College Admissions Insider - 2020


Tips for Writing a Strong Personal Statement

By Lindsey Conger

To get into your dream school, you'll need not only great grades and test scores but also a strong personal statement. The personal statement is the 650-word essay you'll submit to colleges. This essay allows schools to do a holistic review of your application, enabling them to see the full picture of who you are. It is your one chance on your application, along with any supplemental essays, to come alive off the page and show your personality.

For rising seniors, the time to start writing the personal statement is now. Here are some tips to help you during the writing process.

Write How You Speak

When crafting your personal statement, write how you speak. Don't try to use overly flowery language; otherwise, it becomes unnatural and awkward to read. The flow of the essay is off when students try too hard to be smart. Just be yourself.

Use Metaphors and Similes

Consider using similes or metaphors to make your writing more interesting. Using metaphors or similes that are stale and overdone cause your essay to become cliché and boring. For example, don't say, “couch potato, white as snow, straight as an arrow." Instead, you should use more unique metaphors and similes, like “zebra hair." Or “The play was like a lukewarm cup of coffee. After one sip, I've had enough." Much more interesting to read!

Use Stronger Verbs

Some weaker verbs students tend to use are:

to be
to add
to utilize
to provide
to make

These words are fairly boring, overused, and not very descriptive. Can you even picture what “to utilize" even means? Instead of saying, “talked," you say, “whispered, shouted, etc." Use verbs you can visualize.

Adjectives: Less is More

Overstuffing your sentences with adjectives makes them clunky and hard to read. Pick one attribute that is strong enough to change the meaning of the sentence on its own. Use more emotional words or analogies to describe the story in your personal statement better.

When you are editing your essay, check to see if the meaning of the sentence is altered if you remove the adjective. If it doesn't, then that is a good sign that the adjective isn't necessary.

Or, you should consider using a stronger noun if that means you can eliminate the adjective. For example, instead of saying it was a really good movie, you could say it was action-packed. Instead of an extravagant party, say gala.

Use Sensory Adjectives

Use the five senses (sight, touch, taste, hearing, smell) to describe your stories. You could use words like drab, stuff, and chirpy to bring your story to life. Show, don't tell.

Exclamation Marks

Don't use them. Powerful words are a way better to show your emotions.

Edit, Revise, Edit

Don't submit your personal statement without having someone read it first. You'll likely have to go through many different drafts, which is perfectly normal. As you edit it, make sure you are explaining yourself thoroughly. Remember, the admissions officer doesn't know you and can't read your mind. That's why it is a good idea to have someone else read your essay so they can catch small grammatical mistakes as well as big content problems.

Start Now

The first college deadlines are right around the corner. Need help getting started? Join this free 8-day crash course (Eventbrite.com/e/116768952079) on writing the personal statement for advice and actionable steps to follow.

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Lindsey Conger is a College Counselor and tutor at Moon Prep. She helps students create memorable personal statements and tutors students to increase their academic profile to universities. www.moonprep.com