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How to Craft Your Personal Definition Statement

how to write a personal statement for the army

Transitioning from a military career and culture to a civilian one means you must clearly and consistently communicate your value to potential employers, investors, networking contacts and colleagues. To create your value proposition, start with a personal definition statement.

What Is a Personal Definition Statement?

Your personal definition statement is a way you will clarify your offer to yourself. It will likely roll into your elevator pitch, onto your resume and become part of your communications toolkit, but the statement is a core foundational element of what you do and who you serve.

Creating Your Statement

To understand who you are and what you're looking for in a next career, begin by taking a step back. Assess your military career, successes, challenges and the opportunities you pursued. Then ask yourself:

  • What drove me to join the military? (Identify the values, beliefs and goals you had.)
  • What led to my success in my past careers? (Look for patterns of goals and skills.)
  • Where have I fallen short in achieving my goals? (Identify internal and external roadblocks that hinder your success.)
  • Have I compromised my values? (Clarify what the driving factors were. Did you feel pressured? Was it for the betterment of the group? Were you afraid?)

Next, articulate what you do: What problems do you solve? If you are a logistician by training, that means you were paid to analyze and coordinate a chain of equipment, people or products. But what problem did you solve for the people who needed to rely on you?

Using the logistician example, consider what would have happened if you'd not been good at your work. Missions could have been thwarted, materials destroyed (at a high cost) and lives could have been lost. While the tactical part of your work was to ensure items got from Point A to Point B, the problem you solved was to ensure the success of the mission and the safety of those involved.

Let's look at another example: As a reputation management and personal branding specialist, I am hired to help individuals set themselves up for career advancement, manage their online reputation, revise their resume, etc.

But what problem am I solving? I help these individuals gain control over the way they are perceived -- in their work, career, online and in their network. That control is valuable. If I were to market my services as "resume writing," I could fall into the commodity sale (lots of people do this). Rather, I sell the value of solving the problem I fix, and my clients see that.

Your personal definition statement should also include proof that you have, and can, solve those problems. Think about specific examples of times you've deployed your skills and talents to solve these problems.

Then your statement should clearly speak to the individuals, groups or communities you seek to attract. Be as specific as you can. This is not the time to be generic. Picture that person standing in front of you, needing you to help them with your gift. What do they need, like, fear and embrace? Crystalize in your mind who your target audience is.

Your personal definition statement will empower you to make good choices, form emotional connections with people around you and stand in your values as you build your life outside of the military. It becomes your mantra, your narrative and how others will describe you over time. Take the time to craft it well and update it as needed over your life.

Lida Citroën is an international reputation management and branding specialist, and CEO of LIDA360 . Citroën serves her corporate clients with personal branding, reputation management, online positioning and reputation repair strategies and implementation programs.

Citroën is passionate about helping our nation's veterans navigate the military-to-civilian career transition and is a popular speaker at military installations and events on veteran hiring. Her best-selling book, " Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition , " offers veterans the tools to successfully move to meaningful civilian careers.

Citroën is a regular contributor for Military.com and Entrepreneur.com, and is the recipient of numerous awards for her service to our veterans.

Want to Know More About the Military?

Be sure to get the latest news about the U.S. military, as well as critical info about how to join and all the benefits of service.  Subscribe to Military.com and receive customized updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Lida Citroën

Lida Citroën

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how to write a personal statement for the army

Welcome to RallyPoint!


How to write a military personal statement?

How to write a military personal statement.

To write a military personal statement, start by outlining your relevant experience, skills, and values, then craft a concise and compelling narrative that highlights your commitment to serving in the military.

FAQs about Writing a Military Personal Statement

How long should a military personal statement be.

Aim for a statement that is no longer than one page, single-spaced.

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What should I include in a military personal statement?

Focus on your motivation for joining the military, leadership experience, and examples of your dedication and determination.

How should I structure my military personal statement?

Begin with an attention-grabbing introduction, then a body that showcases your qualifications, and end with a strong conclusion.

What should I avoid in a military personal statement?

Avoid clichés, exaggerations, and personal statements that lack specificity and genuine passion.

Should I mention specific branches or roles in the military?

If you have a specific branch or role in mind, it’s appropriate to mention it, but also convey your openness to different opportunities.

How can I make my military personal statement stand out?

Tell a compelling story, use specific examples, and demonstrate your understanding of military values and culture.

Is it necessary to have military experience to write a personal statement?

While military experience can strengthen your application, it’s not a requirement to write a compelling personal statement.

