The key to having a personal statement that flows well is strong transitions. These are sentences that connect concepts like little bridges throughout your essay. Without them, your essay can feel choppy, disconnected and confusing.
Here are some ways you can create transitions for a smooth and seamless essay:
- Placement. First and foremost, when transitioning between paragraphs, your transitional sentence should always come as the first sentence of the new paragraph.
- Find the common element. If you’re trying to link two very different concepts, try to find what the two have in common and focus on that. For example, if your last paragraph was about your volunteer work and your next one is about some important lab research you did, you can focus on how one reinforces the other.
- Transition Example: After working with children suffering from heart defects for three months, I was excited to investigate those same issues from a different angle, this time under a microscope.
- Lean on your timeline. When you're trying to bridge one sentence to the next and things are flowing in a chronological order, you can use time to your advantage. For example, if your last paragraph discussed your accomplishments in college, and your next paragraph discusses the work you did after graduating, go with the flow.
- Transition Example: After graduation, I put my architecture degree to work immediately at an interior design firm in San Francisco.
- Lean on a story. If you’re trying to transition from a general statement to a story, it can sometimes be tricky to figure out how to weave into it without an awkward jump. There’s no need to set it up with an overly complex introduction — just dive in with leads like: “One example of this…”; “One way I was able to accomplish this was…”; “By doing…”; “When I…”
- Transition Example: “I believe that developing strong doctor-patient relationships is key to delivering quality healthcare. I put this value into practice while working with at-risk children in Chicago. For example, I always started our sessions by asking them to tell me about themselves and what they love to do.”
- When in doubt, turn to these transitional words to start your transitional sentences:
- Even though
- In addition
- What’s more
- For the same reason
- In fact
Transitional sentences are key to creating a personal statement that flows well and that guides the admissions reader effortlessly through your past, present and future. If you’re struggling with a choppy essay, try these tips and then send your essay to one of our experienced editors at www.edityour.net. They can help polish your essay until it’s as smooth as glass.
You finally have time to sit down and write you personal statement. You know it’s a big deal, and maybe you know vaguely what you want to write about. But all you can do is stare at that blank white screen helplessly.
“Where do I even begin?”
There are several key points you want to hit with a personal statement, regardless of what your background is and what type of program you’re applying to. A good starting point is to answer the following questions:
- What ignited your passion for career X?
- What moments reaffirmed your decision that YES, this is the career for you?
- How do your background, personality and experiences make you a great fit for career X?
- How does the program you’re applying to take your career to the next level? How is it a good fit for you?
- What are your long-term career goals?
By the way, if you need a little more guidance than that, we have an awesome Brainstorming Packet that we highly recommend for any applicant: https://edityour.net/product/personal-statement-brainstorming-packet/
Ok so if you’ve figured out generally what you’re going to write about, believe it or not, that’s not actually enough! You also need to structure your personal statement in a way that will draw the admissions team into your story and keep them hooked from start to finish. The structure and flow can have a big impact on how powerfully your experiences come across and how organized as a person you seem. For some tips on how to best structure your personal statement, check out our blog post on the topic of structure: https://edityour.net/structuring-your-personal-statement-with-a-strong-backbone/
Once you know what you’re going to write about and how you’re going to structure it, you are well on your way! After that first draft is complete, don’t forget the last step: Get it edited by a professional editor. That way you know it’s as strong as it can possibly be from a grammatical, structural and content point of view.
See all our best tips and resources on the EditYour Blog: https://edityour.net/blog/
Your personal statement has one key goal: To tell the admissions team things about you they could never otherwise know by reading other parts of your application. This mainly includes sharing elements of your personal background, motivations and aspirations with the reader. Consider those parts the vital organs of your essay. To make sure those vital organs function properly, you’ll need strong bones in place. Those bones are the structure of your essay.
