College Admission: 5 Quick Tips

In the article below, I go over 5 ways to quickly and effectively improve your personal statement so that you will stand out to the reviewers. If you’re interested in improving your personal statement, contact edtingbychristina@gmail.com or check out editingbychristina.com.

# 1 You dream of owning your own business, so you plan on attending a school with a great business program that can provide you with essential leadership skills. Therefore, before applying check out what the school has to offer students wanting to become an entrepreneur. Not only are a variety of classes important, but does the school offer a variety of majors such as Business Administration, Economics, Business Information Management, Accounting, Marketing, and Management…just to name a few? This variety will allow you the opportunity to explore and interact with different teachers, students, and even ideas.

Although classes are important—does the school also offer resources for hands-on training? Many universities with business programs have incubators that help students turn their entrepreneurial ideas into marketable realities. Check out the universities website to see if they offer these programs before applying.

Lastly, location. As a business owner, you can build a business anywhere! However, let’s imagine you want to start your own surf shop. Before applying, consider a school that can provide connections within the surfing community. Although, you may have always wanted to attend a university in the Midwest, if your goal is to open a surf shop you may want to think which geographical areas can provide the best opportunities for you to network and reach your goal.

# 2 A repeated question from the universal prompts is to ask the applicant to describe an obstacle or setback that has affected them and how they evolved from the experience. 

More often than not—when answering the prompt—an applicant will focus only on their struggle, which results in a negative narrative. In addition, the applicant’s struggle can unfortunately become cliché when thousands of applicants applying to the same school and answering the same prompt have the same struggle. That’s why completing the story is so important; the applicant must include how they have evolved from the struggle—which provides them the opportunities to share their unique story and stand out to the reviewer. This also allows the essay to naturally develop a positive narrative.

#3 In person, humor is a good thing! It’s usually a great indicator that the applicant is easy-going and pleasant to work with. However, in your written personal statement it’s best to leave humor off the page.

 First, the majority of prompts are reflective and have you describe personal experiences, so being jokey might signal to the reviewer that you don’t take the essay portion seriously. Also, you only have 200-650 words—don’t waste them on misplaced jokes! Lastly, you don’t know who your reviewer will be, so don’t assume they have the same sense of humor as you—especially, if you are applying right out of high school. In the end, it’s best to focus on your personal growth and achievements, rather than humor, when writing your personal statement. 

#4 When applying to college or graduate school many of the requirements involve numbers. The applicant must meet a certain GPA, have a specific ACT, SAT, GMAT, or MCAT score, enroll in a predetermined number of units, pass the required classes, and volunteer a fixed number of hours. In these sections the reviewer will ask: does the applicant check the boxes or not? (Whether or not this method is the best way to determine an applicant’s potential academic growth is a post for another day…)

However, numbers aren’t everything! The personal statement is one of the few chances the applicant has to appeal to the emotions of the reviewer. With this statement, the applicant has the ability to demonstrate their successes separate from their numbers. 

That’s why it’s important to write a unique and interesting story that answers the prompt and doesn’t just repeat what’s already on the application. You want the reviewer to feel like they are walking beside you; don’t be afraid to pull on their emotional heart strings so that you stay memorable in a sea of applications. More often than not, the achievements an applicant has demonstrated in their personal life are a much better indicator in predicting their future successes. 

Therefore, even if you do or don’t meet all the numerical requirements for the application, it’s important to take the time to write a stellar personal essay! These essays can truly make the difference in your admission results.

#5 You wrote a beautifully written essay. It was clear, concise, and unique. However, the reviewer still doesn’t understand why you applied to this program. The essay seemed vague—like it could’ve been submitted to any school. Out of the thousands of programs, there must be a reason you picked this one; therefore, it’s your job to let the reviewer know the Why. Consider writing your Why about 2-3 times within the essay, and then clearly state the Why in your conclusion.

  • After receiving a bachelor’s in English, Alyssa plans to pursue a master’s in linguistics. While completing her undergraduate degree, she enrolled in 4 years of Italian, 4 years of Roman mythology, and studied abroad in Italy for one year. These classes and experiences inspired her to pursue a deeper understanding of the Latin language; therefore, she decided that the Latin and Classical Humanities, MA at UMass Boston would be the perfect fit.
  • Cori just received their bachelor’s in biology and plans to apply to business school in the fall. With a background in Biology, they plan to enter the biotech sphere and work in business management or venture capital. Therefore, the location of the school is important: both Boston and San Diego are biotech hubs and offer plenty of opportunities for career growth. Therefore, in the application they must clearly state that these programs offer the curriculum, the opportunities, and the connections needed that are pivotal for their career success within the biotech community.  
  • While in high school Juan volunteered at his local city council. Inspired by how a single person can make a difference in their community, Juan decided to pursue a degree that would prepare him for a job in local city government. After a meeting with his guidance counselor, he discovered that UC Irvine offers a degree in Urban Studies. With this degree, Juan will learn how to foster an equitable, inclusive, and livable city, which will help him improve his community as a government worker.
  • With these three examples, you can see why it is important to state your Why in your essay application. Make sure the reviewer knows what drives and what motivates you to pursue a higher degree and apply to this specific program. Write concisely to let the reviewers know how this specific program can help you achieve your goals.


    If interested in improving your personal statements contact me
    at editingbychristina@gmail.com or visit editingbychristina.com.

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