Should I mention any potential challenges or obstacles I may face in joining the military?

You can briefly mention challenges, but focus on how you plan to overcome them and the lessons you’ve learned from previous experiences.

Are there any key phrases or terminology that I should include in my personal statement?

Using military-specific terms and language can demonstrate your knowledge and commitment to the military.

Do I need to include references or citations in my military personal statement?

It’s not necessary to include references or citations in a personal statement, as it should be a reflection of your own experiences and aspirations.

Should I mention any personal goals or ambitions in my personal statement?

You can mention personal goals, as long as they align with your commitment to serving in the military and contributing to the mission.

Is it appropriate to discuss any medical or physical limitations in my personal statement?

You can briefly address any limitations, but focus on how you plan to work within those limitations and still contribute effectively.

Can I use humor or informal language in my personal statement?

While a touch of personality is fine, it’s best to maintain a professional and respectful tone in a military personal statement.

How should I tailor my military personal statement for different branches or roles?

Research the specific values and requirements of each branch or role, and tailor your personal statement to align with those specifics.

Related posts:

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  • Is military income taxed?
  • Is it illegal to make a copy of a military ID?
  • Is military press bad for shoulders?
  • Is it illegal to marry for military benefits?
  • Is military retirement exempt from federal tax?

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About Nick Oetken

Nick grew up in San Diego, California, but now lives in Arizona with his wife Julie and their five boys. He served in the military for over 15 years. In the Navy for the first ten years, where he was Master at Arms during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He then moved to the Army, transferring to the Blue to Green program, where he became an MP for his final five years of service during Operation Iraq Freedom, where he received the Purple Heart. He enjoys writing about all types of firearms and enjoys passing on his extensive knowledge to all readers of his articles. Nick is also a keen hunter and tries to get out into the field as often as he can.

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  • Cm Step 5 Make Your Case Written Statement

Step 5: Make Your Case: The Written Statement

Make your case: the written application, legal standards for an upgrade, discharge review board (drb).

  • The first part means that the military got something wrong with the facts or the reasoning behind your discharge. The second part means that there must be reason to believe, if the mistake had not been made, that you would have received a different discharge.
  • This means that you should be able to point to a change in official policy since you were discharged. The new policy needs to apply retroactively (meaning it declares that even things that happened in the past should have followed this new policy).
  • you were discharged because of policies that are different in important ways from the current policies, and
  • the current policies are better for veterans who are being discharged, and
  • Is there some better policy in place and do you have reason to believe that policy would have helped you when you were discharged? An example of this might be the Kurta Memo (see page 6), which provides special consideration for servicemembers who show signs of Post-Tramautic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). If you had a documented history of mental health problems or symptoms and were discharged despite those symptoms, you may be able to say that the discharge was “inequitable” under current policies.

Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR)

Tailoring your written statement to the legal standards, for a drb (which reviews if a discharge is “proper” and “equitable”):.

  • Be sure to write that your discharge was “improper.”
  • Mention any errors made in your discharge process. Explain why your discharge would have been different if these errors had not been made.
  • Note: To apply to your case, a new policy must say it applies retroactively (meaning it applies to past discharges).
  • Be sure to write that your discharge was “inequitable.”
  • Identify how relevant military policy has changed since your discharge to give service members more rights.
  • Show that there is “substantial doubt” that your discharge would have been the same under the new policy.

For a BCMR (which corrects “errors” and removes “injustices”):

  • Be sure to write that your discharge process involved “errors.”
  • Explain the errors made in your discharge process.
  • Show why the outcome would have been different had no errors been made.

My General discharge involved error because [ here, discuss the mistakes made in your discharge, like if the wrong law was applied or your commanding officer described your behavior inaccurately ]. I would have received a different discharge status if these errors had not been made. My discharge status should therefore be upgraded to [ status you are requesting ].

  • Be sure to write that your discharge has resulted in “injustice.”
  • Explain the injustice that your discharge status has caused you and how it has affected your life.
  • If a relevant military policy has changed since your discharge to give service members more rights, mention that new policy.

Note for veterans with mental health problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, or traumatic brain injury

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Personal Statement (Statement in Support of Claim)

Are your military records missing evidence or context?

If so, the VA provides you with two options:

Personal statements ; and

Buddy letters .

Personal statements are for when you yourself want to write a statement in support of your own claim. This can include:

Pointing out where important evidence is in your records (page X of document named XX shows a diagnosis of Q);

Tying all your evidence together, so it makes more sense;

Explaining the progression of your symptoms over time;

Detailing how your conditions' severity affects your life, work, social life, etc;

Explaining the details of an event that occurred during your service.

