Personal Statement for Colleges: Checklist and Tips on Writing

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Applying to the educational institution is an important step in the life of every student and exactly at this point comes up the question of how to write a personal statement for college. The major part of colleges requires the essay as a part of the application process. It is done to observe your personality closely. In addition to your grades and test scores, the admission committee is interested in you as a person, your achievements, and self-history to find out specific features of your personality.

What is a personal statement for college?

Your college personal statement is an essay you write to demonstrate yourself not only as a number of numerals such as your GPA, SAT, or other academic test scores. It is a chance for you to stand out as an individual among other applicants. They may have higher scores than you, but the reason for writing the personal statement is to open up your specific traits of character, to describe your skills and how you can put them into practice in some critical situations. Also, you are supposed to write your personal statement essay to highlight the key points of your being in the college community: what you can contribute to it or what you would like to take from the students, who are already successfully admitted and go on in their college activities.

Personal statement for college that you apply will help the admissions committee to understand why exactly you are an appropriate one for offering the studying place. Imagine the situation when there are two similar applicants with the same test scores and GPA, but one will be admitted successfully and another one won’t. What is the difference you may ask? The reason is in their essays: statement of purpose and personal statement. The first one wrote everything clearly and made the admission committee believe that he is the best candidate for getting admitted, described his motivation, and backed it up with real examples and honest stories, but the second one just wrote a wordy mess literally begging the admissions officer to take his application into attention and give him a right to be admitted.

How to Write a Personal Statement for College

Schools take different approaches to how you should compose your college personal statement for college. Some will ask you to discuss specific aspects of yourself and your life experience. In such instances, it is essential that you respond to each prompt in detail. Provide not just the factual information requested, but also in a manner that offers insight into your personality and character. Other schools will offer you the chance to write a more open-ended essay about whatever you choose to discuss.

In each case, the most important thing you can do is to write in your own voice. Do not try to be overly formal. A college essay that is too dry will tend to make you lose the reader’s interest. Worse yet, it will cause you to blend in with the multitude of other applicants. Remember that the admissions committee is reading hundreds if not thousands of college personal statements, make yourself stand out. At the same time, you should make sure that your writing is grammatically sound and with a sense of purpose that reflects the seriousness with which you are taking this process.

Questions to the Expert
Mary S.
Professional Essay Editor. Education: MA, Stanford University. Experience: 4 years. Member of EssayEdge team.
Hire Mary S.
What are the top 10 rules and pitfalls when writing a personal statement?
Mary S.
A good personal statement is focused and well-organized. Highlight your individual strengths and main drives. Start with an intriguing introduction, address your interest in the chosen college. Show the admission committee you know why you have chosen this school. Check for clear reasoning, proofread for mistakes, and use appropriate formatting. Top 10 pitfalls: repeating the same information, using cliches or jargon, complaining about life circumstances, expressing extreme approaches to issues, highlighting money as a key motivator, underlying a minority status as the main reason to get accepted, submitting supplementary materials when they are not needed, displaying poor grammar/stylistics/punctuation, ignoring format requirements, using informal vocabulary, all of these issues can detract from your personal statement.
How to write a 250-word personal statement?
Mary S.
If the essay is limited to 250 words, you need to be careful with word count. Forget about long introductions, wordy detours, and overly-complex sentences. Instead, the sentences should be short, clear, and contain only relevant information. In this case, you should focus on strong argumentation rather than narrative.
Do universities actually read personal statements?
Mary S.
Some applicants believe that the admission officers won’t read the statement thoroughly. However a personal statement is an important part of the admission process. Very often, it can affect the final decision concerning the applicants. So, do not ignore the chance to impress the committee.

Open-ended Essay Prompts

In the instances where the essay prompt is open-ended statement, you should not try to tell your entire life story or focus too much on your academic achievements or anything else that will be covered in your transcript. Instead, you should try to convey something uniquely personal about yourself. Anecdotes that show how you overcame a challenge, accomplished something meaningful or demonstrate your strength of character and how you have grown and developed through interesting or unusual experiences can be particularly effective in this regard. Discussing your personal interests, hobbies and extracurricular activities and how you have pursued them will also help distinguish you as an individual and set you apart from other candidates in your college personal statement.

How to Close a College Personal Statement

In closing the personal statement essay, there are three main things you should discuss. First, it’s always beneficial to discuss the specific reasons you wish to attend the program you’re applying for. Also, discuss the ways that you are a good fit for it both academically and socially. Lastly, talk about what you hope to take from your education there and what you can contribute to the school’s community during your time there.

For example, you can discuss your intention to engage actively both inside and outside the classroom when writing a personal statement for college. You could include extracurricular activities and clubs you plan to participate in. You could also talk about the resources that the school offers which you intend to take full advantage of them.

This will demonstrate not only your suitability for the school but also the fact that you have researched it extensively and are very serious about your desire to pursue your undergraduate studies there. Schools want individuals who will maximize their time there both as students and as eager participants in all that campus life has to offer. By demonstrating your enthusiasm for both, you are bound to impress the admissions committee with your personal statement for college.

