The essay or personal statement is the most important part of the college admissions process. There are tens of thousands of high achieving students with 4.0 GPA’s, 1600 SAT scores, strong leadership and community service activities, and awards from regional and national competitions to boast.
But there’s only a limited number of spots. What do you think separates one student from another, especially at the highest echelon?
I’ll give the answer – it’s no secret. It’s the personal statement – without a doubt. It’s the one factor that will differentiate you from the tens of thousands of applicants vying for a limited number of spots.
I will begin by stating that the personal statement that you write will be highly dependent on who you are as a person and your background – including your ethnicity, demographics, socioeconomic background, extracurricular involvement, and even your gender. I take all of this into account when I work with my students to help draft a powerful personal statement.
There are certainly many pitfalls that I’ve seen students make. Some will write an essay that ends up being a laundry list of their accomplishments. Others will write an essay that simply doesn’t let them stand out. I’ll give you one example: an Asian American student who writes an essay simply about his/her intellectual curiosity about math/science without much else is literally shooting themselves in the leg.
Why? Because there’s tons of strong Asian American applicants who are strong in math/science.
The Ivy Leagues are looking for critical thinkers, and the essay needs to show your level of introspection and how you think about and approach the world around you – and how a particular experience shaped your perspective. This is key.
How you write the personal statement is just as important as what you write about. There’s a reason why some books are New York Times bestsellers year after year – it’s because of how the writing keeps the reader engaged and captures their attention while getting across a powerful message that resonates with the reader.
That’s what your personal statement should be – creative yet humble, one with flair yet introspective, and one that is deeply personal yet enables your personality to surface.
And if you can achieve that, you’ve got a winning personal statement – and a shot at the Ivy League.