planning summer

The Common App website goes live August 1, which means you can create an account and start inputting your information. One part of the application that we suggest starting on now is your personal statement, as this is one of the most important parts of your application.

The personal statement is a 650-word essay which answers one of five essay prompts. These prompts are quite general, so there are many topics you can consider writing about. This essay will go to all of the schools you apply to via the Common App. Here are some tips to help you get the process started.

1. Spend time thinking about activities/ experiences that are not highlighted in other places of your application – Is there an activity you are passionate about, or something you have been deeply involved in for a number of years? This is the place to choose a unique aspect about this and go into detail about it.

2. Make the essay personal – You don’t have to write about something no one else has ever written about before. You can write a fantastic essay about your relationship with your grandmother, or getting lost on a hike. What will make it unique is adding your perspective, your voice, and what makes this topic unique to you.

3. Show, don’t tell – Be specific about what you mean, and use examples to help readers see what you mean. It’s much more interesting to read about how you helped another student in need, rather than reading “I am a helpful and compassionate person.”

4. Leave enough time for multiple drafts of the essay – Writing a strong essay is a process, not something to write once and be done with. Think through it, get feedback on your essay, and don’t be afraid to start over if you aren’t happy with an initial draft. And make sure to do a final review to make sure grammar is correct and there are no spelling mistakes.

5. Make sure every word counts – 650 words is quite a short essay (and you will be cut off if you go over, even by a few words.) Make sure you are spending time on what’s important, not lots of background or filler leading up to the main points you want to make.