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Personal Statement for Colleges: Checklist and Tips on Writing

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College Personal Statement
Updated: April 8, 2024
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A college personal statement is an essay that is of great importance for admission. It allows the admissions committee to learn more about you and your goals. It characterizes you not only from the side of numbers and grades that you have already received: GPA, SAT, or other academic test scores.

Admissions tutors are people who will check the personal statement for college. They re-read hundreds and thousands of such essays every year! Therefore, these professionals formed an opinion about the correct college personal statement. Admissions tutors test your ability to formulate your thoughts and show the right motivation. They do not want the perfect student who gets the highest grades. They want someone who has a clear goal. Admissions tutors are looking for candidates who are not alien to the values and mission of their institution.

Statement of purpose and personal statement are two essays on which your college admission depends. It makes no sense to beg admissions tutors to get you accepted. Instead, it is worth practicing writing the best personal statement you can. But how to do it? Our team is specialized in personal statement review, and now, we want to share some knowledge.

How to Write a Personal Statement for College

Unfortunately, there are no specific and universal rules that would work in all cases. The personal statement for college is a concept that each school understands in its way. That is why it is out of the question to submit one personal statement to all educational institutions.

Each college develops its own rules and clearly formulates questions for applicants. Sometimes you will be asked to write an open-ended essay on your topic. It seems like an easier option, but sometimes it is easier to stick to existing questions so that you do not get lost in your essay.

What is the main piece of advice for all personal statements?

Do not try to be what you are not. You should combine a formal essay with your character. Write this essay like a person.

Admissions tutors are not asking you to be perfect and 100% unique! You just have to tell everything from yourself, clearly formulating your thoughts and being able to link them together into a single logical whole.

Open-ended Statement Tip

An open-ended statement makes you feel freer because it removes many barriers and allows you to express yourself freely. On the other hand, such a format throws you into the open sea without any signposts.

But in fact, the main thing is not to tell your entire life story in detail. Try to better connect your experience and what you want to tell with the major for which you are applying to a particular college. Suppose you love animals very much and are going to become a veterinarian. The best way out is to talk about how you feel working with animals, and what experience you have already had. If you managed to become a volunteer in animal shelters, then you should tell about it too.

The situation is much more difficult for those who have not shown themselves very active before and cannot tell much about their experience. Then it is worth explaining why you are applying to this particular college and for what purpose. Perhaps you should talk about how you will benefit the college community.


Questions to the Expert
Mary S.
Professional Essay Editor. Education: MA, Stanford University. Experience: 4 years. Member of EssayEdge team.
Hire Mary S.
What are the top 10 rules and pitfalls when writing a personal statement?
Mary S.
A good personal statement is focused and well-organized. Highlight your individual strengths and main drives. Start with an intriguing introduction, address your interest in the chosen college. Show the admission committee you know why you have chosen this school. Check for clear reasoning, proofread for mistakes, and use appropriate formatting. Top 10 pitfalls: repeating the same information, using cliches or jargon, complaining about life circumstances, expressing extreme approaches to issues, highlighting money as a key motivator, underlying a minority status as the main reason to get accepted, submitting supplementary materials when they are not needed, displaying poor grammar/stylistics/punctuation, ignoring format requirements, using informal vocabulary, all of these issues can detract from your personal statement.
How to write a 250-word personal statement?
Mary S.
If the essay is limited to 250 words, you need to be careful with word count. Forget about long introductions, wordy detours, and overly-complex sentences. Instead, the sentences should be short, clear, and contain only relevant information. In this case, you should focus on strong argumentation rather than narrative.
Do universities actually read personal statements?
Mary S.
Some applicants believe that the admission officers won’t read the statement thoroughly. However a personal statement is an important part of the admission process. Very often, it can affect the final decision concerning the applicants. So, do not ignore the chance to impress the committee.

