We all know the saying about never getting a second chance to make a first impression, and that’s absolutely true for college applications. The truth is, college applications are incredibly competitive; for a popular program, there might be dozens of applicants for each spot.
Don’t rely on your academic scores carrying you through, either. You’ll be competing with people who are just as smart and hardworking as you are. A solid academic background is what gets you into the race, but it isn’t going to win it for you. What will get you a place in the course of your dreams is you, as a person.
Keep It Personal
Admissions officers are busy people. They have hundreds, possibly thousands, of applications to review. That means yours has to grab their attention quickly, for all the right reasons. The best way to do that is with a hard-hitting personal statement. Here’s how to write one.
The one thing you absolutely have to work on until it’s perfect is the first sentence. Aim for a strong opening line that will grab the reader’s attention and start building a positive impression of you. Get that right, and you’re giving yourself a huge head start.
Write It Yourself
Well, how obvious is this? Not obvious enough, apparently. Scan any freelance writing site, and you’ll find dozens of people looking for writers to create personal statements for them. Getting a professional writer to do it seems tempting, but it’s a bad idea. Whatever they produce may be excellent, but it won’t be personal and your voice will be missing.
The same applies if your family gets too involved in helping you. It’s natural that parents will want to contribute, and they have a lot to offer — but they can take over sometimes, and again, your voice may get lost.
You do want to have someone look over your application before you send it. Another reader can spot spelling or grammar mistakes you may have missed. Make any changes yourself, though. That way, your personal statement will stay authentically yours.
Don’t Be Too Original
Your personal statement needs to stand out from the crowd, but there are good and bad ways of achieving that. You want to let the college know you’re an interesting and well-motivated person who will make a positive contribution to their student body. You don’t want to seem like an oddball who won’t fit in.
Aim for a statement that’s honest and enthusiastic, but steer clear of gimmicks. Quoting poetry is probably not the best way to use up your word allocation. The same goes for stories of any wacky antics from high school.
Read It Aloud
This is a great tip for anything you write, especially when it’s as important as your personal statement. Reading it out loud to yourself will highlight any clunky areas in a way that reading it silently won’t. If you don’t want to read it yourself, try using text-to-speech programs offered by Microsoft and Google.
When It’s Finished, Stop!
Once you feel it describes you honestly, positively and in an engaging way, put it down and stop fiddling with it. Over-editing, or going beyond what’s needed to fix any mistakes and make the final tweaks, won’t make it any better. What you’ll end up doing is losing the original character of what you wrote. Know when it’s done, and leave it at that.
Your personal statement is one of those things you need to get right. It pays to spend some time on it, so don’t leave it to the last minute. On the other hand, it’s something that any potential undergraduate is capable of doing. There’s no need to panic. Just write honestly and enthusiastically about yourself and let your personality do the talking.