College Essay/Personal Statement

The College Essay

Many colleges require students to demonstrate their values and/or intellectual capabilities by responding to a variety of essay topics. How and what a student writes is an important element in an admissions decision; it is a critical part of the application. In answering an essay question, the following pointers can be helpful:

  • Follow directions and answer the essay question.
  • There is no “right” answer. Don’t think you know what a college wants to hear. Whatever you have to say about the topic is of interest.
  • If an application essay does not require a particular focus, choose a subject that will help the reader to understand you better. Paint a picture for them telling who you are and what you are passionate about.
  • Avoid re-writing your resume in paragraph form.
  • Don’t try to second guess the admissions staff to give them what you think they want to hear.
  • Proofread your essay; then have two other people proof it for you.
  • Write with passion. Remember to use powerful, clear and correct language.
  • Keep your essay within the page/word limit.
  • Plagiarism is academic fraud and will cause your application to be thrown out of consideration.
  • Be careful with humor. It can be tough to pull-off in writing.
Personal Statement

The purpose of the personal statement is to allow the admissions representative to learn something more about you other than what is found in other parts of your application. This is your opportunity to show your unique characteristics. Throughout your personal statement it is important to remember to:

Answer the question: As with an essay, if a specific question or prompt is provided, be sure to stay focused and answer what is being asked of you.

Include some of your research: If a school wants to know why you are applying to their institution provide some specific reasons that set them apart from other schools you have considered. For example, particular programs or facilities available to you within the major you are interested in. Or perhaps the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you.

Avoid commonly used phrases: A student applying to the college of education who writes that he likes to work with children is not expressing an original thought. Use your own words and your own voice so the admission representative can get to know you better.

Extenuating Circumstances/COVID Impact Statement:

In some cases, you may use the personal statement to explain extenuating circumstances that may have impacted your academic performance at some point in your high school career. In these instances, it is important to be genuine in your explanation but it is not necessary to go into so much detail that the reader becomes uncomfortable. The main purpose is to explain what an admission representative is going to see on your transcript and/or test scores. Some brief reflection on how these experiences have affected you and the student that you are now because of it can also be helpful to the admission decision process.