Writing, Thinking, & Winning

How to Write a Personal Statement for College

Are you wondering how to write a personal statement for college? Together we’ll transform your personal statement from a ghastly task into a lively declaration. I’ll show you how to approach your personal statement specifically and your writing generally. As a top college essay tutor, I’m offering this personal statement help absolutely free. If you then want personalized online writing tutoring, you can sign up on this page. This is the final major post in my three-part series on personal statement writing. Like the prior two posts, this final post contains a video and article that complement one another. Learn and enjoy!



You should generate a plethora of ideas about yourself and then organize those ideas before you ever start writing. How many descriptors can you come up with to describe yourself accurately? How many stories can you remember that capture your character or personality?

When you’re getting started, follow these practical steps: First, jot down an abundance of ideas about yourself. Next, determine which of those ideas you want to use in a particular essay. Then, devise a rough outline for your piece that charts the sequence in which each of those ideas will occur.

Now your preparation pays off. Since you’ve outlined your piece, you no longer need to write your piece in sequential order. You can leave that important, potentially daunting opening paragraph for later. Skip the intro and write the body of your piece. Once you finish the body, then swing back and grapple with the intro. This way, you can far more easily evaluate how the intro needs to lead into the body of your piece…because you’ll have the body already written! 🙂


Because you’ve trusted me to teach you how to write a personal statement for college, I need to tell you that it’s imperative that you write about topics that are actually meaningful to you. “I want to write about Topic W, but admissions counselors would probably prefer Topic Z,” is a recipe for rejection. Your essay will be dull for the admissions counselor to read because it was dull for you to write. Seriously, it truly shows in a piece. You can feel it in the very cadences of the sentences. Write about something you actually care about if you want an acceptance rather than a rejection.

Besides, even if a college did accept you based on a personally meaningless essay, you’re starting your adult life (or at least what should be your adult life) on the wrong foot. Do you want your first step into adulthood to be defined by your compromising your integrity of person to achieve some end? Do you really want that to be your first step?

Let me tell you something.

Once you start going down that road of compromise, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from worse and worse compromises, because you’ve thrown out that which was absolute. If you compromise your sense of integrity for even one thing, it’s no longer integrity: it’s a self-delusion of integrity.

And it’s terribly difficult to win back your integrity.

I’ve watched the compromise of integrity swallow people whole right in front of me in my life. I know several people who likely can’t consider who they once were in terms of integrity, because the contrast between that person and whom they’ve become through compromise would devastate them if they sincerely confronted it.

Yet they still can’t escape: it haunts them under the surface. They drown it out with constant distractions and various addictions. And those distractions and addictions themselves worsen and worsen as time goes by, because guilt, when not atoned for, screams ever louder and louder.

The compromise of your integrity is a sickening and darkening road for you to take. Don’t start down that road now. Don’t start down that road later.

Never start down that road.


You should dive deep to dredge up who you are when you’re going to write a personal statement. This is worthwhile to do for the sake of not only your personal statement’s richness, but also your self-awareness. It is absolutely vital for you to know who you are in this life. Any lesser knowledge will lead to your steady annihilation, because you won’t have any idea what it is that you need to defend and to cultivate and to prune. Know the dimensions and contents and needs of your figurative garden, if you will. To fail to know those things is to invite the world to trample all over the bed of soil that the LORD has lent you.


“I want to teach you writing because I love writing.”

Oh, okay. Here’s a quick question: why should I care?


Write as if your life depends on it—because it does.

Your personal statement will earn you either an acceptance or a rejection from any given college. (The wait list really is just a temporary state of vacillation by the school.) Based on your acceptances and rejections, you’ll choose to attend one particular college or university. That particular school will boast a particular set and caliber of people. They’ll be the people who are also attending, working at, or partnering with your school.

You’ll befriend many of those people whose career trajectories or statuses align with your own ambitions in a particular field. As time passes, those people you’ve befriended will gain more connections and have more opportunities in your career field. Thus, through your connection to those people, you may be able to accelerate your career growth. You’ll potentially be able to leapfrog over the years of career stagnancy that awaits most new college graduates. Even if you don’t speed up your career, you’ll at least position yourself within the career field that matters to you.

