Writing a college personal statement isn’t easy for students. Many students struggle with what amounts to some light boasting. Plus, it isn’t uncommon for them to have trouble writing about themselves.

However, being able to write an enticing personal statement is often necessary. College and scholarship applications may require one, so it’s an unavoidable part of the process.

Luckily, writing a standout college personal statement doesn’t have to be a challenge. Here’s a look at what a college personal statement is, what it needs to include, and examples and templates that can help students create an amazing one.

What is a College Personal Statement?

A college personal statement is essentially an essay. It’s a platform for students to share information about themselves, giving admissions committees valuable information that may lead them to admit a student.

What is a Personal Statement For?

The goal of a personal statement for college is for students to discuss something about who they are that isn’t covered in other parts of their college or scholarship application.

A scholarship, college application, or Common App personal statement has the same relationship to applications as cover letters do with resumes. Students can cover any informational gaps in the essay and complement the other portions of their applications.

Writing a standout college personal statement doesn’t have to be a challenge. Here’s a look at how to create an amazing one.

How to Write a Standout College Personal Statement

When your student writes their personal statement, they need to use a storytelling approach. It’s best to convey the message as a narrative rather than just create a list of achievements. That makes the essay more compelling and ensures that your student provides an appropriate amount of context that frames their accomplishments in a meaningful way.

Additionally, it should complement the rest of the application. The goal shouldn’t be to regurgitate what’s covered elsewhere. Instead, the essay should present new information that doesn’t fit anywhere else.

For scholarships, the personal statement needs to discuss why the student is deserving. Usually, this means aligning the message with the organization. Considering the organization’s goals and mission before choosing what to highlight is always wise.

Finally, your student needs to focus on their strengths. While acknowledging their weakness and challenges they encountered isn’t strictly off-limits, your student needs to figure out in which areas they shine and concentrate on those aspects of their experience or personality.

If you and your student want to learn more about finding scholarships to help reduce the cost of college, sign up for our free college scholarship webinar! Head over to http://thescholarshipsystem.com/freewebinar to reserve your spot today.

personal statement examples for college

Choosing the Best Topic

Often, students struggle with figuring out where to start with their college personal statement. However, they may receive assistance from the institution.

Some colleges and scholarship committees provide a list of topics students can use. In these cases, your student needs to consider which one (or ones) allows them to showcase the best of what they have to offer.

For example, students can choose from seven topics for the Common App essays. Each one supports a different kind of potential narrative, so your student needs to determine which one creates the best opportunity for them to stand out. Worst case, the Common App has a catch-all topic where students can discuss a subject of their choosing. If your student has something specific in mind that doesn’t fit in the other topics, they can opt to use that option.

Figuring Out What to Write About on College Applications

Deciding what to write about, even after a topic is chosen, takes a bit of work. Luckily, students can use a simple process to make a decision.

Brainstorming Ideas

Students should take a few minutes to consider each available prompt. They can think about what experiences of their life may apply and then jot down a few notes.

In many cases, your student should focus on defining moments in their life. Any event that had a significant impact could be a great option.

However, your student may prefer to talk about their passions. This can include any endeavor that they’ve dedicated themselves to, whether that be music, sports, volunteering, or nearly anything else.

At times, writing about a person, organization, or innovation that inspires them can also be an appropriate direction. Similarly, discussing their proudest moments may also work.

Pare Down the List

With their notes in hand, your student needs to narrow down their option. Ideally, they should choose two to four topics that resonate with them more than the others. When they feel strongly about a subject, writing about it may be easier.

Do a (Really) Rough Draft

After they’ve figured out which topics stand out in their eyes, it’s time to create a few rough drafts. Your student can free-write these initial essays, allowing their ideas to flow without being concerned about grammar, punctuation, or other writing mechanics.

The goal is to see which topics have the most potential. The structure, organization, and mechanics can come later.

Along the way, your student can’t be afraid to get personal and use their own voice. After all, it’s a college personal statement; it’s supposed to talk about their story. Anecdotes are powerful additions to these statements, so it’s wise to include examples.

The only outside consideration should be the audience. Your student needs to keep the potential reader (the admissions or scholarship committee) in mind. What would entice them to keep reading? Does the essay speak to something important to them?

Focus on the Best and Whip It into Shape

After creating the drafts, your student needs to choose the best essay and refine it. This includes making sure they hit the required word count as well as handling any organization and editing that needs to be addressed.

Once the word count is hit, stepping away from the essay for a moment can be wise. It’s hard for people to edit their own work, so having your student come back to it after a break can make it a bit easier.

Additionally, having someone else review the essay is a smart decision. Fresh eyes may catch something your student missed.

Submit the Essay

Once the review process is over, it’s time to add the college personal statement to the application. While many students have a bit of anxiety about hitting the submit button, it’s a necessity. Have your student take a deep breath and go for it.

good personal statement example

Personal Statement Template

In most cases, a college personal statement is going to follow a standard essay format. Typically, a five-paragraph structure is sufficient, particularly if the total word count is fairly low (500 to 750 words). However, if the required word count is lower (250 to 400 words), even fewer paragraphs may be appropriate.

Overall, a personal statement template follows the format below:

  1. Introduction
  2. Supporting Paragraph
  3. Second Supporting Paragraph
  4. Third Supporting Paragraph
  5. Closing


The introduction is an essay’s hook. It draws the reader in, giving them an idea of what they’ll discover by reading the essay and making them interested in learning more.

For a personal statement, you might begin with a quote, question, or action. Anything that sparks curiosity can be ideal, so your student can be a bit creative here.

It also includes a topic sentence. This lets the reader know what the personal statement is going to discuss. This can be any sentence of the introduction paragraph, but making it the last one is often the best approach, as it allows the sentences before it to paint a picture and capture the reader’s attention first.

Supporting Paragraphs

Each supporting paragraph needs to focus on a single point, event, moment, or idea. Your student needs to use a transition sentence to shift from the paragraph before the one they’re working on, then present details that support the subtopic the paragraph covers.

When a new idea is being introduced, it’s time for a new paragraph. Overall, around three supporting paragraphs is a solid goal. However, more or less may be used depending on word count requirements and how many subtopics are presented to support the main idea in the essay.


A closing wraps up the essay. It restates the main topic, summarizes what was discussed, and provides the reader with an important tidbit. This could be an intriguing thought, a powerful insight, or a story’s conclusion. The goal is to leave a lasting impression, so your student needs to determine how they can best stick in the reader’s mind after they put down the essay.

example personal statement

Personal Statement Examples

Sometimes, having a few personal statement examples for college can help your student figure out how to approach their personal essays. Here are some college personal statement examples to check out for inspiration.

Ultimately, a college personal statement should tell a cohesive story, sharing a detail that the admissions or scholarship committee otherwise wouldn’t learn. It’s a powerful tool for students, so taking some time to write the best personal essay possible is a great idea.

If you and your student want to learn more about finding scholarships to help reduce the cost of college, sign up for our free college scholarship webinar! Head over to http://thescholarshipsystem.com/freewebinar to reserve your spot today.

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