The personal essay is sometimes known as a personal statement and is similar to an admission essay. Its main purpose is to tell someone who knows nothing about you other than the facts on an application form all about yourself. The aspects of your life/character you should emphasize are those which are most relevant to the vacancy for which you are applying.
In many ways, writing a personal essay is extremely difficult as ‘selling yourself’ involves talking about your achievements and this can be hard if you are used to being reticent about what you have done – as most of us are taught to be! However, the personal essay/statement is no time for modesty as you have to give the reader enough information about you as a candidate to enable a decision to be made about whether to offer you a place/position.
Another difficulty is that until you actually begin to write down what you have done you might think you have nothing to say but you will be surprised how much you have accomplished when you begin to list your hobbies, interests, sporting achievements etc. You should start by just jotting down everything that comes to mind. Ask yourself: what sports you participate in, whether you are a member of any teams, whether you have taken part in drama productions, what are your musical tastes, do you play any instruments? After that, move on to list your tastes in books, theatre, film, television – anything which you think will give your reader a better understanding of who you are and, importantly, what you feel makes you are suited to the course/vacancy for which you are applying. When you have completed your list, organize the ideas into paragraphs of related topics.
Remember that you are being assessed here for how well you will fill a particular place; no-one is out to judge you as a person, just find out whether you are suitable. There is no need to ‘excuse’ what you perceive as ‘omissions’ from what you have done, nor to repeat information such as qualifications which will have been given on your curriculum vitae or application form.
The purpose of a personal essay is to give you an additional opportunity to present yourself. It should go without staying that spelling, grammar and punctuation should be perfect as inferior presentation creates a very bad impression on the reader.
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