If you lack connections in the workforce sector that focuses on your field of study, your first job likely will be only peripherally related to your field of study. That’s a lot of money to spend on college only to start off on the wrong foot directly after college… During college, if you fail to strategize and to follow your strategy, you’ll earn yourself a post-college pencil-pusher job.

There is nothing wrong with more menial jobs and the people who work in those jobs. There is everything wrong with your paying tens of thousands of dollars in order to land such a job.

Wise up and treat your personal statement like the huge catalyst that it is. Regardless of how you treat it, your personal statement will dramatically affect the trajectory of the rest of your life. Who you will meet, where you will be, and what opportunities you will have. Bend all your will on writing a vibrant personal statement.


This isn’t the formulaic essay that you write in school, where the first paragraph has a strong thesis, and the body paragraphs support that strong thesis, and the final paragraph restates that strong thesis. This is creative writing.

Structure is just as vital in creative writing, but here you make the structure fit the needs of your piece. In creative writing you have some sort of focus. You want to capture a particular aesthetic. Or you want to make the reader feel a particular feeling. Maybe you want to convey some insight to the reader. Whatever your objective is, you want to mold the entire piece around that objective. And it can be more than one objective: the best writers handle many different objectives in each of their pieces.

For instance, if you really want to draw your reader’s attention to a particular sentence in your piece, but that sentence is buried in the middle of a paragraph, it would likely be a good move to break that paragraph apart. The sentence in question could then be positioned at the end of the first new paragraph or the start of the second new paragraph. In either position, that sentence will then be given more punch, which is what you wanted!

That’s just one small example of how you should be thinking while you write a creative piece.

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Hey! We’re halfway into How to Write a Personal Statement for College. Are you learning a huge amount of helpful tips? I hope so! If so, please share this article with others! 🙂

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Be honest about who you are. For example, don’t make up stories about being a leader when you haven’t conducted yourself as a leader.

In other words, don’t lie.

“People think that a liar gains a victory over his victim. What I’ve learned is that a lie is an act of self-abdication, because one surrenders one’s reality to the person to whom one lies, making that person one’s master, condemning oneself from then on to faking the sort of reality that person’s view requires to be faked…”

― Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged

You can’t hide who you really are forever. The more things you have to hide, the harder and harder it gets to keep hiding all of those things. And one lie naturally begets another.

I promise you: your lies will catch up to you.

So tell the truth.


If you’re writing about a challenge that you overcame, make sure that whoever is reading your story cares by following the CARES© writing method. The essence of this writing method is nothing new. However, I’ve framed the writing method in what I think is the best sequence for you to follow. And I made it into a memorable acronym at that!

  1. Describe the—C—circumstance. What was the difficulty that you faced? Give the context; set the stage; make sense of what you’re talking about.
  2. Convey what—A—action or actions you took. How did you respond to the difficulty? What were the particular choices that you made?
  3. Tell what the—R—result of your action was. What outcome did your chosen response lead to?
  4. Engage in an—E—evaluation of your action and its result. Why did you choose that response to the circumstance? Why did your action bring about the result that it did?
  5. Display any—S—shift in your personhood because of the story that you’ve thus far described. How have you changed for the better based on the experience? Would you choose the same response to the circumstance again, or would you do something differently? What aspects of the overall experience have changed the way or manner in which you’ll approach similar circumstances?

The whole purpose of using this methodology is to make sure that your story contains tension and that it results in some meaningful change that justifies its being told in the first place. Nobody CARES© about a story that lacks tension and that leads nowhere new.


Start and end your essay on the strongest notes! Start strong so your essay isn’t dead on arrival. A dull opening will rapidly land your essay in the pile of denials. End strong so your essay leaves no doubt in the admissions counselor’s mind that you are a perfect fit for the university. A fizzling ending will discredit all the writing that preceded it.


When you’re going to write with vulnerable honesty, show your faults strategically, not haphazardly. Vulnerable honesty is great, because it shows that you’re real. But you don’t want to come off as someone who lacks discretion. No one wants gossipy flagellants walking around the university wailing unseemly woes about themselves and others.


