I help lots of folks write personal statements, research statements, grant proposals, letters of intent, etc. I enjoy it quite a lot. But more often than not, the first draft that’s brought to me lacks personality and authenticity. If 500 submissions come in, this one is going to sound like 479 of ’em.
There is a lot of writing that seeks to say what (they think) a particular audience wants to hear. This almost never works. The audience matters, for sure. But there’s a difference between what your audience wants to hear and what you think they want to hear. And this difference is maybe often blurred or ignored.
Instead of spending time reflecting, sketching, and organizing a text that is a personal and authentic representation of the applicant, writers try to think of the things they can say that will win the audience. The irony in this case is that the audience wants to read something personal and authentic, and they are savvy enough to tell when they’re reading a text that has been written to win them over.