Choosing a Writing Style for Personal Statements


The writing style you choose to use for your personal statement offers important clues about you and your character. Much like your high school English class essays, the style of your personal statement reveals your ability to write, your attention to detail, and how you choose to communicate. Alternatively, a statement of purpose that fails to convey an appropriate style demonstrates undesirable characteristics like laziness, an inability to communicate appropriately, or a lack of real interest in the application process.

Personal statements and other college admissions essays are meant to communicate your admirable traits while at the same time describing your background, skills, and experiences that make you an ideal candidate. For this reason, I recommend you stick to using 1 of 2 styles when writing your college admissions essays: the narrative essay or the persuasive essay.


Narrative Style

In narrative writing, the main purpose is to tell a story - your story. In telling your story, you communicate to admissions officers details about your background, life, and experiences that aren’t otherwise obvious on your resume or transcript. A narrative is personal by nature, so it works well as a means to convey what makes you unique and offers a glimpse into how you see yourself and the world around you.

Key Characteristics:

  • Your story is told by you through first person/ your own point of view

  • Your essay uses elaborate detail that uses the five senses to convey feelings

  • Your personal statement has characters and/or dialogue

  • Your essay has definite and logical beginnings, intervals, and endings

  • Your essay uses situations like actions, motivational events, and disputes or conflicts which are eventually resolved

  • Your essay has a conclusion that relates back to your academic or personal goals, interests, or motivations

Persuasive Style

In using a persuasive writing style for your college admissions essay your main purpose should be to convince the reader of why you’re the best-qualified candidate for admission. To convince others to agree with your point of view, persuasive writing contains justifications and reasons like a description of your skills, previous jobs, relevant certifications, and applicable honors. This type of writing is typically used for cover letters and letters of application and thus are also a good fit for graduate school statements of purpose which should follow a similar format.

Key Characteristics:

  • Your statements are equipped with reasons, arguments, and justifications for why you should be admitted

  • Your essay attracts attention, stimulates interest, and maintains the focus of the admissions reader

  • You ask the reader (admissions team member) to agree with your reasoning

  • You ask the reader to do something (admit me!)

There are many different styles of writing to choose from when writing college admissions essays. A narrative style or persuasive style provides the most useful format for structuring your essay as they help to convey the information about you admissions officers want to know most. So, stick to one of these two styles and you’ll be set in writing a top admissions essay.