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Research! Research! Research!
Research the schools you are applying to. Most schools will provide you with a brochure that provides information about the school's expectations from its applicants. Talk to people you know who attended that school and its graduates. Take full advantage of the school's alumni program to network with graduates. Call the school and make an appointment with an admissions counselor or another official. The more you know about the school, its programs, and its faculty members, the better you will be able to structure your essay and show that you are truly interested in the school. Additionally, this extra research effort pays off by notifying the reader that you have taken more time to learn more about the school than other applicants. Extra research leaves the reader with a favorable impression of your diligence, dedication and interest in their institution. This extra knowledge and information does not have to be mentioned in every sentence or otherwise be overstated. Your statement need only contain enough information to convey the impression that you have gone the extra mile.

To facilitate this first step, AdmissionsEssays.Com offers a free search engine listing the key statistics and website addresses of highly regarded colleges, universities, professional, and graduate schools.

Know the Stakes Involved!
Understand the importance of the Application Process. Always remind yourself of the high stakes involved in being admitted into the school of your choice. Be aware of the impact this will have on your future career trajectory, earnings expectations, and career options. Instead of feeling overwhelmed or anxious, use the gravity of the process to motivate yourself and write the best essay you possibly can.

Know the Question Being Asked!
Depending on the type of school, department, or reputation of the school you are applying to, the Admissions Committees will be reading hundreds if not thousands of personal statements. In order to make your statement engaging, memorable, and distinctive you must apply the basic strategy of isolating and focusing on the central theme asked in each question--answer it! Think it through. What exactly are they asking for? What is the Scope of the question? Application questions often range from the extremely specific [e.g., what are the personal challenges regarding interpersonal matters that you feel brought out your conflict mediation and management skills?] to the open-ended and amorphous [e.g. tell us something about yourself regarding your desire to become an attorney]. In addition to the question posed, most schools provide guidelines for answering their questions. Follow these guidelines carefully. Don't deviate from them.

Some question formats pose one general question and several more specific questions. Don't let your answer to the general question be a mere repetition of the specific queries. Pay close attention to the precise question asked and avoid being repetitive. Reserve all other information worthy of some detail for the general personal statement. Make your general statement a "catch-all" document which gives the Admissions Committee the impression that there is more to you than you have previously revealed.

Avoid redundancies among the differing parts of your application package. Don't just recite your GPA and/or courses taken in your personal statement. These will probably be given adequate consideration elsewhere in the application. However, you may mention your GPA and courses taken if you believe they require explanation. For instance, you may state that your GPA discrepancy was due to an illness that required hospitalization or due to family problems. Aside from such situations, do not make "excuses" for your grades. The Admissions Committees probably run into hundreds of such excuses each and every year.

Beware of a "one size fits all" attitude!
Once you estimate the parameters of what the personal statement question is asking for, you must discern the type and structure of an essay that would be the most efficient and responsive to the question posed. With this in mind, beware that there is no ONE generic personal statement that could possibly meet all the questions posed by the schools you are applying to. Most schools vary in the personal mix of people they wish to admit. Your must tailor your statement closely to the questions the application package asks. Although one personal statement might generally meet the requirements of more than one school. Ideally, a separate personal statement should be written specifically for each and every school.

The Bottom Line
Your personal statement is your chance to shine. Plan it accordingly. Discuss accomplishments, not failures; valuable experiences, not defeats. Emphasize the positive and empowering, do not bore or depress the reader. Make sure your personal statement is bright, involved, engaging and motivated. Remember that the Admissions Committees are composed of experienced professionals who probably collectively combed through thousands of personal statements over the span of their careers. They will be able to read between the lines!
STEP 1: Strategy
STEP 2: Organization
STEP 3: Execution
STEP 4: Revision
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