StudentWithDiplomaThe personal statement is the portion of your college application that allows you to show admissions officers who you are – beyond your test scores and grades. You need not try to include every aspect of yourself or whole life story into this short space. Rather, it is a glimpse of your individuality. The personal statement may reflect your values or something that matters to you. It is not meant to be a comprehensive profile. It is a snapshot of you in this moment.


There are no “right” or advisable topics. One student may use all 650 words to describe a single moment that altered his/her outlook in some way. Another may tell a personally defining story, such as reading Plato and learning to ques­tion everything, or witnessing a despised boss suddenly become ill and developing compassion for him. When choosing a topic, you should aim for something that is close to your heart and that will provide an honest reflection of who you are and what you stand for. It need not be a finished story – you can still be mys­tified by a recent discovery or experience, and you can express in your essay the fact that you are still working out what it means to you.


One single moment in your experience can serve as a springboard for a great essay. It can be a moment that is trivial that led to a greater discovery. If there is a moment that sticks out in your mind for some reason, there may be substance worth exploring. There is probably a good reason that it is lingering. It can be as simple as an incident you observed on the street recently that made an impact on you, or a moment you received news that changed your life in some way. A defining moment can be a split second decision that you now regret. This is fodder for a really interesting essay – it takes humility and maturity to admit a mistake, and the personal process of forming your values can be both enlightening and revealing.


You want to emphasize your uniqueness. You don’t have to have made a scientific discovery or won a tennis championship. It is not necessarily about fancy accolades. It’s about showing what you genuinely care about or have observed or a way in which you have altered your perspective on an issue that is important to you. You should write from the heart rather than deliberately trying to sound clever.

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