Start this process as soon as possible—like, right after you finish reading this article…or, better yet, before you even move on! Right now, take 5 minutes: write down as many self-descriptors and synopses of stories from your life that you can.

90% of you will make an excuse for that directive. The 10% of you who eschew excuses are the ones who are destining themselves to get ahead in life. It isn’t hard. If you were going to finish reading this article immediately, you have the time. Remember: your life depends on your personal statement—its ripple effect is massive! 5 minutes to write self-descriptors and synopses of personal stories: 3, 2, 1, go!


Write with the most eloquent version of your genuine voice. How can you know if you’re doing this? You make sure to set the proper tone for how you’ll articulate yourself whenever you’re about to write. Do so by imagining the following scenario that I made up for you! 🙂

You appear—POP!—at an all-day event, some conference about something in which you’re really, really invested. It’s the midday luncheon. You’re seated at a round table of amiable strangers. You’re all dressed in business casual attire—not too uptight, but also not too loosey-goosey.

At your table, there’s a person who’s leading the conversation. You want to impress this person, because this person has a lot to teach you about the conference’s subject. Another occupant at the table is explaining something to the conversation leader in a muddled, timid, tactless, and stilted way. The conversation leader replies, “All right…I’m not too sure about that, but good luck.” Then the conversation leader turns toward you and asks, “So, what’s your story?”

Oh! Well now…we already knew that the conversation leader and you share a common interestthe subject of the conference. Now we’ve learned that the conversation leader is someone who likes organized, confident, appropriate, and relaxed stories.

You remember that the conversation leader can seriously advance you in the subject about which you both care.

You open your mouth.

What do you say?

If you imagine that scenario before you write, you’ll capture the simultaneously eloquent and genuine tone that you need.

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That, ladies and gentlemen, is how to write a personal statement for college! Check out my next post, which follows up with 8 tips for writing in general. Alternatively, those 8 tips are included in the above video. I put those general tips in a separate post so that I wouldn’t have to oversaturate this one, which is about how to write a personal statement for college, with a particular phrase that would maximize its search engine optimization… 😉

Writing, Thinking, & Winning

College Personal Statement Examples? No Need!

Are you about to scour the internet for the best college personal statement examples? Don’t waste your time: my video and article give you exactly what you’re looking for in the first place! What you really want to know is how to identify the 6 recurring prompt types and how to respond to each one accordingly.

Your life is about to get a whole lot easier. After you learn from this post, you’ll be able to scan any specific prompt and to identify which recurring prompt type is below its surface. Then all you’ll need to do is follow the corresponding college personal statement template that I give you. Hence, you can skip deciphering tons of college personal statement examples in order to determine what made them successful. I’m telling you what made them successful right here!

I’ve boiled everything down for you so that you’ll know the criteria to meet for any specific prompt. So forget the daunting task of examining a million and one different college personal statement examples. Let that idea go! All you have to do is learn from this article.

You’re welcome, my friend! And don’t worry: I’ll remind you about how much time I’m saving you on that front throughout the article.

[The above video is the second in a three-part series. The below article partners with the video by adding extensive and candid supplemental material that you won’t find anywhere else. Here are the concise notes for the entire series on personal statements: Personal Statements Guide. Regardless of the way or ways in which you choose to learn, enjoy!]


1.  The Difficulty Prompt


You can identify the Difficulty Prompt under the surface of a specific prompt that you’re responding to when that specific prompt asks you about a difficult time in your life, an adversity in your life, some sort of challenge in your life, or a failure in your life. The prompt will also ask you about how it was that you responded to that trial. Whatever the focus of a specific prompt is, if a trial and your response to that trial is the prompt’s main essence, then you, sonny-boy or daughtery-girl, are looking at the Difficulty Prompt.


The essence of any successful college personal statement examples that you could find in regards to this prompt type will have several things in common. They’ll each demonstrate that their writer is a person who can handle pressure; who can use his or her brain to solve problems that don’t have obvious, correct answers; and—if applicable to the prompt—who can humbly accept and wisely learn from mistakes.