However, if you know someone who can attest to something you were a part of, witness to, changes in your behavior, and/or the severity of your symptoms then having them write a buddy letter can be a useful piece of evidence for your claim.

Click  HERE  to learn more about buddy letters.

Writing Tips

Use the proper VA forms!

The VA has THREE different forms for personal statements.

Statement in Support of Claim  VA Form 21-4138  - Your general use form. Basically, if you want to point things out in your records, to help ensure the rater does not miss anything. Or, you want to add some context/detail to your evidence that may otherwise not be known.

Supporting statements for service connection for  PTSD   VA Form 21-0781

Supporting statements for service connection for  PTSD  that is a result of a personal trauma (such as military sexual trauma)  VA Form 21-0781a

Keep it brief and to the point, remember BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front). The rater doesn't have time to get lost in a great story about the time Pvt. Reddit sneaked his girlfriend into the barracks in his rucksack. (But the people at  r/Veterans  do.)

Quantify (state numbers) when possible. Which sounds better?:

My headaches are so severe I have to lay down for most of the day. These headaches occur fairly frequently; OR

My headaches are so severe I have to lay down for most of the day. These headaches occur at least three times a week.

Unless you are a licensed physician in the relevant area of medicine, you should NOT try to diagnosis yourself! Remember, stick to the facts! But if do have a buddy who does just so happen to be a licensed physician in the relevant area of medicine. Have them complete a  Disability Benefit Questionnaires (DBQs)  and/or an  Independent Medical Opinion (IMO)/Nexus Letter  and include it with your claim.


If you for whatever reason do not want to use the VA form, ensure you write "I CERTIFY THAT I have completed this statement and that its information is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief." Directly above where you sign and date the letter, in addition to providing your contact information.

What Should be in the Letter

It depends on the your purpose you are trying to accomplish:

Help prove service connection:

Details about the in-service event that caused the injury or illness.

How you were impacted by the event. Any changes in physical/mental health?

Help prove severity of your disability:

What are your current symptoms? How do your disabilit(ies) interfere with your job, social life, things you can no longer do, etc.

Example 1 (Tying Evidence Together)

What follows is a summary of back condition during and after service:

Around late January, 2003 I started having back pain after I slipped on some ice and landed on my back. This event was witnessed by Sgt. Buddy and his witness statement has been recorded on the provided  VA Form 21-10210  uploaded as Sgt_Buddy_Statement.pdf.

On March 3rd, 2003 I was seen at the Fox medical center at Fort Place for back pain. I was given a diagnosis of back strain.

On May 7th, 2004 I was seen at the Troop medical place at Camp Reddit for back pain. I was given a diagnosis of back strain again.

My back pain continued even after I separated in June 2004.

On September 4th, 2005 I was seen at the Back Clinic Place by Dr. Spine. Dr. Spine had an MRI scan of my spine preformed and identified several bulging discs in my lower spine. Dr. Spine's report has been uploaded as SpineReport2005.pdf. In the event the VA requires additional medical evidence from Dr. Spine. I have included a completed and signed  VA Form 21-4142  uploaded as Spine21-4142.pdf.

From 2006 to now, I have received all my medical care through the State Place VAMC.

On September 1st, 2021 my primary care provider Dr. PCP completed a Back (Thoracolumbar Spine) Conditions  Disability Benefits Questionnaire . It has been uploaded as BackDBQ.pdf.

The idea is to paint a picture that the rater and examiner can follow. This is especially helpful if you have a lot of records and it may be difficult to pull specific pieces of evidence out.

Example 2 (Details of an Event)

Sometime around April 2006 while serving with the 4ABC in Iraq, my unit was conducting a convoy operation in X Province. During the operation the lead vehicle was...

In order to help the VA locate and verify your statements of an event, it is important to be as specific as possible. The more details you provide that address the "when, where, and what" the better.

Example 3 (Headache Log)

I regularly experience severe prostrating headaches that require me to take time off of work. What follows is a headache diary from the past two months:

October 2018

Additional Comments


​ Came in late to work 4 hours late.

Called off 2 days of work.

Called off 1 day of work.

Left work 4 hours early.

November 2018 ...

On a  VA Form 21-10210  uploaded as Work_Statement.pdf. Is a statement from my current employer that testifies to the amount of days (11) I have missed over the past two months.

