How to Write a Compelling Personal Statement: Hidden Pitfalls

Your personal statement may be one of the most important pieces of writing you will ever have to undertake. It gives you the opportunity to stand apart from hundreds of other college applicants by showing off your personality as well as writing ability. Despite the fact that it is usually an open essay, many students struggle to get down all they want to say and unfortunately turn in a less than impressive piece of writing that does more harm than good. Here are some hidden pitfalls you should absolutely avoid when writing your personal statement:

Lying or exaggerating the truth:

College admissions committee members are trained to spot instances of lying and exaggeration. There is absolutely no room (or reason) to try either of these when you are clearly asked to write a truthful statement about yourself. Don’t fall for the belief that tall tales will make you seem that much more interesting to the committee. Lies will hurt you tremendously as it will bring your ethics and integrity into question, hardly what you want to do when trying to make a good impression.

Not answering the essay prompt:

If your college essay prompt has multiple parts, then make sure you answer each part. Many students feel they can focus on just one or two major parts of a prompt and downplay other parts of their essay. This is a terrible idea. A great rule of thumb is to split your essay into equal parts, where each part answers a specific piece of the essay prompt. And don’t forget to provide examples when your prompt tells you to.

Not staying within guidelines:

Most of the time students struggle to reach a minimum word count when it comes to writing regular essays. But when it comes to personal statements the opposite is true, and students have a harder time staying within the word limit. Committee members will not give you extra points for going over the limit; in fact, they may even take this as sign of not being able to listen to directions. Be sure you don’t give your reader a reason to know off points by not staying within the guidelines.

Repeating what is already in your application:

A personal statement is not the place to waste words. This means not repeating information that you have already communicated in your application. Don’t spend time talking about your grades or extra activities unless your essay prompt asks you to do so. And from years of experience, we can certainly say that this is rarely the case.

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