The College Personal Statement

Published Thursday, September 12, 2013 by Nicolette

Applying for college can be a dehumanizing process. You see yourself reduced to a number: a GPA, a class rank, years spent in Debate club. Even more discouraging is to see how your numbers fall short of others.

That is why the personal statement is such an important part of the college application. When reading your essay, the admissions officers aren’t looking to see how your numbers stack up. They want to know about the unique qualities that only you have. Because, trust me, you have them.

In many cases, the personal statement is the only chance the admissions officers get to hear you speak. It could be a determining factor for a shaky applicant, one whose grades might be excused by extenuating circumstances. Admissions officers want to get to know you. They want to learn what they can about your personality. You can rest assured that, however hurriedly, your essay will be read by someone at that college.

All the same, writing this essay is no simple task. A couple commonly asked questions:

What Do Colleges Want?
Colleges want students who will add to the richness and intellectual rigor of their campus. When brainstorming, think about what kind of contributions you could make. Do you have any special talents or skills you can bring to the campus? Or any lapses in grades or disciplinary problems that you want to explain? This is your chance to tell them exactly what they need to know.

What Should I Write About?
You have your whole life’s worth of material. You tell me!

Give them some context about the person who achieved all the things on your resume and got all your grades. You can write about anything as long as it demonstrates your personality and strength of character. And, of course, as long as it answers the prompt!

Some starting points:

  • Details about your life that would help the admissions officers understand who you are
  • Your passion or a special skill that you’ve honed (especially if it relates to your intended major)
  • Any good stories behind your achievements.

If you can, choose something with a story behind it.  A narrative can deliver just as much evidence, but with more descriptive flair.

And one final piece of advice: Revise, Revise, Revise!!!
Your essay should be so polished that the only danger it poses to your application is its ability to blind readers with its brilliant gleam. Start early and revise until you’re confident it is free of errors. Revise, revise, revise!

I welcome any questions you have in the comments section. Until next Thursday!


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