So, we've brainstormed potential ideas and picked our topics, two of the hardest parts of the writing the perfect personal statement. But, perhaps the hardest part is next: the writing.
Writing a personal statement for college applications is one of the most complicated things you have to do in life and, like most of those things, you will want to blow it off until the possible last second. However, writing a personalized personal statement for college applications is perhaps one of the most rewarding things to do, and, like most rewarding feats in life, it will take time and persistence.
Before anyone goes into a stress-induced coma, it's beneficial to keep the end product in mind. You want something that captures your emotions and bottles your thoughts into an Aladdin mantle lamp to hand to the admissions officer, and your writing is the strongest way to land in the heart of your readers.
1. As I've told many, many seniors, the best advice I ever received was from an admissions officer at Bowdoin College: If you're meticulously planning out every phrase and each transition, you're doing it wrong. You should not force the words onto Word (pun), nor should you be sketching out the 'perfect essay.' It needs to come naturally, with personal anecdotes and connections.
2. Reel in your reader with a catchy phrase. You want something interesting, but not too controversial. The first sentence in my personal statement contained the word "naked," but also the phrases "sat between two pieces of bread." (Are you curious yet?)
3. To personalize your essay, make comparisons. Everyone loves metaphors and similies. They are the brushstrokes to Van Gogh's Starry Night. First, a metaphor is a comparison of two unlike things that help make a visual picture. A simile is similar, but they use the words "like" or "as." For instance, fish and ice cream aren't alike, but if the ice cream was expired, you could say it tasted like rotten fish.
How could you use an extended metaphor in your essay? The following is a sentence from my supplement to Brown University. "I'm essentially a seed planted in a pot too small. For a majority of my life, I've lived in the same location in the state of sunny Florida, but, like a growing flower, I need to be replanted within a larger pot that will ensure the extension of my roots, leaves, and experience." Instantaneously, you picture someone who has been in one place for too long. Or you picture me in a flowerpot, wearing leaves and a green stem.
4. Using metaphors and similes, make connections to your personal life. Sure, the comparison of fish-tasting ice cream might be good, but how about taking it a step further. Perhaps the expired ice cream smelt like the rotten fish you used to catch with your great grandfather before he passed away. In an essay about an art project I completed, I compared my charcoal-black hands to the bottom of my mother's burnt Thanksgiving rolls.
5. While you're conjuring up metaphors and referencing similes, don't worry about the word count (at least not yet). It's far easier to take out the unnecessary redundants and cliche phrases, rather than improvising them.
6. Forego any fears of contractions and commas. Someone asked me if contractions were forbidden from college essays and I had to tell them that colleges don't really care. It comes down to your tone and personal voice -- do you normally speak out every word in your sentence? Perhaps when you're giving a speech or presentation, but "don't," "can't," and "should've" are common phrases in everyone's vocab (even though the last one isn't a real word).
To see the last tip, read the full article at The Collegiate Blog, the only college admissions blog run by college students. Be sure to follow The Collegiate Blog on Twitter for more updates: @The_Collegiate.
If you're still stumped on writing your personal statement, ask your questions in the comment box for more help!
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Where do you even start when you’re brainstorming possible essay topics for your college application essays? Some go for a walk to get inspired, and others look back on their own experiences. Here are 5 college students who decided to talk about their athletic achievements, or used sports as a metaphor:
Amherst College ‘20
The lessons I have learned in tennis can apply to everybody’s life. When someone begins learning tennis, the main focus is to keep the ball in play. Keep the ball going back and forth until you win the point. I honestly struggled keeping up my motivation in high school. However once I finally found a very steady source, it made life much easier and it kept me going much longer. Keep reading.
University of Pennsylvania ‘18
Numerous times I felt like giving up on my basketball dreams yet I didn’t want to be labeled a quitter. Instead, I wanted to one day tell a story just like Michael Jordan’s and how he was initially cut from the varsity team only to end up becoming the best player in the world; this became the driving force of my basketball obsession after I didn’t make the varsity team during my freshman year. View full profile.
Dartmouth College ‘18
Gliding above the liquid glass, I take deep breathes, setting a rhythm for my crew to act together with one mind. Putrid green bubbles can be seen, rising to the water’s surface to gently greet the most crimson-colored sunset found in the Sacramento Valley, only to be crushed by the blade found at the end of my Yao Ming-sized sweeping oar. Each stroke, I pull harder than I did on the one that came before it; each stroke I tear skin from the blisters found on the joints of my fingers that grasp my oar; each stroke I carry my weapon of bubble destruction with more and more confidence. In the long haul of a two-thousand meter race I remember that the pain I feel is temporary and that I am fully capable of pulling my way past the finish line. Read more.
Harvard University ‘17
It all happened within a split second. I held the orange leather ball firmly between my hands as steaming droplets of sweat ran from my forehead to the tips of my fingers. My lungs desperately begged for oxygen as I stood right before the maroon line fifteen feet away from the basket, crouched into my shooting stance that had been perfected through the hours of repetition spent on this very spot. Despite the meticulous preparation, my knees trembled out of fear and anxiety. All eyes within the gymnasium were placed on me—the shortest of the ten in uniform on the hardwood floor. Tightly shutting my eyes and stiffening my lips, I deeply meditated on the foul shot that was about to be taken. As the cheers filled my ears, I recalled the days in the past when all of this was a brand new experience; slowly, the roar of the crowd faded to a low murmur then to an utter silence. Continue reading.
University of Pennsylvania ‘19
“The 50m freestyle is next. Swimmers, take your positions.” I stepped onto the diving platform as the announcer’s voice echoed through the natatorium and tightened my goggles, not too tight, but just right, like Goldilocks’ porridge. This was my debut since my hiatus from the U10 YMCA Sharks. Standing on the diving board, I could feel the power of the room engulf my being; energy filled my body while my fingers began to tingle. “Chariots of Fire” by Vangelis began to play in my ears. View full profile.
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Have you started brainstorming what you should write for your college application essay? If you’re interested in writing about it on sports, unlock the one of the above profiles for free to read the full essay for inspiration!
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About The Author
Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.