The best way to ensure that you’ll demonstrate those characteristics about yourself is to follow a pattern of storytelling that shows that you’re someone who cares: the CARES© method. The gist of this methodology is nothing new, but I’ve framed it in a way that I think best allows for students to stand out when they use it (and made it into my own memorable acronym at that!).

  1. Describe the—C—circumstance. What was the difficulty that you faced? Give the context; set the stage; make sense of what you’re taking about.
  2. Convey what—A—action or actions you took. How did you respond to the difficulty? What were the particular choices that you made?
  3. Tell what the—R—result of your action was. What outcome did your chosen response result in?
  4. Engage in an—E—evaluation of your action and its result. Why did you choose that response to the circumstance? Why did your action bring about the result that it did?
  5. Display any—S—shift in your personhood because of the story that you’ve thus far described. How have you changed for the better based on the experience? Would you choose the same response to the circumstance again, or would you do something differently? What aspects of the overall experience have changed the way or manner in which you’ll approach similar circumstances?

The whole purpose of using this methodology is to make sure that your story contains tension and that it results in some meaningful change that justifies its being told in the first place. Nobody CARES© about a story that lacks tension and that leads nowhere new.

2.  The Beliefs Prompt


You can identify the Beliefs Prompt under the surface of a specific prompt that you’re responding to when that specific prompt asks you to describe a time in your life either where someone challenged your beliefs or where you for whatever reason questioned your beliefs, how you responded to the situation, and whether you maintained or altered your beliefs in the end and why.


Here, admissions counselors want you to demonstrate that you’re a person who values truth above all else, that you’re a person who demonstrates a first-rate intelligence (which I’m about to explicate), and that you’re a person who lives by a standard of internal integrity.

The following quote succinctly and perfectly describes what a first-rate intelligence is.

[T]he test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

― F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby

If someone can pass such tests consistently, that person possesses a first-rate intelligence. Colleges want to see that you have a first-rate intelligence because a first-rate intelligence is rare. First-rate intelligences have always been rare. That’s because it has always been very difficult to entertain ideas that promote possibilities about reality with which you (and others) are uncomfortable. Ostensibly, that’s the sort of students colleges should want.

So, that’s the gist of the Beliefs Prompt and what its premise is, and you now can answer it based on that format if you choose to do so.

However, I’d recommend that you be very wary of this prompt. You might look at the prior paragraph and say, “That seems like a good way to stand out.” But I caution you: rarely will real first-rate intelligences be strategic to show in this context…

Nowadays, many (most?) colleges and universities spend their time upholding a pathetically fragile paradigm of modern ideas on their campuses. Admissions counselors are the gatekeepers of the campus, so have no doubt that they’ll reject any “dangerous” entity. They’re like the white blood cells congregated around a cut, if you will. If your Beliefs Prompt answer has teeth, they’ll likely fear your presence, and reject you. Yet, if it’s toothless, they’ll likely be unmoved, and reject you.

I would say that unless your essay is about beliefs concerning your own character, you should avoid this prompt type. No religion. No politics. Nothing like that. An admissions counselor might read this and say, “That’s not true: we love a diversity of beliefs!” Correction: they like a diversity of sterilized beliefs. If your beliefs lead you to contradict the beliefs of others, your beliefs don’t make the cut. Judge by deeds not claims.

Far more often than not, the Beliefs Prompt merely pays lip-service to an intellectual rigor that was once sought by universities. Now, however, in tragically ironic fashion, that level of intellectual rigor needs to be smuggled into many campuses.

Avoid the Beliefs Prompt except for beliefs with which anyone can agree…which should probably be avoided, because they’re dull.

3. The Future Prompt


You can identify the Future Prompt under the surface of a specific prompt that you’re responding to when that specific prompt asks you to name a problem that you wish you could solve and, often, how you or others could go about solving that problem.

The problem to be solved might be framed in the context of goals that you have (where the problem is that you want to be at Point B, but you’re currently at Point A), issues that need to be fixed (where the problem is that something doesn’t meet a standard that it should be meeting), or improvements that could be made (where the problem is that something is all right but could be made even better than it is now).

