In talking to Admissions Representatives across the country, there is one aspect of a personal statement they all agree on _ BE YOURSELF and let them get a feel for the type of person you really are. This includes your motivations and the ability to evaluate your personal experiences and the effect they had on you. If you can understand that 8 out of 10 personal statements fail to do this, then you are well on your way to being 1 of the 2 applicants in every 10 that stands out.
Show, Don't Tell. This is one of the most difficult (but also one of the most important) skills to incorporate into your essay. "Showing and not telling" means that you ground your essay in specific details. Rather than simply asserting a big idea, you describe the experience surrounding it. Consider the following two examples: a) Because I was often sick, I learned one of my most important values in life: to make the most of my time and create a meaningful existence. b) When I was little, I was often sick. I would spend days in bed, and as an active kid, I hated the enforced stillness. I used to complain ceaselessly to my parents__but rather than let me succumb to self_pity, my parents would force me to make the most of my time. And as I painted, built Lego castles, and wrote crazy madlibs (quite badly!), I learned something important about myself: that I could be happy so long as I was productive. Do you see the difference? The first example offers a statement of personal belief__ but because it is just a factual declaration, it sounds as though it could have been written by anyone. The second example offers the same idea, but shows us rather than tells us about it. As a result, it is personal and unique, and makes the writer stand out as an applicant.