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The Cold Hard Truth about Personal Statements

If you are filling up your college admissions forms at the moment, then you are probably going through the list of requirements that you will have to submit. The transcript of records from your high school is a given because your grades do matter in the admissions screening process. The school might also need a letter of recommendation. Of course, you have also gotten this covered since you have already talked to your adviser about writing a recommendation for you. But then, the school you are applying to requires a personal statement. Admittedly, there are a lot of things you should consider when you are writing your personal statement.


There are several sources that you can find over the Internet that detail the steps and processes that you need to follow in order to write the best personal essay for your college application. However, you should be careful in choosing which ones to follow because there are some tips that are actually based on myths! Read through this article to learn which ones are the real helpful tips and which ones are just bogus, based on the compilation made by Judge Richard Poland of Flagler College, together with other deans of admission for the University of Richmond, University of Florida, and University of South Carolina regarding the admissions process.


Myth 1: The personal statement does not really matter in a college application.


The truth is…


The personal statement is important to colleges in order to determine which applicants they are going to accept into the school. The personal essay contains details about the applicant that are not seen in the transcript of records and certificate of accomplishment. Moreover, they are a measure of the writing ability of the applicant and determines the uniqueness of the applicant.




Myth 2: Only write about current events and activities.


The truth is…


Admission committees specifically require a personal statement in order to learn more about how the applicant has been faring outside of the academic realm. Therefore, they would like to see the total picture when it comes to the applicant. Most importantly, the student should be able to state why he or she is determined to enter into the chosen college. This will require the student to cite a few experiences and motivating factors that may have been encountered when the applicant was still young. However, it would be advisable to choose an age wherein the experience would be more believable. No one would believe you if you say you wanted to be a nurse as early as when you were two years old.


Myth 3: Never include negative aspects of your self or your experience.


The truth is…


No one is perfect. Everyone has done something regrettable in the past. It is how you deal with such experience that matters. Negative experiences may not be pleasant to read about but there are ways that you can turn these into positive aspects of your life. For example, because of coming from a poor family, you were able to learn the value of education more. Since you had to work while studying, you developed excellent time management skills. In this situation, the applicant should be able to word the essay in a positive light in order to draw out the benefits of the experience.


Myth 4: The school admissions process is actually a secret.


The truth is…


There is nothing further from the truth than this myth. Universities actually publicize their application process through their websites and other means. Others even go through the lengths of visiting high schools in order to invite students to apply to their college. These schools even give the applicants the chance to contact them in case they have some questions and also to visit the school for a tour, if they can. The criteria for applicants are also made known. The school may focus more on the academic aspect of the student or may consider extra-curricular activities more. In either case, the criteria and process of the application is made known to the applicant to better prepare for the process.


Myth 5: No one actually reads personal statements.


The truth is…


As mentioned earlier, personal statements are an important element of the admissions process. No one would require anything from an applicant if it were not to be used for some extent of another. Admissions personnel sometimes have to rely on the personal statements that have been submitted in order to choose from a set of students with equally impressive transcripts. That is why the personal statement should include aspects of the student’s life that cannot be seen in the transcript. The personal statement can also be used to explain the negative aspects of a transcript. For example, you have been consistently getting high grades throughout your high school years except for a term where your grades dipped. In your essay, you are allowed to say that you got sick and was hospitalized for a few days during this term, but through your diligent efforts, you were able to improve your grades later on.


Myth 6: You should submit your personal essays and other requirements early in order to get a sure spot in the college.


The truth is…


A personal essay is an important part of your admissions requirements, so better take ample time in preparing for it. You do not need to rush it because you want to be the first to submit your essay. In reality, the admissions committee may defer or postpone ruling on an applicant until all the applications have been submitted. This way, they will be able to view all the applicants and decide which ones they really want. It is not important that you be one of the first to submit an application, but it is important that you submit your requirements before the deadline.


Myth 7: Colleges which boast of a diverse student base mean diverse in terms of ethnicity and race.


The truth is…


Although schools nowadays have a student population that is diverse in terms of ethnicity and race, these are not the only things that the term covers. Diverse may include aspects in terms of geography, economic background, academic background and even unique life experiences. That is why the personal statement should include something unique about yourself. You need not fret if you are not of another race, because you can include other unique aspects of your life. These unique aspects may come from a family experience, work experience, hobby, or passion. For example, you can highlight the fact that you have been volunteering in the animal shelter because you have always been passionate about saving animals.


Myth 8: A good personal statement will get you in the door even if your grades are not impressive.


The truth is…


Although the personal statement often acts as the tie-breaker in case several applicants are of equal academic competence, this does not mean that it is the sole consideration for admissions. The requirements are to be considered in the totality and not individually. Therefore, a good personal statement may get the attention of the admissions personnel, but it does not assure you of a spot in the college if your grades are not up to par with the requirements. A personal statement may be used to explain certain inconsistencies in the transcript but cannot cover the fact that your grades are consistently low.


Myth 9: It would be essential to emphasize a central theme.


The truth is…


Having a single thought run through the essay is not as important as having correct spelling, good grammar and a logical flow of thought. Even if you cannot wrap your thoughts around a single recurring theme, you essay should at least have the proper format and should cover all the important bases. If the school provides you with a set of questions, then make sure that all the questions are answered completely.


Myth 10: Do not include topics that are not related to the course you are applying for.


The truth is…


Again, the point of submitting a personal essay is to be able to show that admissions committee that you are a unique person. Therefore, anything that may be unrelated to your chosen course but shows your creative side may be helpful in accomplishing such goal. It would not hurt to mention that you are an accomplished musician, athlete, or cook. However, the essay should not merely contain such topics but should be able to relate it to the application process.


It cannot be denied that a personal statement is very important for college or university applications. Applicants must strive to submit a good one when it is required. Both the content and the formatting are equally important. Applicants must not dwell on items that are already evident in the transcript as the essay should be able to showcase the uniqueness of the applicant. Personal or work experiences, family or economic backgrounds, as well as hobbies, passions, and talents may be discussed in a personal statement. You will need help with thesis statement later when you become a college student. However, these should not be the sole content of the essay as some colleges require certain points or questions to be tackled in the essay. The applicant should be able to devote sufficient time in completing the essay to create a competent one, but not to the point that spending too much time could mean missing the deadline for submission.


Barbara Elliott has served in a number of leadership positions throughout his career including College Dean at University and Tenured University Professor. Barbars is a frequent national and international presenter and author. She is a content manager and editor at PhDify, where she improves her writing skills.