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How to Finalize Your Personal Statement

By Mary, IvyWise College Admissions Counselor

The personal statement is a critical component of a strong and compelling college application that often becomes the most daunting to students. However, the experience doesn’t have to be stressful. I would argue that it can even be fun, as it’s an excellent opportunity for you to not only share who you are with the admissions officers reading your applications but also a chance for you to flex your writing skills—a competency that will grow in importance as you make your way through your college coursework and beyond.

For some students, the most challenging part of writing their essay is starting it. For others, however, the struggle is in knowing when their personal statement has been perfected and is ready to be submitted. Maybe you’re a blend of the two, but here we’re going to cover what happens when you’ve been working hard and feel like it might be time to hit submit soon! Below are a few important questions to ask yourself as you prepare to cross the T’s and dot the I’s of your personal statement.

What Is the Reader Learning About Me Through My Writing?

A common mistake students make when writing personal statements is sharing an experience in detail with the reader but failing to reflect on how the experience impacted them. Remember, the admissions officers reading your application are doing so at a quick pace. And while it may be clear to you how the event/experience you are sharing with the reader has impacted you, it rarely is apparent to the reader.

As you read your draft over, try considering not only what you are sharing with the reader but why you are sharing it. How has what you have shared impacted you? Your intellectual growth, your curiosity, the way you walk through the world? Writing a personal statement requires you to be thoughtful and reflective. Being vulnerable can be challenging, but your personal statement is an opportunity to provide admissions officers with a more complete picture of who you are beyond grades and achievements.

Is this Essay Sharing New Information About Me? 

While it can be tempting to use your personal statement as an opportunity to share more about your extracurricular and/or academic achievements, it’s a lost opportunity when applicants do only that and essentially repeat information that they have already successfully shared with an admissions officer in the activities section of the Common Application, for example.

While it can strengthen your response to highlight and weave in some of your accomplishments to your personal statement where appropriate, it’s a fine line to walk. Try taking a step back from your draft to read it objectively. Consider if the information you are sharing is redundant, and if so, how you can make changes to make sure you’re using this space as wisely as possible.

It’s ok to use this space to expand on an experience of yours that is shared in brief, but you want to be sure to avoid submitting a personal statement that is simply a laundry list of your accomplishments.

Should I Ask Someone Else to Take a Look at It?

Put simply, yes! At this point, you’ve put hours and days into getting this essay right where you want it, and while it can be tempting to hit submit, wait just a bit longer before you do so.

It’s easy to have blind spots after spending so much time on writing and considering this response. Another set of eyes can prove not only instrumental in proofreading your spelling and grammar (majorly important!), but it can also help to make you aware of the parts of your essay that may feel unclear, choppy, and/or distracting to the reader.

When asking for feedback, be sure to ask someone you know will give you their honest opinion and, if possible, is a strong writer themselves. This step is not a suggestion to crowdsource feedback from just anyone. Just as you have thoughtfully written this essay, it’s important to ask someone who will thoughtfully read it over as well.

As you wrap up your personal statement and ask yourself the questions noted above, remember to enjoy the process and that it’s ok (encouraged, even) to revise your essay until your finished product feels like the most authentic representation of you through your writing!

At IvyWise, our team of counselors works with students to ensure that their experience creating and finalizing their personal statement is an enjoyable and strategic one—leading to the submission of compelling, well-written, and unique essays for all of the students we work with.

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