Hence, I’ve found that the specific prompts for this particular foundational prompt type can have a bit more nuance to them compared to the specific prompts associated with some of the other foundational prompt types. That being said, let me say again (Now there’s an interesting turn of phrase, no?) that all you need to be able to do is identify these foundational prompt types underneath the specifics of any prompts, and then, based on the guidance I’m giving you, you’ll know exactly how to effectively construct the foundation to your response to that specific prompt.

No need to start flipping willy-nilly through college personal statement examples though! Just remember that, at the most fundamental level, a specific prompt that asks you about some problem to be solved in the future means that its the Future Prompt underneath the specifics.


In regards to the Future Prompt, admissions counselors want you to demonstrate that you’re a person who aspires to provide solutions to needs in the world, that you’re a person who can accurately and fully identify a need from its symptoms to its causes, and that you’re a person who can strategize how he or she should approach the overall endeavor of providing a solution for that need.

You can answer using the CARES© method, except now you’ll do so in the context of looking forward. So the methodology will be tempered by that reality and will also be rearranged because of it. Thus, our new acronym: CREAS©. She’s ugly, but she’s useful.

  1. Describe the—C—circumstance that you want to see changed and why you want to see it changed.
  2. Convey the—R—result that you want to see come to fruition by the changing of the circumstance.
  3. Show that and how you—E—evaluate the circumstance, the differences between its current state and its projected end state.
  4. Delineate the concrete—A—action that’ll be needed to shift the circumstance from its current state to that projected end state.
  5. State any—S—shift in your thinking that this overall process has caused. Do you now think about this problem in a different way? Will you now act differently in your own life based on what it’ll take to make changes to the future?

So, that’s how you can CREAS©. Now don’t raise your eyebrows and crease your forehead at me… I know it’s a weaker acronym than CARES©. But it’s in the right order for discussing the future, and that’s what matters most! By the way, isn’t it so nice that your future doesn’t include decoding slews of college personal statement examples? 😀

4.  The Definition Prompt


You can identify the Definition Prompt under the surface of a specific prompt that you’re responding to when that specific prompt asks you to define yourself in one way or another. It could be asking you about your interests, what activities you engage in, what talents you have, what your background is, or what identity you ascribe to yourself. You’re being asked to show some attribute about your life that makes you unique.


If you answer a Definition Prompt, admissions counselors want for you to demonstrate that you’re a person who possesses a zeal for some figurative well of inspiration from which you can constantly draw and thereby become a fuller person over time. They’re looking for a sign that you have something in your life that provides constant value to you. Something that you can always rely on. Something that you can go back to again and again in order to make yourself a fuller person.

This is another prompt of which I’m wary. Why? Because it’s very easy with this prompt for you to end up focusing on the wrong things. You want to focus on your character. You don’t want to focus on your traits. Focusing on your character will earn you an acceptance. Focusing on your traits, a rejection.

You first should agonize to write about your character—such as your capacity for leadership, your resilience, your integrity, your vulnerable honesty, and your passion—and then, only if it’s too difficult to write about your character, should you resort to writing about your personality, your quirks, and other traits over which you have little to no control.

Why do I urge you to do this?

Because there’s a chasm of difference between the person who says, “I became,” and the person who says, “I’ve always been.” The first is a story. The second is trivia. Becoming is inspiring and engaging for whoever learns about it, because it pulses with universal applicability. Always having been is flat and lifeless to whoever learns of it, because oftentimes it stinks of a coddled ego. It’s the emphatic, “Oh, that’s great!” versus the cloying, “Oh…that’s great…”

I have more to say on that in the above video. But, suffice it to say, when answering the Definition Prompt, write about your character, not mere traits.

5.  The Commitment Prompt


You can identify the Commitment Prompt when a prompt questions whether or not you’re sincerely interested in a given school. It’s very easy to identify, to the point where, if you can’t identify this type of prompt, you shouldn’t be applying to college…but, if you can’t identify this prompt type, you wouldn’t know that you can’t identify it, so you wouldn’t know that you shouldn’t apply to college…a catch-22! That might take you a second to figure out. At least you don’t need to figure out on your own what countless college personal statement examples have in common.


