

2. Do NOT make excuses

If you must, you can explain any mitigating circumstances in an addendum. Do not use your personal statement as a moment to explain, blame or dwell on the negative. 

3. Do NOT go crazy with the format

You want to be original, but you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. The fact is, the legal professional is still very traditional. Your personal statement should be in the form of an essay. Don’t experiment with the format – now is not the time to break into song or sonnet. 

4. Do NOT talk about high school

The point here is, you want to talk about the recent past, not the distant past. If you are a non-traditional candidate and college was 5-10 years ago, the same applies – don’t talk about college. Talk about a theme from the past 2-3 years. You want the admissions committee to have a good idea about who you are in this stage of your life, not your past self.

5. Do NOT be too cliché 

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, start your personal statement with a quote. And most definitely DO NOT start it with something like “Once upon a time…” These gimmicks are boring, impersonal and predictable. You want to be authentic and sophisticated. Having a strong opening line – most importantly, keep it original.

personal statement what not to do

Monica is a practicing corporate attorney specializing in private equity mergers and acquisitions. She graduated from Harvard Law School and the University of Pennsylvania, summa cum laude. While attending Harvard Law School, Monica interned at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement.

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Choosing What Not to Write in a Personal Statement

stern man pointing at camera

Written by David Lombardino   |  Updated February 29, 2024

The Other Side of the Coin

With as much time as candidates spend thinking about what to write in their personal statements , what often gets overlooked is what NOT to write in a personal statement.

With the over 15 years’ experience I have in critiquing, editing and proofreading personal statements , I have gotten to know the mistakes candidates commonly make in their personal statements and the effect those mistakes have on the program directors and admissions committees reading them.

Once you know what these mistakes are, they will be easy to avoid, and get you that much closer to a good working draft of your personal statement—and a good first impression with your application.

Item 1 to Avoid: Clichés

The first step is to avoid using clichés in a personal statement. A cliché is a word or phrase, or even idea, that has been used so many times before that it is no longer effective, or original.

When we hear someone use a cliché when speaking, it makes us want to groan or wince. The effect is the same for the program director or admissions committee when reading a cliché in a personal statement.

An example is stating in a medical residency personal statement, for the sole purpose of communicating that you know how to work in a team, that you have played on a sports team.

If you want to use something that is normally considered a cliché in your personal statement, one solution is to provide the specific details that make the cliché particularly relevant to you.

In other words, provide the details that show that it is genuinely your particular story. In the example of wanting to communicate your ability to work in a team, you could describe a particular time when you stood out for putting the team’s or a fellow teammate’s needs first, and how your efforts helped the team.

Another solution is to think of the idea you wish to communicate with the cliché, then think of another way to communicate that same idea. Continuing with the teamwork example, rather than stating that you played on a sports team, you can describe an experience from the clinical setting in which you demonstrated a team-first attitude and other positive teamwork characteristics.

Item 2 to Avoid: Opening With a Story Written in the Present Tense

Avoid opening your personal statement by writing in the present tense unless what you are writing is something that is actually taking place in the present tense.

Don’t write in the present tense a story that happened in the past.

If the story happened in the past, then write it in the past tense. If the story didn’t happen in the past, but is one actually happening in the present, then think twice. Most likely there is a better option for the introduction to your personal statement.

How to Hook the Reader

Every candidate wants to open their personal statement with a hook that will get the program director’s or admission committee’s attention. The best and easiest way to do this is to have confidence in your story and tell it exactly how it is.

Your confidence, and telling your story in a genuine and forthright manner, will be all you need to hook your reader into wanting to read your personal statement.

Item 3 to Avoid: Gimmicks, or Any Other Attempt to Be Catchy

Avoid using any gimmicks or attempts to be catchy in your personal statement. Writing unnecessarily in the present tense is an example.

Another example is writing your personal statement in a question-answer format as if you were being interviewed by a game show host.

Instead, simply tell your story.

If you use a gimmick or otherwise attempt to be catchy in your personal statement, program directors or admissions committees will think there is a problem with your story, and that there is a reason you are not telling it in a clear and forthright manner. They will think you are trying to hide something, or that you know you are not a strong candidate for the program.

There is nothing positive that comes out of using a gimmick or other attempt to be catchy in a personal statement.

Item 4 to Avoid: The Passive Voice

Avoid using the passive voice in your personal statement. The passive voice occurs when a statement or question does not communicate the one who takes an action.

For example, “The patient received a shot in the arm.”

We see this most commonly in personal statements for medical residency. The effect of the passive voice is to distance both the subject and, therefore, the reader from the narrative. It prevents the reader from engaging, or maintaining engagement, with the personal statement.

Your personal statement is your story, and it should therefore state what YOU did.

The subject of each action described in the personal statement needs to be clearly communicated. If you did not take the action, then state who took the action in the context of what other action you were taking.

Example Solution 1—You Took the Action

Instead of “The patient received a shot in the arm,” write, “I gave the patient a shot in the arm.”

Example Solution 2—Someone Else Took the Action in the Context of Another Action You Were Taking

Instead of “The patient received a shot in the arm,” write, “My attending gave the patient a shot in the arm, while I held the patient’s hand and offered consoling words to the patient and her family.”

personal statement what not to do

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personal statement what not to do

What Not To Write In A Personal Statement: Expert Advice

personal statement what not to do

Hopefully, you’re surrounded by people who can help you with exactly what to write about when you’re putting together your application, but sometimes you need to know what not to write in a personal statement , in order to make it as successful as possible.

So, what should you not write in your personal statement?

Do not write content in your personal statement that is factually inaccurate, grammatically incorrect, or that does not fully evidence your suitability.

Do not include exaggerated or overly academic vocabulary in an attempt to impress or write at length about your childhood or the work of others.

Sound like a lot of things you can’t include?

Don’t worry, I’ve broken the three main points down in detail below. Once you know what not to write in a personal statement, you’ll be able to write a compelling and successful application…

What Should you not put in a Personal Statement?

Before we break down these three key areas in a lot more detail, here’s a quick and helpful list of the top ten things you should not put in a personal statement:

  • Unresearched claims or inaccurate information
  • Lies, exaggeration or unoriginal content
  • Errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar
  • Irrelevant material or unnecessary filler
  • Hobbies and interests that do not add value
  • Stories from your childhood
  • Content that is not focused on your suitability
  • Commonly used vocabulary or quotes
  • Description rather than evaluation
  • Lists of any kind, especially qualifications

Check out my in-depth post on what to avoid in a personal statement here , or if you’ve already got started and want to check your statement for errors, this guide to how to check your personal statement is a great place to start .

If you’re ever in any doubt about what to include, just remember to check your ABC’s. If whatever you want to include fits the model, go for it…

personal statement what not to do

Do Not Write About Your Childhood or Your Passions

When it comes to what not to write in a personal statement, your childhood and your passions come right at the top of the list.

It’s not that you can’t write about them at all, but you must make sure that if you do, you keep the reference brief and highly relevant.

Your Childhood is not Important to the Reader

Admissions tutors do not want to read about your childhood in a personal statement. They want to know about the person you are today, not the person you were a decade ago. It is also a signal that you do not have enough relevant material to include and that your application may lack real ambition.

Look at the examples below. The first is a paragraph from a personal statement that places much too much focus on the applicant’s childhood. The second example gets the balance right.

personal statement what not to do

Although the second example doesn’t outline the countries the applicant visited, the depth of their connection with Modern Foreign Languages shines through, as does their knowledge and opinion.

personal statement what not to do

You Can’t Be Passionate About Everything!

If there is one word that frustrates admissions officers more than any other, it is when applicants use the word ‘passionate’ in their personal statements…

  • “I am passionate about Engineering”
  • “My volunteering experience shows how passionate I am about Events Management”
  • “I am dedicated to my true passion, which is molecular Biology”

The basic dictionary definition of ‘passionate’ is “having very strong feelings or emotions”, and whilst you might well enjoy Archaeology, being passionate about it has become the shorthand of cliché . The problem is that when everybody uses the same word, it loses its meaning.

‘Passionate’ has moved from meaning ‘consumed by’ to signalling that the writer has a limited vocabulary and an unrealistic level of connection with their field of study.