Example 4 (Symptom Manifestation)

I separated from the Navy on July 5th, 1996. During my enlistment I was deployed to Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. Around 2002 I started having sinus issues, seemingly for no reason. I started taking over-the-counter medication for my sinus issue for several years which helped somewhat.

It wasn't until 2004 that I brought the issue up to my doctor that I was first diagnosed with  Sinusitis . Unfortunately, their office closed and I am unable to get those medical records.

Due to money issues, I went without health insurance for awhile. It wasn't until 2009 that I got  Health care  through the VA that I was again diagnosed with chronic sinusitis.

So since 2002 to now I have had continuous sinus issues.

Example 4 (Symptom Manifestation - National Guard/Reserve)

I joined the Army National Guard in 2010. My MOS was cannon crewmember (artillery). I had no  Hearing issues  or  Ringing in my ears  till after my NTC rotation of 2012. During this rotation, I spent the better part of a week continually being surrounded by loud noises. Since that NTC rotation, I have noticed hearing issues as well as a continuous ringing in my ears which has not stopped since.


To GREATLY assist your claim, submit any relevant orders sending you to NTC or other training activities.

How do I upload the form to my claim, if I have already submitted it?

You can upload evidence via this  LINK .

Related Articles

Buddy Letter

Disability Benefit Questionnaires (DBQs)

Independent Medical Opinion (IMO)/Nexus Letter

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How to Write a Personal Statement (with Tips and Examples)

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Hannah Yang

How to write a personal statement

Table of Contents

What is a personal statement, 6 tips on how to write a personal statement, personal statement examples (for college and university), faqs about writing personal statements, conclusion on how to write a personal statement.

How do you tell someone who you are in just a few hundred words?

It’s certainly no easy task, but it’s one almost every college applicant must do. The personal statement is a crucial part of any college or university application.

So, how do you write a compelling personal statement?

In this article, we’ll give you all the tools, tips, and examples you need to write an effective personal statement.

A personal statement is a short essay that reveals something important about who you are. It can talk about your background, your interests, your values, your goals in life, or all of the above.

Personal statements are required by many college admission offices and scholarship selection committees. They’re a key part of your application, alongside your academic transcript, standardized test scores, and extracurricular activities.

The reason application committees ask you to write a personal statement is so they can get to know who you are. 

Some personal statements have specific prompts, such as “Discuss a period of personal growth in your life” or “Tell us about a challenge or failure you’ve faced.” Others are more open-ended with prompts that essentially boil down to “Tell us about yourself.”

No matter what the prompt is, your goal is the same: to make yourself stand out to the selection committee as a strong candidate for their program.

Here are some things a personal statement can be:

It can be funny. If you have a great sense of humor, your personal statement is a great place to let that shine.  

It can be vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to open up about hardships in your life or failures you’ve experienced. Showing vulnerability can make you sound more like a real person rather than just a collection of application materials.  

It can be creative. Candidates have got into top schools with personal statements that take the form of “a day in the life” descriptions, third-person short stories, and even cooking recipes.

Now we’ve talked about what a personal statement is, let’s quickly look at what a personal statement isn’t:

It isn’t a formal academic paper. You should write the personal statement in your natural voice, using first-person pronouns like “I” and “me,” not in the formal, objective language you would use to write an academic paper.

It isn’t a five-paragraph essay. You should use as many paragraphs as you need to tell your story instead of sticking to the essay structure you learned in school.

It isn’t a resumé. You should try to describe yourself by telling a clear and cohesive story rather than providing a jumbled list of all of your accomplishments and ambitions.

personal statement definition

Here are our top six tips for writing a strong personal statement.

Tip 1: Do Some Serious Self-Reflection

The hardest part of writing a personal statement isn’t the actual process of writing it.

Before you start typing, you have to figure out what to write about. And that means taking some time to reflect on who you are and what’s important in your life.

Here are some useful questions you can use to start your self-reflection. You can either answer these on your own by writing down your answers, or you can ask a trusted friend to listen as you talk about them together.

What were the key moments that shaped your life? (e.g. an important friendship, a travel experience, an illness or injury)

What are you proud of? (e.g. you’re a good listener, you always keep your promises, you’re a talented musician)

How do you choose to spend your time? (e.g. reading, practicing soccer, spending time with your friends)

What inspires you? (e.g. your grandmother, a celebrity, your favorite song)

Doing this self-reflection is crucial for figuring out the perfect topics and anecdotes you can use to describe who you are.

