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How to Write a Personal Statement for College

College
by Bold Org Editorial Team
January 5, 2024
13 min read
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The new year is here, which means college applications are due. And if you're a high school student, we know the pressure to make your application is at an all-time high, especially regarding the personal statement. As one of the most crucial components of your college application, the personal statement essay is your opportunity to showcase your unique personality, life experiences, and aspirations.

It's a window of opportunity for admissions counselors to get a sense of who you are, and that can be nerve-wracking. But there's no need to fear. At Bold.org, we've got you covered!

In this article, we will discuss what a personal statement is and the role it plays and guide you through the process of writing an impressive and effective personal statement that will capture the attention of any college admissions committee. We will also provide a few writing tips that can help shape your personal essay!

While most students dread writing a personal essay, we want to show you that it can be an exciting and fulfilling process. The key is to stay true to yourself throughout the process and showcase what makes you a unique and valuable addition to the college community. Good luck!

Are you a high school student preparing to apply for college? Check out our blog for more information about college essays and learn how to apply for scholarships!

personal statement

What Is a Personal Statement?

Before we get into it, let's discuss what a personal statement is. A personal statement is a way of explaining your reasons for wanting to study at a particular institution, pursuing a specific course, and demonstrating your ability to complete the course successfully.

It provides admissions officers a glimpse into who you are as a person beyond grades and test scores. Whether you're seeking your bachelor's degree or applying for graduate school, your college admissions essay allows you to make a connection with admissions committees and stand out among other applicants.

A personal statement is not just a formality; it is an opportunity for you to showcase your individuality and demonstrate your passion for your chosen field of study. This opportunity is your chance to tell your unique story and highlight the experiences and qualities that make you a strong candidate for admission.

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The Significance of Personal Statements in College Applications

A personal statement serves as an opportunity to illustrate your motivations and goals. When it comes to writing your college personal statement, it's important to ask yourself questions like what drove you to choose a particular field of study. What life experiences led you to where you are today? How have those experiences shaped your aspirations?

By answering these questions in your personal statement, you provide valuable insight into your character and the contributions you can make to the college community.

Also, a well-crafted personal statement can show your ability to think critically and communicate effectively, as well as your academic interests. It showcases your writing skills and your capacity to express complex ideas clearly and concisely.

Admissions committees are not only looking for students with impressive academic records; they are looking for individuals who can contribute to the intellectual and social makeup of their institution, as well.

How a Personal Statement Can Impact Your Admission

It's important to keep in mind that while you're thinking of ways to write a personal statement to ensure you stand out, admissions committees have the challenging task of selecting the best-fit candidates from a competitive pool of applicants.

A well-crafted college essay can make all the difference in their decision-making process. It is your chance to highlight your unique qualities and convince college admissions that you are the perfect fit for their institution.

On top of that, compelling college essays demonstrate your ability to overcome challenges and adversity. Think of a time you were faced with a dilemma. How did you overcome it? And how did that hardship shape the person you are today?

A personal statement essay allows you to highlight your resilience and determination, showing the college admissions boards that you have the grit and proper problem-solving skills to succeed in college and the real world.

Ultimately, a personal statement is an opportunity for you to leave a lasting impression on the admissions officers. It is your chance to make your case so they can see why you deserve to be admitted to their institution. So take the time to reflect on your experiences, articulate your goals, and write a personal statement that truly reflects who you are as an individual.

Preparing to Write Your Personal Statement

Preparing to Write Your Personal Statement

Writing a personal statement is an opportunity for self-reflection and introspection. It allows you to dig deep into your thoughts, experiences, and aspirations and present them in a compelling and coherent manner.

However, before you start writing, it is important to go through a thorough preparation process to ensure that your personal statement truly reflects who you are and what you can bring to the table.

Self-Reflection: Identifying Your Strengths and Passions

First things first: self-reflection. Take the time to identify your strengths, passions, and key experiences that have influenced your personal and academic growth. Reflect on your accomplishments, challenges you've overcome, and the values that shape your worldview.

These insights will form the foundation of your personal statement. Being self-reflective can inspire and encourage students to write the best personal statement. College admissions committees want to hear about you in your own words.

Please note: self-reflection is not a one-time exercise; it is an ongoing process that requires introspection and self-awareness. Consider the activities or subjects that ignite a fire within you, the moments that have made you feel proud or accomplished, and the skills that you have developed over time.

These reflections will help you highlight your unique qualities and demonstrate why you are a strong candidate for the college or program you are applying to.

Researching Your Desired College's Values and Expectations

Each college has its own set of values and expectations for prospective students. We recommend you do some research on the institution you are applying to and familiarize yourself with its mission, academic programs, and campus culture. By aligning your personal statement with the college's values, you demonstrate your genuine interest and dedication to joining their community.

Also, when researching your desired college, go beyond the surface-level information and into the specific programs, courses, or faculty members that interest you. Explore the extracurricular activities or clubs that resonate with your passions. By showing that you have taken the time to understand the college's offerings and how they align with your goals, you convey a sense of purpose and commitment in your personal statement.

