Spotlight on the Personal Statement

The Personal Statement

Your personal statement should give someone who hasn’t met you (like an admissions counselor) an accurate and interesting picture of who you are. In these essays, you’ll typically respond to very broad, general essay prompts by discussing your interests, significant life experiences, and opinions on various issues. These essays might have a word limit, so please be sure to craft your essay within the given limitations.

When admissions counselors read these essays, we’re looking, fairly straightforwardly, to see how you write about yourself. Though the prompts are nearly the same and each student is given the same amount of space to write, the personal statement should be an opportunity to showcase parts of yourself that haven’t come across in the rest of your application, and show us your perspective on the world. Your writing helps us to see what type of community member you will be and how you will fit into a campus of students with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and interests. Because personal statements are unique to each writer, your subject matter can be specific to you rather than a particular school.

Don’t get discouraged if it takes you many drafts, or even if you have to start over several times before your essay starts to take shape. If this is the first time you’ve had to write an essay like this, it may take time to develop. It might feel that you’re bragging or wasting the reader’s time by talking about yourself, but understand that a personal statement is one of the few ways that admissions counselors can hear about you in your own voice.

The best essays are those where the writer is honest, genuine and, consequently, where we can hear their voice coming through. If you’re not interested in something, don’t feel obligated to talk about it. Trying to guess what admissions counselors want to read will make your essay a lot more difficult to write, and the end result will probably be less helpful to your application. Once you’ve finished, you might want to try giving your essay to a friend or family member, and ask if it sounds like something you would have written. If they’re able to say yes, then you’ve done a good job in crafting your personal statement.

You should be comfortable presenting yourself however you like, but try to use good common sense in what you choose to talk about. Imagine your reader is a very different type of person than you are, or at least thinks about the particular topic you’re writing about in a very different way.  How will they react to reading your essay? Humor is not at all out of place in a college essay, but if you’re not comfortable writing humorously, don’t force it. Always make sure that you are presenting your best self in your writing.

As with any writing assignment, give yourself plenty of time to familiarize yourself with the prompts, think about them, write, revise, and proofread before the application deadline. A spelling error or misplaced comma isn’t going to be the difference between being admitted or not, but you’ll spend enough time on your college applications that it’s worth taking just a little longer to check over your spelling and grammar. Since these essays are often the only example of your writing that the admissions committee will see, be sure to put your best foot forward.

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