All hail the topic sentence! The topic sentence is the key building-block of any good essay, including your Personal Statement. At the beginning of each paragraph, a topic sentence introduces the claim that you’re about to make. These claims about your career, your life, your viewpoint—and they way that you substantiate them—are what will set you apart from other candidates, clinching that coveted admissions spot.
The claims that you make in your topic sentence should answer one of the following questions:
1.) Why I am so qualified: academic achievements and capabilities (stressing a capacity for research or follow-through)
2.) What has led me to this point: the details about background and experiences that have conspired with fate to lead me to apply to University X
3.) Why I have made the choices I made and what I have learned along the way
4.) How this degree will help me accomplish something significant beyond immediate career ambitions i.e. something for the world, country, poultry farmers, etc; see our post on this
5.) What I believe regarding my prospective object of study: e.g. that poultry should only be free-range
6.) Why I can get the job done: it’s covered by point a), but always worth reiterating
7.) Why University X is so well suited to my learning and career goals: see our post on the what and where of applying
8.) How University X can help me grow: in more than just brain size
9.) How I believe I can contribute to the department at University X, to my area of research, etc.
After stating your claim as an unembellished truth e.g. ‘I am extremely persistent,’ the remainder of the paragraph defends, substantiates, and asserts that claim. Your case is made through story-telling, examples, facts, logical argumentation, and even analogies or hypotheticals.
Candidates may fail not on the merits of their accomplishments, but in failing to connect these claims into a logical story. Most personal statements are fragmented, which hampers admissions committees from keeping their attention and getting an idea of the candidate’s story. Perhaps it is the panic of having too much to tell, from too many facets of one’s life. Whatever the reason, it is critical that every sentence and every paragraph flow logically, in a coherent narrative. If you took only the topic sentences and read them in order, you would ideally have a clear idea and a logical ordering of the applicant’s claims.
This bit of advice – pay attention to structure – is only one part of the applicant’s challenge. There are two other areas where Applicant Adviser can offer assistance. First, we help you choose what characteristics, achievements and experiences to include or exclude, and how to shape them in your Personal Statement. Second, we help you frame and communicate your story in the right tone, using the right words, and in perfect English.
Make a small investment in your application efforts and a big investment in your future, co-create with Applicant Adviser!