Structuring Your Personal Statement

Now that you've completed the preparation phase, it's time to structure your personal statement. A well-organized personal statement will ensure that your message is clear and compelling and can even be an intellectual challenge. A good one!

However, when structuring your personal statement, it is important to consider the flow and coherence of your ideas. You want to guide the reader through a logical progression of thoughts and experiences, allowing them to understand your journey and motivations. This progression will not only draw your reader's attention to who you are but also show your personal characteristics and leave a lasting impression.

Now let's get into it.

The Introduction: Grabbing Attention from the Start

The introduction of your personal statement is your chance to make a strong first impression. This first impression is where you have the opportunity to captivate the reader and compel them to continue reading. It is crucial to start with a captivating hook that immediately grabs their attention. Pro tip: it helps to read your essay aloud for coherency purposes.

You can also use various techniques to create a compelling introduction, such as starting with an engaging anecdote that relates to your chosen field of study or personal experiences. This strategy will help the reader connect with you on a deeper level and understand the context of your personal statement.

Another effective approach is to use a thought-provoking quote that resonates with your aspirations and goals. By incorporating a powerful statement from a notable figure or expert in your field, you can set the tone for the rest of your personal statement and demonstrate your understanding of the subject matter.

The Body: Showcasing Your Experiences and Achievements

The core of your personal statement (or body paragraphs) provides the space to showcase your experiences, accomplishments, and personal growth. You should see this as the meat and bones of your college essay, where you can go into the details about yourself and life and provide specific examples to illustrate your story.

Note: when organizing your thoughts, it is key to maintain coherence and clarity. Consider using a thematic approach, grouping related experiences and achievements together to highlight your strengths and skills. This will demonstrate your ability to apply what you have learned and your potential for success in your chosen field.

Remember to reflect on the impact of each experience and how it has shaped your character and aspirations. Admissions committees are interested not only in what you have accomplished but also in how these experiences have influenced your personal growth and development.

The Conclusion: Leaving a Final and Lasting Impression

As you approach the end of your personal statement (or conclusion), it is key to leave a lasting impression on the reader. This is where you can bring your personal statement to a full circle and summarize your main points. Reiterate your motivation for pursuing higher education and express your enthusiasm for joining the college community. Share your aspirations and how you plan to make a positive impact in your chosen field.

Remember: structuring your personal statement is not just about adding more paragraphs or expanding the length. It is about organizing your thoughts, showcasing your experiences, and leaving a lasting impression on the reader. Take the time to craft a well-structured personal statement that truly reflects who you are and what you aspire to achieve.

Writing Tips for a Compelling Personal Statement

Writing Tips for a Compelling Personal Statement

Now that we have a well-structured personal statement, let's go over some writing tips that will help you create a compelling personal statement.

Using a Genuine and Personal Tone

When writing your college admissions statement, maintaining a genuine and personal tone of voice is important. Admissions committees want you to remain authentic and let your unique personality shine through your words. Though it's not said enough, they appreciate sincerity and want to get to know the real you, so don't be afraid to share personal insights on yourself and reflect on meaningful life experiences.

For example, if you're passionate about environmental conservation, you could share a story about how you organized a community clean-up event and how it impacted your perspective on the importance of sustainability. By sharing personal stories like this, you not only demonstrate your commitment to a cause but also provide insight into your character and values.

Highlighting Your Unique Qualities

Another key to writing a memorable personal statement is by highlighting your unique qualities. Think about what sets you apart from the rest and emphasize those qualities! Maybe you're a first-generation college student or a single parent. Don't be afraid to brag about yourself. Whether it's your leadership skills, creative thinking, or commitment to community service, talk about them! Be the needle in a haystack they want to find.

To successfully pull this off, you want to include specific examples of how you've applied these qualities in your life. If you're a natural leader, talk about a time when you took charge of a group project and successfully guided your team to achieve a common goal. Providing concrete evidence of your abilities will make your personal statement more persuasive and compelling.

Avoiding Common Mistakes in Personal Statements

Most importantly, though, you want to avoid common mistakes that can weaken the impact of your personal statement. These include vague statements, excessive use of clichés, grammar mistakes, and focusing too much on achievements rather than personal growth. You want to make sure that your final submission doesn't read like a first draft.

When writing your personal statement, take the time to carefully consider your words and their meaning. Avoid using generic phrases like "I want to make a difference" without providing specific examples or explanations on how or in what ways you want to make a difference. And be mindful of clichés! This is a major key. Admissions officers have read countless personal statements that all too often contain overused phrases like "follow your dreams" or "think outside the box." Forget what you think they want to hear and strive for originality.

Remember to start writing your college personal statement early, allowing yourself sufficient time for reflection, drafting, and revision.

revising your personal statement

Reviewing and Revising Your Personal Statement

Once you have completed your initial draft, it's time to review and revise your personal statement to ensure its effectiveness. A well-crafted personal statement can make a significant impact on your college or job application, so it's crucial to invest time and effort into refining it.