Why not use these alternatives to ‘passionate’ in your personal statement:

HeartfeltAnimatedCommittedEngagedMotivated
FascinatedPositiveEnthralledDedicatedCompelled

Check out my post here and learn how to improve your personal statement , or think about using Grammarly to help your writing reach a greater level of accuracy and readability. You can check out the free version of Grammarly here or hit the banner.

personal statement what not to do

Do Not Write Content if you Can’t Evidence Value

Ironically, making unqualified statements in a personal statement just doesn’t work. Every point you make must be targeted to add value to your application.

If you can’t evidence the value of an experience, qualification, skill or piece of knowledge, you should not be including it.

Without evidence to develop the context of the comment and, subsequently, the understanding of the reader, a descriptive statement will just take up space in your application and have a negative impact overall.

Here’s a three-point example. The first sentence does not include any evidence to develop the point made by the writer. The second attempts to analyse why the experience was of value, whilst the last point evidences the value with context.

Check your personal statement for moments that resemble the first point, and change these to more closely match the last example where possible.

  • I enjoy sports and am the captain of the basketball team at school.
  • My engagement with sports has helped me develop my teamwork skills. As captain of the basketball team, I have to motivate and support my teammates when we play.
  • As captain of the school basketball team, I am an accomplished team player. The experience has developed my communication and active listening skills, and I am used to taking responsibility for making decisions under pressure. Additionally, I have become adept at balancing my academic work with my sports commitments in order to meet deadlines, preparing me well for the demands of higher education.

Check out the skills you should include in a personal statement here , or read my post about outstanding personal statement examples to get even more inspiration!

Do Not Write About the Achievements of Others

Your personal statement should be all about you.

It isn’t an opportunity to reference as many other people as possible in an attempt to appear well-read or educated.

Writing about the achievements of others can be valuable if you take a sentence to convey their contribution and use the rest of the paragraph to give your informed thoughts and show how that piece of knowledge is of value to your application.

However, writing the equivalent of an academic essay instead of a personal statement might show that you have read a book or understood a topic, but it does not illustrate your opinions, ambitions, suitability or value to the reader.

Have a look at this example…

personal statement what not to do

On the surface, it looks compelling – three different sources and a sense of argument. But what does this example actually tell you about the writer?

What are their thoughts on the topic?

How has the knowledge gained propelled them to act?

How will their experiences inform their next step in terms of study or make them a suitable candidate for the course they are applying for?

If you don’t make the connections, you can’t expect the reader to, so always prioritise writing about yourself but from an informed and relevant perspective.

If you’d like to, you can check out my post on even more powerful personal statement strategies here .

personal statement what not to do

Good luck with your personal statement, and don’t forget to contact me if you’d like some 1-1 support. You’ve got this! D

Research and content verified by Personal Statement Planet.

David Hallen

I've worked in the Further Education and University Admissions sector for nearly 20 years as a teacher, department head, Head of Sixth Form, UCAS Admissions Advisor, UK Centre Lead and freelance personal statement advisor, editor and writer. And now I'm here for you...

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How To Write A Personal Statement For Your Resume (With Examples).

personal statement what not to do

You need to write a personal statement for your resume and are looking for examples.

You could make it easy for yourself and hire a professional resume writer such as myself .

But maybe your budget is limited – or maybe you don’t feel that hiring a professional resume writer is worth it ( Are Professional Resume Writers Worth The Cost? ).

Either way, no problems.

You’ve Come to the Right place.

The best way to write an eyeball-grabbing personal statement for your resume is by knowing what NOT to do.

I’m about to show you some examples of very underwhelming, yet typical personal statements. I will then explain what makes them so average – so that you don’t make the same mistakes when you write your own.

If you follow my advice, you’ll end up with a killer killer personal statement for your resume that will position you as the winning candidate in front of potential employers.

But before I get stuck into it, let me give you a quick heads-up. What I’m about to tell you will help you write a much more persuasive resume.

Brand Yourself.

The personal statement sets the foundation of your personal brand .

The idea of a professional or personal brand isn’t new. The term was first coined by business management consultant Tom Peters back in his 1997 essay The Brand Called You .

In it, Peters claimed that:

“You’re not defined by your job title and you’re not confined by your job description…You’re every bit as much a brand as Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop.”

What Peters described was a ‘value proposition’. You can begin to discover what yours is by asking yourself the following three questions:

  • What makes you  uniquely attractive to employers ?
  • What makes you uniquely different from the next similarly qualified candidate?
  • And, most importantly, what organisational problems can you solve that no-one else can ?

Answering these three questions in your personal statement is your number one priority. To keep you on track, remember JFK’s famous inaugural quote:

“Ask not what your employer can do for you; ask what you can do for your employer.”

Example of a bad personal statement #1:

Let’s perform an autopsy of a personal statement taken from a typical run-of-the-mill resume that I found online.

Can you spot any problems with it – before I shine a light on them?

personal statement what not to do

This example makes the wrong first impression with “Results-orientated…”.

Generic phrasing is a real snooze for recruiters . They look through dozens of resumes per day and most kick off with some variation of this line.

The second sentence in the above example starts well with an attempt to identify a skill that solves a problem and delivers an outcome:

“Possessing a track record helping to optimise operational processes whilst maximising profit…”

But then ends in a way that doesn’t make much sense:

“…within a challenging fast paced environment requiring high degree of communication, flair and the ability to meet tight deadlines.”

A personal statement for a resume needs to be snappy. A sentence should take up no more than 2 lines, have no more than 2 clauses or related to more than one core competency.

Snappy sentences bring impact. In the above for example, the writer could have made his/her point with much more impact by saying:

“I possess a track record of optimising operational processes whilst maximizing profit.”

What’s an objective?

It’s the once-popular resume item which now firmly belongs in the dustbin of history. You see it in the example above as part of this sentence:

“Seeks a challenging and varied position…”

Truth is, your objective is implied in the act of submitting your job application. By reiterating it on your resume you waste valuable real estate – and squander an opportunity to sell yourself.

Recruiters want to know how you can solve their problems, not how they can solve yours.

Example of a bad personal statement #2:

Let’s dissect another example of a personal statement. This one will teach us a few different lessons:

personal statement what not to do

“Market strategy analist…”

This example shows us the typical shotgun approach – cramming all areas of experience in to cover the bases:

“…cross functional expertise in business and financial analysis, accounting, marketing and new business development…”

Serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk wisely told us: “ No matter what you do, your job is to tell your story”.

Great stories have structure, cohesion and flow – and so should the personal statement on your resume.

It needs to paint a clear and coherent picture of your expertise and value proposition, so avoid standalone sentences like the one in the above example:

“Proven history of improving operations and increasing profitability. Ability to talk and conduct business in French and Spanish languages…Excellent interpersonal and analytical skills.”

As personal statement examples go, the one isn’t ‘bad’ – but it is boring.

Whilst we get a good overview of skills and experience (albeit in a somewhat clumsy manner), it fails to tell us anything ‘personal’.

Research shows that more than ever, employers are recruiting for culture fit .

A personal statement for a resume should be an introduction to your brand – in your voice.

Absence of all pronouns (as we see in the example above), creates an impersonal, distant resume. Give your recruiters a voice that they can connect with by writing your personal statement in the first voice.

For example:

“I am a professional, committed and ambitious Chartered Internal Auditor with more than 20 years’ experience…”

The difference is subtle, but noticeable, isn’t it?

My Final Piece of Advice.

As you continue your research on how to write a personal statement for a resume, it’s important that you know a lot of the ‘advice’ out there is poor. Consistent, but poor.

Most of the guidance on writing a personal statement for a resume is dated. So-called ‘gurus’ will tell you to describe your best assets, focus on your strengths and highlight your accomplishments.

This approach might have worked 10 years ago.

To win in today’s job market, you need to focus on how your best assets, strengths and accomplishments solve organizational problems.

This is the core of your personal brand.

To find out more about my approach, you can read my interview with the Huffington Post – Building A Personal Branding Company .

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Starting Your Personal Statement: What Not To Do

Exams are looming for many students, so it may come as a shock to find that there’s something else to start thinking about: your personal statement if you’re considering applying to oxbridge, your personal statement needs to be submitted by october – which means the summer months are vital for whipping it into shape..

When working on your personal statement, it’s easy to focus on crafting the perfect opening line – a process that can take a lot of time, and cause a lot of stress! Whilst it’s a good idea to make your introduction memorable, resist the urge to overthink: you have plenty more words with which to make an impression on the reader.

Sometimes it’s best to think about what not to do, rather than what you should be doing. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of things to avoid when composing the introduction to your personal statement.

