When you apply to college, in addition to your grades and your activities, colleges want a glimpse into your life. Enter your personal statement, one of the most frustrating things about applying to college.
The personal statement is an important part of your application. Depending on the topic you choose, the essay you write can provide fun details about yourself. The essay is your opportunity to show admissions officers your personality and how academics, extracurriculars and your life experiences have molded you into who you are today.
The length of your essay depends on which school you’re applying to, but most personal statements are about 250-650 words long. An amazing essay can be what pushes an okay application into the acceptance pile, so use these four tips to think about what you’re going to say and how you want to say it.
1. Pick a topic you’re passionate about.
Your writing will be easier and more genuine if you write about what you want, instead of writing about what you think colleges want to hear. The best personal statements describe a moment of personal growth, difficulty, strength or confidence, all of which people experience in a wide range of ways.
“There is no ‘best topic’ out there,” says Judi Robinovitz, a certified educational planner specializing in educational counseling. “The best are statements that answer the questions, ‘Who is this student?’ and ‘What does this student say about himself or herself?’”
Remember that this is your personal statement—your only chance to differentiate yourself as a unique individual apart from grades, test scores and resumes. Write about a topic that excites you, and you will excite your reader.
“Just make sure the focus stays on you,” Robinovitz says.
2. Engage your reader from the first sentence.
Regardless of the topic you choose, your reader’s interest must be captured in the first sentence. Out of thousands of essays, why should they read yours? A perfect introduction will leap out to the reader and capture their attention.
The best way to do this is through as many details as you can muster. If there’s a sport or activity you excel in, show readers through your words a split second of what it’s like. Write as if you are telling a story: What was the setting? What was the weather like? Were there other people there? What emotions were running through your mind at the moment?
“For example, ‘flying over the waves, with the wind whipping in my hair…’ is a great way to start an essay about your summer of waterskiing,” Robinovitz says. “It’s not what you say, but instead how you say it.”
Many students will begin their essays with: “The most life-changing/important/difficult moment in my life has been___.” When everyone uses the same introduction, all the essays that begin as such will fail to make an impact on admissions officers.
Make it easier for your reader to remember you by writing a story as your introduction. The more specific details you add in, the more the reader will get into the story and the more sold they’ll be on you.