The Body

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Structuring Your Personal Statement: Body Paragraphs

Body paragraphs are the meat of your essay, and as such are the most important component of your essay. In the body paragraphs, you will expand upon and provide support for the theme you introduced in the first paragraph and will provide the details that move that theme forward. A two page essay will typically contain 2-4 body paragraphs. Each paragraph contains:

A topic sentence that expands your theme and makes a transition from the previous paragraph
Development of ideas that support your essay's theme
An ending sentence that wraps up the paragraph and helps to transition into the next paragraph

The first body paragraph is the place to start building your support for your theme. Here you will begin with the smallest components of your theme and, in subsequent paragraphs, work toward the most significant. Or you can organize chronologically. Try both methods and see which one is most persuasive for your particular theme.

TIP: As you draft each paragraph, use the following Signpost Questions in as you develop your essay to help ensure that you have developed your paragraphs fully.

Introduction and/or First Body Paragraph

What are my values and philosophies about my theme? What is the basis of these values?

Body Paragraphs 2-4

What accomplishment am I most proud of, and why?
What incident/event provides evidence of my responsibility, and how?
What difficulties or disadvantages have I faced and how did I overcome them? (This is especially important if you are applying for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP).
What is one area in which I am weak, and how have I overcome it?

TIP: Avoid simplistic transitions between paragraphs. If your topic sentences (generally the first sentence in each paragraph) all begin with some sort of numerical transition (first, second, third, finally), or you find yourself relying to heavily on "also" to move your paragraphs forward, look for more interesting and sophisticated transition words and phrases to move the essay along.

Here is a sample essay to help you visualize this structure and development.

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