Admissions counselors want you to demonstrate that you’re a person who is genuinely motivated to attend their college or university.

This situation is analogous to how a man and a woman should properly date. And I say properly to denote that it’s this form of dating that won’t leave you emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. Don’t be surprised that I’m about to contradict everything the world is incessantly and cruelly telling you. There’s a massive war for your mind right now. If you don’t know that, you’re losing the battle.

When a man goes on a first date with a woman, he might compliment her on her smile. On her eyes, her hair, her clothes, her demeanor, her interests. On other equivalent superficial things. (Now, the man might be making these compliments guilefully, or he might indeed be making these compliments sincerely, or he might even be making these compliments self-deceivingly, but, whatever is the case, that’s not the issue here.).

If the woman hasn’t learned how to value herself, the man’s superficial compliments could be enough for her to give an undeserved amount of trust to that man. Young women, beware of this, despite your rarely, if ever, being told to beware of this.

However, if that woman has learned how to value herself, such superficial first-date-type compliments will be only niceties that she appreciates. They’ll hardly win the man her cherished, sacred trust—as it should be. To earn such a woman’s trust, the man will have to spend a lot more time with her. He’ll do this so he hopefully can learn the actual nuances of who she is. Then, again hopefully, he’ll appreciate those actual nuances. Finally, once more hopefully, he’ll express his appreciation for her actual nuances in ways that resonate with her as truthful. And he’ll thereby earn her cherished, sacred trust.

The same concepts apply to your answer to the Commitment Prompt. Admissions counselors are like a woman who knows her own value. They’re protecting that which is of supreme value to them, and they trust a person with that supreme value only when that person has completely earned their trust.

Don’t scan the school’s website and then pepper into your essay facts that you copied and then merely reworded. That will speed your application to the rejection pile. You have to actually spend time studying and thinking about the school. Then convey that you’ve done so in a genuine way that rings true to the admissions counselor’s figurative ear.

6.  The Creative Prompt


You can identify the Creative Prompt because it asks you to respond with an essay that has a focus of your choosing. It’s completely open-ended: the topic of your essay is completely up to you. Hence, this prompt is a risky one, but it also can be a very rewarding one!


Let me first say that if you just submit any old essay that you wrote for English class for the Creative Prompt, you’re acting incredibly foolishly. Remember, you’re not looking for the easy way out of writing your personal statement: you’re looking to write the absolute best personal statement that you possibly can. Don’t be a sluggard. Don’t disregard the high stakes and high potential of the Creative Prompt.

So, how should you answer it, then?

I think the best way to explain how to answer the Creative Prompt is first to show you what it is that you’re really being asked to show about yourself in all of the different prompt types. What question does every college admissions counselor want you to answer for them, regardless of whichever prompt you’re responding to? What question gets answered by every one of the successful college personal statement examples that you don’t have to analyze because you found this article? 😉

“Are you a good neighbor?”

What do I mean by that? I mean that you contribute value to the world in one way or another. You do things that make other people’s lives better. They want to see that you’re not a self-absorbed deadbeat who isn’t really going to contribute anything to their college or university. They want to make sure that if you come you’re going to be worthwhile to have around.

  • The Difficulty Prompt asks if you’re a good neighbor in terms of if you’re someone who’s reliable, who other people can lean on, and who can be trusted to take care of himself or herself.
  • The Beliefs Prompt asks if you’re a good neighbor in terms of if you’re somebody who isn’t completely outrageous to be around because you can accept that other people have different ideas and beliefs.
  • The Future Prompt asks if you’re a good neighbor in terms of if you’re somebody that looks forward to making the world around himself or herself a better place.
  • The Definition Prompt asks if you’re a good neighbor in terms of if you define yourself by something that constantly adds value to you as a person and thereby makes you a better person to be around.
  • The Commitment Prompt asks if you’re a good neighbor in terms of if you actually even care about the community that you’re trying to join.

So the Creative Prompt is of course also asking whether you’re a good neighbor, whether you’re a worthwhile person to have around. However, the Creative Prompt boasts a very intriguing difference…

All the criteria of the above prompts ask you to demonstrate that you’re a good neighbor explicitly. Yet the Creative Prompt lets you show you’re a good neighbor not just explicitly but also implicitly.

