Let’s Get Personal Statements

You’re applying to college! Are you ready? The expressed goal of every college application is to engage and persuade. The personal statement and supplemental essays introduce the applicant in a manner that transcripts and test scores cannot. They’re opportunities to demonstrate the applicant’s mastery of writing mechanics, capacity for written expression, and – most importantly – his or her degree of self-awareness. The challenge is to represent the multiple facets of a three-dimensional individual using only words on two-dimensional paper (or screen, more likely). Here’s some advice when taking that leap:


  1. Be authentic. Don’t say what I say. Say what you want to say. Don’t be afraid to use contractions (or parentheses). Authenticity communicates sincerity, reveals emotion, and engenders empathy. It invites the reader to connect with the content, experience it, and remember it.


  1. Be effective. It’s not just what you say. It’s also how you say it. Whether you’re writing a resume, supplemental, or personal statement, keep in mind that the reader’s attention span and the prescribed word count are precious, finite resources. Use them wisely. Effective writing is concise, informative, and engaging.


  1. Be persuasive. Recent statistics for college admissions indicate that a select few do it better than all the rest. Demanding coursework, solid grades, and test scores are becoming commodities in today’s admissions economy. The true point of differentiation is the individual applicant – and the extent to which he or she can deliver this message of individuality and self-awareness.


Now stop reading and get back to those SAT practice questions.