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Step-by-step Guide to Writing the Personal Statement

  • Introductions by Amy Jarich, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at UC Berkeley, and Eric Furda, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at University of Pennsylvania
  • 18 sample essays followed by comment and analysis
  • 140 pages, color
  • Print copies available for $25

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Personal Statement
A notoriously difficult part of the application process, the personal statement (also known as the application essay or admissions essay) is in many ways the heart and soul of a student’s application. It represents an applicant’s opportunity to convey a distinctive message that reflects his/her personality, character, outlook, and maturity. Without the personal statement, an application is merely a collection of numbers and letters that convey very little about the individual they represent.

The Art of the Personal Statement (TAOPS)
TAOPS, by admissions advisor Alex Thaler, outlines a comprehensive framework for writing the application essay that focuses on the brainstorming, drafting, and editing phases of the writing cycle. Readers learn how to utilize mindfulness as a tool for effective writing and for avoiding common pitfalls. Throughout the book, students learn not only how to write a personal statement, but also how to access the stream of thoughts, ideas, emotions, and sensations that are the basis of effective writing.

Mindfulness
Mindfulness, which has its roots in ancient Buddhist practices, is defined as “an enhanced attention to the constant stream of lived experience.” In recent years, mindfulness-based techniques have been successfully adapted in a variety of settings to enhance performance and manage stress. “The Art of the Personal Statement” is the first book about the admissions essay to incorporate principles of mindfulness.

Personal Statement Examples
Although students should never pass off the work of others as their own, sample essays can provide a sense of the depth and breadth of different approaches to the personal statement. TAOPS includes a variety of college and graduate school application essays, each followed by comments and analysis.

College, Law School, Medical School, MBA, Executive MBA, Other Graduate School
The principles presented in TAOPS apply to applicants whose essays have a significant creative or narrative element.

Additions, Updates, New Material
TAOPS is an evolving publication that will be updated frequently to include new material. If you would like to share this resource with others, be sure to send a link to this page, rather than the PDF (the copyright license prohibits distribution unless first approved by Dear Admissions).

If you are affiliated with an organization, such as a college, university, high school, or other educational institution, the best way to share this resource with members and visitors is to create a link to this page on your organization’s website.