1. Steer clear of overused openings.

2018 marked UCAS’ first year of utilising new software to assess personal statements. Their review of the data concluded that not only were a whopping 4,000 personal statements plagiarised (a big no-no, obviously!), but also there were ten very common opening lines:

  • ‘From a young age, I have (always) been [interested in/fascinated by]…’
  • ‘For as long as I can remember, I have…’
  • ‘I am applying for this course because…’
  • ‘I have always been interested in…’
  • ‘Throughout my life, I have always enjoyed…’
  • ‘Reflecting on my educational experiences…’
  • ‘[Subject] is a very challenging and demanding [career/course]’
  • ‘Academically, I have always been…’
  • ‘I have always wanted to pursue a career in…’
  • ‘I have always been passionate about…’

Admission tutors read thousands of personal statements each year, so the likelihood is that no statement is going to be a complete surprise to them. However, you can make things a little easier by avoiding sentences that are completely overused, like the ones mentioned above.

2. Don’t quote – use your own voice.

If you’ve come across a turn of phrase that you find particularly inspiring, or if you want to demonstrate how much you’ve read, you might be tempted to start your personal statement with a quote. Don’t. Chances are someone else will have already used that quote; and, more importantly, the admissions tutor wants to learn about you. They’re probably already familiar with what Chaucer has to say about women, but they’re not familiar with you: your background, your voice, what you’ve got to say about your subject and experiences.

If you really want to use a quote, steer clear of the big hitters. Choose a lesser-known expert in your chosen field and find an epigraph that you’ve found truly inspiring, or which really captures your enthusiasm for the subject.

3. Don’t be long-winded.

Sticking to the personal statement word count can be the most difficult task of all – there’s so much you wish to get across, but relatively few words in which to say it all! As such, you really don’t want to pad out your introduction: this is the place to be both clear and concise.

Resist the urge to use hyperbolic language or academic jargon in your opening sentence, and play around with it until you’ve communicated what you wish to say in as few words as possible. Successful opening sentences tend to be succinct. Being verbose will not be helpful: less is more!

4. Avoid joking around.

What’s more memorable than humour, you might think? Perhaps you have the perfect pun or joke to start your statement with. However, humour is a very particular thing – and there’s no guarantee that the person reading your statement will share yours. In addition, the most important thing to convey in your personal statement is your enthusiasm for and dedication to the course you have chosen: starting with a joke could undermine your commitment to academic study.

5 . Don’t start with your opening sentence at all…

If you’re not sure how to start your personal statement, don’t spend ages agonising over it. Instead, leave it until later on – or even last of all – and revisit once your statement has started to take shape. You may find that a fantastic opening line comes to mind as you’re writing other sections: it’s amazing how the human brain works! In addition, as the rest of the piece comes together, it might be easier to decide what you would like to focus on in your introduction.

Our expert tutoring team comprises senior teachers and examiners, all of whom have considerable experience with the university admissions process. Please  get in touch with Mentor Education today to find out how our online tutors can help your child get into their first-choice university. We look forward to hearing from you!

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What’s A Good GPA For Grad School? How To Get In

Genevieve Carlton Ph.D.

Updated: Mar 26, 2024, 4:18pm

What’s A Good GPA For Grad School? How To Get In

Applying to grad school can be stressful, especially if your undergraduate GPA could be higher. But there’s good news—you don’t need a 4.0 to get into grad school.

What’s a good GPA for grad school? It depends on the school and program. In general, graduate schools look for a minimum 3.0 GPA, but programs admit applicants with lower GPAs, too.

Grades aren’t the only way grad schools measure applicants. You also submit letters of recommendation and college essays , among other materials that can help you stand out. By doing your research and strengthening other areas of your application, you can get into grad school without a high GPA.

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What GPA Do You Need for Grad School?

Many grad schools require a minimum 3.0 GPA for admission, while some competitive programs may require a GPA as high as 3.5.

However, meeting the minimum GPA threshold doesn’t guarantee admission. For example, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s graduate school recommends applicants have a minimum 3.0 GPA, but the average GPA for admitted students is 3.54.

Competitive grad programs may have even higher average GPAs: For example, Harvard University ‘s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences reported a 3.8 average undergraduate GPA for fall 2023 graduate students. Many prestigious M.B.A. programs report the average undergraduate GPA for new grad students is 3.5 or higher.

Less competitive programs regularly admit students with lower GPAs , especially those whose applications highlight other aspects of their achievements.

How Do Grad School Admissions Officers Evaluate Applicants?

Grades aren’t the only factor grad school admissions officers consider when evaluating applicants. Ultimately, the admissions process aims to find students who will succeed in grad school. You can show your preparation for graduate-level coursework in several ways.

Elements outside GPA that play a role in grad school admissions decisions include:

  • Standardized Test Scores: High scores on tests like the GRE or GMAT can boost your chance of admissions. For test-optional graduate programs, consider submitting scores if you have a lower GPA.
  • Experience: Some programs require applicants to have research or work experience, so explain how your previous jobs or research opportunities have prepared you for the program in your statement of purpose.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Recommendation letters speak to your viability for grad school, which makes them a valuable tool for admissions officers. When choosing recommenders, ask faculty or work supervisors who can provide specific examples of your academic and professional strengths.
  • Statement of Purpose: Your statement of purpose explains your preparation for grad school, why you will fit into the program and what you plan to do with your graduate degree.
  • Undergraduate Transcripts: Admissions officers look for more than grades in your transcript. They want to see which courses you took, whether you meet prerequisite requirements and whether your transcripts show improvement over time.

How To Get Into Grad School With a Low GPA

Strengthening your application with research experience, work history or standardized test scores can help you stand out even with a lower GPA. You can also take graduate courses to demonstrate that you can succeed in advanced classes. Finally, if you thrive in interview settings, consider programs that incorporate interviews with faculty or admissions officers to showcase your strengths.

Here are some considerations for getting into grad school with a low GPA:

Apply To Grad Schools With Lower GPA Requirements

Instead of applying to grad programs that require a minimum 3.0 to 3.5 GPA, consider applying to programs with lower grade point average requirements. Additionally, some programs offer conditional or provisional admission for applicants who do not meet GPA minimums. If you qualify for provisional admission, you must usually earn a B or higher in your graduate classes to stay enrolled.

Research or Work Experience

Work or research experience can help you stand out despite a low GPA. While enrolled as an undergraduate, consider internship or volunteer opportunities in your field to build relevant skills. For research-intensive areas, ask faculty in your department about research assistant positions or undergraduate thesis options.

Letters of Recommendation

Strong letters of recommendation can make up for a lower GPA. Think strategically about who to ask for a recommendation letter. Professors who can speak to your academic strengths can reassure grad programs that you’re ready for advanced coursework. If you have full-time professional experience, ask supervisors who can speak to your work ethic and leadership potential.

Personal Statement

A strong grad school admission essay can help you stand out. Explain how the program will help you achieve your goals. Mention specific faculty members and their research to show the direct connection between the department and your aspirations.

Consider addressing your GPA as you explain your preparation for grad school. For example, if circumstantial impacts like bereavement or medical issues negatively affected your GPA, you can explain these situations in your statement.

Professional Experience

Fields like business emphasize professional experience in the admissions process. In your statement of purpose, showcase your work experience and the specific skills you’ve developed that relate to your grad program. You can also detail how the skills and knowledge you gain as you earn the degree will help you advance your career after graduation.

Strong Entrance Exam Scores

Some graduate programs require standardized test scores. Whether you take the GRE, GMAT, LSAT or another exam, high scores can strengthen your application if you have lower grades.

Adequate preparation is essential to getting high test scores. Give yourself ample time to prepare by creating a schedule to incorporate daily practice for several weeks or months, which can help you build and review test-specific knowledge. Find study guides or courses that prepare you for the test. Take practice tests to understand exam structure, pacing and question formats.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About GPAs for Grad School

What is a good gpa for grad school.

Many graduate programs require a minimum 3.0 GPA for admissions. More competitive programs generally admit applicants with a 3.5 GPA or higher.

What is the lowest GPA to get into grad school?

Grad schools often recommend a 3.0 GPA for admissions, but may accept candidates with a 2.5-2.9 GPA with provisional admission. If you have a lower GPA, consider retaking courses to raise your grades or take graduate courses to strengthen your application.

What are the odds of getting into grad school?