Tip 2: Try to Avoid Cliché Topics

College application committees read thousands of personal statements a year. That means there are some personal statement topics they see over and over again.

Here are a few examples of common personal statement topics that have become cliché:

Winning a tournament or sports game

Volunteering in a foreign country

Moving to a new home

Becoming an older sibling

Being an immigrant or having immigrant parents

If you want to make a strong impression in the application process, you need to make your personal statement stand out from the crowd.

But if your chosen personal statement topic falls into one of these categories, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t use it. Just make sure to put a unique spin on it so it still delivers something the committee hasn’t seen before.

how to write a personal statement for the army

Good writing = better grades

ProWritingAid will help you improve the style, strength, and clarity of all your assignments.

Tip 3: Show, Don’t Tell

One common mistake you might make in your personal statement is to simply tell the reader what you want them to know about you, such as by stating “I have a fear of public speaking” or “I love to cook.”

Instead of simply stating these facts, you should show the committee what you’re talking about through a story or scene, which will make your essay much more immersive and memorable.

For example, let’s say you want the committee to know you overcame your fear of public speaking. Instead of writing “I overcame my fear of public speaking,” show them what it was like to be onstage in front of a microphone. Did your palms get clammy? Did you feel light-headed? Did you forget your words?

Or let’s say you want the committee to know you love to cook. Instead of writing “I love to cook,” show them why you love to cook. What’s your favorite dish to cook? What does the air smell like when you’re cooking it? What kitchen appliances do you use to make it?

Tip 4: Connect the Story to Why You’re Applying

Don’t forget that the purpose of your personal statement isn’t simply to tell the admissions committee who you are. That’s an important part of it, of course, but your ultimate goal is to convince them to choose you as a candidate.

That means it’s important to tie your personal story to your reasons for applying to this specific school or scholarship. Finish your essay with a strong thesis.

For example, if your story is about overcoming your fear of public speaking, you might connect that story to your ambition of becoming a politician. You can then tie that to your application by saying, “I want to apply to this school because of its fantastic politics program, which will give me a perfect opportunity to use my voice.”

Tip 5: Write in Your Own Voice

The personal statement isn’t supposed to be written in a formal tone. That’s why they’re called “personal” statements because you have to shape it to fit your own voice and style.

Don’t use complicated or overwrought language. You don’t need to fill your essay with semicolons and big words, unless that’s how you sound in real life.

One way to write in your own voice is by speaking your personal statement out loud. If it doesn’t feel natural, it may need changing. 

Tip 6: Edit, Edit, Edit!

It’s important to revise your personal statement multiple times in order to make sure it’s as close to perfect as possible.

A single typo won’t kill your application, but if your personal statement contains multiple spelling errors or egregious grammar mistakes, you won’t be putting your best foot forward.

ProWritingAid can help you make sure your personal statement is as clean as possible. In addition to catching your grammar errors, typos, and punctuation mistakes, it will also help you improve weaknesses in your writing, such as passive voice, unnecessary repetition, and more.

Let’s look at some of the best personal statements that have worked for successful candidates in the real world. 

Harvard Personal Statement Example

Love. For a word describing such a powerful emotion, it is always in the air. The word “love” has become so pervasive in everyday conversation that it hardly retains its roots in blazing passion and deep adoration. In fact, the word is thrown about so much that it becomes difficult to believe society isn’t just one huge, smitten party, with everyone holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.” In films, it’s the teenage boy’s grudging response to a doting mother. At school, it’s a habitual farewell between friends. But in my Chinese home, it’s never uttered. Watching my grandmother lie unconscious on the hospital bed, waiting for her body to shut down, was excruciatingly painful. Her final quavering breaths formed a discordant rhythm with the steady beep of hospital equipment and the unsympathetic tapping hands of the clock. That evening, I whispered—into unhearing ears—the first, and only, “I love you” I ever said to her, my rankling guilt haunting me relentlessly for weeks after her passing. My warm confession seemed anticlimactic, met with only the coldness of my surroundings—the blank room, impassive doctors, and empty silence. I struggled to understand why the “love” that so easily rolled off my tongue when bantering with friends dissipated from my vocabulary when I spoke to my family. Do Chinese people simply love less than Americans do?

This is an excerpt from a personal statement that got the applicant admitted to Harvard University. The applicant discusses her background as a Chinese-American by musing on the word “love” and what that means within her family.

The writer uses vulnerable details about her relationship with her grandmother to give the reader an understanding of where she comes from and how her family has shaped her.  

You can read the full personal statement on the Harvard Crimson website.

