Monday, October 09, 2006

Personal Statement: Confidence vs. Arrogance

Dear Tom,

I just got your book a few weeks ago and have been following your advice, making spreadsheets for schools, and all that good stuff. The organization is very comforting during this hectic time.

I'm in the midst of final writing sample revisions and the time has come for my personal statement. Here's my big question: how I walk the fine line between having confidence in my work and coming off as arrogant? Should I list fellowships, publications, and other awards in the personal statement or let my application say it for me? I tried writing a section about a fellowship I was a finalist for in my undergraduate work, but it just sounds cocky.

-Upstate and Statementless

Thanks for the question, UaS. One thing I feel very strongly about: if you want your audience to take note of something, always put it in the letter. Always, always, always. By that I mean: I think a lot of people say (whether this is MFA applications or applying for jobs) "Well, it's on my resume, so there's no reason to repeat it here."

That's making the assumption that anyone will read your resume or your application. I'd really encourage you to think of that letter as the only thing they'll read. Make it count.

So, as far as your awards etc.: State them as fact. You won them, and it's part of who you are as a writer. If one of these awards/publications really helped you as a writer, either internally or externally, I think it's fine to write a sentence or two about that.

Don't make a long list of things. Choose the two or three things that are most important to you. But yes, definitely put them in there. Best of luck.


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Peapod87 said...

I have another question to throw out. What about writing a personal statement that requires discussion of background and future goals/objectives? First of all, I'm having trouble even thinking of any concrete objectives, or should they be abstract? I can't find any examples to look at online. Any suggestions?

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