The odds of getting into grad school depend on the program and the strength of your application. If you’re interested in grad school but don’t have a high GPA, contact graduate programs for information on their admission policies.

How strict are GPA requirements for grad school?

The strictness of GPA requirements varies by institution. Some schools post a recommended GPA rather than a required minimum grade point average and evaluate applications holistically, offering conditional admissions for students who do not meet the recommended GPA. Reach out to specific programs on your list to learn more about their requirements.

What if my GPA is too low for grad school?

If your GPA is low for grad school, consider strengthening your application with standardized test scores, letters of recommendation and relevant research or work experience. You can also raise your GPA by retaking undergrad courses with low grades or taking graduate-level classes.

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Genevieve Carlton holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University and earned tenure at the University of Louisville. Drawing on over 15 years of experience in higher education, Genevieve provides practical, research-based advice on college degrees, career training and other higher education topics.

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  • How to End a Speech: What You Need for a Bang

A good talk or public speech is like a good play, movie, or song.

It opens by arresting the listener’s attention, develops point by point, and then ends strongly, ensuring that the audience’s attention is maintained throughout.

The truth is, if you don’t know how to end a speech, the overall message won’t be persuasive and your key points may get lost.

The words you say at the beginning, and especially at the end of your talk, are usually the most persuasive parts of the speech and will be remembered longer than almost any other part of your speech. It’s crucial to leave a lasting impression with a powerful conclusion.

Some of the great speeches in history and some of the most memorable Ted talks have ended with powerful, stirring words that live on in memory.

How do you end a speech and get the standing ovation that you deserve?

Keep reading to discover how…

Here are 9 tips and examples for concluding a speech.

To ensure that your conclusion is as powerful as it can be, you must plan it word for word, including a strong closing statement.

Ask yourself,  “What is the purpose of this talk?”

Your answer should involve the actions that you want your listeners to take after hearing you speak on this subject.

When you are clear about the end result you desire, it becomes much easier to design a conclusion that asks your listeners to take that action. It is also crucial to restate a key idea to reinforce your message and leave a lasting impression.

The best strategy for ending with a BANG is to plan your close before you plan the rest of your speech.

You then go back and design your opening so that it sets the stage for your conclusion.

The body of your talk is where you present your ideas and make your case for what you want the audience to think, remember, and do after hearing you speak.

2) Always End A Speech With A Call To Action

It is especially important to tell the audience what you want it to do as a result of hearing you speak.

A call to action is the best way to wrap up your talk with strength and power. Reinforce your key points by summarizing the main message, ensuring it leaves a lasting impression. Closing the speech effectively can evoke emotions and make a significant impact on the audience.

Here’s a Speech Call To Action Example

“We have great challenges and great opportunities, and with your help, we will meet them and make this next year the best year in our history!”

Consider ending with a thought-provoking question to challenge the audience to think differently and inspire them to take action.

Whatever you say, imagine an exclamation point at the end. As you approach the conclusion, pick up your energy and tempo.  This is even more important if  the presentation you are giving is virtual .

Speak with strength and emphasis.

Drive the final point home.

Regardless of whether the audience participants agree with you or are willing to do what you ask, it should be perfectly clear to them what you are requesting.

3) End a Speech With a Summary

There is a simple formula for any talk:

  • Tell them what you are going to tell them.
  • Then, tell them what you told them.

As you approach the end of your talk, say something like,

“Let me briefly restate these main points…”

You then list your key points, one by one, and repeat them to the audience, showing how each of them links to the other points.

Audiences appreciate a linear repetition of what they have just heard. This repetition helps make your message memorable and ensures that your key points leave a lasting impression.

This makes it clear that you are coming to the end of your talk.

4) Close with a Story

As you reach the end of your talk, you can say,

“Let me tell you a story that illustrates what I have been talking about…”

You then tell a brief story with a moral and then tell the audience what the moral is. Using effective body language, such as maintaining eye contact, smiling, and using open gestures, can make your story more impactful and leave a lasting impression.

Don’t leave it to them to figure out for themselves.

Often you can close with a story that illustrates your key points and then clearly links to the key message that you are making with your speech.

To learn more about storytelling in speaking, you can read my previous blog post  “8 Public Speaking Tips to Wow Your Audience.”

5) Make Them Laugh

You can close with humor.

You can tell a joke that loops back into your subject and repeats the lesson or main point you are making with a story that makes everyone laugh.

During my talks on planning and persistence, I discuss the biggest enemy that we have, which is the tendency to follow the path of least resistance. I then tell this story.

Ole and Sven are out hunting in Minnesota and they shoot a deer. They begin dragging the deer back to the truck by the tail, but they keep slipping and losing both their grip and their balance.

A farmer comes along and asks them, “What are you boys doing?”

They reply, “We’re dragging the deer back to the truck.”

The farmer tells them, “You are not supposed to drag a deer by the tail. You’re supposed to drag the deer by the handles. They’re called antlers. You’re supposed to drag a deer by the antlers.”

Ole and Sven say, “Thank you very much for the idea.”

They begin pulling the deer by the antlers. After about five minutes, they are making rapid progress. Ole says to Sven, “Sven, the farmer was right. It goes a lot easier by the antlers.”

Sven replies, “Yeah, but we’re getting farther and farther from the truck.”

After the laughter dies down, I say…

“The majority of people in life are pulling the easy way, but they are getting further and further from the ‘truck’ or their real goals and objectives.”

A memorable statement like this can make the humor more effective by condensing the core message into a crisp and authentic sound bite.

That’s just one example of closing using humor.

6) Make It Rhyme

You can close with a poem.

There are many fine poems that contain messages that summarize the key points you want to make. Here are some practical tips for selecting and delivering a poem: choose a poem that resonates with your message, practice your delivery to ensure it flows naturally, and use appropriate pauses to emphasize key lines.

You can select a poem that is moving, dramatic, or emotional.

For years I ended seminars with the poem,  “Don’t Quit,”  or  “Carry On!”  by Robert W. Service. It was always well received by the audience.

7) Close With Inspiration for A Lasting Impression

You can end a speech with something inspirational as well.

If you have given an uplifting talk, remember that hope is, and has always been, the main religion of mankind.

People love to be motivated and inspired to be or do something different and better in the future.

Here are a few of  my favorite inspirational quotes  that can be tied into most speeches.  You can also  read this collection of leadership quotes  for further inspiration.

Remember, everyone in your audience is dealing with problems, difficulties, challenges, disappointments, setbacks, and temporary failures.

For this reason, everyone appreciates a poem, quote, or story of encouragement that gives them strength and courage.

Here are 7 Tips to Tell an Inspiring Poem or Story to End Your Speech

  • You have to slow down and add emotion and drama to your words.
  • Raise your voice on a key line of the poem, and then drop it when you’re saying something that is intimate and emotional.
  • Pick up the tempo occasionally as you go through the story or poem, but then slow down on the most memorable parts.
  • Especially, double the number of pauses you normally use in a conversation.
  • Use dramatic pauses at the end of a line to allow the audience to digest the words and catch up with you.
  • Smile if the line is funny, and be serious if the line is more thought-provoking or emotional.
  • When you come to the end of your talk, be sure to bring your voice up on the last line, rather than letting it drop. Remember the  “exclamation point”  at the end to reinforce your main message and leave a lasting impression.

Try practicing on this poem that I referenced above…

Read through  “Carry On!” by Robert Service

Identify the key lines, intimate parts, and memorable parts, and recite it.

8) Make it Clear That You’re Done

When you say your final words, it should be clear to everyone that you have ended. A strong closing statement is crucial in signaling the end of your speech, leaving a lasting impression, and ensuring that the audience remembers the key points. There should be no ambiguity or confusion in the mind of your audience. The audience members should know that this is the end.

Many speakers just allow their talks to wind down.

They say  something with filler words  like,  “Well, that just about covers it. Thank you.”

This isn’t a good idea…

It’s not powerful…

It’s not an authoritative ending and thus detracts from your credibility and influence.

When you have concluded, discipline yourself to stand perfectly still. Select a friendly face in the audience and look straight at that person.

If it is appropriate, smile warmly at that person to signal that your speech has come to an end.

Resist the temptation to:

  • Shuffle papers.
  • Fidget with your clothes or microphone.
  • Move forward, backward, or sideways.
  • Do anything else except stand solidly, like a tree.

9) Let Them Applaud

When you have finished your talk, the audience members will want to applaud. Using effective body language, such as maintaining eye contact, smiling, and using open gestures, can signal to the audience that it is time to begin clapping.

