Tips for Writing Your Personal Statement Admissions Essay

Writing the Personal Statement

Applying to college takes a lot of time and preparation, with many forms needing to be filled out. One will certainly have their hands full if they are applying to multiple schools. One of the most time consuming parts of the application is the personal statement essay. This is an important step of the college admissions process that should be taken seriously, as it showcases your writing skills and could be your ticket into college.

Also referred to as the application essay or statement of purpose, the personal statement will need to be the most refined part of your college application. You could be a C-average student, but if your personal statement really blows away the application committee, you could easily be walking through the halls of a prestigious university.

A personal statement essay gives you the opportunity to show why you should be accepted to the college or university you are applying to. These committees are looking for what makes you stand out against a crowd of thousands of other applicants. They want to know about you, where you’ve been, and what you’ve used around you to grow.

The most important thing you need to focus on in your personal statement is yourself. What has made you the person you are today? Where do you see yourself going after you graduate from college? What have you done to take steps to get there already?

Be yourself and allow your uniqueness to stand out so you may rise above the thousands of other applicants. Let the application committee know the most important and intriguing aspects about you and your life that they should know.

Ladder to Success

Let your writing show your passion for wanting to attend the school. Tell the application committee why your eyes are set on their specific college, what you hope to learn, and how you think you can positively contribute to the college. If you met a professor that teaches at the college, tell them why you look up to him or how his words touched you. Tell a story about an alumnus you know that graduated from there. Tell them why you are excited to walk the halls of the university. Avoid boring, long-winded paragraphs about what they already know and really knock the committee out with fluid writing filled with enthusiasm.

Tips on Writing an Admissions Essay

  • Clearly show that you are motivated and have clear goals, both short term and long term.
  • Tell a story. Share experiences that have helped you grow as a person.
  • Be concise: don't use 25 words when 6 will do.
  • Be personal and speak from the heart.
  • Backup your statements with examples and stories to strengthen your view.
  • Begin writing your essay well in advance so you are leave yourself plenty of time for revision. Starting only a few days before the application deadline will only set you up for failure.

The essay is your one chance of self-promotion. Everything else: previous grades, recommendations, etc. are in the hands of others and/or can’t be changed.

The admissions essay is even more important if your grades aren't top notch. The essay is a way to show the admissions department what skills you possess outside of your grades and GPA. Sometimes a great admissions essay alone can get you accepted to a top school.

Generally, liberal arts colleges place greater importance on the essay than major universities since they don't consider grades as big of a factor in admissions, so it’s essential to use the essay as your opportunity to show your character, personality and what you can bring to the college community.

The whole experience is similar to a job interview. The employer wants to know what skills you possess and what you can bring to the establishment. Explain ways you will contribute to the college as a student and why you want to attend their college. Share your dreams and aspirations and maybe the school can help you achieve those goals.

Common Admissions Essay Questions

Common admission essay questions typically address personal goals, academic strengths and weaknesses, life experiences, and reasons for applying to the school.

Example Admissions Essay Questions
  • Recall an event or experience that left a mark on the type of person that you are.
  • Write about a great achievement in your life.
  • How do you picture yourself ten years from now?
  • How will the college contribute to the fulfillment of your goals?
  • Discuss a current issue and describe how it affects you.
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood.
  • Tell a story about a time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from it?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to take action? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. Explain its importance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to find a solution.
  • What is one thing about your background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful you feel your application would be incomplete without it.
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