Writing a Personal Statement – GradPlan

The 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), is now open. Learn more here.


Writing a Personal Statement

Use this opportunity to tell the story of you.

Show Yourself in Writing

A personal statement is a short essay (500-600 words) that tells a college admissions officer about something meaningful to you that is related to your attending their school. It could be about a life lesson you learned, an experience that changed you, or it could explain why you want to attend their school. Unless the college gives you a specific topic to write about, you get to decide what direction you want to take.

A Strong Statement

Your Personal essay is an opportunity to separate yourself from your academic data and from other students applying to that college. Think about what makes you uniquely you:

  • Is it your family?
  • Your background?
  • One moment that changed your life?
  • Or is it your specific vision for what you want to do with your future?

Be Who You Are: Colleges are building communities of students and they don’t want them all to be the same, so express yourself! Some students have chosen a poetic style to use for their personal statements, while others have looked for colleges where they can submit a video or a digital portfolio that better captures who they are than a GPA.

5 Tips for Writing a Personal Statement

Stay on Point

This is not an autobiography. You are making a statement. “I belong on your campus because…”. Be clear and connect the story you share to this overall theme, and to the vision you have set for your future.

Show Don’t Tell

Listing off a bunch of your best qualities will not make for a great personal essay. Give real life examples. Don’t just say you’re a leader, describe a situation in which you’ve proven it.

Be Personal

Include feelings, thoughts, and even lessons learned in your writing. Explain how your experiences shaped you in specific ways and make sure you’re staying true to yourself.

Double-Check Requirements

Make sure your essay fits within the college’s expectations. If they have given you a writing prompt, make sure you have fully answered the question(s). Do not exceed any word count or page count limits.

Show Them Some Love

Colleges want to know what it is about their school or their programs that inspires you. Share with them what is about their campus or this opportunity that is special to you.

Additional Resources

Recommended Resources


Your Application

"Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today."

Malcolm X, human rights activist