Nov   2016



How to Write a Personal Statement That Will Get You into College

Founder, Soaring Eagle College Consulting
Last Updated: Nov 22, 2016

You have the grades and SAT/ACT scores to get into your dream college. The problem is that thousands of other applicants also have them. So how do you stand out? Answer: your application essay/personal statement.

In a sea of highly qualified applicants, your personal statement/application essay is critical for standing out. It’s your opportunity to shine and demonstrate the value you will bring to your college. Use these simple steps to write a personal statement that earns you admission.

Write one spectacular 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. It will be easier to put all your time and effort into writing one excellent personal statement rather than writing five (or more).

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 to you or demonstrates something significant that ties into the application prompt. With 500 words you really don’t have the space to cover more than one specific idea/instance.

Do not repeat other parts of your application

You may be tempted to discuss how well you did in a particular class or extracurricular activity in your college personal statement. Don’t! The rest of your application already includes your academic and extracurricular accomplishments. Use the essay to capture aspects of your personality and values the rest of your application does not cover.

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 admission officers want to understand what excites you and will drive your success on their campuses.

Tie the essay to your plans for college

Make sure your essay connects the snapshot of your life with your plans for college. Discussing what you want out of college takes the guesswork out of assessing the value you will add to a college for the admission staff. 

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 given 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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About Greg Kaplan

Greg Kaplan

Greg Kaplan is a college application strategist, author of Earning Admission: Real Strategies for Getting into Highly Selective Colleges, and the founder of Soaring Eagle College Consulting. Greg focuses on empowering families to develop their children’s high value skills, interests, and passions and market the value they would bring to colleges. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business and UC Irvine School of Law, where he received close to a full tuition scholarship. See for more information.


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