How to Write a Compelling College Personal Statement

One of the many things that high school seniors must think about when applying for colleges and scholarships is writing a college personal statement to supplement their other application materials.

While many colleges and universities don’t require you to write up a personal statement, often students choose to do so to set their application apart from the rest of the piles of test scores, or if their grades or scores weren’t perhaps as good as they could have been.

It’s a great way to showcase your personality, extracurricular activities, or anything that makes you unique and sets you apart from other hopefuls that you maybe didn’t get to talk about in your initial application. It also gives you a chance to expand on things that you possibly only touched on in the first place.

Even if you think you have good enough grades and test scores to not have to worry about getting into your dream school, you might still want to consider putting together a college personal statement. It makes you look all the more impressive to the admissions staff at your future university, which is never a bad thing!

What to Include In Your College Personal Statement

  • Extracurricular activities. Have you played piano for a long time? Been dancing ballet since you could walk? Or maybe you’re an all star athlete on your school’s team. Whatever your activities include, be sure to talk about them in your college personal statement. If you have a lot of extracurricular activities, maybe mention all of them, but only talk about the two or three that have made the most impact on your life. That’s what the admissions office wants to hear, how you’ve become a better person through your activities, not just that you can handle playing on 4 sports teams, marching in the band, and playing the lead in the school musical. Talk about the things you’re passionate about, and that will shine through.
  • Volunteerism. Again, the staff members reading your college personal statement don’t want to hear false bravado about the things you’ve done for the community, or to hear a soulless list of all the good deeds you’ve performed in the last four years. They want to hear about the people you’ve met that have had an impact on your life and your actions. They want to hear that you’ve made a difference, and by your own accord, not just because you had to, or you knew that it would look good on applications like these in a few years.
  • Family life. Yes, believe it or not, they are interested in your family and personal life. Talk about what your parents do for a living, if you have siblings, maybe even the town you live in. Don’t discuss this for ages, and don’t add in irrelevant details, but do touch on it. Remember, the point of a college personal statement is to talk about what makes you who you are, and the things that led to that.
  • Academic information. If you have things you feel are relevant to the situation, but that you couldn’t talk about much or at all on your original application, then by all means, talk about them here! Many college applications only want to know your statistics and information from high school, but we all know that sometimes things happen before then that we can be equally proud of.

What You Should Leave Out

  • Irrelevant information. If it’s not going to be pertinent to the situation at hand, or really has nothing to do with yourself as a person, don’t add it in! Don’t go off on soapboxes about the state of the nation, or start reminiscing about days gone by – that won’t win you any favors with anyone!
  • Slang or curse words. In your college personal statement, you want it to reflect your personality, but you also want to sound intelligent and professional. Remember, your future administrators or faculty members are going to be reading this, and while personal statements can usually help your chances of getting in somewhere, if it’s terrible or offensive, it could potentially hurt your chances of being accepted as well. So keep the stories and the language PG and teacher-friendly!
  • Long length. Don’t overwhelm the poor people with a 32 page narrative of your life so far (even if you are planning on majoring in Creative Writing). Keep it short, simple, and to the point. It doesn’t have to fit on one page by any means, but don’t get too carried away with your writing!

Remember, have fun, let your personality shine through your college personal statement, and you’ll be just fine!

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Elizabeth Benson

Elizabeth Benson

Elizabeth Benson is a freshman at Central Michigan University, currently pursuing a degree in Journalism. Elizabeth is a member of the CMU Honors Program, and is a staff reporter at Central Michigan Life, the student run campus newspaper. When she’s not in school, she can usually be found reading, writing, or watching movies, and enjoys traveling and performing in plays.
Elizabeth Benson

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