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Personal Statement Advice

Increase Your College Readiness by Knowing How to Create a Personal Statement

Applying for college is exciting! Less exciting, though, is the prospect of penning a personal statement. Even the best writers find themselves caving under the pressure of such a high-stakes assignment. We’ll share a secret: writing a personal statement doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, once you know what you’re doing, you can actually have a lot of fun crafting the perfect version.

The secret to a great personal statement? Knowing what to recycle and what to rewrite. After crafting the perfect version, you’ll find that all the future personal statements you’ll need to write for will come much easier. As with anything, practice makes perfect!

Sell Yourself

Let’s step back a moment and consider the purpose of a personal statement. While a resume exists to list off your achievements and experiences, a personal statement offers the opportunity to showcase some personality. In many cases, a personal statement is the only real opportunity to show charisma and rise above applicants with similar backgrounds. By bringing a little sparkle to every personal statement, an application will stand out that much more.

Too often, students believe a personal statement should just reiterate what is on their resume. While it’s true that there may indeed be some overlap, a personal statement shouldn’t be an expanded version of a resume. Instead, a personal statement is an opportunity to explain what an applicant can bring to a school.

It can be difficult to put into words what an applicant’s presence will add to the school. When applying to college, consider the hats already worn in the classroom and community. Maybe one’s passion for social justice makes them a leader amongst classmates and they’re hoping to bring that same sense of activism to their future college. Or maybe their talents as an artist have helped make their school a more beautiful place. A personal statement is no time to hold back on showing off accomplishments!

Tell Your Story

A personal statement should be more than just an opportunity to brag. Instead, it is a chance to tell the story of how the applicant got to now. Before sitting down to write the statement itself, zoom out and take a look at the big picture. Brainstorm by writing out bullet points of the most important events of one’s lifetime. Then, consider how going to college fits into the story. Consider the challenges one faced to grow and change as a person. This kind of emotional maturity can go far to convince the admissions department that the applicant is worthy of attending their school.

Not every story needs to detail hardships the applicant has faced, though. Instead of focusing solely on overcoming difficulties, highlight passions as well. An avid aquarium hobbyist’s odds of getting into a marine biology program at their school of choice will undoubtedly go up once they share their lifelong love of marine life.

Tailoring to the Opportunity

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all personal statement. That’s not to say, however, that one version can’t be modified to fit other opportunities. Experts say to always write a fresh personal statement for new applications. While this is generally true, it’s okay to recycle bits and pieces of a really well-written general personal statement.

It’s important that personal statements are written with a specific college in mind. With that said, a paragraph detailing one’s background can work in several different contexts. Don’t be afraid to “steal” from other versions. It’s important not to go into a copy and paste frenzy, though. Instead, carefully curate a personal statement by choosing only excellent sentences and paragraphs that apply to the present opportunity. Always re-read the statement before sending to ensure it makes sense to the person who will be reading it.

Common Mistakes

While it’s tempting to regurgitate one’s resume, resist the urge. One of the most common mistakes made when writing a personal statement is to simply list accomplishments. Instead, write a personal statement as though the reader is already knowledgeable about your work and education history.

Another common mistake? Using a statement to express how much you think the opportunity for which you’ll be applying can do for you. For example, Harvard knows how great it is. The admissions staff doesn’t need to hear about how wonderful you think it would be to attend. Instead, ask not what Harvard can do for you, but for what you can do for Harvard.

It’s easy to freak out about the competition when writing a personal statement. There will always be someone more talented, experienced and better at writing than you, but don’t let that get in the way of crafting a statement that speaks from the heart. Rather than focusing on one-upping fellow applicants, run your own race. Never apologize for shortcomings and avoid using phrases like “despite my lack of experience.”

Ask for Help

There is no shame in asking for help when writing a personal statement. A second set of eyes can help catch errors and make one feel more confident in their writing. Reality Changers can help prepare for college and apply with confidence. No matter if the application if for school, an internship, scholarship or job, Reality Changers can offer the guidance needed to put your best foot forward.

Want more advice? Our blog is a veritable treasure trove of college readiness insight if we do say so ourselves!