While reviewing your personal statement, seek feedback from others. Don't be afraid of constructive criticism. Reach out to trusted teachers, mentors, or family members and ask for their insights! Their perspectives can provide valuable feedback and help you improve your essays in areas you didn't think needed improvement. Be open-minded and receptive to their suggestions, as feedback is meant to enhance your personal statement.

As you gather feedback, consider the structure and organization of your personal statement. Ask yourself questions like, are your ideas presented in a logical and coherent manner? Do your paragraphs flow smoothly from one to the next? Take the time to evaluate the overall structure and make adjustments as necessary.

Seeking Feedback from Others

When seeking feedback, it's important to choose individuals who are familiar with the application process or have experience in your field of interest. They can provide valuable insights into what admissions officers or employers are looking for in a personal statement. Additionally, consider seeking feedback from individuals who know you well and can offer a unique perspective on your experiences and qualities.

During the feedback process, encourage your reviewers to provide specific comments and suggestions. Ask them to highlight areas where your personal statement could be strengthened or expanded. This will help you identify specific areas for improvement and guide your revision process.

Proofreading: Ensuring Clarity and Correctness

Once you have incorporated feedback and made necessary revisions, it's time to proofread your personal statement. Carefully review your writing for any grammatical or spelling errors. Pay attention to sentence structure and clarity, ensuring that your ideas are effectively communicated. Taking the time to carefully review your work can make your college application process the least stressful as possible.

Proofreading is also an essential step in the revision process. It demonstrates your attention to detail and dedication to presenting your best work. Consider reading your personal statement aloud to catch any awkward phrasing or unclear sentences, and ask a trusted friend or family member to review your statement for a fresh perspective.

As you proofread, also consider the tone and voice of your personal statement. Ensure that your writing reflects your unique personality and showcases your passion and enthusiasm for your chosen field. Your personal statement should be an authentic representation of who you are and what you can bring to the table.

personal statement examples

Personal Statement Examples and Analysis

We know writing a college essay can be time-consuming, so to further assist you in the writing process, we have personal statement examples accompanied by analysis for you to browse. These examples are meant to give you a sense of how successful personal statements are constructed and the kind of impact they can have on admissions officers.

Personal Statement Example 1: The Passionate Artist

Meet Sarah, a high school senior with an unwavering passion for art. In her personal statement, she eloquently describes how art has become an integral part of her life. Sarah's words paint a vivid picture of her dedication, creativity, and ability to express herself through various mediums.

Admissions officers are captivated by Sarah's personal statement as it showcases her unique perspective and artistic talent. They are able to envision her potential contributions to the campus community, whether through her artwork or her ability to inspire others with her passion.

Personal Statement Example 2: The Aspiring Scientist

Imagine John, a driven student who dreams of unraveling the mysteries of the universe. In his personal statement, he delves into his fascination with science and his relentless pursuit of knowledge. John's personal statement showcases his analytical thinking, problem-solving skills, and his ability to think critically.

Admissions officers are intrigued by John's personal statement as it demonstrates his commitment to scientific exploration and his desire to make a meaningful impact in the field. They can envision John conducting groundbreaking research, pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge, and contributing to the academic community.

Personal Statement Example 3: The Community Leader

Now, let's meet Emily, a student who has dedicated herself to making a difference in her community. In her personal statement, she shares her experiences as a leader, her passion for service, and her ability to bring people together. Emily's personal statement showcases her empathy, resilience, and her commitment to creating positive change.

Admissions officers are inspired by Emily's personal statement as it highlights her potential to be a catalyst for change on campus. They can envision Emily organizing community service projects, leading student organizations, and fostering a sense of unity among her peers.

Studying these personal statement examples, you will gain valuable insights into what makes a compelling personal statement. Remember, your personal statement is your opportunity to showcase your unique qualities, experiences, and aspirations. Use these examples as a starting point to craft a personal statement that truly reflects who you are and what you can bring to a college or university.

personal-statement-ideas

Frequently Asked Questions About Writing Personal Statements for College

What's the importance of proofreading and editing?

Making sure your writing is polished through proofreading and editing is really important. Mistakes can take away from what you're trying to say. Once you've got your initial draft down, it's a good idea to step away for a bit and then come back to it with fresh eyes to make it even better. You can also ask teachers or mentors to read it and give you their thoughts – that can make a big difference, too!

How can I start my personal statement?

Think about kicking things off with an attention-grabbing hook that really pulls the reader in. This hook can be a cool story, a strong quote, or a personal experience that's totally unique to you and connects with what you're planning to study.

How long should it take to write a personal statement?

Giving yourself a good amount of time, like a few weeks or even a couple of months, to brainstorm and write your personal statement is a smart move. How long it takes to write a personal statement really depends on things like how fast you write, how much thinking and researching you need to do, and how many times you want to rewrite and improve it. It's different for everyone!

Are you a high school student looking for tips on your college application? Visit Bold.org today and learn how you can create a profile and apply for scholarships today.

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