Tips for Personal Statement and College Essay Writing

Now that we've talked a bit about the essay topics you should consider and those you should avoid, let's talk about your actual writing, and how to easily improve the impression you're making on the admissions officers who will see your pieces.

After a cliched topic, the biggest problem you'll want to avoid is writing in generalities. This note applies to many elements of an essay, but overall, it means that you should identify something that is of importance to you and to talk about it with commitment. Make sure that you are addressing the most specific elements of it that you understand, and that you're focusing on the decisions and actions you made during the event you're writing about.

Avoid phrases like "she's always there for me" or "looking around the room, I realized..." Avoid phrasings that don't tell us what someone is actually doing, saying, or feeling.

Here's a short list of writing suggestions to improve others' sense of your writing:

  • Take a risk
  • Show, don't tell
  • Use specific details
    • General: My uncle Mike has been a huge influence in my life.
    • Specific: My uncle Mike was the man who told me my brother had broken both his legs skiing in the Alps. Mike was the man who took me to the father-son picnic when my dad was ill. And when I found myself in need of help that late Friday night that would forever change my life, it was Mike’s number I dialed.

There are a whole lot more here at CEO's guide for what to do in a college essay.

We would love to hear your ideas or other good examples in the comments.

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