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Creating a Personal Statement for a College Application

written by: Faith Oh•edited by: Noreen Gunnell•updated: 6/27/2011

The personal statement is one of the most important components of your college application packet. There are no formulas for writing it, yet it can make or break your college plans. So how do you write that killer personal statement to get you into your top-choice school? Read on.

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    It Really is Personal

    Your personal statement should really be personal. That means it should do a good job of describing you to the admissions committee such that they come away feeling as if they know you even though they never met you. Therefore no two personal statements should sound alike. While it is useful to read through samples of personal statements, these should only serve as a guide and a source of inspiration to ultimately help you in crafting your own unique admission essay. Creating a personal statement for a college application involves you putting your best foot forward while telling your life story as succinctly as you can. You should have an overall theme that you are working on and then picking from your background, be it family or educational, build a story around this theme that would make admissions committees want you on their campuses.

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    Give Yourself the Luxury of Time

    The greatest thing you can do for yourself if you want to write the best essay you are capable of, is to start early and give yourself time. You will have to start with a rough outline and each time you think about your personal statement just put down everything that comes to mind. Once your theme is crystal clear and you eventually write the essay, you will go through several drafts. It is also advisable to have trusted people such as a teacher, parent, college counselor or a friend read through and offer suggestions. This translates into many rewrites and requires time.

    A good time to start thinking about creating a personal statement for college applications is the summer before your senior year, especially if you have November early-decision and early-action deadlines. Even when you think you are done, give yourself time away from your personal statement. Let it sit for a week or two and then go back and do a final edit before you send it off.

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    Writing a Winning College Application Personal Statement

    Here are three points to keep in mind if you want to create a winning college application essay:

    1. Write a striking lead paragraph that makes anybody want to just read on, to find out more about your story.
    2. Write a memorable close for the admission committee members to remember you by long after they have put away your essay.
    3. It is not a resume. Do not use your personal statement as an avenue to recount everything you ever accomplished since you got into high school. Focus on one achievement or a related series of achievements, if that is the style you want to adopt, and build this around the overall theme of your essay. This portion, which makes up the space between your first and concluding paragraph should coherently weave your personal story and connect it to why you want to attend a particular college, why it is a good fit for you, and you for the college and what you will contribute to life on campus.

    In a final analysis, no two personal statements can be alike and you will have to develop your own style. In their book, Accepted! 50 Successful College Admission Essays, Gen and Kelly Tanabe, give examples of winning college admission personal statements that got their writers accepted into some of the most prestigious undergraduate programs in the United States. It is worth studying examples of killer personal statements for college applications. But in the end you will have to focus on your own story and your own truth, and if you do it right, you will come out a winner.