Writing a personal statement for college

After understanding general information about college personal statements, you may ask yourself “What is an appropriate way to write my essay to be certainly admitted?”. The answer might be obvious: start in advance, think over the topic, look through the resources, such as blogs and articles by the admitted students, or people who are into the applying process. And the main one: don’t be afraid. Try writing several drafts, concentrate on the topics that must be brought up in your essay, think over your best sides as a personality, what the most valuable achievements you made during your whole life, remember the case when you behaved extraordinarily and it helped to resolve some difficulties. Moreover, it would be a nice idea to look through some personal statement examples for college to get inspiration or notice some cool ideas for your writing. However, you must expose your real thoughts and achievements. There mustn’t be any plagiarism in your writing. Notice that writing a personal statement is an important part of your application and it demands putting a lot of effort into it to become the greatest one. Therefore it takes more than one day to get a really good essay, so you should be ready to spend your precious time to make everything the right way.

College personal statement tips

After having an overlook through the writing process, let’s find some features of writing a personal statement college certainly admits you.

Tip 1: Reveal a piece of information about yourself that was unknown before

Tell a fact that may be an unexpected one to know about you. Concentrate on something special. You may be passionate about photography or music – tell the reader about it. As the personal statement length is limited, try not to describe the whole process of editing photos or to learn how to play a new composition via your musical instrument.

Tip 2: Be conscious of the words, tone, and voice while writing

Having written your essay, look at it attentively with another sight. Imagine being the admission tutor and read it several times. Maybe some words are inappropriate or you feel pressure while reading the text. Additionally, there may be unsuitable or wordy sentences. Therefore, try to get rid of them by yourself, or you can refer to a college essay editor to be absolutely sure that everything is right. You can look through college personal statement examples to be aware of the typical essay style that is appropriate for a personal statement

Tip 3: Do not use the same essay to apply to different colleges

The key point is that sometimes colleges require several questions to be answered in your essay. Using the same essay may be confusing, as the topics may differ and finally you will get messy writing what leads to misunderstanding.

Tip 4: Being funny is not always a good idea

Regarding this point, you should remember that even the jolliest story for you may be strange and improper for the admission tutor. The age gap and outlook on life make sense. Try to joke only if you feel absolutely sure that without it your essay won’t make an impression. 

Tip 5: Concentrate on the visual impression of your personal statement

Use the readable fonts, double-space your essay, and check grammar. These features will shape the opinion on your attitude to the writing. If you need some visual aids, you can find some personal statement for college examples and take them as a demonstrative pattern.

Tip 6: Be direct in your thoughts

Don’t use general phrases or cliches, try to follow the topic you are required to describe. Give a direct answer, your personal opinion, don’t try to equivocate. It is better not to talk about something bad in your life, rather than try to find a way to evade it.

Tip 7: Stick to your personality

Your text must be natural, do not try to pretend as you are someone else. If you are offered the interview, everything will be exposed rapidly and it can play a bad game with you. If you don’t want to get such a failure, try to be authentic. Just be who you are and everything definitely will be fine.

These college personal statement tips may help you deal with such a hard part of your application process as an essay, and support your way to amazing writing.

Personal statement for college: how to deal with this application stage

Writing a personal statement for college is a tough thing. However, it is an important part of the application process. You have to do your best to achieve the result. Yes, that must have time and effort, but there is always a key to gaining the achievement. To be successful, you should follow several points:

  • Don’t be nervous about the difficulties
  • Start in advance to get everything done before the deadline
  • If it is in need, try to write several drafts
  • Be honest and write sincerely
  • Answer the required questions, if appropriate

Yes, it is kind of frazzling to spend a lot of time and effort on the piece of writing. However, memorize that it is a road that leads to a new exciting stage in your life: new opportunities, social connections, and experience. It is all about entering the student life and being a part of the college community. You have to decide what is a personal statement for college towards you. Take it as a new challenge that can be easily passed if you have enough patience and motivation.

Applying to college is a process, demanding lots of effort, time, and creative resources. Even if it is challenging now, remember that it is worth it. Finally, you are supposed to get the result as an admission offer. There comes a time when you will start a new part of your life. Everything will be changed: the usual habitat, habits that support your being for many school years, and a life-lasting lifestyle. New opportunities, a new atmosphere, and new social values will be brought into your life as soon as you enter college.

More information on how to write a personal statement for college you can find in the EssayEdge blog. 

We want to provide you with college personal statement example that will help you while writing your own personal statement. 

Checklist for your amazing college personal statement

  1. The essay reveals your true personality
  2. Thoughts are expressed directly 
  3. There are no lexical errors in your essay
  4. The tone of voice is warm and friendly but not too familiar 
  5. The story is interesting and engaging 
  6. The text is free from grammatical errors
  7. There are no unsuitable sentences 

Our guide and checklist have covered all the most important aspects of personal statement writing. Therefore, we believe that keeping in mind all this information will help you to write an outstanding paper. We haven’t touched on editing in this guide because this activity is too comprehensive. Hire a college application editor here for this purpose if you’re concerned about your essay quality.

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Robin W.
Professional essay editor and proofreader with 10+ years of experience. Education: Cornell University. PhD in English Studies and M.F.A in Creative Writing.
Update: June 28, 2022

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