Personal Statement Writing Tips & Timeline
I am Mariana. I am writing to you because six years ago I was in your shoes.
I am Mariana, an MSc student at LSE and a part-time intern at Millie. I am writing to you because six years ago I was in your shoes. I was the first person in my family who decided to study abroad and with that came a whole lot of essay writing that no one told me about. I felt overwhelmed because personal statement writing is not like the academic writing I was used to. Furthermore, at the age of 17, I did not feel like I was on track to change the world. Yes, I was a good student but, was that enough?
First, you need a game plan. Below I am sharing a standard timeline to draft a compelling personal statement.
I was the first person in my family to study abroad and with that came a whole lot of essay writing that no one told me about.
Second, follow some important tips:
Brainstorming is crucial and often times the best ideas may come to you when you are not looking for them. So, have a pen and paper handy or create a note on your phone to write all the thoughts that come to you at the weirdest times of the day!
Sample essays on the internet are great, but they are not one and only. YOU are. No one has gone to a top school by solely mimicking what they saw online. Think about sample essays as a structure guide, NOT a content guide.
You need feedback. I am not saying you are a terrible writer (we have never met before!), so please don't take it personally. EVERY WRITER NEEDS FEEDBACK. However, the knowledge and biases of your reviewers matter too--bear them in mind!
Your essay will take time. Don't expect to write that magical essay that will get you into your dream school in one sit. Good writing requires lots of patience and effort, so make sure you are not procrastinating until the last minute.
You need two types of reviewers, one I call the clarity reviewer and the other one is an authenticity reviewer.
Your clarity reviewer is someone outside your social circle who ideally has UCAS/Common App experience. What you will be asking this person is this: "what do you think is the major takeaway from this personal statement?". If this person tells you something that you were not expecting, you two should sit down and figure out why you were not able to convey what you intended to. Additionally, your clarity reviewer will go through your word choices, your sentence, and paragraph structure to make sure your essay flows the way you envision it to, and showcases its maximum potential
The authenticity reviewer is someone who is very close to you but honest enough to be critical about your essay. You want to ask this person "do you feel that this essay is 'me' enough?"
As you probably figured out by now, feedback is crucial for successful essay writing, but who should be reviewing your essays? The short answer: someone who you can trust to be honest AND who is familiar enough with the educational system you are applying to.
The authenticity reviewer is someone honest enough to be critical about your essay.
On a Closing Note...
Don't panic, but do take essay writing seriously and make time for it. If you are blinking in front of an empty word document or you just feel awkward about writing about yourself, TRUST ME, I have been there! If you need some inspiration to get started, read this short article about the importance of “sh*tty first drafts”. You won't get it right the first time, but your first essays will be the base you will build upon to wow admissions committees.
Would you like Millie's feedback on your personal statements? Learn more about our 1:1 Writing Clinic.