Tufts Personal Statement Example

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go,” and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon. Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration. Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear. I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.

This is the beginning of a personal statement by Renner Kwittken, who was admitted into Tufts University as a pre-medical student.

Renner uses a humorous anecdote about being a pickle truck driver to describe his love for nanomedicine and how he got involved in his field. You can feel his passion for medicine throughout his personal statement.

You can find Renner’s full essay on the Tufts Admissions page.

Law School Personal Statement Essay Example

For most people, the slap on the face that turns their life around is figurative. Mine was literal. Actually, it was a punch delivered by a drill sergeant at Fort Dix, New Jersey, while I was in basic training. That day’s activity, just a few weeks into the program, included instruction in “low-crawling,” a sensible method of moving from one place to another on a battlefield. I felt rather clever for having discovered that, by looking right rather than down, I eliminated my helmet’s unfortunate tendency to dig into the ground and slow my progress. I could thus advance more easily, but I also exposed my unprotected face to hostile fire. Drill sergeants are typically very good at detecting this type of laziness, and mine was an excellent drill sergeant. So, after his repeated suggestions that I correct my performance went unheeded, he drove home his point with a fist to my face. We were both stunned. This was, after all, the New Army, and striking a trainee was a career-ending move for a drill sergeant, as we were both aware. I could have reported him; arguably, I should have. I didn’t. It didn’t seem right for this good sergeant, who had not slept for almost four days, to lose his career for losing his temper with my laziness. Choosing not to report him was the first decision I remember making that made me proud.

These are the first three paragraphs of an anonymous personal statement by a Wheaton College graduate, who used this personal statement to get into a top-25 law school.

This statement describes a time the applicant faced a challenging decision while in the army. He ended up making a decision he was proud of, and as a result, the personal statement gives us a sense of his character.

You can find the full essay on the Wheaton Academics website.

Here are some common questions about how to write a personal statement.

How Long Should a Personal Statement Be?

The length of your personal statement depends on the specific program you’re applying to. The application guidelines usually specify a maximum word count or an ideal word count.  

Most personal statements are between 500–800 words. That’s a good general range to aim for if you don’t have more specific guidelines.  

Should Personal Statements Be Different for Scholarships?

Many scholarship applications will ask for personal statements with similar prompts to those of college applications.

However, the purpose of a personal statement you’d write for a scholarship application is different from the purpose of one you’d write for a college application.

For a scholarship application, your goal is to showcase why you deserve the scholarship. To do that, you need to understand the mission of the organization offering that scholarship.

For example, some scholarships are meant to help first-generation college students get their degree, while others are meant to help women break into STEM.

Consider the following questions:

Why is this organization offering scholarships?

What would their ideal scholarship candidate look like?

How do your experiences and goals overlap with those of their ideal scholarship candidate?

You can use the same personal anecdotes you’d use for any other personal statement, but you’ll have a better chance of winning the scholarship if you tailor your essay to match their specific mission.

How to Start a Personal Statement

You should start your personal statement with a “hook” that pulls the reader in. The sooner you catch the reader’s attention, the more likely they’ll want to read the entire essay.

Here are some examples of hooks you can use:

A story (e.g. When the spotlight hit my face, I tried to remind myself to breathe. )

A setting description (e.g. My bedroom floor is covered with dirty laundry, candy wrappers, and crumpled sheet music. )

A funny anecdote (e.g. When I was a little kid, my friends nicknamed me Mowgli because of my haircut. )

A surprising fact (e.g. I've lived in 37 countries .)

There you have it—our complete guide to writing a personal statement that will make you stand out to the application committee.

Here’s a quick recap: 

A personal statement is a short essay that shows an application committee who you are

Start with a strong hook that pulls the reader in

Tell a story to engage the reader 

Write in your own voice, not in a formal tone

Good luck, and happy writing!

Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on hannahyang.com or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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August 31, 2023

VA Personal Statement: 5 Best Things to Include

how to write a personal statement for the army

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want to learn how to implement these strategies to get the VA benefits you deserve, click here to speak with a VA claim expert for free.

Writing a VA personal statement can help show an unquestionable link between your military service and disability. 

While it’s not required, we highly recommend writing a VA personal statement to help strengthen your VA disability claim. 

This post will look at the 5 Best Things to Include in Your VA Personal Statement .

We’ll also explain why a personal statement is important and what you shouldn’t say in your VA personal statement. 

To wrap up, we have a VA personal statement example to help get you started. 

Let’s dive in! 

