Follow these personal statement tips to ensure you are giving the college admissions team exactly what they need to get to understand who you are and why you want to attend their institution.
During your college application process, you will likely be asked to provide a personal statement. These personal statement tips are designed to help you develop the most well-rounded, succinct and engaging personal statement to catch the attention of the admissions committee.
What is a Personal Statement?
A personal statement is an essay that gives the college admissions team insight into who you are why you are a good fit for their school. Sometimes, application requirements will refer to a personal statement as a “college essay,” but they are the same thing.
Why is a Personal Statement so Important?
Personal statements are necessary and useful for various reasons. For one, they give the admissions committee an idea of who you are. Other than your grades, test scores and resume/CV, a personal statement is your first real opportunity to showcase both your personality and your reasoning for why you want to attend their institution.
Furthermore, a personal statement helps to showcase your writing and communication skills. At times, there may be some extenuating circumstances in your life which have affected your grades or caused gaps in your educational experience, and a personal statement can offer you an opportunity to explain such events.
Top 10 Personal Statement Tips
Personal statements vary by subject matter and length depending on the application requirements. The truth is, some schools, like University of the People, may not even require a personal statement. But, for the applications that do, here are some helpful tips to follow so that you can ensure your personal statement is the best it can be.
1. Outline First
Before you begin to write, organize your thoughts on paper and then place them into an outline that follows a flow moving from introduction to conclusion. When you are able to write down what’s important to include, you can better stick to the character count as you can remove any pieces that don’t serve to support the story.
2. Talk to Others
A lot of people find it challenging to write about themselves. If this is the case, it may be useful to ask others who know you well to describe you. Share the prompt with friends and family and ask them for feedback on what you intend to write. Sometimes, they may have an idea that you didn’t even consider that could better answer the question.
3. Don’t Procrastinate
It’s easy to push off writing essays until the last minute, but when it comes to a personal statement for a college application, one thing is for sure and that’s that there is a deadline. Waiting until last minute will not only cause unnecessary stress, but it will also limit the amount of time you have to receive feedback and make revisions and edits. When it comes to writing, the editing process can at times be more challenging and time consuming than the initial draft, so you want to give yourself adequate time to perform the rewrites.
4. Ignore Character Count
A lot of personal statements will be given a character count limit. A character count not only takes into account words, but it also includes spaces and grammatical notations like periods and commas as a “character.” If you’ve written any kind of essay, you probably already know that it can be harder to write a short piece than a long piece because you have to remain laser focused and prioritize the most important information. During your first draft, remain mindful of the character count, but start writing by ignoring it. Get everything on the page first and then you can narrow down the pieces you don’t need by asking yourself, “If I remove this sentence or section, does the essay lose any of its meaning or impact?”
5. Lead Them In
College admissions teams will be reading a ton of statements at a time, so you want to reel them in from the first sentence. The first sentence is called a hook sentence because it’s meant to hook them in! Some tips for writing a great hook sentence is to remain relatable, insight curiosity, or even use dialogue to pull out a piece of the story which will make the reader want to know what happened next.
6. Focus on Strengths
The personal statement is the real introduction to your character. Outside of your achievements that can be read through your documentation, you want to be honest and entirely yourself. Throughout this process, focus on your strengths and explain why the school is a good fit for you.
7. Cover Any Gaps
In life, things come up which can of course affect your academic achievements. Whether you had to take a gap year for health reasons or to take care of family or overcome financial struggles or flee from war within your country, these are all understandable extenuating circumstances that should be explained and taken into consideration during the admissions process. Your personal statement may offer you the chance to explain your story.
8. Get Feedback
Published authors all have editors. Be sure to ask people you trust for feedback on your personal statement. Whether you ask teachers, parents or friends, be sure to take their feedback seriously, but not personally. The intention of editing is to make the personal statement more understandable.
9. Read it Out Loud
Our brain can fill in missing words to make sense of sentences even when they are not written properly. That’s why one of the best ways to proofread your own work is to read it out loud. When reading out loud, you are more likely to catch mistakes and typos.
10. Let It Go
Upon submitting your personal statement, you may feel the urge to go back and read it over and over. But, since it’s already been sent off, it’s best if you don’t read it anymore. You have done the heavy lifting, now move on and wait for your acceptance letter!
Personal statements are meant to be exactly that, personal. But, in order to collect your thoughts strategically and answer the prompt well, you’ll want to leverage resources and people close to you to make sure you’re telling your story in a cohesive flow. Make sure to give yourself adequate time for editing and be completely honest because the ultimate goal is for the college admissions team to get a sense of who you are!