How to Write a College Essay That Gets You Into College

Posted on

October 17, 2017


Greg Kaplan


Among a sea of qualified and talented applicants, the personal statement is your sole opportunity to use your voice to make the case for admission.  So how can you make the most of it? As college counselors, we focus on crafting narratives that highlight the type of applicant you are and how you see the world. The personal statement can separate you from other applicants by showing the value that you bring to campus. What is considered value add?  The answer: students who demonstrate unique perspective or an ability to add to their classmates’ educations. 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 discuss 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.

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