Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 | Posted in USF Writing Studio Blog: Tips, News, and Updates by dmfarrar | No Comments »
by Aaron Singh, an MFA student at USF in Creative Writing and a Writing Studio consultant
Personal statements are a tricky beast; most of us haven’t been trained to write about our own lives in a compelling, thoughtful way. Instead, we are taught the Five Paragraph Essay for most of our academic career, taught that our intro needs to end with a thesis statement, and our thesis statement needs to include the three points we wish to expand upon in the body of the essay.
Just writing about it is boring.
The one aspect of personal statements that seems to give most of my clients the most trouble, however, is the “hook, ” or the beginning: that pesky first paragraph that makes your personal statement stand out from the rest. Not because it’s experimental, weird, or because it reinvents the wheel—but because it shows the type of mature thought that comes from a graduate candidate. The type of student who can make sense of his or her life without an ego or without melodrama.
The first thing I tell my clients to think of: scene, scene, scene. The OWL at Purdue has a great article that includes the difference between summary and scene, and before you run away before trying it, just think: the easiest way to hook someone into any piece of writing is by getting the person to feel like they just experienced something, themselves, without being told what or how to feel.