Writing a personal statement for graduate school, a program, or a job may be one of the most difficult essays to tackle. Unlike a paper for a class where you use research or articles to strengthen your argument, you only have your ideas and passions to work with—and trying to formulate your goals into words will prove more difficult than initially imagined. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Tell an Important Story

Perhaps you held a significant work position that heavily influenced your decision to enter this field/program. Tell it. This will separate you from the crowd, and your passion will shine through without explicitly starting off with, “I’m passionate about …” (all the other applicants are, too).

Listen: In this podcast, Learning Centers writing tutor Julia Fuchs explains why you should rethink the use of childhood anecdotes in personal statements.

Flaunt Your Skills & Experience

Though admissions will get a copy of your resume, here’s your chance to emphasize important and unique skills you’ve gained in a university classroom, student leadership role, and/or time spent doing research or fieldwork. Here’s your chance to shine. This statement is all about you—don’t be afraid to throw in those extra I-statements. Don’t sell yourself short.

Why You

Remember that plenty of passionate and driven people are applying. Let the admissions council know what makes you stand out, why they should choose you, why you’re a good fit, and what will you bring to the program.