Organization for Personal Statement with Prompt

Once you have your more general personal statement, you will need to tailor it for specific audiences. This means that whenever you are asked to submit a statement, you make adjustments to your personal statement to fit the requirements, expectations, or tone of the unique situation. 

Specific Prompts

There may be times when you will need to start from scratch because there is a specific prompt or the circumstance renders the general statement irrelvant, but you will usually have at least some part of the general statement that you can use as a starting point. This will typically be the case when the person or organization requesting the personal statement is looking for specific information that would not be included in a resume that is necessary for the applicant.

Examples of information they would try to find through providing a specific prompt would be:

When you face a specific personal statement prompt, be sure to look at each part of the question and consider:

1 Exercise: Analyze the Prompt

Before you begin writing, you always need to be sure you fully understand the question so that you include all of the necessary details. Use the questions below to analyze the prompt.

Prompt: Our college aims to have small class sizes and to promote mentoring between faculty and students and between peers. Explain how you will contribute to and benefit from those mentorships.

  1. What does the reviewer expect to learn from my answer?
  2. How would my answer separate me in a positive way from other applicants?
  3. How to I show myself in the best light in this question?
  4. What information is not included in my personal data and resume that they already have access to?


Before you begin writing, break down the prompt into the individual pieces. Make sure that you fully understand what it is asking and that you include answers to every part of it. Once you have the prompt broken down into pieces, begin your brainstorm. Your brainstorm should give you a chance to write down all ideas you have about each section. At this stage, nothing is good or bad. The only purpose of the brainstorm is to get all of the ideas out of your head and onto paper. Then you can begin to look for patterns and evaluate the strength of the different points. You may want to mark the ideas you like so that they stand out. Then, review your general personal statement and identify any parts of it that would be useful in responding to this particular prompt.


Once you know what the reviewer wants to know and have brainstormed your ideas of your response, you need to consider how to develop those ideas further. To do this, consider the points in your brainstorm in terms of your motivation, your qualifications, and the expectations of the reviewer. Choose a limited number of items from your brainstorm to include. Because a personal statement is so brief, you want to thoughtfully construct your ideas. 

As you develop your ideas, you may find yourself writing much more than you can actually include in your final product. This is ok during the drafting stage. You want to fully build a mental image for your reader, but you also want to discard the irrelevant points later. After you have drafted your ideas, think about these questions to eliminate the extra thoughts.

2 Exercise: Give Feedback on Development

Here is an example body paragraph from a student's application essay describing a time when the student did not achieve a goal or experienced a difficult challenge. Use the questions above to give feedback to the writer about the development of this idea.

       Three years ago, I tried out for the soccer team at school and thought everything was going to be fine since I had been practicing for a long time to be accepted. Nevertheless, I wasn’t chosen for the soccer team, and this put me in a place of uncertainty, doubting myself and worrying about my performance in sports which I have always been good at. This experience was hard and complex because being accepted was what I wanted the most. This caused my life to be badly affected in many aspects.


The most important thing to remember as you finalize your personal statement is that it should feel very clear and direct. It should be obvious to the reader why you included specific details. Every idea needs to point back to the prompt. The response should show unity in the tone and content. You do not have room for any stray ideas in this short of a writing task. After you think you have answered the question as completely as you can, give yourself time to look over it again for cohesion and/or ask for someone to review it for you.

3 Exercise: Give Feedback on Cohesion

Here is an example body paragraph from a student's application essay to a psychology program at a US college. Be prepared to discuss how the writer effectively creates cohesion in this paragraph or how the writer can improve this paragraph to clearly tie it back to the prompt (Why do you want to study psychology at this university?).

       My previous education in [country] helped me to study and learn new things by myself. Since the tuition was expensive, I tried my best to be a person who has the highest grades in the field I was studying to get scholarships because only the person who has the highest grades can get full scholarships. What I have done to get good grades on the test is to reduce sleeping time, preview and review every day, and teach my classmates. Teaching my classmates allowed me to be prepared for the test efficiently because preparing for teaching helped me understand better what we had learned from class and make what I had taught into my own knowledge. Eventually, my goal became true. Even though I did not like the education system, it has helped me develop some good learning and studying habits to transfer to a new learning environment. Furthermore, it has taught me that I can do whatever I plan and work hard.