Tips for Writing a Personal Statement

on March 21, 2016

College admissions counselors read hundreds – sometimes thousands – of personal statements every year. That means yours not only has to be good, it has to stand out and make the person reading it want to get to know you. Here’s how you can make that happen:

Read the Instructions Before You Start
Every college is different. One school may want you to write a statement about your biggest achievement while another may ask you to read a book and respond to its main themes. Never send the same essay to every school you’re applying to – follow the directions and make sure each statement is relevant to the college you’re sending it to. Nothing will ruin your chances of getting into your dream school faster than proving you can’t read and follow simple instructions.

Make it Unique, but Don’t Mislead
We often think our own lives are boring, but that doesn’t mean you should create a fake scenario for your personal statement. There’s plenty in your own life that’s unique to you, interesting to other people, and doesn’t need to be embellished. Don’t create tales of poverty or illness when you haven’t really experienced those things – it’ll show in your essay.

If you’re really struggling to think of a creative topic, talk to a teacher, friend, or coach and ask them to help you brainstorm. Someone with a different perspective can point out characteristics or situations you’ve handled that are interesting and essay worthy.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others 
Your big brother may be a football star with a 4.0 GPA, but admissions counselors don’t want to hear about your struggle to live up to him. They want to hear about you. Stop comparing and contrasting and start selling your own strengths. Your college admissions essay is not the place to downplay your accomplishments, so shine the spotlight on your achievements.

Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
You can’t go overboard when you’re proofreading a paper, especially when it’s a piece as important as your personal statement. Sure, one comma splice probably won’t kill your chances of getting into your top-choice school, but a serious spelling error or few missing words just might. After you’ve reread the essay, give it to at least two other people to make sure they catch any errors you miss. Your parents, guidance counselor, people at your school’s tutoring center, or friends will all be happy to help out.

Good luck! And while you’re writing your essay, don’t forget the most important tip of all: Be yourself!

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