In an article she contributed to The Huffington Post, “4 Tips for Writing the Perfect Personal Statement,” Alexis Reliford of Her Campus writes: “The best personal statements describe a moment of personal growth, difficulty, strength or confidence, all of which people experience in a wide range of ways.” In essence, the personal statement is your chance to make a lasting first impression. Easier said than done, right?
If you’re feeling the pressure of the inevitable college admissions essay, you’re not alone. While it’s often the most feared part of the college application process, it’s also one of the most important components to your application. And as much as a strong academic background is essential, admissions officers look for students who have demonstrated personal growth. Your essay is a great opportunity to highlight how you’ve grown.
Three tips on writing an essay that will impress college admissions
1. Be clear and concise, and focus on engaging your reader.
Even though the Common Application requires a minimum of only 250 words (with no maximum word count), be sure that you use the space you need to illustrate your personality and convey your interest in the college or university to which you’re applying. That said, the college may have predetermined guidelines for your essay. Whether it’s word count or the essay topic, be sure to review all requirements before you begin writing.
Pursuing a college education is your first courageous step in the application process. Now it’s time to create a descriptive, action-oriented essay around what makes you a truly deserving college applicant. Ultimately, pick a topic that differentiates you from other candidates in order to leave a lasting first impression. And remember, your essay will be read among thousands of others, so be sure to engage your reader right from your introduction. Don’t wait until the conclusion to really let your personality and interests shine through. Finally, when you’re crafting your admissions essay, be clear and concise, and never write more than you need to tell your story.
2. Set yourself up for success.
We all know that the quality of the work will likely suffer if it’s rushed, so leave yourself plenty of time to brainstorm different topics, practice the written word, edit your essay, and proofread carefully. If you’re unsure of how to check for grammar mistakes, ask a parent or teacher to help you edit and proofread before you consider your essay final.
Don’t forget to do your research before you write your essay. One of the best ways to stand out from thousands of other applicants is to demonstrate an interest in the college or university to which you’re applying. If you gain knowledge on college-specific programs and what it’s really like on campus, you can potentially leverage that information and prove to admissions that you’re a serious and passionate candidate. Want to go above and beyond? See If you can connect one of the programs you’re interested in to a brief anecdote of your own experience, such as a community-service project you were involved with.
3. Ask yourself: “Is this the best representation of me?”
Ultimately, your essay is your opportunity to highlight your accomplishments without showing off. And when it comes time to write your essay, be meticulous and honest. While it may be tempting to embellish, colleges want to meet the real you, so be honest instead of writing what you think admissions committees want to hear. With these tips in mind, you’re sure to deliver an essay that reflects the person you are. Good luck!