What is a VA Personal Statement?

What should i include in my va personal statement, things to avoid saying in your va personal statement, why is a va personal statement important, va disability personal statement examples, what is a va lay witness statement, how to submit a va personal statement form, need more assistance.



Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call with an experienced Team Member. Learn what you’ve been missing so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation you’ve earned for your service.

A VA personal statement allows you to tell the VA how your condition affects your daily life and your ability to function. 

Writing a VA personal statement gives you the opportunity to advocate for yourself and ensure your condition is accurately evaluated. 

Personal statements aren’t lengthy, only a few paragraphs, but they can be critical to receiving a positive response about your claim. 

If you’ve ever wished to talk about things “in your own words,” a VA personal statement is your opportunity! 

While a VA disability personal statement isn’t a guarantee of a winning claim, it gives the VA an “insider’s look” at the severity of your condition and how it’s connected to your service. 

Finally, your VA personal statement can help capture any unseen impacts your disability caused that may not be fully captured in your medical records alone. 

5 Best Things to Include in Your VA Personal Statement:

  • The name of the VA disability you’re claiming 
  • When you first experienced symptoms of your condition 
  • Precise, concise details about the circumstances around your incident, accident, or illness 
  • Current medical treatment you receive for your condition 
  • How your condition negatively impacts your life, work, and social functioning 

Don’t worry about having exact dates if you can’t remember them; even mentioning the year of the incident or accident can help. 

For example, “ While serving in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, I developed severe PTSD that has negatively affected my daily life.” 

Your VA personal statement should be specific, detailing the circumstances around your condition and how it affects your quality of life. 

Use your VA personal statement as a way to paint a picture of the impact of your condition. 

Keeping your statement with the most essential details will help the VA rater when sifting through your claim. 


What Should I Avoid in My VA Personal Statement?

  • Unsubstantiated medical claims, including self-diagnoses or speculative medical claims
  • Unprofessional language, including jargon, slang, and offensive language 
  • Complaints about the VA process, even if you are frustrated about the situation
  • Irrelevant personal history not applicable to the current disability claim 
  • Graphic or inappropriate details 
  • Irrelevant accomplishments or achievements that aren’t relevant to the claim
  • Political or controversial opinions that take the focus away from your condition  

It’s also best to avoid blaming or finger-pointing for the cause of your condition and instead focus on your experience and the effects of your disability. 

PRO TIP: When writing a VA personal statement, avoid being vague and never lie about your condition.

For example, Instead of saying, “ I have anxiety ,” write about how it affects your daily life. “ My anxiety prevents me from attending social situations with many people, and I’ve seen a negative impact on my social functioning ” gives a clearer picture of your condition’s impact. 

In addition, you don’t want to embellish your situation because the VA will find out if you are lying, which runs the risk of perjury. 

You also want to avoid any filler that takes away from the heart of your VA personal statement and isn’t relevant to the disability you want compensation for. 

While detail is important, too much detail may make it hard for the VA rater to fully grasp the severity of your condition. 


A VA personal statement is essential because it helps paint a picture of your illness, injury, or disability and allows the VA an inside look at its effect on your daily life. 

When you write a VA personal statement, you are detailing your condition or disability, frequency, and severity, which helps paint a clear picture. 

A VA personal statement can also help foster a sense of human connection between you and the VA’s evaluators. 

Your VA personal statement may also clear any discrepancies in your medical records, especially if something isn’t well-documented or fully explained in your records. 

In addition, a VA personal statement can help complete your Fully Developed Claim , speeding up the claims process and your odds of winning your claim.

You can also bring a copy of your personal statement to your Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam for reference. 

While you can’t submit additional evidence at your C&P, you CAN bring copies of documents you’ve previously submitted. 

Note: Each claim requires its own personal statement, and you should submit one for every condition. 


We’ve got you covered if you’re looking for VA personal statement examples. 

We understand and respect that it can be challenging to write about the condition you experience and the potential trauma behind it. 

However, detailing the impact of your condition can significantly impact the outcome of your claim. 

Here’s a VA personal statement example:

“During my service in [branch of service] from [start date] to [end date], I was exposed to traumatic events that left a lasting impact on my mental and emotional well-being. I was subjected to [briefly describe the traumatic events or experience you were exposed to]. These experiences led to PTSD, significantly affecting my ability to reintegrate into civilian life and maintain a sense of normalcy.

