College Personal Essay Checklist

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The personal statement and other essays and short answer questions, in conjunction with recommendations, extracurricular activities, and other qualitative application elements, can provide admissions committees with context and details about students that can’t be found anywhere else in the application.

While it’s important to put considerable effort into all college application components, essays are often the finishing touch and should be treated with great care and consideration.

While the main Common Application essay uses predetermined prompts, they’re broad enough that students can pretty much write about whatever they want, as long as it relates back to their chosen essay question.

Why the Personal Statement Is Important When students think about what it takes to get into college, the first thing that usually comes to mind is good grades and test scores.

The essay or personal statement, when used properly, can give admissions officers additional insight into who a student is as a person, what motivates him or her, and, more practically, how that student communicates and follows directions.

An amazing personal statement isn’t going to guarantee a spot in the freshman class, but it can positively impact a student’s application, while a poor personal statement can, along with other elements, really hurt a student’s chances of gaining admission.Just like with anything else, you get better with practice.Write often, whether it’s in a journal, blog, or other outlet, as a way to improve and evolve your writing skills. Get a head start on your personal statement by brainstorming topics and writing your first draft during the summer before the school year starts.While those “hard factors” are critical, holistic review also takes into account “soft factors,” or the application elements that aren’t so easily quantified, like essays, recommendations, extracurricular activities, and more.The essay is the most important soft factor that colleges consider, according to NACAC’s most recent State of College Admissions report.Take time to think about what’s important to you, what people or events have shaped you, and what you think is interesting about yourself.Don’t just choose the most obvious topic, like the soccer team captain writing about winning the championship game.Instead, think of events, themes, experiences, and more that are somewhat unique to you and how they’ve impacted you.3. Your essay should sound like you wrote it, so don’t overload it with long vocabulary words, complex sentence structure, or a lofty tone if that’s not how you normally write or speak.That being said, don’t be afraid to stretch your writing skills.Here are some college application essay dos and don’ts for students to keep in mind as they complete their applications this fall.DON’T use the personal statement essay to repeat your resume. The personal statement is your opportunity to reveal something about yourself that can’t be found anywhere else in your application – use it!

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