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Top 7 Tips for Writing a Personal Statement

Whether you go Common App or Coalition, your personal statement is the crown jewel of your application. If you’re doing your due diligence, this might be the 100th listicle you’ve read on how to write the perfect college essay, but we hope that it helps you out to hear it from someone you know you can trust!

1. You can write about (almost) anything, but everything will be hard to write about

Anything from a life-altering tragedy to your thoughts on the modern state of pizza can provide the fodder for a strong application essay. All that matters is what you do with your topic. Choose whatever could be a good vehicle for you to communicate something about your personality.  

2. Don’t be anonymous

If someone else could’ve written exactly the same essay, then you should probably dig deeper.  

3. You don’t really start writing until page 3

If you’re having trouble picking a topic, just start writing. Once you’ve gotten some information on paper, you might realize you’ve had a few experiences that shaped you into who you are today. But, remember tip #1— your topic can range from life-changing too trivial. A well-written piece that allows your personality to shine through is what’s most important. 

4. Don’t get too purple.

Some things are genuinely life-changing; most things are not. Be sure to tailor your tone to your subject matter, otherwise you may come across as though you were grasping at straws to find anything to write about and blowing something insignificant out of proportion. It’s ok if you don’t have a life-changing experience to write about— most 17 year olds don’t!

5. Anecdotes are a great place to start! 

Remember that nothing is too trivial, so telling any kind of short story that you can wrap into a bigger idea like personal growth, the development of a new passion or interest, or just something about you that makes you unique, is a great place to start. The worst thing you can do is write a personal statement that reads like a resume. Your personal statement should really be a place to elaborate on something that isn’t included in the other parts of your application.

6. Read it aloud.  

Hearing your personal statement aloud can be helpful for a few reasons. First, it allows you to hear the flow of the language and ideas. Awkward sentence structures and poor word choice will become abundantly clear when read aloud. Secondly, when reading it aloud, you might realize something about it embarasses you or feels off. You want your personal statement to be an accurate reflection of you and something that you are proud of, so make sure you’re comfortable with the topic and the way it portrays you.

7. Don’t let too many cooks in the kitchen

If your grandma didn’t go to Harvard then she can probably sit this one out. Seriously! Get feedback from a few people you trust, then stop! Ultimately, it’s a personal piece of writing, so make sure your voice doesn’t get lost through all the edits.

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