留学文书答疑丨如何写一个吸引人的文书开头?Advice on starting a personal statement: I’m trying to make it unique but got trapped...
2019-08-15

本文章整理自芝士圈留学外籍导师社群答疑

Q:

Can I ask for some advice for starting a personal statement? I’m trying to make it unique but got trapped. I’m not sure about what to say first and how to make it attractive. Many thanks.

A:

Fab thing to ask! And you’re right to shout out. This is all about keeping perspective! Remember your purpose here is to introduce yourself, impressively, accurately, with meaning – talking about what matters to you and why.

Be unique! Right now(!)

People often issue this as a requirement or a tip or an instruction for statements. It is a requirement for statements, but the trouble is ‘be unique’ is such an intimidating requirement. Lady Gaga is arguably quite unique… she’s the first person who sprang into my mind when I tried to think about the word for second just now…

But that kind of idea—any kind of idea that makes you feel intimidated by the word unique and what it might require of you—is to miss the point people are trying to make when they give this advice.

You are enough

What people mean when they say ‘be unique’ is simply ‘be yourself’. How do you achieve this in a statement?

  • By writing about yourself using specific, concrete nouns to describe relevant events.
  • By investing in the statement writing process (as you are doing) and submitting a carefully-considered response tailored to the priorities of your target school.

I’ve written elsewhere about how people can tackle a statement requirement that is phrased with big, broad, potentially-worrisome language productively. In that post I said that the only insight you’re asked to display is insight into yourself. I think this is true and pertinent to any statement, written for any purpose.

The purpose of the statement is to introduce you. It is a tool for the admissions committee to distinguish between you and a very large number of candidates. That pool of candidates whose statements they’ll be comparing with your will have sets of achievements that look identical to yours when reduced to abstractions and numerical data.

The statement becomes truly powerful at this moment. But the important thing to recognize is that in order to make an impact, in order to be convincing, in order to stand out (because so few people manage to stick at this) all you have to do is write about yourself.

Invoke your specificity and be unique simply by using specific language to explain the scenario you’ve chosen to write about.

Do not tell yourself that your writing must be profound, “important”, or “perfect” or “unique”. Eliminate those concepts from your mind and your heart.

Write specifically and creatively about yourself, but also know why you need to do that (accurate analysis of the question and the context are your strategic guidelines for that).

Begin with the end in mind….

In fact, I wrote another really extensive post on ZHIHU about starting statements that I also recommend you may wish to read. This gives more specific strategies (at quite a lot of length!) on how you can start your statement!

I hope this helps.

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