tips for writing a personal statement

How to Write an Outstanding Personal Statement When Applying to College

If you’re getting ready to put together your college applications, that means it’s time to start thinking about writing your personal statement. Many first-year, transfer, and graduate school applications will ask you to write about who you are and why you want to attend college.

Writing a personal statement is your chance to show the admissions team who you are outside of what they can see from your application materials. It’s an opportunity to speak about you as a person and more than a student — what your grades and transcripts don’t show.

Writing something that will wow the reader is a considerable task, especially if you don’t think of yourself a writer. With a bit of preparation and a proofreader or two, you can have a personal statement that will get you noticed.

To help you feel more confident when it’s time to sit down and write your personal statement, we’ve gathered some tips to help you craft a unique and creative essay. Keep reading to learn how to write a personal statement that showcases the real you.

How to Write a Compelling Personal Statement

Plan Ahead

College applications are either due by a specific date or accepted on a rolling basis. UB accepts applications on a rolling basis, but we have an early action date that gives you priority consideration for grants and scholarships. When planning your college applications, you should give yourself a deadline or a target date to have your essay finished. The idea is to avoid any last-minute planning or writing sessions.

Knowing your submission deadline helps you create a plan. Give yourself enough time to outline, write, edit, and rewrite (and edit some more). A month would be a great goal to give yourself enough time to write your essay without rushing.

The bottom line is to give yourself as much time as possible so you can do your best work because writing about yourself is one of the hardest forms of writing!

Following the Directions

Admissions departments will give you guidelines to follow. Make sure you know the parameters for each of your applications. Check for word count maximums, word count minimums, and questions or themes they want you to address in your essay.

Check for all the details in your application materials when you sit down to outline your rough draft. Some schools may indicate a font, font size, or margin size for your submission. Showing you have attention to detail and can follow directions is something admissions professionals are looking at when they go through your application.

Telling Your Story

Your college essay is an opportunity to flex your storytelling muscles. It’s easy to cite facts about yourself — the standard format for many applicants. However, you want to create something that will help you stand out to the admissions team reading your application.

By placing yourself inside a story, you grab the attention of the person reading your application — the kind of attention that moves you along in the acceptance process. It’s okay to try something a bit different from your norm.

We’re not all natural storytellers, but help is out there.

With a quick Google search, you can find pages of college essay examples. As you read through examples of personal statements, try to find inspiration in the themes and stories you see. Don’t copy what you see but find sample essays that speak to you and can help you figure out how you want to tell your story.

Pro Tip: Show them who you are rather than tell them who you are.

A unique theme, an opening hook, or a bold beginning are just a few ways you can create a unique and creative personal statement that will grab your reader’s attention.

Here are some common themes that students incorporate into their stories:

  • Awkward situations
  • Bravery
  • Challenges
  • Difficult decisions
  • Fears
  • Humor
  • Inspiration
  • And more!

Try not to describe these situations in your life. Instead, place these themes inside a story that connects to your life. A story about something as mundane as the contents of your backpack can explore many of these themes in your life when done thoughtfully and creatively.

Editing Your Writing

Every good writer has a good editor. We are often our worst editors because we’ve been staring at our writing for too long to see minor errors. Your personal statement is one of those times where you want to go above and beyond to be sure your writing is free from all typos, grammatical errors, spelling errors, and word usage issues.

After you’ve read through your statement several times find someone you trust to be a fresh set of eyes for you. Ask them to read through your work before submitting it with your college application.

Pro Tip: Read your writing aloud to yourself.

Reading aloud helps you catch errors you might miss when reading silently to yourself.

One small side note to add to the idea of editing is this:

Applying to college is a long-awaited milestone in your life. You may feel a lot of pressure to have everything to be as close to perfect as possible to give yourself the best chance of getting into your choice of college. But know this…

Every single story ever written has yet to be finished.

Even professional writers and famous novelists fear their work could have been better. You risk spending 95% of your time on the last 5% of your essay getting it polished. After you’ve proofread your piece and asked someone to read it for you, there may come a time when you have to tell yourself that close is good enough and done is better than perfect, or you will lose yourself while chasing perfection — an impossible task.

Be Bold

Don’t be afraid to express yourself. College applications, and especially your personal statement, are when you should be bold and assert who you are. Show the parts of you that your transcripts and grades can’t.

Instead of writing what you think they want to read, write a piece that demonstrates who you are and is what you want to write. Share what matters to you. Colleges are looking for students who will be a good fit for their campus — building bridges and growing the community with unique thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Your essay shouldn’t minimize who you are; it should declare who you are in a vibrant way that convinces the college you want to go to that you’re who they are looking for in a student.

As a test-optional school, University of Bridgeport encourages everyone to write an essay, but one is required if you’re applying without ACT or SAT scores.

We’re excited to learn more about you and your story! Applications are open, and we accept applications on a rolling basis.

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