What they need from you is a clear signal that now is the time to begin clapping.

How do you signal this?

Some people will recognize sooner than others that you have concluded your remarks.

In many cases, when you make your concluding comments and stop talking, the audience members will be completely silent.

They may be unsure whether you are finished.

They may be processing your final remarks and thinking them over. They may not know what to do until someone else does something.

In a few seconds, which will often feel like several minutes, people will applaud.

Then another…

Then the entire audience will begin clapping.

When someone begins to applaud, look directly at that person, smile, and mouth the words  thank you.

As more and more people applaud, sweep slowly from person to person, nodding, smiling and saying, “Thank You.”

Eventually, the whole room will be clapping.

There’s no better reward for overcoming your  fear of public speaking  than enjoying a round of applause.

BONUS TIP: How to Handle a Standing Ovation

If you’ve given a moving talk and really connected with your audience, someone will stand up and applaud. To encourage a standing ovation, make your message memorable by using repetition of your keyword or phrase and incorporating relevant visuals or metaphors to leave a lasting impression on the audience. When this happens, encourage others by looking directly at the clapper and saying,  “Thank you.”

This will often prompt other members of the audience to stand.

As people see others standing, they will stand as well, applauding the whole time.

It is not uncommon for a speaker to conclude his or her remarks, stand silently, and have the entire audience sit silently in response.

Stand Comfortably And Shake Hands

But as the speaker stands there comfortably, waiting for the audience to realize the talk is over, one by one people will begin to applaud and often stand up one by one. Using positive body language, such as maintaining eye contact, smiling, and using open gestures, can leave a lasting impression on the audience.

If the first row of audience members is close in front of you, step or lean forward and shake that person’s hand when one of them stands up to applaud.

When you shake hands with one person in the audience, many other people in the audience feel that you are shaking their hands and congratulating them as well.

They will then stand up and applaud.

Soon the whole room will be standing and applauding.

Whether you receive a standing ovation or not, if your introducer comes back on to thank you on behalf of the audience, smile and shake their hand warmly.

If it’s appropriate, give the introducer a hug of thanks, wave in a friendly way to the audience, and then move aside and give the introducer the stage.

Follow these tips to get that standing ovation every time.

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About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Twitter , Facebook , Pinterest , Linkedin and Youtube .

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What To Know About Identity Theft

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Learn what identity theft is, how to protect yourself against it, and how to know if someone stole your identity.

What Is Identity Theft?

How to protect yourself against identity theft, how to know if someone stole your identity, monitoring services, recovery services, and identity theft insurance.

Identity theft is when someone uses your personal or financial information without your permission.

They might steal your name and address, credit card, or bank account numbers, Social Security number, or medical insurance account numbers. And they could use them to

  • buy things with your credit cards
  • get new credit cards in your name
  • open a phone, electricity, or gas account in your name
  • steal your tax refund
  • use your health insurance to get medical care
  • pretend to be you if they are arrested

Taking steps to protect your personal information can help you avoid identity theft. Here’s what you can do to stay ahead of identity thieves.

Protect documents that have personal information

When should I shred it?

If you get statements with personal information in the mail, take your mail out of the mailbox as soon as you can.

Ask questions before giving out your Social Security number

Some organizations need your Social Security number to identify you. Those organizations include the IRS, your bank, and your employer. Organizations like these that do need your Social Security number won’t call, email, or text you to ask for it.

Other organizations that might ask you for your Social Security number might not really need it. Those organizations include a medical provider, a company, or your child’s school. Ask these questions before you give them your Social Security number:

  • Why do you need it?
  • How will you protect it?
  • Can you use a different identifier?
  • Can you use just the last four digits of my Social Security number?

Protect your information from scammers online and on your phone

If you’re logging in to an online account, use a strong password .

Add multi-factor authentication for accounts that offer it. Multi-factor authentication offers extra security by requiring two or more credentials to log in to your account. The additional credentials you need to log in to your account fall into two categories: something you have — like a passcode you get via text message or an authentication app, or something you are — like a scan of your fingerprint, your retina, or your face. Multi-factor authentication makes it harder for scammers to log in to your accounts if they do get your username and password.

Do not give your personal information to someone who calls, emails, or texts you. It could be a scammer trying to steal your information .

Watch  5 Ways To Help Protect Your Identity .

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In addition to taking steps to protect your information, it pays to know how to tell if someone stole your identity . There are things you can do yourself to detect identity theft. There also are companies that sell credit and identity monitoring services.

What you can do to detect identity theft

Here’s what you can do to spot identity theft:

  • Track what bills you owe and when they’re due. If you stop getting a bill, that could be a sign that someone changed your billing address.
  • Review your bills.  Charges for things you didn’t buy could be a sign of identity theft. So could a new bill you didn’t expect.
  • Check your bank account statement.  Withdrawals you didn’t make could be a sign of identity theft.
  • Get and review your credit reports.  Accounts in your name that you don’t recognize could be a sign of identity theft. Here’s how you can get your free credit reports .

(View or share the  YouTube version of the video. )

If you discover that someone is misusing your personal information, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report and recover from identity theft.

Many companies sell identity theft protection services that may include credit monitoring, identity monitoring, identity recovery services, and identity theft insurance. These services also might be offered by your

  • bank or credit union
  • credit card provider
  • employer’s benefits program
  • insurance company

Credit monitoring services

Credit monitoring services scan activity that shows up on your credit reports. They might monitor activity at one, two, or all three of the major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Credit monitoring services will usually alert you when

  • a company checks your credit history
  • a new loan or credit card account appears on your credit reports
  • a creditor or debt collector says your payment is late
  • public records show that you filed for bankruptcy
  • someone files a lawsuit against you
  • your credit limit changes
  • your personal information, like your name, address, or phone number, changes

Credit monitoring services will not alert you when

  • someone withdraws money from your bank account
  • someone uses your Social Security number to file a tax return and collect your refund

If you’re considering using a credit monitoring service, here are some questions you can ask them:

  • How often do you check credit reports for changes?
  • Which of the three credit bureaus do you monitor?
  • Is there a limit to how often I can review my credit reports?
  • Will I be charged each time I review my credit reports?
  • Are other services included, like access to my credit score?

Identity monitoring services

Companies that offer identity monitoring services check databases that collect different types of information to see if they contain new or inaccurate information about you. Those could be a sign that someone is using your personal information. These services can detect uses of your personal information that won’t show up on your credit report.

Identity monitoring services may tell you when your information shows up in

  • a change of address request
  • court or arrest records
  • orders for new utility, cable, or wireless services
  • an application for a payday loan
  • a request to cash a check
  • on social media
  • on websites that identity thieves use to trade stolen information

Most identity monitoring services will not alert you if someone uses your information to

  • file a tax return and collect your refund
  • get Medicare benefits
  • get Medicaid benefits
  • get welfare benefits
  • claim Social Security benefits
  • claim unemployment benefits

Identity recovery services

Companies that sell credit and identity monitoring services also may offer identity recovery services to help you fix any damage caused by identity theft. These services may be included or cost extra. Some of the services they offer may be things you can do on your own for little or no cost.

Identity recovery services typically give you access to counselors or case managers who will help you recover your identity. They may

  • help you write letters to creditors and debt collectors
  • place a freeze on your credit report to prevent an identity thief from opening new accounts in your name
  • guide you through documents you have to review

Some services will represent you in dealing with creditors or other institutions if you formally grant them authority to act on your behalf.

Identity theft insurance

Companies that sell monitoring services also may offer identity theft insurance. These services may be included or cost extra.

Identity theft insurance may cover

  • the cost of copying documents
  • postage costs for sending documents
  • costs for getting documents notarized
  • wages you lost
  • legal fees you paid

Identity theft insurance generally won’t reimburse you for money stolen or financial loss resulting from the theft. Most policies won’t pay if your loss is covered by your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. If you’re considering getting identity theft insurance, ask about the deductible and find out what’s covered and what isn’t.

Find out how to recognize the signs of medical identity theft , tax identity theft , and child identity theft .

File Download PDF 677a_idt_what_to_know_wtd.pdf (6.09 MB)

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How to open a checking account: a step-by-step guide.

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A checking account is typically used for everyday transactions and purchases. With a checking account , you can deposit and withdraw money (either through the bank or an ATM ), write checks , pay bills , and make purchases with a debit card .

