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  • Hi, welcome to www.engvid.com , I'm Adam. In today's video, I'm going to talk to you

  • about writing a personal statement. Now, a personal statement is one of the documents

  • that you will have to submit to a university when you're applying for admission there.

  • Not all schools want it, but most schools do want some form of written document from

  • you to apply with. Now, personal statement is just one type of document, but that's the

  • type I'll talk about today. I'll mention the other types, but that will be a separate video

  • for them, because it's a different approach to each one. So, before you do - before you

  • do - before you start writing your personal statement, you have to be ready. Now, what

  • this means is you can't write a personal statement the night before. You can't write it a week

  • before. Some people spend anywhere from six months to a year preparing their personal

  • statement. Now, personally, I don't think you need a year, you just need to work hard

  • for awhile, but you need more than a week, okay? There's a lot of work to do, I'm going

  • to show you some of the things you need to keep in mind, we're going to look at six different

  • things you need to understand about the personal statement, but this is such an important document,

  • such an important piece of paper, that you have to spend time on it. You have to know

  • what's involved, okay? So, we're going to start with that.

  • First of all, know the parameters. Now, what does this mean? I've seen lots of people;

  • I've seen lots of examples of personal statements where the people did not get onto the school's

  • website and find out what they actually need to do. They didn't look at the instructions.

  • They didn't look at the limits. They didn't look at anything. They just started writing

  • a personal statement, okay? What they didn't understand is what font size can you use?

  • Usually the school will tell you, they will give you some instructions about what you

  • can and can't do, okay? If you think, oh, I don't have enough to write, I'll use a 14

  • font, a size 14 font, to fill up the pages, okay, they - the admissions committee, the

  • people who read this, they will see a 14 font - garbage, you're done, you're not getting

  • into this school. They didn't even read one word yet. They saw you couldn't follow instructions,

  • you obviously can't be a good student - goodbye, okay? Know the font. Know the spacing. Do

  • they want double-spaced or single-spaced? Some of them don't care, they say you can

  • write double or single, but make sure you know. If they want double-spaced, send them

  • double-spaced personal statement. If they want single, make it single. Some of them

  • will tell you how - the margins, they want one inch each side. They want two inches on

  • the top and bottom, one inch on each side. Make sure you format your personal statement

  • the way they want it. If you don't, it means you can't follow instructions, and this is

  • for a personal statement. How are you going to do when your teachers give you instructions,

  • right? You can't follow these basic instructions? You won't follow your teachers' instructions,

  • they don't want you at their school, you're done, they haven't even read your personal

  • statement yet.

  • Now, very, very important. Some of them will give you a word limit. Some of them will say

  • no more than 1000 words. Some will say no more than 1250 words. Some of them will say

  • 900 words. Make sure you know what the limit of words is. Now, they might not give you

  • a word limit. They might give you a character limit. Character means like, each letter and

  • space and period and comma, each one of these is a character. A 900 character usually includes

  • spaces, so make sure when your final draft is ready, you do not have more than 900 characters.

  • Now, again, don't sit there counting each one. Make sure you do this on Word or some

  • sort of word processor that can count for you, okay? And you can look at the top of

  • the tabs in Word, for example, and there'll be a place that says word count. There will

  • also show you character count. Make sure you don't go over your limit. Some of them will

  • just give you a page limit. No more than two double-spaced pages. Okay. No more than one

  • single spaced page, it's almost the same thing, but again, know how much you need to write,

  • don't go beyond it. If they're giving you two pages, don't write half a page. If they're

  • giving you one page, don't write a page and a half. Generally, I say anywhere between

  • a page and a quarter to a page and a half should be enough. That's usually the standard,

  • but again, every school will have their own instructions. Make sure you know what they

  • want. Make sure you give them what they want. Okay?

  • Now, some of them will just say "Write a personal statement", basically, why do you want to

  • come to this school, or why do you want to join this program. Others will give you a

  • very specific question, okay? If they give you a question, make sure you answer that

  • question. Make sure that you build your - you construct or organize your personal statement

  • around that question. If you ignore the question, you're - again, you're ending up in the rejection

  • file, you know, you aren't getting admitted. Now, keep in mind, the personal statement

  • is not the only thing they're looking at, but if you have very good grades, very good

  • extracurricular activities, very good volunteering but you still have a terrible personal statement,

  • all those things might not help you. On the other hand, if you have so-so grades and so-so

  • everything else but your personal statement is amazing, that could actually get you into

  • university. Very important document, okay? And sometimes, you will have everything the

  • same, they'll - let's say there's five seats in a class, in a particular course. There

  • are ten people, each of them have basically the same grades, the same experience, the

  • same volunteer experience, etc. What's going to make the difference between who gets in

  • and who doesn't? The personal statement, okay? Don't underestimate the value of this document.

