How to Address “An Issue that is Important to You” in Your Personal Statement

Personal Statement
This is not the prompt that many candidates think it is.

Many candidates see this prompt and the immediate reaction is “At last! I can write a personal statement essay about a specific topic and I don’t have to appear in the essay at all.”

Technically speaking, this is true – personal statement essays that describe an issue in the public discourse do, strictly speaking, address this prompt, and many such essays are offered every year. But that is the wrong approach. A beautifully written personal statement in response to this prompt that does not explain why the issue in question is important to you will fall short of what you need in order to effectively address this prompt.

The most important words in this prompt are “to you.” These personal statement essays give you the opportunity to “localize” what may be a “global” issue that you have chosen to write about. A brilliantly presented document that synthesizes the many challenges posed by global climate change will not win you points, unless you take it one step further by showing how climate change has become important to you in the context of your personal experience.

How to Localize a Global “Issue that Is Important to You” in Your Personal Statement Essays

In a personal statement essay about climate change and the dangers that it poses, for example, you could point to many different phenomena in terms of personalizing the essay so that it can set you apart. If you live or vacation in the mountains, you could point to the disappearing glaciers you have seen; if you live or have traveled to an arid region, you could cite the water restrictions. If the local economy in your area has been affected by “green” initiatives and organizations, by all means offer the details, because it is these details that have changed your environment and made this issue important enough to you to address in your personal statement.

If, in addition to this approach, you can tie your interest in this issue into the program of study you are proposing in your other personal statement essays, this essay can even better work to serve your best interests as a candidate.

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