6 Questions to Ask Yourself AFTER You’ve Written your Personal Statement


It’s important to consider grammar, style, and organization when writing your application essays because bad writing is the absolute first thing any admissions committee member notices when reading admissions essays. Most college applicants, however, don’t have issues with the grammar and so it rarely has a major impact on a candidate’s score.

With this in mind, I tell writers to instead focus on the content, clarity, and composition of their college application essays by examining the following questions:

  • Do I make my point early on?

  • Is there a bunch of extra detail in my essay?

  • Have I answered the question?

  • Am I confident, without being arrogant?

  • Do I provide insight into my personality?

  • Did I show that I can think critically about the multicultural world I live in?


Do I make my point early on?

Don't write a lengthy essay and wait until the last paragraph to make your main point. I once had a writer talk extensively about the chronic illnesses her mother and sister faced while living in a country with limited access to care and medicine. However, the story wasn't as clear and impactful as it could have been because the writer waited until the end of the essay to communicate that this motivated her to want to become a doctor.

Is there a bunch of extra detail in my essay?

It’s important to provide enough detail to readers so that the story you’re telling makes sense to someone unfamiliar with your life. However, extraneous details can distract from your writing and are ill-advised since most admissions essays have a strict word count. If your personal statement is about your internship in the Netherlands, you don’t need to go into detail about the color of the bus you rode to the internship site every day.  

Have I answered the question?

This is probably the simplest and easiest mistake writers make when crafting their personal statement. Go back over the prompt and then highlight in your essay the exact ways in which you answer the questions being asked of you. Your ability to follow simple instructions can also say a lot about whether you’re capable of succeeding in the unstructured learning environment a college campus can be.

Am I confident, without being arrogant?

The line between confidence and arrogance is thin, but its nonetheless important to distinguish yourself from other applicants by conveying why you’re the best candidate. One way to accomplish this is by speaking to who you are without showing off. Don’t just say “I’m brilliant and destined to lead a top tech company one day!” when you could instead communicate this by writing about the app you developed during your summer break.

Do I provide insight into my personality?

Don’t forget that the primary purpose of the personal statement is to introduce you as person – not just as a student. All of your academic and professional accomplishments are on you resume, so there’s no need to regurgitate the same information in your statement of purpose. Don’t shy away from sharing your personality with the admissions committee and beware of using essay templates as they can minimize your ability to share your authentic voice. 

Did I show that I can think critically about the multicultural world I live in?

More than an introduction to your personality, the college application essay is also a glimpse into your personal beliefs and how you navigate the world. Universities want to know that their students can learn and work effectively in a multicultural environment as college campuses become more diverse. I know for a fact that some colleges include cultural awareness points as a part of a candidate’s score, so it’s important that you don’t neglect this topic in your personal statements. And it’s not enough to write about how you have a diverse group of friends. Instead, you might try talking about the ways in which your personal identity has influenced your educational path or how your goals will work to increase social equity and promote diversity.

Ask yourselves these questions after you’ve written your first draft and you’ll definitely end up with a more focused and authentic product.

Need help with your personal statement or college admissions essay - I can help. Contact me for expert help brainstorming, editing and revising your personal statement. You can also submit a question about any topic related to college admissions and I might answer it in a future blog post.