  • Now, the next thing, and this where a lot of people make a mistake. Do they actually

  • want a personal statement, okay? Or, do they want a statement of intent, or a statement

  • of purpose? Call it both ways. Do they want an essay? Do they want a personal statement

  • of intent? Make sure you understand what it is they're asking for. A personal statement

  • and a statement of intent are not the same thing, okay? This - the way you write this

  • and the way you write this are different, okay, and that's why I said I'll make a different

  • video for the statement of intent because, right now, we're just concentrating on the

  • personal statement. So, let's take this question and go to the next step.

  • So, we're taking about a personal statement. What is the first thing you have to notice

  • about personal statement? First thing you have to notice is that they want a person.

  • It's personal, okay? What they don't want to know is they don't want to know what are

  • you, they want to know who are you. They want to see the person. They want to see the personality,

  • okay? They want to see the person that's going to be coming into their classrooms and interacting

  • with other students, interacting with faculty, interacting with school staff, somebody who

  • can lead, somebody who can work hard and succeed and go on to give the school a good reputation

  • once they enter the working world. So, they want to see a person.

  • Now, what does this mean? They want to know your personality. They want to know, what

  • have you done or - that shows who you are. They don't want to know what's on your transcripts.

  • They see your transcripts. They know what's on your transcripts. Don't tell them that

  • in the personal statement. Again, you can take out highlights. I was in the top 3% of

  • my class in whatever, sure. That's not on your transcript, necessarily. But don't tell

  • them I took this, this, and that course and I got A's in everything. Yeah, they know,

  • they can see your transcript. Don't tell them that here. They don't want to see a student.

  • They want to see a person. Okay? And I'll say that many times. If you have to submit

  • a CV or a resume, don't tell them what you've done in terms of work or volunteer experience.

  • They can see it in the resume. They can see it in the CV. Show them the person, don't

  • show them the worker. Show them the person, don't show them the student, okay? All of

  • that, they have other documents for. Again, all they want to see is the person.

  • Now, you're asking, okay, yeah, I understand, you've said it enough times, but I could tell

  • you that - I've said it to people ten times, and they still didn't do it. Very, very important

  • to make sure they see a person, okay? They want to see uniqueness. They want to see some

  • sort of imagination, okay, they want to see creativity. If you go online, if you do a

  • Google search, or Bing or Yahoo or whatever search engine you use and you put "personal

  • statement samples", the internet's full of them. Read some of these. You will read examples

  • of what not to do and you will read examples of what to do. I once read a sample of a girl

  • who got into all the ivy league schools. How did she organize her personal statement? She

  • basically put all of her information into a story about going to Costco. For those of

  • you who don't know, Costco is a huge supermarket in the States and Canada and everywhere. She

  • compared her life and she compared her academic career and her work experience to a shopping

  • trip to Costco. Now, you're thinking, well, that's a little bit strange. Yeah, it is a

  • little bit strange, but it worked, and what did it show the most? That she was thinking

  • outside the box. So, this is very important. Think outside the box, be creative, be original,

  • be fresh. The people who are going to be reading your statement, they're going to be sitting

  • in a room, they're going to have a stack of statements, okay? It's extremely boring work,

  • but they have to do it, and the more boring your personal statement, the more average

  • it is, the more bland it is, the more unoriginal it is, the more tired you're making them and

  • a little bit more angry you're making them. Don't make them angry, give them something

  • fresh, wake them up. As soon as you've woken them up, you already have an advantage in

  • your admissions process, okay? Very, very important. Be a person. Don't be a student.

  • Don't be a worker.

  • Now, I'm going to talk a bit more about how you should do this, especially the introduction

  • paragraph is super important. We're going to talk about that soon enough.

  • Okay, so now, as I mentioned, time, right? So, your next step is to plan. Now, you have

  • to plan your - you have to plan your overall approach to the personal statement. So, what

  • you have to do is you have to find your theme or your arc. This is an arc, basically, right?

  • So, this is what is holding your whole personal statement together and then all the information's

  • going to come under this, under the arc, and it's all connecting to one central idea, and

  • that's why I also call it a theme. Like, if you're into sports, that could be your theme.

  • If you're a refugee from somewhere and you're looking for a better life and you're looking

  • for a second chance, that's your theme. Or, another way to look at it is your "in". The

  • one thing that lets you into the story and then you build your story from there, right?

  • Very, very important to have this theme. You're not going to just list down random information.

  • You're going to tell a story, okay, and that's what you're looking for. You're looking for

  • the plot of the story of who you are and you're going to present that to the admissions committee,

  • the people who are reading it. Again, I can't stress this enough, take time to do it. And

  • you'll be surprised, I've helped lots of students write personal statements, okay, and it's

  • amazing to me. Like, they always send me their first draft and I always - almost always send

  • them back an email and I say, "Yeah, we're going to have to start from the beginning,

  • because you're not doing what a personal statement is. You're not telling me a story, you're

  • giving me facts, a lot of the facts which I can get from your other documents, okay,

  • so we're going to start from scratch." And what I do is I create a list of questions

  • for them, and what you can do is create a list of questions for yourself. But be very

  • broad with your questions, okay? Make sure you ask all the who, what, when, where, how,

  • which, etc., why, why do you want to come to this school? Why do you want to study this?