Best Tips for Writing a Personal Statement for College

  • If you want to be sure you are ready to write your best college personal statement, you should read applicants’ blogs or look for as many real essay examples as you can. Read as many of these texts as possible. It will increase the likelihood that you will be able to find your style of writing and expression.
  • You can show off as long as you have proof of your accomplishments. You should boast in moderation so as not to seem like a spoiled child. In addition, a little boasting will add self-esteem to your essay.
  • Create an exciting title for your essay. Admissions tutors will surely appreciate your creativity if you start with something unexpected and exciting. However, do not make a kind of clickbait out of your essay. The title must match the content.
  • Respect the word limit. Admissions tutors are unlikely to think you deserve more time than other applicants.
  • Get feedback from your friends. You can show your essay to trusted people because they can point out your mistakes or slightly correct your personal statement. It is essential to receive constructive criticism and respond to it.
  • Use brainstorming to explore any possible ideas. This exercise is best done in advance so that the applicant has time to change their mind and write another personal statement.

College Personal Statement Don’ts

In any essay, some tips will significantly improve your story. But our don’ts will talk about common mistakes that are easy to avoid.

  1. Never rewrite text from web sources.
    Undoubtedly, several other people have decided to copy the structure and type of narration, making a regular and trivial essay out of their personal statements for college. Moreover, admissions tutors are probably already fed up with such carbon copies. It is better to create your personal statement than use someone else’s.
  2. Do not retell other sources of information.
    When you apply for college, you submit a bunch of documents with information about you: your grades, achievements, and other essays. The trick is that each of these documents should remain unique and must not retell information from other papers. Create a unique story that tells about you as a person, showing your character and motivation.
  3. Do not let other people write your essay for you.
    The best option is to have a professional edit your text to improve it. Professional experts will help you find mistakes, enhance your essay, and give you some ideas. However, they do not have the right to write this essay for you. It is your responsibility because only you can create a truly worthwhile story.
  4. Do not wait until the last day.
    It is often easier to put off what you do not want to do in a long box and forget about it for a long time. On the last day, you can remember and catch on, and such a stressful rush is not going to benefit your personal statement for college. So even if you do not feel like doing it, it is worth taking time to think and write. It is different for every person. Maybe half a day is enough for you to realize and paint in all its glory what you think. However, in some cases, essays lead to a dead end. Plan your days so that you devote enough time to writing your college personal statement.
  5. Do not write about things that make the reader feel awkward or uncomfortable.
    Your essay should be positive and not touch on sensitive topics. You may have experienced some awful things. However, you should not write about this if you are sure it will not leave a good impression.
  6. Do not let yourself submit a raw essay.
    Before sending any documentation, it is worth checking and re-reading everything again. If you are not sure that you have made a grammatically and stylistically correct personal statement for college, then it is worth contacting some trusted people who could proofread your essay.
  7. No discrimination.
    Your essay will be considered vile and unpleasant if you make fun of people with special needs, diseases, etc. But mistakes should not be allowed concerning other topics. You should not insert black humor about women, men, children, and LGBTQ+ people into your essay. The racist language will not do you any favor, so try to avoid any negative language toward people.
  8. Do not act like a spoiled person.
    In the previous heading, we talked about showing off because you have achieved something and have some evidence. However, you must show some self-reflection in order not to be seen as a spoiled child.

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How to close your essay?

The end of your essay most often sums up everything you have said so far. Revisit your personal reasons for joining a particular college. Share your thoughts on why you are a good fit for this institution, both socially and academically. Or you can clarify what precisely you want to get out of college, and what contribution you can make to its development.

Perfect Statement Checklist

  • The essay reveals your true personality
  • Thoughts are expressed directly
  • There are no lexical errors in your essay
  • The tone is not dry or overly formal, but it does not go beyond friendly either.
  • The story is interesting and engaging
  • The text is free from grammatical errors
  • There are no unsuitable sentences
  • Several people close to you reviewed this essay and expressed their opinion.
  • Essay customized for a specific specialty
  • Your essay uses no hate speech


The personal statement is an essential part of your college application. Therefore, it is worth giving due time and effort to this. Remember to remove certain words (or whole sentences) from your text if they do not add meaning. The personal statement for college should best represent you as a person.

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Information prepared by EssayEdge editor
Robin Wilson
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