The symptoms of PTSD, including persistent anxiety, intrusive memories, hyper-vigilance, nightmares, and avoidance behavior, have made it incredibly difficult for me to engage in day-to-day activities and establish stable relationships. The trauma’s aftermath has led to sleep disruptions, difficulty concentrating, and heightened stress responses in certain situations. 

These symptoms have interfered with my capacity to hold steady employment, contribute meaningfully to my family and community, and experience a sense of safety and well-being.

I have actively sought help for my PTSD through therapists, medical professionals, and support groups. I enclosed my medical records to confirm my ongoing efforts to address and manage my condition.

Despite my best efforts, my PTSD symptoms continue to profoundly impact my life, including relationships, daily life, and my ability to work or engage in social activities. My goal in seeking VA disability compensation is to ease the financial strain caused by these challenges and to access the resources and assistance I need to regain a resemblance of normalcy and functionality.”

A VA lay witness is a different perspective from a VA personal statement.

A VA lay witness statement, or buddy statement is a written statement from someone familiar with your disease, sickness, or condition. 

The person filling out your VA lay witness statement should have firsthand knowledge of your condition’s effects and its impact on your life. 

You can obtain a VA lay witness statement from:

  • Family members
  • Friends and fellow service members
  • Coworkers and employers
  • A teacher, pastor, or mentor 

It’s helpful if the person filling out the form uses concrete examples and specific ways your condition interferes with your life instead of giving a vague description. 

Note : You can submit more than one buddy statement if it will be valuable to your claim. In addition, you can submit a VA personal statement and buddy statement with your claim, although you can only include one personal statement with each claim. 

To submit a VA personal statement, complete VA Form 21-4138 , Statement in Support of Claim. 

If you are submitting a VA lay witness or buddy statement, you’ll need to submit VA Form 21-10210 . 

The VA personal statement Form 21-4138 asks for basic information like name, social security number, date of birth, telephone number, and address. 

In the “remarks” section, you can add information or evidence to support your claim and anything you find beneficial for the VA to know about your condition. 

Remember not to leave anything off your form because it could delay your claim. 

Finally, you can submit Form 21-4138 online , at a VA regional office , or by mail to:

Department of Veterans Affairs

Evidence Intake Center

PO Box 4444

Janesville, WI 53547-4444


Filing claim forms can get confusing, but you must complete them correctly to ensure you receive what you deserve. Most veterans are underrated for their disabilities and, therefore, not getting their due compensation. At VA Claims Insider, we help you understand and take control of the claims process, so you can get the rating and compensation you’re owed by law. 

Our process takes the guesswork out of filing a VA disability claim and supports you every step of the way in building a fully-developed claim (FDC)—so you can increase your rating FAST! If you’ve filed your VA disability claim and have been denied or have received a low rating—or you’re unsure how to get started—reach out to us! Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call . Learn what you’ve been missing—so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation YOU DESERVE!

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    Thanks for your contributions!

We need more examples. Examples can be contributed by using the form below.

DA Form 2823, Sworn Statement

The DA Form 2823 is used for a variety of purposes from documenting informal counseling to recording evidence for an investigation. The guidance for filling out the form is in AR 15-6, Procedures for Investigating Officers and Boards of Officers. The section providing instruction for filling out the form is quoted below. Either a chronological narrative or the more formal question and answer format may be used. See the examples at right.

DA Form 2823 Example (doc)

Sworn Statement Examples

How to fill out DA Form 2823

DA Form 2823 (pdf)

DA Form 2823 (xfdl)

DA Form 2823 (doc)

d. Discussion of evidence. An investigating officer or board may direct witnesses who are subject to Army authority, and request other witnesses, not to discuss their statements or testimony with other witnesses or with persons who have no official interest in the proceedings until the investigation is complete. This precaution is appropriate to eliminate possible influence on the testimony of witnesses still to be heard. Witnesses may not be precluded from discussing any relevant matter with the recorder, a respondent, or counsel for a respondent.

(3) Copy of the statement. Anyone to whom this requirement applies is entitled to a copy of the Privacy Act statement in a form suitable for retention. Providing a respondent a copy of the part of the report of proceedings (see para 5-10) that includes the statement satisfies this requirement. Any other witness who is provided a Privacy Act statement will, on request, be furnished a copy of the statement in a form suitable for retention.

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  7. How to write a personal statement for the military?

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    Writing a VA personal statement can help show an unquestionable link between your military service and disability. While it's not required, we highly recommend writing a VA personal statement to help strengthen your VA disability claim. This post will look at the 5 Best Things to Include in Your VA Personal Statement.

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