  • When did you know you wanted to study this? So, you're applying, for example, to medical

  • school, okay? Why are you applying to medical school? Why do you want to be a doctor? Did

  • somebody push you to be a doctor? Did you ever have an experience at a doctor's office

  • where you came out and you said "You know what? This is what I want to be, this is what

  • I want to do with my life." What is that point in your life, that light bulb switched on

  • and you realized this what you want to study? If you're going into business, why? Why do

  • you want to go into business? Do you want to be rich? Okay, good. You're not going to

  • say that on your personal statement. What you can say is why do you want to be rich?

  • Do you want to make lots of money so that you can help poor people? Do you want to make

  • lots of money so that you can control the world? Do you want to be president? Always

  • ask one more question. Whatever your answer is, go a little bit more. Again, very important,

  • I want you to dig deep into yourself. Don't be afraid of asking yourself these questions,

  • okay? Now, when I help students write a personal statement, I send them minimum fifteen questions,

  • sometimes thirty questions, and I'm not going to use all the answers in the personal statement,

  • I'm not going to ask them to do that, but I want them to think. I want them to find

  • that little piece of information, that little piece of their history to build a story around,

  • okay? I want them to find their theme, okay?

  • Ask non-typical questions. Don't say "Why do you want to be doctor?" Okay, obviously,

  • that's a question you need to think about, but I want you to think, "Why do you want

  • to help people? Why does seeing somebody sick become unsick make you feel good? How does

  • it make you feel good? What situation - what example, what experience in your life has

  • helped you understand that feeling about yourself?" Okay? Lots of questions. Give non-typical

  • answers to typical questions. Even if you're - in your list of questions, you have very

  • typical questions, "Why do you want to go to this school?", look for non-typical answers.

  • Why do you want to go to MIT? Well yeah, it's the best technical school in the world, but

  • why MIT? Why this particular school? There are lots of good technical schools. Well,

  • MIT has, on-campus they have this particular building where you can do this, that, and

  • that. Be very, very specific with your answers. Now, all the details you're going to collect

  • are going to help you come up with your theme, with your arc, the one thread that goes through

  • all this information and connects it all together, the one thing that helps you create a story,

  • okay? Because, again, they have your transcript, they have your CV, they want to know who you

  • are as a person, okay?

  • Think of it like this: when you get to university, you're going to meet lots of new people and

  • you're going to meet new classmates, new teachers, new people who are not your classmates but

  • go to your school, in your dormitory, you'll meet them at the cafeteria, whatever. You're

  • going to start interacting with people. People are going to want to know, who are you? Do

  • I want to be friends with you? Why do I want to be friends with you? Well, tell them here.

  • Tell them in the personal statement. Make the admissions committee, people, want to

  • be friends with you, because you're a special person, okay? And don't think - sorry, one

  • last point before I go on - everybody thinks they're special, which is fine. Everybody

  • is special, but if everybody is special, nobody is special. Right? So, don't assume that everybody

  • is basically different and you're the one special one, okay?

  • Another thing that a lot of people forget, and I forgot to mention this before too, you're

  • not the only one applying. The admissions committee is reading a lot of these things.

  • What makes you stand out? Okay? What makes you different from the other people? So, I

  • had one student. She was applying to a program that, on average, every year, they had 700

  • people applying, 700 applicants, for 25 seats in the program. So, one of the questions I

  • asked her, "What makes you better, or what makes you more qualified, or what makes you

  • a better candidate than 675 other people?", okay? That's what she had to think about and

  • come up with an answer the beset she could and then we worked through it and got her

  • theme, okay?

  • Now, you have your plan, you have your theme, you're ready to go. Are you going to start

  • researching the school? Not yet, you can start thinking about your introduction. All of the

  • other details will come later, because I want you to establish your theme, I want you to

  • establish your story, that's happening in the introduction, okay? The introduction is

  • what is going to make or break your personal statement. This is where you catch the reader's

  • attention, you hold it, and make them want to go on to read the other important information.

  • So, you need a hook. You need that first sentence to just grab the reader's attention and hold

  • it, and that comes in the first sentence. Now, I've seen lots of personal statements

  • where somebody says, "My name is Bill Smith and I really want to go to your school." No.

  • Terrible sentence. Why? A: They have your whole application package, they know your

  • name. They know you want to apply to this school because you sent an application. They

  • know you want to go here. Don't tell them the obvious. You're writing a story, grab

  • their attention. Give them something unique, okay? I had one - I helped one person write

  • a statement. I found out she liked sports. That was her hook. We started straight with

  • the sports analogy. What makes successful people successful? In sports, it's their ability

  • to win, it's their ability to play in a team and to strategize, to have a target and work

  • hard to reach it. Again, I'm obviously paraphrasing here, but that's the key point. We used sports

  • as her theme. Sports is a very good theme, by the way, if you're into sports. But, again,

  • if you're going to use sports, make sure that your CV has a lot of sports stuff on it. She

  • was on two university teams, so it was very good. I think she was captain of one and won