There are different types of checking accounts to consider when deciding which is right for you, so it’s important to understand the benefits of each. When you’re ready, opening a checking account can be relatively easy if you’re prepared with the right information and documentation.

What do I need to open a checking account? 

There are a few documents you will need to open a checking account whether it is online or in-person. Banks and other financial institutions may have different requirements for opening a bank account. If you are a U.S. citizen or non-U.S. citizen residing in the U.S., here’s a list of a few documents you may need to open your account. However, check with your financial institution to determine what documents you will need.

  • U.S. government issued photo ID, driver's license or state ID
  • Social security card or individual taxpayer identification card
  • Passport with photo
  • Birth certificate (minors only)
  • Utility bill,  bank statement or credit card statement with name and address
  • Employer pay stub or pay check with name and address
  • Mortgage or lease documents
  • ACH transfer
  • Application.  To open a checking account you will likely need to complete an application for approval either in-person or online.

What to consider before opening a checking account

Before you apply for a checking account, it’s important to know the potential upsides and downsides of different types of accounts. This may help you decide which account is right for you. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Checking account perks.  Premium checking accounts may offer perks you'd typically have to pay for, such as checks, official checks, money orders, waived out-of-network ATM fees or a no fee safe deposit box, if offered by your bank. Rewards checking accounts allow you to earn points or cash back through purchases with your debit card.
  • Service and ATM fees.  Depending on the account, you may have to pay monthly service or maintenance fees. There may be options to waive the monthly service or maintenance fee if you meet certain requirements. Other fees such as out-of-network ATM fees or overdraft fees and other miscellaneous fees may apply.
  • Fund access.  The benefit to checking accounts is that you can access your funds through a debit card or checks. However, because some checking accounts have minimum balance requirements to waive the monthly service fee, consider how important it is for you to have access to all your funds on demand.
  • In-person vs. online.  Some checking accounts through traditional banks give you access to brick-and-mortar locations you can visit for assistance, account management and transactions. Others, like online or checkless accounts, are online only. Weigh whether it’s important to have access to a real person vs. conducting all of your needs online or over the phone.

You should also consider the different  types of checking accounts . Whether it be student checking , college checking, or a traditional checking account, each plays an important role when it comes to managing your finances .

Checking account features to look out for

In addition to checking account requirements, there are a few steps to take to open your account and get it all set up. Because there are several types of checking accounts available depending on your financial goals , it’s important to do research and compare your options before choosing one.

First, think about which services, perks, and checking account features are important to you—and which aren’t. Also consider potential downsides like monthly service fees, withdrawal fees, and minimum deposit requirements. 

Where to get a checking account

Another consideration is having an account through a traditional bank, a credit union, or an online bank. Think about whether having an in-person place to go is a requirement for you, or if you are comfortable managing your account completely online.

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What to read next

Banking basics a guide to opening a checking account online.

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Open a checking account online today by selecting the one that best fits your needs and follow these steps to opening a checking account online.

banking basics How to deposit a check online

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You can deposit a check online using a mobile device. Learn more about the preliminary steps to take before doing so, and how depositing a check online works.

banking basics Stop payment: How does it work?

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A stop payment stops a check or other payment types from processing in the case of any errors or fraud. Learn how a stop payment may protect account holders.

banking basics What do you need to open a bank account?

personal statement what not to do

Find out more about bank's specific eligibility requirements when opening a new bank account. Make sure you have the needed documentation in order to open a bank account.

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Title Transfers and Changes

To prove vehicle ownership, it’s important to have a valid, up-to-date, and accurate California Certificate of Title. Here’s how you can transfer and change a title. 

Transfer your Title online!

You can now transfer a title online. Learn more about the steps and get started.

How to Transfer a Title

Anytime there’s a change to a vehicle or vessel’s registered owner or lienholder, that change must be updated in DMV’s records within 10 days and the California Certificate of Title must be transferred to the new owner.

A change in ownership is usually due to:

  • Sale, gift, or donation
  • Adding or deleting the name of an owner
  • Inheritance
  • Satisfaction of lien (full payment of car loan)

To transfer a title, you will need:

  • Either the California Certificate of Title or an Application for Replacement or Transfer of Title (REG 227) (if the title is missing). 
  • The signature(s) of seller(s) and lienholder (if any).
  • The signature(s) of buyer(s).
  • A transfer fee .

Depending on the type of transfer, you might need to complete and submit additional forms. See below for other title transfers and title transfer forms.

Submit your title transfer paperwork and fee (if any) to a DMV office or by mail to: 

DMV PO Box 942869 Sacramento, CA 94269

Rush Title Processing

If you need us to expedite your title processing, you can request rush title processing for an additional fee.

Transfer Fees

Depending on the type of transfer, you may need to pay the following fees:

  • Replacement title
  • Use tax, based on the buyer’s county of residence
  • Registration

See the full list of fees .

Renewal fees and parking/toll violation fees don’t need to be paid to issue a replacement California Certificate of Title.

Title Transfer Forms

These forms may be required when transferring ownership of a vehicle or vessel:  Application for Replacement or Transfer of Title (REG 227) Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment (REG 262) form (call the DMV’s automated voice system at 1-800-777-0133 to have a form mailed to you) Statement of Facts (REG 256) Lien Satisfied/Title Holder Release (REG 166) Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability Smog certification Vehicle Emission System Statement (Smog) (REG 139) Declaration of Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)/Combined Gross Vehicle Weight (CGW) (REG 4008) Affidavit for Transfer without Probate (REG 5) Bill of Sale (REG 135) Verification of Vehicle (REG 31)

Other Title Transfers

When you’re buying a new car or a used car from a dealership, the dealer will handle the paperwork and you’ll receive your title from DMV in the mail.

When vehicle ownership is transferred between two private parties, it’s up to them to transfer the title. If you have the California Certificate of Title for the vehicle , the seller signs the title to release ownership of the vehicle. The buyer should then bring the signed title to a DMV office to apply for transfer of ownership. 

If you don’t have the California Certificate of Title , you need to use an Application for Replacement or Transfer of Title (REG 227) to transfer ownership. The lienholder’s release, if any, must be notarized. The buyer should then bring the completed form to a DMV office and we will issue a new registration and title.

Make sure you have all signatures on the proper lines to avoid delays.

Other Steps for the Seller When Vehicle Ownership is Transferred

  • 10 years old or older.
  • Commercial with a GVW or CGW of more than 16,000 pounds.
  • New and being transferred prior to its first retail sale by a dealer.
  • Complete a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (NRL) within 5 days of releasing ownership and keep a copy for your records.

Once the seller gives the buyer all required documentation and DMV receives the completed NRL, the seller’s part of the transaction is complete.

*If the vehicle has been sold more than once with the same title, a REG 262 is required from each seller.

Other Steps for the Buyer When Vehicle Ownership is Transferred

  • Current registered owner(s), how names are joined (“and/or”), and lienholder/legal owner (if any).
  • License plate number, vehicle identification number (VIN), make, model, year, and registration expiration date.
  • Title brands (if any).
  • Words “Nontransferable/No California Title Issued,” indicating a California title was not issued and a REG 227 cannot be used (see FAQs).
  • Get a smog inspection (if applicable).

Once the buyer has provided the DMV with all the proper documents and fees, the vehicle record is updated to reflect the change of ownership and a registration card is issued.

A new title is issued from DMV headquarters within 60 calendar days.

To transfer a vehicle between family members, submit the following:

  • The California Certificate of Title properly signed or endorsed on line 1 by the registered owner(s) shown on the title. Complete the new owner information on the back of the title and sign it.
  • A Statement of Facts (REG 256) for use tax and smog exemption (if applicable).
  • Odometer disclosure for vehicles less than 10 years old.
  • Transfer fee .

You may transfer a vehicle from an individual to the estate of that individual without signatures on the Certificate of Title.

Submit the following:

  • The California Certificate of Title. On the back of the title, the new owner section must show “Estate of (name of individual)” and their address. Any legal owner/lienholder named on the front of the title must be re-entered on the back of the title.
  • A Statement of Facts (REG 256) confirming the owner is deceased and Letters Testamentary have not been issued. The person completing the statement must indicate their relationship to the deceased.

Use tax and a smog certification are not required.

Vehicle ownership can be transferred to a deceased owner’s heir 40 days after the owner’s death, as long as the value of the deceased’s property in California does not exceed:

  • $150,000 if the deceased died before 1/1/20.
  • $166,250 if the deceased died on or after 1/1/20.

