Purpose of Personal Statement/Essay

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Purpose of Personal Statement/Essay

  • Helps Admissions personnel get to know you as an individual and provides a context for consideration of all other applicants.

  • Allows you to fill in the gaps, explain unusual circumstances, and provide a more complete picture of yourself.

  • Helps the reader understand your interests, achievements, opportunities, and challenges faced while achieving academic and personal success.

  • Provides you an opportunity to distinguish yourself from everyone else in the application process.

  • Scholarship consideration.

What the Personal Statement/Essay is NOT…

  • A visionary statement of what you plan for your future, without concrete examples of what initiatives you have already taken that will lead you to your goals.

  • An elaboration on someone you admire, without a specific description of what you, yourself, have done or not done as a result of your inspiration.

  • An exaggeration of problems, but an acceptance of responsibility for choices, academic performance, and/or behaviors.

  • An exhaustive listing of activities, honors, and awards but rather a judicious selection of important indicators.

  • Solely a sample of writing skills although appropriate grammar, level of usage and spelling are expected.

What Characteristics do Admissions Look For?

  • Thoughtful, incisive reflection -- some sense of who you are.

  • Students who have had meaningful participation, not just a listing of activities. Quality over quantity should be the general guideline.

  • Students who have demonstrated a sensitivity to and respect for differences, e.g., through sustained community services.

  • Students who are leaders -- type of students who makes things happen -- a catalyst who motivates others, who initiates or takes responsibility for something that meets a perceived need.

Personal Statement/Essay Suggestions

  • Start early. Leave plenty of time to revise, reword, and rewrite. You can improve your presentation.

  • Read the instructions thoroughly and answer the prompt completely. Answer the question as directly as possible, and follow word limits exactly. Express yourself as briefly and as clearly as you can.

  • Write in your own voice, speaking honestly about yourself. Admissions want to know who you are.

  • Focus on an aspect of yourself that will show your best side. You might have overcome some adversity, worked through a difficult project, or profited from a specific incident. A narrow focus is more interesting than broad-based generalizations.

  • Feel comfortable in expressing anxieties. Everybody has them and it’s good to know that an applicant can see them and face them.

  • Provide support for your statements by supplying specific details.

  • Be positive about yourself. Negatives tend to turn people off.

  • Be aware of sentence length and paragraph structure.

  • Be certain that your essay has smooth paragraph transitions.

  • Be careful with your humor. And avoid being cute!

  • Avoid slang and clichés.

  • Do not manufacture hardship or whine.

  • Do not repeat information given elsewhere on your application. The Admissions Committee has already seen it – and it looks as though you have nothing better to say.

  • After writing the first draft, allow the essay to sit. Then read the draft aloud to a trusted friend. Ask for a critique and validation of your self-presentation and writing.


  • “100 Successful College Application Essays” by Christopher Georges & Gigi Georges

  • “Essays That Will Get You Into College” by Burnham, Kaufman, and Dowham

There is NO such thing as a single perfect personal statement. There is only the personal statement that is right for YOU, so do not be afraid to write three or four essays and then choose from what you have written.

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