What do I mean by showing that you’re a good neighbor implicitly?

I mean that with the Creative Prompt you can do something really unique. Here, you can write an essay that doesn’t show a clear, explicit story about how you’re a useful person. With the Creative Prompt, you can make admissions counselors say, “Wow, that’s really meaningful!” or, “Wow, that’s really interesting!” By doing so, you’ll implicitly demonstrate that you’re a meaningful or interesting person to have around. If admissions counselors read something that’s really powerful or influential or intriguing, it has a big effect on them.

And that big effect implicitly shows that you’re somebody who’s worthwhile to have around, for one reason or another.

If you’re uncertain what it means for you to be a good neighbor, I encourage you to read Luke chapter 10, verses 25-37.


Those are the recurring types of prompts you will see over and over and over again. Now you know how to identify any of those prompt types below the specifics of whatever prompt you’re facing: you have “x-ray vision.” And now you know how to answer each of those prompt types effectively based on what college admissions counselors are looking for you to show them.

Make sure to check out the next post: “How to Write a Personal Statement for College.”

By the way, can you see how much time I just saved you? Could you imagine trying to discern all this information by yourself? How many college personal statement examples would you have had to analyze before you reached these insights? Don’t worry: I got you! 🙂 You’re quite welcome. Now imagine how much I could help you if I was your writing tutor! Your parents can sign you up for lessons with me here.

Please scratch my back back. Share this article. Subscribe to my YouTube channel. Like and share the above video on YouTube. Email me so I can keep you up-to-date with new, extremely valuable content. Don’t be a stranger, my friend!

Thank you for learning with I Teach Winners LLC. 🙂

Writing, Thinking, & Winning

What Is a Personal Statement for College?

Are you asking yourself, “What is a personal statement for college?” As a top college essay tutor, I just might be able to answer that question for you. Personal statement writing is a big deal. In fact, it’s such a big deal that it can and will have dramatic effects on the rest of your life. In this first video in a three-part series I’ve created, we’ll discuss the basics about personal statements, and then we’ll delineate the process that you should follow to complete your personal statement and your supplemental essays effectively.

Here are the full notes for the entire series on personal statements: Personal Statements Guide. Additionally, if you’d prefer to read rather than to watch a video, below is an article that I wrote based on the notes that are pertinent to this video. However you choose to learn, enjoy!


A personal statement is a written response to an essay prompt…I’m sure you already knew that, but did you know that it’s the most important aspect of your application? It’s your one shot to be more than data that is neck and neck with other data. When you submit your application to college, your GPA and test scores are important, but, at that point, they’re presumably locked in to those numbers, if you will, and here’s your one shot to appear as a human. Here’s your one shot to show who you are. Here’s your only chance to show your character—your capacity for leadership, your resilience, your integrity, your vulnerable honesty, and your passion—or your personality, your quirks, and other traits that distinguish you. Seize the opportunity that your personal statement is!


The Common App requires your personal statement to be between 250 and 650 words, and the Coalition App recommends that your personal statement fall between 500 and 650 words: the best practice is to shoot for between 500 and 650 words. Don’t skimp out on your chance to stand out. 500 to 650 words will run you approximately 1 page single spaced or 2 pages double spaced in Times New Roman 12 point font, so this isn’t a huge assignment in terms of the quantity of words that you need to produce.

However, as we’ve said, your personal statement is beyond important—it’s critical!—so this will take a lot more time than the quick reflection paper you complete the night before it’s due in class the next day. You need to show who you are, and in a really compelling and articulate way; besides wanting to get to know who you are, Admissions Counselors also want to assess what your writing capabilities are and how cogently you can express your thoughts. Start working on your personal statement with a lot of buffer time before it’s due.


Here’s the process that you need to follow to complete your personal statement.

1.  Decide on Colleges

First, decide what colleges you’re applying to. It’s important to know where you’re applying in order to apply there…

2.  Assemble All Prompts

Next, assemble all the essays that you’ll have to write. Besides the standard Common App or Coalition App main personal statement, colleges will commonly require 1 to 3 supplemental essays. So gather together all of these different prompts that you need to complete. Why? Read on!

