• P.O. Box 2061 Princeton, New Jersey 08543
1.609.608.6258 Contact Us
April 1, 2021

How to Write a College Personal Statement


The primary purpose of the personal statement is to look beyond the data that is GPA, SAT/ACT and AP exams. The essay helps the student clarity their thoughts and goals, and assists the college learn about the student’s interests, personality and future potential. Recall that the admissions process is holistic, a review of the whole person, not just their “stats.” Colleges want more than just students to pay tuition and fill classrooms. They want to know if you share their values and their culture. They need to know the quality of your decisions, your character and whether you will contribute to the class, the campus and the institution? Or will you be a distraction, a non-asset or a liability?

In this blog, you will learn the purpose of the personal statement, its components, as well as the essence of presenting your personal story in your own voice, articulately and compellingly, yet without being arrogant or getting lost.


  • Brainstorming: Where to begin?
  • What are the colleges looking for?
  • Common Student Mistakes
  • Steps for Writing an Effective Personal Statement
  • Misconceptions


  • Brainstorming: Where to begin?


  • Best to start at the beginning! Paraphrasing from Sun Tzu the great, ancient Chinese military leader, “if you know yourself well and your enemy even better, have no fear of the outcome of any battle. Know yourself, and not your enemy, leads to one victory for every defeat. However, if you neither know yourself well, nor your enemy, certain defeat is your fate.


  • Therefore, to begin prudently, requires that you perform an introspection, a self-reflection and self-assessment, paying particular attention to your strengths, goals and vision. Having determined your trajectory and competitiveness, now you can search for colleges that complement your goals, and provide the appropriate resources: academically, intellectually and professionally, as well as personally.


  • Most importantly, you must contemplate the experiences and the people that drive you toward your life’s purpose and long-term vision.


  • What are Colleges looking for?


  • Are you self-aware of your weaknesses?
  • Do you have empathy towards others?
  • Do you care deeply about anything in the class and out?
  • Are you reaching your fullest potential, taking advantage of all opportunities?
  • Do you have a global perspective?
  • What compels you to apply to their school?
  • Can you explain away any concerns?
  • How well do you resolve conflict with peers or others?
  • Are your values and skill set consistent with their mission?
  • Is your community service genuine & authentic?
  • What is your personality and character?
  • Do you lead and possess emotional & social intelligence?
  • Do you show growth and progression?
  • What is the quality of your activities?
  • Do you make those around you better?
  • Are you self-confident, and have a sense of humor?
  • Are you a collaborator, leader and follower as the situation dictates?
  • Do you push yourself, yet have the capacity to do more?
  • Can you stand up to the pressures and demands of college?
  • What will you contribute to class, classmates and the institution?


  • Common Student Mistakes:


  • Unclear central theme
  • Overthink, Overcraft & Overwrite!
  • Make Excuses
  • Spelling & grammatical errors
  • Poor construction, lacks flow
  • Arrogant
  • Brag
  • Misrepresent the Truth
  • Uncompelling & Uninteresting
  • Telling and not showing
  • Investing Too Little time on the Project
  • Failure to align the essay with the interview, resume and letters of recommendation


  • Essential Steps to writing an Effective Personal Statement:


  • Explain what truly matters to you, why, and how you know!
  • What personal attributes make you well suited for college?
  • What are your future goals?
  • How are you a good fit?
  • Can you simply articulate your vision, genuinely and in your unique voice?


  • Essay misconceptions:


  • The essay will save you from weak academic performance
  • You can write the essay without a plan
  • You can write a thoughtful & compelling essay quickly
  • If it feels good. It must be good.
  • Thinking you need to write about something fantastic
  • You can write a great essay without feedback


  • Summary:


Please keep in mind that your personal statement gets you noticed by making it, yes, personal. It needs a central theme and several arguments that defend your claim. Finally, the essay must address the college’s priorities and concerns.


Content Reference: Harvard Career Service Center, Stacy Blackman Consulting, Princeton Career Services


Need help applying to college? Contact mrichardson@ivybound.com  or text Dr. Richardson at 609.608.6258.