If the heir will be the new owner, submit the following to a DMV office:

  • The California Certificate of Title. The heir must sign the deceased registered owner’s name and countersign on line 1. The heir should complete and sign the back of the title.
  • Affidavit for Transfer without Probate (REG 5) , completed and signed by the heir.
  • An original or certified copy of the death certificate of all deceased owners.

If the heir prefers to sell the vehicle, the buyer also needs (in addition to the items above):

  • Bill of Sale (REG 135) from the heir to the buyer.
  • Transfer fee (two transfer fees are due in this case).

To transfer vessel ownership, submit the following:

  • The California Certificate of Ownership. The registered owner signs line 1. The legal owner/lienholder (if any) signs line 2. Complete the new owner information on the back of the certificate and sign it.
  • Bill(s) of sale, if needed to establish a complete chain of ownership.
  • A Vessel Registration Fee .
  • Use tax based on the tax rate percentage for your county of residence.

After you sell a vessel, complete a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (NRL) within five days of releasing ownership and keep a copy for your records.

How to Update or Change a Title

Because a California Certificate of Title is a legal document, it is important to keep it accurate and up-to-date. Here’s how you can update or change a title. 

Order a Replacement California Certificate of Title

You must order a replacement California Certificate of Title when the original is lost, stolen, damaged, illegible, or not received. 

To order a replacement title, submit the following:

  • Application for Replacement or Transfer of Title (REG 227) .
  • The original title (if you have it).
  • California photo driver license (if submitting form in person).
  • Replacement title fee .
  • If another replacement title was issued in the past 90 days, a Verification of Vehicle (REG 31) completed by the California Highway Patrol (CHP). This requirement only applies if the registered owner’s name or address doesn’t match DMV records*.

You can submit your application either in-person* at a DMV office or by mail:

Department of Motor Vehicles Registration Operations PO Box 942869 Sacramento, California 94269-0001

If you’re submitting your form to a DMV office, we recommend you make an appointment so you can avoid any lines. 

You’ll receive your title by mail 15-30 calendar days from the date you submit the replacement title application.

*If you’re applying for a replacement title and the registered owner’s name or address doesn’t match DMV records (except for obvious typographical errors), you must submit your application in person with proof of ownership (e.g. registration card) and an acceptable photo ID (e.g. driver’s license/ID card).

Online Replacement Title Request

Visit our Virtual Office to request a replacement title online.

Change or Correct a Name on a Title

Your true full name must appear on your vehicle or vessel California Certificate of Title and registration card. If your name is misspelled, changes (e.g as a result of marriage or divorce), or is legally changed, you need to correct your name on your title.

To change or correct your name, submit:

  • California Certificate of Title with your correct name printed or typed in the “New Registered Owner” section
  • A completed Name Statement in Section F of the Statement of Facts (REG 256) .

You may submit your application to any DMV office or by mail to:

Department of Motor Vehicles Vehicle Registration Operations PO Box 942869 Sacramento, CA 94269-0001

Removing Information that was Entered by Mistake

If a name or other information is entered on a title by mistake, complete a Statement to Record Ownership (REG 101) .

Frequently Asked Questions

If the vehicle has a legal owner/lienholder, then section 5 of the REG 227 needs to be notarized. If the registration does not show a legal owner/lienholder, notarization is not required.

Need help finding the lienholder on your vehicle title? We keep a listing of banks, credit unions, and financial/lending institutions that may have gone out of business, merged, changed their name, or been acquired by another financial institution.

No. You must obtain a title from the state where the vehicle was last titled.

If you’re unable to obtain a title from that state, provide documentation that they cannot issue a title. A motor vehicle bond may be required

Contact us for more information .

Need something else?

Fee calculator.

Use our fee calculator to estimate any applicable registration or title transfer fees.

Renew Your Vehicle Registration

You need to renew your vehicle registration every 1-5 years in California, depending on the vehicle. Make sure your registration is up-to-date.

Make an Appointment

Some applications can be submitted to a DMV office near you. Make an appointment so you don’t have to wait in line.

General Disclaimer

When interacting with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Virtual Assistant, please do not include any personal information.

When your chat is over, you can save the transcript. Use caution when using a public computer or device.

The DMV chatbot and live chat services use third-party vendors to provide machine translation. Machine translation is provided for purposes of information and convenience only. The DMV is unable to guarantee the accuracy of any translation provided by the third-party vendors and is therefore not liable for any inaccurate information or changes in the formatting of the content resulting from the use of the translation service.

The content currently in English is the official and accurate source for the program information and services DMV provides. Any discrepancies or differences created in the translation are not binding and have no legal effect for compliance or enforcement purposes. If any questions arise related to the information contained in the translated content, please refer to the English version.

Google™ Translate Disclaimer

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website uses Google™ Translate to provide automatic translation of its web pages. This translation application tool is provided for purposes of information and convenience only. Google™ Translate is a free third-party service, which is not controlled by the DMV. The DMV is unable to guarantee the accuracy of any translation provided by Google™ Translate and is therefore not liable for any inaccurate information or changes in the formatting of the pages resulting from the use of the translation application tool.

The web pages currently in English on the DMV website are the official and accurate source for the program information and services the DMV provides. Any discrepancies or differences created in the translation are not binding and have no legal effect for compliance or enforcement purposes. If any questions arise related to the information contained in the translated website, please refer to the English version.

The following pages provided on the DMV website cannot be translated using Google™ Translate:

  • Publications
  • Field Office Locations
  • Online Applications

Please install the Google Toolbar

Google Translate is not support in your browser. To translate this page, please install the Google Toolbar (opens in new window) .

Donald Trump is now a convicted felon: Can he still run for president?

personal statement what not to do

Donald Trump is the first former president convicted of a crime in U.S. history, but it won't stop him from running for president again. His conviction on Thursday does not bar him from seeking a return to the Oval Office in the meantime, even if his possible sentence makes that more difficult.

Twelve Manhattan jurors found Trump guilty on 34 counts of falsifying business records after prosecutors showed he covered up reimbursements to his former lawyer Michael Cohen . Cohen paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to stay quiet about an alleged sexual affair ahead of the 2016 election. Trump denies taking part in a tryst with Daniels.

He is expected to appeal the verdict.

Live updates: Former President Donald Trump found guilty on all counts in hush money case

Can Trump run for President?

The U.S. Constitution only lists three necessary qualifications for being president: the candidate must be a "natural born" citizen, at least 35 years old and a resident of U.S. for at least 14 years. There is no requirement that the president not be a convicted felon.

A few presidential candidates in history have campaigned after an indictment or conviction: Socialist candidate Eugene V. Debs ran for president for the fifth time in 1920 while in prison for sedition. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry ran for president alongside Trump in the 2016 Republican primary after being indicted two years earlier for abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official, but he dropped out of the race a few months into the primary.

What if Trump is in jail?

Judge Juan Merchan scheduled Trump's sentencing for July 11, and he is out free until then.

Trump will also likely to remain at liberty until the election. As a first time felon and given it is a non-violent crime, his sentence could be as light as probation. Even if he does receive a  jailtime sentence , he probably push it off until the appeal is resolved.

What happens to Trump now?

Experts say states are unlikely to succeed in passing additional eligibility requirements for a candidate to get on the presidential ballot.

The U.S. Supreme Court already rejected an effort from several states to bar Trump from the ballot based on the 14th Amendmen t, which prevents anyone who has engaged in insurrection after swearing to uphold the Constitution (by being sworn into office, for example), from holding office again.

Trump can probably vote for himself in Florida

The high court did not want a “state-by-state patchwork” of rules for Trump's eligibility.

The variety of state laws on voting rights for convicted felons could impact Trump's ability to cast a vote for himself , but not in this case. Florida, where Trump is registered to vote, gives felons the right to vote if the state where they were convicted allows it. New York only removes a felon’s right to vote while they are imprisoned, and as Trump may not receive jail time at all, let alone before the election, he will likely remain eligible.

Contributing: Natasha Lovato, Ella Lee, Karissa Waddick , Aysha Bagchi , Maureen Groppe, Bart Jansen

personal statement what not to do

Installing Windows 11 on devices that don't meet minimum system requirements

Note:  For more info about the minimum system requirements for Windows 11, see Windows 11 specs, features, and computer requirements .

