The "Significant Experience" Prompt and Your Personal Statement

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This is one of the most open-ended prompts candidates face in their personal statement essays, making it one of the most difficult to respond to. What should you write about?

In your primary personal statement it is always a good idea to play to your strength in the opening sequence, and this general rule applies to your response to this prompt as well. Is the strongest response you could offer to this prompt in the form of an experience or in the form of an achievement?

If it is in the form of an achievement, the important thing to remember is to provide the facts - describe precisely what you did, if possible, leading up to the achievement. Another thing to keep in mind is that your personal statement essays about a particular achievement need not be about an earth-shaking or dramatic event. It could be something as simple as bringing peace to a dinner table at a particularly important family occasion. This would be an achievement that would demonstrate your social skills, communication skills, and, depending on the context, your cultural sensitivities as well.

Personal Statement Essays That Describe an Experience

If the best material you can offer in response to this personal statement prompt is in the form of an experience, great. But be careful: Do not offer an experience simply for the sake of its drama or because of the emotional effect that it had upon you. The problem with such material is that it can lead to emotionally-laden ("gushy") prose, and in your personal statement essays, where content is king, the best way to "spin" an experience is to show, by depicting your subsequent actions, how the experience motivated you to pursue the path you are on.

Whether you decide to offer an experience or an achievement, the more details and facts you can offer in your personal statement essays, the better. Offering dates, locations, specific awards, and so on provides the "evidence" to back up the assertions you have made in your personal statement in response to this open-ended and challenging prompt.

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