How to Write a Personal Statement for College (with Examples)
So, you have started your college application process and are hitting a wall. You got your high school transcripts and letters of recommendation in order. Your SAT scores are on the way. But your college personal statement is sitting there unfinished, and the deadline is coming fast!
Because Wordvice edits thousands of essays every admissions season, we have seen some of the best (and worst) college application essays out there. This guide will tell you how to write the best personal statement for college possible for your college application. Included are examples of successful college personal statements and analyses.
What we will learn here about writing a personal statement for college:
What is the Personal Statement for College?
The college personal statement is a key part of the college application and a key factor among admissions committees. It is the one opportunity for high school students applying to college to sell themselves on their own terms and using their own words.
Personal statements for college differ from SAT scores and academic transcripts, which are more standardized. Further, while letters of recommendation touch on many of the same issues as personal statements, they are not written by you but by a recommender.
1. Personal statements give broad, comprehensive insights into your personal and academic background.
2. It provides college admissions counselors with an accurate overview of your academic goals.
A good college personal statement must explain how your background relates to your university’s program and your goals. It must put in context the tools, resources, and background you bring to the table and how they are aligned with your school’s profile. In the business world, this is called “vertical alignment.”
In other words, how you write about your background should make you stand out from other college applicants as well as connect with what you want to accomplish. Your background empowers you to succeed!
3. Personal statements answer very specific questions.
Often, your college application will require you to apply to a specific program and will ask very specific questions. For example, applying to your university’s business college will require answering different application essay questions than applying to a performing arts program.
How to write a great personal statement
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, work experience and volunteer opportunities have been harder to come by over the last couple of years. Due to this, crafting a personal statement that stands out is more important than ever. We catch up with Student Recruitment Managers Richard Palmer and James Busson for their tips on writing a great personal statement.
The personal statement is much more than just meeting the grade requirements and must tick several boxes to stand out. These statements are a top consideration for admissions tutors but don’t see it as a chore, the personal statement provides an opportunity to communicate your unique skills and strengths and to secure your place at university.
Students must have the appropriate qualifications and grade predictions to meet entry requirements but this needs to be elaborated on in your personal statement. As you think of your different qualifications, accomplishments, and qualities remember to link them all together to show how this makes you suitable for your chosen course.
1) Map out the structure. The best way to approach this is visually: create a diagram splitting the personal statement into sections. Firstly, you want a strong opening statement introducing yourself. The middle section can then be split into three sub-sections: your course choice, education experience and your wider experiences (e.g. extracurricular activities and work). Then close it off with a concluding statement summarising the points you’ve made as concisely as possible.
2) When discussing your suitability, discuss your current or previous studies by talking about your transferable skills; how the content and the skills relate to your chosen course and how they will help you succeed.
Do this even for subjects that aren’t directly related to your chosen course. For example, if you’re applying for criminology but studied A-level Geography you could talk about ‘green crimes’ etc. Alternatively, you could discuss how group or creative projects have provided you with relevant skills to succeed in a degree such as organisation skills, communication or multi-tasking.
If you are applying for slightly different courses, remember that all your university choices will see the same personal statement. Make sure to prioritise talking about your main subject for consistency.
3) While it might be tempting to copy your friends or take inspiration from example personal statements online, avoid at all costs. Plagiarism is often unintentional but the best thing you can do to avoid it is steering away from using templates or writing similar personal statements to your peers.
UCAS (for example) puts every statement through plagiarism software. If your statement has 30% similarities to others, a report is sent to all your university choices. They decide the outcome, which could be to revoke your offer.
Using the Plagiarism report from UCAS in 2018 we know the following phrase was used 234 times…. “Ever since I accidentally burnt holes in my pyjamas after experimenting with a chemistry set on my 8th birthday, I have had a passion for science”
Keep is positive – “I was a debate team captain and lead in making arguments” add positive adjectives and adverbs to build up the sentence. “I was a successful debate team captain and lead in making winning arguments”
Everybody has weaknesses, and it’s important to recognise these too. However, be sure to frame it as a positive. Be honest and recognise areas you haven’t experienced or aren’t as confident at – and consider positive ways that you can develop in that area.
5) Highlight any previous work experience. Even if it was short-term or voluntary, any experience is good and helps to emphasise your skills. Demonstrating that you have actively sought out work experience presents you as someone with initiative and independence.
6) Plan ahead. Start writing it as early as possible and be aware of all important deadlines. Draw out a timeline detailing when you aim to have your first draft done, your second draft, any reviews and submission deadlines. This will help to get you in the right mindset from the outset, because nobody likes last-minute stress.
7) Keep an eye out for typos, you don’t want this distracting from your strengths. Make sure to double and triple check your work. Sometimes when you have been working on something for a long time, it’s easy to overlook mistakes so it’s also helpful to ask someone else to proofread it for you. Getting family or friends to proofread your personal statement will also help to ensure that it sounds authentically you.
8) Aim to stand out from the crowd. Try to think outside of the box and communicate what makes you unique. For example, if you have any creative ideas on how to improve a certain area within your chosen industry/subject, put this forward. This might tie in with your hobbies and work experience and be a good way to build on it.