Installing Windows 11 on a device that does not meet  Windows 11 minimum system requirements  is not recommended. If you choose to install Windows 11 on ineligible hardware, you should be comfortable assuming the risk of running into compatibility issues.  

Your device might malfunction due to these compatibility or other issues. Devices that do not meet these system requirements will no longer be guaranteed to receive updates, including but not limited to security updates.  

The following disclaimer applies if you install Windows 11 on a device that doesn't meet the minimum system requirements:

This PC doesn't meet the minimum system requirements for running Windows 11 - these requirements help ensure a more reliable and higher quality experience. Installing Windows 11 on this PC is not recommended and may result in compatibility issues. If you proceed with installing Windows 11, your PC will no longer be supported and won't be entitled to receive updates. Damages to your PC due to lack of compatibility aren't covered under the manufacturer warranty.

Before you install Windows 11

If you are unsure if your device meets the Windows 11 minimum system requirements and have Windows 10 already installed, you can download the PC Health Check app, which will assess eligibility and identify components of your device that don't meet the minimum requirements. The app will also link to info that details steps you can take to make your device meet the minimum system requirements. To learn more,  download and install PC Health Check app .

After you install Windows 11

When Windows 11 is installed on a device that does not meet the minimum system requirements, we'll notify you using a watermark on your Windows 11 desktop. You might also see a notification in Settings to let you know the requirements are not met.

If you're experiencing issues after upgrading to Windows 11 and your device does not meet the minimum system requirements, we recommend you go back to Windows 10.

To go back to Windows 10, select Start > Settings > System > Recovery > Go back . 

This option is only available for 10 days following your upgrade, after which time the files needed to perform this function will be removed to free up disk space on your device.

Related articles

Upgrade to Windows 11: FAQ

Getting ready for the Windows 11 upgrade

Ways to install Windows 11

Managing Windows 11 “System requirements not met” message in your organization

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write Your Personal Statement

    A personal statement is a short essay of around 500-1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you're applying. To write a successful personal statement for a graduate school application , don't just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice.

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    Here are five don'ts of the writing process to keep in mind: 1. Don't write about sensitive topics. When outlining your personal statement, try to avoid writing about sensitive, controversial topics that may cause a reader to feel uncomfortable or overly emotional. While it's worthwhile to write about your personal hardships in your statement ...

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    Include information that describes more about you than the details in your transcript. 5. Identify your plans for the future. Part of your personal statement can include future goals and ambitions. Explain what can happen if you gain acceptance to the university of your choice or you receive the job you want.

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    One of the best ways to make quotes work is to interweave them throughout your personal statement. Explain how the quote inspired you to be a volunteer in the local kitchen soup. Then explain how your experience in the kitchen soup motivated you to apply for the course. For a full-blast ending, mention your quote again in your conclusion.

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  7. 15 Effective Strategies for Writing a Compelling Personal Statement

    In short, avoid boasting. Present your achievements as reflections of your commitment and drive. 9. Use concrete examples and anecdotes. Citing concrete examples and anecdotes is an effective strategy for writing a vivid and compelling personal statement. It allows admissions officers to see the real person behind the application.

  8. How To Write A Personal Statement (With Examples)

    Key Takeaways: To write a personal statement, first brainstorm, then narrow down your ideas, and start with an intro that leads into your qualifications. Make sure to proofread your personal statement before submitting. Personal statements describe your interests, skills, and goals, with a particular focus on your passion.

  9. Personal Statement for College: 8 Common Mistakes to Avoid

    It is a personal statement for college - make it personal, and make it relevant to college. 8. Trying to do too much. You have 650 words on your personal statement for college, which in the grand scheme of things, is not very many. There is certainly not enough space to highlight everything you have ever done or achieved.

  10. 7 Things to Avoid in Your Personal Statement

    Don't list off your accomplishments and only focus on all the shiny, good parts of your life. Give the reader a chance to connect with you. Don't fake smile - be your true, authentic self. 4. Lack of focus. This is the most common issue we see. Don't throw in details that aren't relevant to the story you're telling.

  11. What To Avoid In A Personal Statement: No More Mistakes!

    Easily avoidable mistakes in personal statements include irrelevant, unoriginal and illogically structured content alongside poor spelling, punctuation and grammar. Excessive use of quotes, exaggeration and filler content are also serious mistakes, as is the fabrication of facts and experiences.

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  13. What Not To Do In A Personal Statement

    Personal Statements are, arguably, the most important part of your application. They give the college a true sense of who you are as a person and how you will contribute to the campus environment. While you're working diligently on the personal statement, you're likely receiving a lot of great advice on what to do.

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    Avoid using any gimmicks or attempts to be catchy in your personal statement. Writing unnecessarily in the present tense is an example. Another example is writing your personal statement in a question-answer format as if you were being interviewed by a game show host. Instead, simply tell your story. If you use a gimmick or otherwise attempt to ...

  15. What Not To Write In A Personal Statement: Expert Advice

    Before we break down these three key areas in a lot more detail, here's a quick and helpful list of the top ten things you should not put in a personal statement: Unresearched claims or inaccurate information. Lies, exaggeration or unoriginal content. Errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar. Irrelevant material or unnecessary filler.

  16. How To Write A Personal Statement For Your Resume (With Examples)

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  17. What Not To Do In A Personal Statement

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    The word passion. "My passion for Geography stems from my passion for colouring". Passion is a word so overused in personal statements that it actually conveys the opposite. Be careful in your choice of vocabulary. While it's important to show interest in studying a particular course, stay away from clichéd language that doesn't sound ...

  19. Starting Your Personal Statement: What Not To Do

    In addition, the most important thing to convey in your personal statement is your enthusiasm for and dedication to the course you have chosen: starting with a joke could undermine your commitment to academic study. 5. Don't start with your opening sentence at all…. If you're not sure how to start your personal statement, don't spend ...

  20. What's A Good GPA For Grad School? How To Get In

    It depends on the school and program. In general, graduate schools look for a minimum 3.0 GPA, but programs admit applicants with lower GPAs, too. Grades aren't the only way grad schools measure ...

  21. How to Write a Personal Statement (Tips + Essay Examples)

    In a great personal statement, we should be able to get a sense of what fulfills, motivates, or excites the author. These can be things like humor, beauty, community, and autonomy, just to name a few. So when you read back through your essay, you should be able to detect at least 4-5 different values throughout.

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    Select a friendly face in the audience and look straight at that person. If it is appropriate, smile warmly at that person to signal that your speech has come to an end. Resist the temptation to: Shuffle papers. Fidget with your clothes or microphone. Move forward, backward, or sideways.

  24. What Are Professional Development Goals? 10 Examples

    10 examples of professional development goals. Here are ten examples of professional development goals to inspire your own: 1. Develop a new skill set. Growing professionally often means expanding the arsenal of things you're able to do. What skill you choose to develop can depend on your industry, job, and personal preferences.

  25. What To Know About Identity Theft

    Identity theft is when someone uses your personal or financial information without your permission. They might steal your name and address, credit card, or bank account numbers, Social Security number, or medical insurance account numbers. And they could use them to. buy things with your credit cards. get new credit cards in your name.

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    You may need to provide the deposit at the time of application if the bank has a minimum opening deposit requirement. If so, you can typically do so with: Debit card. ACH transfer. Cash. Application. To open a checking account you will likely need to complete an application for approval either in-person or online.

  27. Get benefit verification letter

    Get a benefit letter to show that you receive benefits, have submitted an application, or don't receive benefits. This documentation is often needed for loan applications, housing assistance, and other processes that require verification of your income. It may be referred to as a "proof of income letter" or "benefit letter" and is personalized ...

  28. Title Transfers and Changes

    A completed Name Statement in Section F of the Statement of Facts (REG 256). You may submit your application to any DMV office or by mail to: ... Virtual Assistant, please do not include any personal information. When your chat is over, you can save the transcript. Use caution when using a public computer or device. Third-Party Translation ...

  29. Trump is now a convicted felon: Can he still run for president?

    1:09. Donald Trump is the first former president convicted of a crime in U.S. history, but it won't stop him from running for president again. His conviction on Thursday does not bar him from ...

  30. Installing Windows 11 on devices that don't meet minimum system

    You might also see a notification in Settings to let you know the requirements are not met. If you're experiencing issues after upgrading to Windows 11 and your device does not meet the minimum system requirements, we recommend you go back to Windows 10. To go back to Windows 10, select Start > Settings > System > Recovery > Go back .