How to Fix a Broken Personal Statement

Congratulations! You’ve written the first draft of your personal statement. You’ve managed to distill your life, aspirations, and strengths down to a few hundred words, which is no easy thing! But here’s the bad news: you’re just getting started! But, as Ernest Hemingway famously said, “the first draft is sh**.”

Effective revision is the difference between a mediocre draft and a good one, a good one and a great one, a great one and one that blows the AdCom’s socks off! Don’t drift across the finish; take an assertive, thoughtful, and meticulous approach to revising your essay.

  1. Read your personal statement out loud: Reading your personal statement aloud will help you spot clunky text and uncomfortable wording that you may not notice while reading silently. You also want this to be a personal statement, and if it doesn’t sound like you when you read it, it probably isn’t connected to your personality and strengths as an applicant.
  2. Take a break and return to it later: After drafting your personal statement, take a break and return to it with fresh eyes later. Creating a sense of distance from your draft will help you see it anew. This might assist you in identifying errors that you may have overlooked earlier.
  3. Use a spelling and grammar checker: Most word processing software products include spelling and grammar checkers that can assist you in catching problems. However, keep in mind that these tools are not perfect and should only be used as a supplement to your own proofreading efforts. I also like Grammarly. Remember, though, that no software is perfect, so don’t just blindly follow the advice on grammar, syntax, and wording that they provide. Be thoughtful and proactive about it.
  4. Have someone else go over your personal statement: Obviously, we here at think we’re the best in the business at helping you turn your personal statement into something great.  But, if you can’t afford it or you want to do it yourself, having a friend, family member, or writing instructor look through your personal statement will help you discover faults that you may have overlooked. As with point #3, listen to all advice that you’re given and think carefully in every instance whether it’s right for you and your application.
  5. Check for consistency: Make sure your personal statement has a consistent tone, style, and layout. Avoid the Frankenstein essay where you try to incorporate too many bits of advice or try to cram too much into it, and so along the way you lose your voice and the essay’s sense of direction.
  6. Make sure your personal statement is straightforward and easy to read. Young writers love trying to dazzle readers by blasting them with every fancy word they know. Don’t do that. Follow Ernest Hemingway’s four rules for writing. The TLDR is: keep it simple. Avoid employing jargon or sophisticated terminology that the reader may find difficult to understand. And certainly NEVER use a word or phrase unless you’re absolutely certain you know what it means.
  7. Use a top-to-bottom, bottom-to-top proofreading method: Start by reading through your essay top to bottom, fixing anything that needs fixing. Then, begin with your final sentence, read it, and revise. Then go to the second-to-last sentence, and repeat. Do this until you’ve gone from the end of the essay to the top. Breaking it up in this way allows you to see avoid getting into the flow of the essay and instead see each sentence on its own.


For more help with your personal statement, check us out at Our personal statement editors and consultants have decades of experience helping clients get into top Masters and Ph.D. programs in STEM, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Our specialty is helping you craft compelling personal statements that move the needle in your admissions process! For questions, shoot us an email at Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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