As important as SAT scores are in securing admission to US Colleges and Universities, there is more to admission than scoring high on a an aptitude test. Admissions officers want students, not scores…and they want to know that those students can think critically and perform as well-rounded adults. Enter the Common App, which serves over a million students and school officials each year with free, standardized online first year and transfer application forms.
About The Common Application
A not for profit, The Common Application was founded over 35 years ago to promote fairness and access in the college application process. Common App provides applications that students and school staff can submit to any of its more than 500 members. Membership is continually growing, as more and more US colleges and universities choose to evaluate students using a more holistic selection process than simply looking at the SATs, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation.
The Personal Statement
No matter how good your test scores, volunteer record and high school marks, the personal statement (a.k.a. personal essay) is still a requirement of The Common Application. The personal statement is a crucial first impression, a snapshot of the student that illustrates not only their writing skills, but also their personality. Many students would rather clean the campus toilets than be asked to promote themselves in such a manner, but it doesn’t have to be a nail-biter – it just has to be great. And there’s no reason not to have fun with it. The format can take a straight narrative or you can get creative – use poetry, journal entry–style, free-form writing…
Types of Personal Statements
Although the sky’s the limit in terms of personal statements – after all, it’s personal – there are four widely accepted ways to approach the writing of one’s personal statement. Firstly there’s the true personal statement. Some colleges will keep it totally open-ended. The 2013-2014 Common App asked students to talk about a background or story so central to their identity that their application wouldn’t be complete without it. In other words, tell us about yourself. Tell us about the experiences that have defined you.
Tip: Talk about something that isn’t found elsewhere on your resume, so admissions officers can see a different side of you.
The other 3 types of personal statements generally fall into these categories:
- Favourite activities: write about something you love doing, and why, and how it has changed you. Here is your chance to show how well-rounded you really are.
- Why you want to attend that particular school: here is your chance to show how much you know about the school, and why it will be life-changing for you to get your degree there.
- Love of learning: talk about how university or college is essential for your development as a person. This one gives you plenty of opportunity to describe your future goals and the contribution you hope to make to society once you graduate.
Start with a Sentence
An unforgettable personal statement starts with a killer first sentence that captures the reader’s attention instantly (remember, they are reading thousands of these). We really like this one:
When I was in eighth grade, I couldn’t read.
For more inspiring, interesting sentences that just might get you started, visit the Stanford Alumni page.
Still stumped? Contact PrepSkills. We are happy to help set you on the right path towards admission to the US College of your dreams.