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Structuring Your Personal Statement

You're sitting in front of the computer screen. Your word processing program is open, but the screen is blank. You've been staring at it for what seems like an eternity. You don't know where to start or where to go. What are they looking for? How are you supposed to write it?

The cause of your frustration? An application essay. You can write application essays in many different ways, but the human interest story provides an effective model for writing your essay and easing your frustration. You read human interest stories in newspapers and magazines all the time. They are popular and effective because they engage the reader's interest, persuade him or her of the writer's point of view, and sell periodicals. Similarly, an application essay or personal statement must engage the admissions staff, convince them of your viewpoint, and sell you.

Human interest stories typically have the following structure: lead, thesis, body, conclusion. Using that structure for your personal statement provides you with a framework around which to build your essay.

Begin with a lead, also called a hook. A lead is usually a brief anecdote, a question, a startling statistic or quote, or a gripping description of a scene. The lead has a very important job: hooking the reader. Any writer will tell you that the first few lines of an article, ad, or letter determine the success of that piece. And the same is true for your essay. Put your most interesting tidbit at the beginning.

Now that you have the reader's attention, tell him/her the point of your essay--the thesis. The thesis can be a one-sentence summary or road map of your personal statement. It typically follows the lead and introduces the body, the longest section of your paper.

The body provides evidence to support your thesis. In writing the body avoid generalities and platitudes; give concrete examples from your life. Writing about specific experiences has a number of advantages:
- Specifics keep the reader's attention more effectively than generalities.
- Drawing on situations in your life will distinguish you from other applicants who superficially may be very similar to you.

All good things must end; so too must your essay end with a conclusion. The conclusion ties up the essay by briefly referring back to the lead, restating the thesis, and if relevant, mentioning some long term goals.

Lead, thesis, body, conclusion. That is the structure of a successful human interest story and personal statement. After all, the effective personal statement really tells a human interest story--a human interest story about you.


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Thank you for giving wonderful description on how to structure a personnel statement.

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