3.  Determine Overlap

You next want to look at your list of essay prompts and find where you have different prompts that overlap in terms of their type (Regarding prompt types, please see the next post in this series, which is titled “College Personal Statement Examples Aren’t What You Need…”). This will allow you to kill two or more birds with one stone if you strategically write an essay that can be used to answer multiple different essay prompts. Beware, though, of trying to shove a triangular block into a square hole.

4.  Brainstorm about You

Next, brainstorm about yourself. What stories do you have to tell? Ask people who care about you what they see in you that makes you unique. Search online for intriguing questions that make you dig deep and really analyze yourself in order to answer them. Let loose. Throw anything that comes to mind down on the paper (or whatever you’re using). Compile all these ideas creatively and excitedly.

5.  Decide on Your Best Qualities

After that, out of all the qualities you’ve compiled, decide which ones are the ones on which you want to focus, and determine which prompts will allow you to write about those qualities (or use the “write your own essay” option).

6.  Strategize Themes

Next, you want to strategize a theme to maintain in all your responses for any given university. For example, if you’re applying to a particular school because you have the intention of earning a major in journalism, you could showcase how in the past you’ve proven to be resilient, since journalists are supposed to be just that!

7.  Pick Which Stories to Use

Following that, you can then pick a distinct focus for each of your responses to that given university. In this response, I’ll focus on story x that demonstrates my resilience, and, for that response, I’ll focus on story y that demonstrates my resilience. That way, you end up with several essays that are all fresh, but that all shout, “I am resilient! Pick me!”

8.  Write a Zip Draft©

Next, you should frenziedly write a profuse zip draft©. “I’ve never heard of that…” you’re saying. I hope not, because I made it up! “Zip” as in done speedily, and “zip” as in zero, zilch, nada, a non-entity. Don’t even consider your “zip draft” to be an official draft of your paper: it’s nothing but a speedy profusion of all you have bottled up that you want to get out so you can sort it out afterwards. No pressure: your zip draft literally means nothing (0!).

9.  Select and Organize Your Best Zip Draft© Content

After you’ve completed your ugly, gnarly, but content-abundant zip draft, you want to select its best ideas and then organize those ideas in an outline that you want to follow when you’re writing your *wink* first draft.

10.  Write Your First Draft

Next, write your first draft rhythmically and methodically while following your outline. Here you’re falling into the essay-writing pace with which you’re probably more familiar. “Slow and steady wins the race!” (And don’t ever write that cliché in your own writing unless you do it self-consciously, as I just did…rather, just don’t.)

11.  Revise Your Personal Statement

Now that you have your first draft completed, revise your essay an absurd number of times. You can work with writing wizards (like me!) between drafts (note my spiffy use of alliteration with ws at the start of this sentence).

12.  Edit Your Personal Statement

Once you’ve reached the point where you have no more revisions to make, it’s just a matter of editing your final draft. This, just like your revising, is something you want to do an absurd number of times. Get it right!—he proclaims as he whips out this quick article to accompany the video that he intended for you to watch anyway, wondering if anyone will actually ever read this light synopsis…and if there are any errors in it due to the speed with which he typed it up…

Importantly, ask at least 2 other people to edit your final draft.

13.  Submit Your Personal Statement and Supplemental Essays

Finally, submit your personal statement and supplemental essays under a “Their Loss Policy.” You made sure that what you submitted is the absolute best you can do. Therefore, if admissions counselors can’t see your merits, or if they don’t like who you are, then it’s their loss! Maintaining a “Their Loss Policy” will provide you with so much ease of mind in your life—apply it everywhere, not just with your college apps. Obviously, don’t be a brash, arrogant fool who can’t accept any constructive criticism throughout your life, but, if indeed you do work humbly and always put forth your best effort, a “Their Loss Policy” is, I would argue, an absolute essential for you to live a healthy life.


“What is a personal statement for college?” Boom. Now you know!

Check out the next post in this series: “College Personal Statement Examples Aren’t What You Need.”