You have the grades and SAT/ACT scores to get into your dream college. The problem is that tens of thousands of other applicants also have them. With a sea of highly qualified applicants, the personal statement is critical for standing out. The personal statement is your opportunity to shine and demonstrate the value you will bring to college. Use these simple steps to write a personal statement that earns you admission.
1. Write one great essay
Different applications have different prompts, but many overlap with questions about challenges you have faced or something that a person might not expect to learn about you. Assemble all of the different prompts and identify any ones that will work for all of your applications. Your goal is to write one excellent personal statement that enables you stand out from the other applicants.
2. Focus on one particular instance
A great personal statement is like an interesting snapshot, not a rushed movie. You should focus on one instance that is either meaningful or demonstrates something significant that ties to the application prompt. With 500 words, you do not have the space to cover more than one.
3. Do not repeat another part of your application
You may be tempted to discuss how well you did in a particular class or extracurricular activity. Don't. The rest of your application already includes your academic and extracurricular accomplishments. Use the essay to demonstrate additional value you will add to that college that the rest of your application does not capture.
4. Demonstrate perspective, maturity, and your personality
Colleges seek students who have perspective, maturity, and personality that will add to the campus and their classmates' education. Whatever snapshot you present, make sure to reflect on its importance to you. College admissions officers want to understand what excites you and will drive your success on their campuses.
5. Tie the essay to your plans for college
Make sure your essay connects the snapshot of your life with your plans for college. Discussing how you will add to the college takes the guesswork out of assessing the value you will add to a college.
6. Sweat the small stuff
Remember to proofread. Careless mistakes make it easy for your application to land in the rejection pile. Keep your essay within the word limit, and ask someone who knows you whether the personal statement presents a compelling snapshot of what makes you unique.
Greg Kaplan is a college application strategist, author of Earning Admission: Real Strategies for Getting into Highly Selective Colleges, and the founder of Soaring Eagle College Consulting. Greg focuses on empowering families to develop their children's high value skills, interests, and passions and market the value they would bring to colleges. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business and UC Irvine School of Law, where he received close to a full tuition scholarship. See www.earningadmission.com or www.soaringeaglecollege.com for more information.