It’s always fun to go back and reread personal statements that I evaluated as an Admissions Officer for the University of Chicago. Certain essays still tug at me and make me smile knowing I selected the “ADMIT” button for that person. Some essays just have you rooting for a student to be admitted from the very start – here, I’ve outlined some tips to help you write a fantastic personal statement, so you can stand out and get into the school of your choice.
In all of my favorite essays, the student writes with candor and ease which makes me feel like they're just sharing a genuine slice of their life with me. It doesn’t feel like their agenda is forced or to impress me; rather, they strive to express their truth or highlight their curiosity and wonder about the world around them. Many start with an anecdote or a story and then elaborate on its significance. They weave a narrative to show their character arc: going from being unenlightened to enlightened or unconvinced to convinced. Often, there is a duality to the story that, by the end, shows that they are prepared for more transformative moments like this one. They are truly ready to learn, grow, and be changed by the college experience.
Another thing that my favorite personal statements have in common is a fresh quality that only comes from meaningful and organic interaction with the prompt. I know that sitting down to write a personal statement can be extremely intimidating! So here's a tip: imagine the essay prompt as something a nice stranger next to you on a flight might ask you. Your goal is to humor them with a story from your life that is meaningful to you. In other words, keep a lightness in your heart as you write. This can be showcased through a variety of sentence structures. You can use complicated sentences and simple sentences or write about funny moments and introspective moments. Show off your intellect and sense of humor! Perhaps most importantly, this is NOT an essay you’re recycling from a class in high school. Trust me, we can tell!
And lastly, write what YOU want to write about. NOT what your teacher, counselor, or parents tell you you should write about. Barring anything inappropriate or risque, trust that you know yourself well enough to know what you should write about to showcase your truest self. So much of college is about following what is right for you and no one else. You should start practicing this now with the personal statement.
That’s it. The personal essays that I still remember years later all were letting me in on the “real them.” At the end of the day, the personal statement is just one piece that admissions officers like me consider in the application. But trust me when I say, a statement that made me laugh, cry, or think deeply about something will always be one I will advocate for in the end if it comes down to a split decision.
It’s also important to consider if you as an individual will fit, be happy, and thrive in the culture and environment of the school you’re applying to. For help with researching schools that are your best fit, look out for the next blog post. Be sure to tune in because this is an IMPORTANT one. Until then, good luck!
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Professor “T” is a former visiting professor at Reed College, a former University of Chicago Admissions Officer, and a current Admissions Officer for another prestigious university that can’t be revealed (it’s one you all love!).
Want a more personalized plan to get into the college of your dreams? We have worked with her and other admissions officers to put together a special package to help you gain admission into the school of your desire! Call or email us, and we can send you more details to get started for the 2023-2024 college season now!
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