Your Guide To Write A Personal Essay For College

December 15, 2022 Umer
personal essay

After high school, young Americans do not have many choices. Many go to colleges and trades, and the rest go to the military. The process to get accepted as a master tradesman as an apprentice is fairly easy. The door to the military is also wide open. What is hard is to secure admission at a college of your choice in a favorite program.

The admission committees at colleges usually take three things into account or base their admission criteria on – transcripts, application, and personal essays. A majority of students are good with transcripts and applications, but it is a tough nut to crack to make a statement with a personal essay.

In this blog, we will shed ample light on the nature of personal essays, their elements, and how to write a personal essay so that the odds to get admission at your favorite college become healthier!

Personal Essay 101

A personal essay is not so different from a narrative essay where there is an element of a story concerning time and space. In the personal essay, the writer needs to make the case that he is indeed the right selection for the vacancy. The format of the essay is standard with three main sections, namely the opening, the main body, and the closing. The best personal essay is not simply about the past, present, and future aspirations of the writer. It connects the narrative with the alma mater by convincing the admissions committee personnel that the college is indeed essential to materialize those dreams. 

Many students find it hard to write personal essays on their own. They hire professional writers with experience and expertise in dealing with all the variables.

Elements of A Personal Essay

Like a building block of a structure, a personal essay is defined by the elements and their interplay. When students need to write a personal essay, they need to define those elements and then balance them against one another to ensure that the overall product is strengthened. 

A typical personal essay has the following elements:

  • The opening has the hook to connect the readers with the essay
  • The thesis statement is the gist of the whole essay to show the readers what the main point or ideal of the writer is.
  • The main body explains the points with examples and instances
  • The conclusion should tie the narrative together in a concise paragraph.

The ideal length of a personal essay depends on the guidelines and instructions of the admissions committee of a college. Typically, it is in the range of 25 to 450 words. When it is not specified, it is best to research a little and see what the ideal length of a personal essay is around other colleges.

Composing A Personal Essay For College

Students can find many online resources that claim to help them in writing a personal essay. In our experience, we have found them to be lacking in multiple, key areas. Either the instructions are not clear or the examples are not to the point. To fill this vacuum, we have come up with our guide on how to write a personal essay for college. The subsections are properly named and aligned to help young writers with their essays.

Be Thoughtful

A personal essay is not a generic piece. It differs from one person to another and that novelty and uniqueness should be covered in the text. The members of the admissions committee are looking for a person who is thought about his person, the circumstances, and the prospects that he faces in the college, in case of getting admission. This excitement and sense of duty should be reflected in the essay.

Keep It Intimate & Personal

There is no point in writing a personal essay if it will lack personality. The tone of the essay should be conversational and intimate as if the writer has specifically written for that individual reader. This shows the level of dedication and proof for the essay writing. Since colleges are looking for driven young graduates, this is the best way to share their thoughts and plans concerning the college.

Never Overreach For Readers

College applicants are fresh graduates with little to no experience in writing professionally. It is not a balanced approach to expect them to be masters of the craft. Still, they need to compose an essay that should be reachable to others. But, many students make the mistake of overreaching through the structure and contents of the essay. This should be avoided as it weakens the narrative.

Be Funny & Quirky

If people from colleges’ admission committees would want to read academic papers or formal essays, they could have asked for that in their guidelines. Since they asked for a personal essay, it should be light-hearted and quirky to connect the dots. Even in the most somber of stories and tragedies, it is best to dispel the air of seriousness and show the readers that the writer is not depressed and permanently scarred.

Major Steps In Writing A Personal Essay

There is a lot of planning and consideration that goes on into the process. It is not simple to collect relevant information and then use it in a text. For a personal essay, the bulk of the text comes from the writer himself. Still, there is a good amount of research and planning that goes into showing the admission committees that you are indeed the right candidate for the position. This segment is about connecting the dots from a blank page to the finished essay.

Picking The Right Topic

In most cases, the intended college provided the topic for the personal essay. This makes the upcoming steps easier because the writer knows what to write and how to research that text. However, when they have to come up with the topic, it is an uphill battle since they have to test multiple topics before setting their heart on one. Once this is done, it is time to move on to the next step which is researching and outlining the whole essay.

Researching & Outlining

Many high school graduates believe that writing a personal essay does not require any research or collection of necessary data. This cannot be farther from the truth since no one knows all the things about any given topic. On the other hand, it takes more personality and character to write a convincing personal essay. The best way to research the essay is to outline it accordingly so that both steps are done in one go.

Writing The Initial Draft

After collecting information and outlining the whole essay, it is time to put the magic into play. There is no need to wait around for motivation to hit before writing. The best course of action is to start as soon as possible and then finish the initial draft before it lags behind the nascent potential. Some applicants make the mistake of waiting around or prolonging the process, resulting in poor or error-ridden first drafts. There is some editing in the end but these drafts should be as meticulous as possible.

Proofreading & Editing

It is pure fiction that a writer can write flawless prose in the first draft. There is no truth in it because everyone makes mistakes as they blaze through the draft. This makes the need for editing and proofreading all the more necessary. Aspirants can use online tools and software such as Grammarly and Hemingway Editor to improve their text. Also, they can get peers or siblings to review the essay for them.

Use of Personal Statement

As the name indicates, a personal statement is a small passage, a paragraph where the writer makes the case for his candidacy. In that paragraph, he must convince the readers, which are admissions committee members that he is indeed deserving of the slot in that given department. In many cases, students need to write a personal statement in addition to a personal essay. They should keep in mind that the format for both is the same, it is the difference in scale and word count.

Difference Between Personal Essay & Statement

When we take a look at personal essays and personal statements, we see that they have more similarities in form and structure than differences. Yet, the biggest difference is the scale. The personal essay can stretch to a few hundred words that are enough to introduce a point, provide some background, and then conclude the point effectively. However, when it comes to personal statements, they are short and bold as well as to the point. You can also make the case that a personal statement can be covered in a personal essay but that cannot be done the other way around.

F.A.Q

How do I write a personal statement for Canada?

Canadian colleges ask for personal statements for undergraduate aspirants. The best way to write a personal statement is to start with a bold or eye-catching sentence and then work on it to connect with the narrative. 


How do I start a personal essay?

There is not a single best way to start a personal essay. Since all writing is subjective, one thing can work for one but not for the other. Usually, it should start with a hook that can capture the reader’s attention. Then, it is about providing some background on the main point before moving on to the main body.

How can I write a personal essay?

The process of writing a personal essay is straightforward.

  • Pick the focus area that best resonates with your story
  • Collect relevant information
  • Outline from start to finish
  • Write the first draft
  • Proofread and edit
  • Get someone to read and review the essay for you

What are the 5 elements of a personal essay?

The five important elements of a personal essay are as follows:

  • Opening
  • Thesis statement
  • Narrative or story
  • Main body
  • Closing

Dos and don'ts for personal statements?

When it comes to writing a personal statement, it is necessary to understand the demand. The dos for it include focus and personality. As for the don’ts, it is best to never over-reach and use jargon so that anyone can connect with the story easily.


Are 2 days enough to write a personal statement?

You can write a personal statement in less than 2 days if you are adamant about it. A personal statement is not more than a paragraph. It can be a miniature of the personal essay with the focus on convincing the readers that the writer is indeed worthy of admission.


Courtesy of WME

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