Don’t Write a Generic Personal Statement

Highly selective colleges often receive enough qualified applicants that they could fill their class multiple times. As a result, they have the ability to truly build a community. They are looking for intellectually curious students who will contribute to their campus. The courses you took in high school, the activities you participate in after school and during the summer, and your essays show the college your personality, passions, and dedication to your academic and career interests.

Instead of looking at the seven prompts on the Common Application and picking one, write an essay about yourself. Visualize the members of the admissions committee reading your file. When they close it, what do you want them to know about you. What information will make your application complete? Is there something that, if left out, your application would be missing?

For example, do you take care of your siblings? Is there a passion project like photography or art that you do in your spare time? Do you find time to read for pleasure no matter how busy you get? Would you never let someone eat alone in the cafeteria? Do you have an incredibly strong faith? Think about all the things that make you, well you. Then figure out which one will add value to your college community.

If you are stuck, talk to your family and friends. How would they describe you? What role do they think you play in your friend group or school community? The people who love you and know you best will give you some great insight into who you are and the value you add to the world around you.

Avoid the generic essays about not making a sports team or losing an election/role in a play/president of a club. Try to be vulnerable and authentic. Tell a story that is yours and only yours. It is also not a school essay–you don’t need a thesis and supporting statements. It just needs to be interesting and draw in the reader. Admission counselors are reading hundreds of essays a week–engaging and entertaining will make their job easier–and you and your essay will stand out.

Published by Kate Coffman

Kate has worked in admissions, financial aid, college and career readiness for over twenty years. She most recently served as the Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Franklin College. Kate has also worked in admissions at Butler University and Indiana University. Kate has presented at numerous schools and conferences helping families, educators and those who work with youth understand how to be college and career ready, how to apply to college and how to afford their education.

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