5 Things Colleges Are Looking For In Your Personal Statement

Personal statements are a great way for high school students to sell themselves to the colleges or universities they are applying to. The problem with personal statements is that most students usually struggle when they sit down to write them; they just can’t quite figure out what colleges are looking for.

Well, don’t worry…with the hints provided below, you’ll be able to get started on your personal statement right away! Here are 5 things colleges are looking for in a personal statement.

  • 1. Did You Follow Directions? According to the University of California (all campuses), following directions is critical. The personal statement questions or college essay prompts will ask for specific information. It’s important that you answer each part of the question and not leave any items out. You don’t want to send in an incomplete essay, do you?
  • 2. Did You Exceed The Word Count? If the directions say do not exceed 1,200 words – then you should not exceed 1,200 words! Some students think that writing more than what is required will impress the admissions committee, when in fact, it will do quite the opposite. Exceeding the word count will only give the admissions committee the idea that you don’t follow directions.
  • 3. Does Your Essay Tell A Story? Students should try to write their essays as if they were telling a story. Introduce your topic in an interesting matter. (In other words, tell us what you’re going to tell us about). Use the body of the essay to go into further detail, but be careful not to go into too much detail…one or two main themes are probably enough. Finally, include a brief conclusion, summarizing your points in a way that will leave a lasting positive impression on the admissions committee
  • 4. Is Your Essay Original & Unique? Most admissions committee members have read tons of personal statements, so you have to make yours stand out amongst all the rest of the applicants. This is your opportunity to describe your hopes, goals, and life experiences. Your personality should shine through your personal statement.

You should avoid using boring introductions like, “my name is…” or “I plan to discuss…” or “the question asks me to answer…” Also, avoid boring conclusions like, “In conclusion…” or “There are 3 reasons why you should admit me…”

  • 5. Did You Proofread? Last, but definitely not least…you must proofread your personal statement prior to submission. If the admissions committee is distracted by all of your spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, then this could hurt your chance at getting admitted. It’s also not a bad idea to let someone else read your essay before you submit it. Having another set of eyes may help catch those errors that you missed when you reviewed it yourself.

If you follow these 5 tips, I’m sure your personal statement will be great! If you are looking for some specific examples of personal statements, click the following link: Personal Statement Examples 

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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