After editing hundreds of essays and speaking with former admissions personnel, the strongest structure for a personal statement is typically as follows:
- Introduction Paragraph
- Body Paragraph 1 – Topic: Back to the Beginning
- Body Paragraph 2 – Topic: Confirmation of Your Passion
- Body Paragraph 3 – Topic: Current Self + Future Aspirations
- Conclusion Paragraph
Now, depending on your situation, you may have another body paragraph or two in your essay, and usually that’s fine as long as those paragraphs have important themes. But the above structure serves as a great starting point when you’re looking to write an essay from scratch. Most importantly, you’ll notice that the body paragraphs have elements that the admissions team is looking to learn about you. Let’s take a closer look at those body paragraphs:
Body Paragraph 1: Back to the Beginning
After your killer introduction (which you can learn more about how to write here), you’ll ideally want to take the admissions team back to where/when your passion for career X started and grew. For example, let’s say in your intro, you shared a story about breaking your arm at the age of 7, which led to your first hospital visit. Perhaps the experience ignited an interest in medicine. In your first body paragraph, you would want to bring the admissions team on a journey through the most important stages from that hospital visit through to med school. That may mean talking them through your decision to study biology in college, to volunteer at a free clinic, etc. Share anecdotes about moments that had a profound impact along the way.
Body Paragraph 2: Confirmation of Your Passion
While your first body paragraph should talk about the genesis of your passion and how it bubbled to the surface, your second body paragraph should show the admissions team that YES, this is the career for you. Show them proof that this is the path meant for you. This paragraph should be heavy on story-telling, detailing moments that made you think, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” For some tips on how to tell powerful stories in your essay, check out this blog post on showing vs. telling.
Body Paragraph 3: Current Self + Future Aspirations
In your third body paragraph, you want to share where you’re at today, what your next steps are, and what your future goals look like. Areas to discuss include why you want to pursue program X (the one you’re applying to) and why it’s a good fit for you. How will this program achieve your ultimate career goal? And what is that ultimate career goal? Try to be as specific as you can. For example, instead of saying you want to be a physician, you could say that you want to be a physician who works at an inner-city hospital. Then connect it back to your previous body paragraphs by citing how you enjoyed the volunteer opportunity you had at the inner-city free clinic while in college (again, for a fictitious example). This third paragraph will allow your essay to flow seamlessly into your conclusion. For how to write a killer conclusion, we recommend you check out our previous blog post on that subject. Applicants who have used our services in the past report back to us that this blog post really helped them take their essays to the next level.
Once you implement this strong structure, you’ll find that your sentences flow much smoother and that your essay becomes more concise. The last thing you want is for your essay to be an expanded version of your resume, and this type of structure lends itself well to demonstrating how this career is right for you and why. Good luck!
Applicants typically have the toughest time writing the introductions of personal statements. You have all this great experience — where to begin? If you find yourself thinking the same thing, these 4 tips are about to change everything:
#1: Start with a story
The best way hook the admissions team into your essay is to start with a gripping story from a moment that changed your life. For example, one applicant described how she had lost a friend in a car accident and pulled the reader right into the thick of that life-changing situation: “Her body laid on the gurney, cold to the touch. I looked at her face once more, kissed her forehead, and whispered goodbye.” A little story like this not only gives the selection committee better insight into who you are, but it also keeps their attention longer so they WANT to learn more about you.
#2: Use vivid imagery
By including little details, active verbs and a more story-like format, you can transform your introduction into a gripping start to your essay. Incorporate aspects of the five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste) to really take it to the next level. As you can see in the following two examples, the little details make all the difference:
Not very vivid: We were sitting in the emergency room and were staring at the ground. It was hard to wait so long and not know if she was ok.
More vivid: The fluorescent lights buzzed as we sat in the emergency room. I sat bent forward with my head resting on my knees, staring blankly at the cracks in the tile floor below. Would she make it? Would I ever see her again?
#3: Bridge your past, present and future
Your introduction has one primary goal: It must tell the admissions team where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going. You can do this by using transitions that seamlessly weave those parts together. For example:
“After working for five years as a researcher , I discovered that while I loved problem-solving, I longed to be able to work directly with the real people behind the data. By applying to medical school , I look forward to bringing my unique lab experience into a clinical setting. Becoming a physician , will allow me to form strong relationships with my patients and problem solve for them on an individual level.”
#4: End with your ultimate goal
In the above example, you’ll notice that the final sentence includes a note about what the long-term goal is: becoming a physician. Always make sure to include this in the last sentence or two of your introduction! The admissions team wants to know that you have a specific career goal in mind, which will give them more confidence in you.
Once you sew together a great introduction, it's always smart to run it past an editor to make sure you're on the right track. Don't hesitate to send your first paragraph to our team of pros and we'll help you craft the best intro possible for your killer personal statement.