Personal Statement (PS): when people refer to the personal statement, they’re talking about the 650-word Common Application Essay which all schools using the Common App will see. Your Personal Statement is your major chance to articulate the qualitative aspects of yourself to the admissions committee, and the admissions committee’s major chance to know you as a person. Throughout this guide, "Common App Essay," "Common App personal statement," and "personal statement" are used interchangeably.
Your essay is a unique reflection of who you are as a person. Even if your parent or friend is a gifted writer who would be happy to help you write your essay, do not let them write your essay. Your own words are the best way to convey who you are as a student and a person; using someone else’s words won’t give your essay an authentic voice. Additionally, if you’re caught letting someone else write your essay, you may be automatically disqualified from admission. That’s exactly the kind of college application help you don’t need.

For this prompt, stay away from figures that are likely to be written about by hundreds of potential students (presidents, Mother Teresa, etc.), and pick a figure you are actually passionate about and interested in, rather than what you think sounds most academic. If you want to go personal and choose a family member, make sure you have a memorable and unique reason. 


The application essay is not a résumé, nor is it an epic. And by “not an epic,” I mean both  “not fiction” and “not a grand adventure story about an extraordinary protagonist.” Some students might feel pressured to invent tragic past experiences or monumental achievements to heighten the emotional appeal of their essays, but admission officers can detect bovine feces. They also don’t expect you to have survived trauma or carried out heroic feats by your senior year in high school. So always represent yourself in the best way possible, but make sure you keep that depiction truthful.  
A lively, individual voice. Writing is for readers. In this case, your reader is an admissions officer who has read thousands of essays before yours and will read thousands after. Your goal? Don’t bore your reader. Use interesting descriptions, stay away from clichés, include your own offbeat observations—anything that makes this essay sounds like you and not like anyone else.
While I was volunteering I met a woman who happened to live in the same building as my aunt. Unemployed with two young children, and a husband earning minimum wage at a fast food restaurant, she struggled to get by every day. I thought to myself – many in my community are just like her. Then I realized I could do something to help. How? I can start a financial literacy program, which teaches Hispanic women to earn and manage money. Once a woman becomes financially literate, she is capable of making good personal and profession decisions, empowering her to improve her family’s financial well-being. Moreover, such a program will help Hispanic women become competitive employees, even in a slow recovering economy such as the one we are experiencing now.
This past summer, I had my first substantive work experience interning at the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, researching and writing about treatments and therapies. Working there was certainly not a game, but my strategy was the same: work hard, remain focused, be mindful and respectful of those around me, deal with the inevitable curveballs, and take constructive criticism to heart, all in pursuit of a meaningful goal. At first, I found it intimidating, but I quickly found my footing. I worked hard, knowing that what I took away from the experience would be measured by what I put into it. I studied my co-workers: how they conducted themselves, how they interacted with each other, and how they approached their respective jobs. I carefully reviewed redlines on my writing assignments, tried not to get discouraged, and responded to the comments to present the material more effectively. I absorbed the stories relayed by Parkinson’s patients regarding their struggles and was amazed at how empowered they felt by their participation in clinical trials. Through them, I discovered what it really means to fight to win. I have also come to understand that sometimes a game never ends but transforms, causing goals to shift that may require an adjustment in strategy.
"Don't bury the lede!" The first few sentences must capture the reader's attention, provide a gist of the story, and give a sense of where the essay is heading. Think about any article you've read—how do you decide to read it? You read the first few sentences and then decide. The same goes for college essays. A strong lede (journalist parlance for "lead") will place your reader in the "accept" mindset from the beginning of the essay. A weak lede will have your reader thinking "reject"—a mindset from which it's nearly impossible to recover.
When tailoring responses to individual college prompts, it’s important to use specific details you’ve learned through visiting and research. Not only does this show colleges that you’ve have done your homework, but it also demonstrates your interest in the college – and colleges want to admit students who are likely to enroll. Show your knowledge of the college by mentioning specific courses, professors, places of interest, and more. Show how you fit into the campus culture and how you will impact the community through specific examples.
Bill Cowden was a private pilot, commercial airline pilot and airshow performer who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 47 in an airshow performance. It is in this spirit and in the loving memory of Bill Cowden that his family established this scholarship so aspiring pilots who lack the financial resources to pursue advanced pilot training will be able to fulfill their dreams. One scholarship [...] More
Mrs. Olive Wilcox created this scholarship to honor the memory of her husband, Franklin Horace Isham. In order to apply, you must reside in Franklin County, attend an accredited school approved for federal Title IV funding, have graduated from a Franklin County high school, have a minimum 3.0 GPA and demonstrate financial need. For more information or to apply, please visit the scholarship [...] More
The Gratiot County Community Foundation, incorporated in 1992, is a vehicle for receiving charitable gifts that will remain forever in Gratiot County. As a non-profit corporation, we are classified as a public charity under the Internal Revenue Code, making donors eligible for federal tax deductions and a State of Michigan tax credit. Gifts to the Foundation may be in cash, real estate, [...] More
Don’t show anyone anything you have written yet. And don’t reread it immediately. Let all that you’ve written sit, latent, so you’re not tempted to edit it right off the bat. Why? Allowing your writing to breathe away from you can prevent you from committing one of the cardinal sins of personal statement-writing—but also all writing!—trying to force the story into what you think it should be instead of what it is. To get more concrete: let’s say Michael wrote about his grandfather teaching him to surf in answer to several of those prompts—about a crucial summer, and an important person to him. But now he’s so excited about that that he immediately wants to turn it into his draft. As he’s writing, he gets self-conscious, thinking: why am I writing about surfing when I’m not a competitive surfer, and when it’s only something I do occasionally? Or say Michael shows it to an English teacher, who gets distracted by the quality of Michaels prose—which was meant to be free and unedited—and tells him to choose another topic, since this one isn’t “singing” yet. Respect your process and let these things sit.
Success is also very important to me. I hope to accomplish many things in my life, but most importantly, I would like to make my family proud so that they know that all of their sacrifices were worth it. Success to me is having a career that I love and allows me to help my family members financially. I hope to no longer experience hardships such as homelessness, poverty, and economic difficulties, as I had in my young life.
Fast forward a few months, and I am lying in a similar bed to treat the underlying cause of the sublclavian DVT: a first rib removal. There is little that can adequately prepare someone physically, emotionally or spiritually to undergo surgery; and my thoughts continued to race in the days following. In addition to the expected physical pain, isolation, fear and frustration were a few of the emotions I experienced in the four day ordeal. The procedure went according to plan thanks to a skilled surgeon and his team, but the attributes that made the doctor “good” went far beyond his ability to operate.
In a sea of otherwise identical college applications, your college application essay gives you a chance to show why you deserve a coveted spot at your preferred university. Giving yourself plenty of time, focusing on the specific details of your life, and showcasing your unique personality can help you craft the perfect college application essay. A strong essay can give you the best chance to get into the school of your dreams.
×