After brainstorming, you should have a lengthy list of potential topics to cover. Some essays that answer specific questions will require only one topic, but for most general personal statements, you will want to discuss two to four subjects. Occasionally, you can discuss a single experience at length if you're confident that the material touches on the entire range of themes you need to convey. If you try to tackle more than four subjects, you are probably treating each one in insufficient depth.
Use the following guide to help narrow down your topics.
Selecting the topic of your personal statement can be a process akin to reverse engineering: You begin with conclusions and work your way back to a premise and overarching theme. What you are seeking at this point is a pattern that connects the very best of the material generated through brainstorming directly to your chosen field. All those piquant ideas and vividly rendered anecdotes you include in your essay should be entertaining to read but at the same time must make a coherent and compelling case for your admission.
Does your topic convey something meaningful about your personality? Will the reader walk away with an enriched understanding of who you are? If you can't answer "yes" to these questions, then you have probably chosen a topic that's too generic. Search harder to find a subject for which you can take a more personal, original approach.
You can't write a comprehensive essay that discusses everything you've ever done, but you can aim to offer an argument that details the full range of what you have to offer. If you choose only one topic, that topic should be broad enough in scope to allow you to discuss layers of your skills and characteristics. If you choose multiple topics, they should not be redundant, but build on and supplement each other.
Is your topic unique? It's hard to have something entirely new to say, but you should at least have a fresh take on your topic. If you recognize a lack of originality in your ideas, try to be more specific and personal. The more specific you get, the less likely that you will blend in with the essays of your competition.
Will your topic be able to sustain your reader's interest for the entire length of the essay? It's true that good writing can make any topic fascinating to read about, but there's no need to start yourself off with a handicap. Choose a topic that will naturally be of interest to any reader. For this criterion, it's necessary to step back and view your topic objectively, or else consult the opinion of others. If someone described the basic idea to you, would you care enough to ask for more details?
You should make sure ahead of time that your topic is fundamentally based on concrete evidence. If you're choosing specific experiences or events, then the relevant details should be clearly available. If your topic is more abstract, then you must be prepared to back up any claims with concrete examples and illustrative details.
Applicants often overlook the very basic necessity of actually answering the question posed. They think they can get away with a loosely adapted essay from another application, or they simply don't take the time to review the question carefully. Make sure the topic you choose gives you room to address all parts of the question fully. Your readers could perceive an irrelevant response as an indication of your carelessness or lack of interest in their school.
After you've determined that your topic meets the above criteria, you should check that it also avoids the following pitfalls:
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