By Jeffrey Cheuk ’17
Along with transcripts, recommendations, and resumes, students might need to give a personal statement to apply for a college.
Ms. Marisa Koeppel, a college guidance counselor, said, “Personal statements are essays that are written by students. They tell colleges who they [students] are.”
Personal statements can be used for a variety of things; they can help get scholarships or even highlight a student’s writing prowess. However, their most important purpose is to show a student’s personality, life, and goals.
Liana Zinytche ’16 said, “They show what makes you special. They show that you’re not just a number.”
Personal statements can be written about anything in a student’s life. It could be about an influential person in someone’s life, a hobby, or even an everyday routine.
Sagar Saha ’16 said, “It doesn’t have to be about a once in a lifetime experience or anything like that. Just be yourself.”
Some students are still having trouble coming up with ideas. There is frequently the notion that the essay has to be about a tragedy or a story of redemption.
Harry Ching ’17 said, “I don’t have anything to write about. My life isn’t special or anything. I’m just an average person.”
However, uniqueness doesn’t always correlate with dramatic and heroic. Even a seemingly plain life can have its own gems.
Ms. Koeppel said, “There’s always something you can come up with. You just need to be creative about a situation.”
Personal statements and teacher recommendations can have similar information about a student. However, there is a big difference between the two; students write an essay about life while teachers write a recommendation about school.
“Personal statements have, well, personal things that teachers wouldn’t know about,” said Ms. Koeppel. “There are intimate things, like why they love something or what they see life as. It gives more information about the person, not the student.”
While all of this is delicate and important, a personal statement isn’t the most important item in a student’s resume. A student with a good personal statement can’t get into Harvard with a GPA of 2.0 and an SAT score of 800. Though each college weighs the essay’s importance differently, it will make a big difference when colleges compare students with similar grades. Colleges will probably pick someone with an exciting personal statement over someone with a mediocre essay.
“It’s most important when it gives a reason for why your grades are the way they are,” said Ms. Koeppel.
It can act as an excuse. A student’s personal life might be interfering with their school life so colleges will be more inclined to shrug off a few bad grades.
Some colleges also give students a question that they can answer, instead of writing a personal statement. However, both methods have the same purpose, and colleges don’t accept a simple yes or no answer.
“Some colleges don’t even need personal statements,” said Ms. Koeppel. “Though, it looks good if you write one anyway.”
The deadline for personal statements differs among colleges. They’re due when the college application is due. It’s possible to hand in a late personal statement, but colleges might want more to be added because it was late.
The college office also needs a copy of the essay. Though, the deadline is 4 weeks before the college application is due.
Ms. Koeppel said she reads them to put more information in students’ resumes.
The word limit varies between colleges, but one page is usually enough. It’s not an autobiography; there is a central theme that ties everything together.
Saha said, “My best advice is to start as soon as you can.”
Some students are already done with their personal statements while others don’t even know what it is yet.
Sinan Taylan ’17 said, “I’m done with mine because I worked on it in my English class. It’s not that hard. Once you get a theme, writing everything gets easy.”
Hashim Nadeem ’17 said, “I’ve never heard of it before, but now, it seems really hard. If your life is boring, there isn’t much to write about.”
If students are having trouble writing a personal statement, there are a myriad of guides and outlines online. There is even an outline on the school website.
Though, it might be better to write it alone because it will give students experience for when they need to write one in their job application.
Amr Alsahqani ’17 said, “Be your best self. Show colleges your best points and make it flow with your story.”