Student Reflection: Choosing a Personal Statement Topic

September 07, 2017

The personal statement is an opportunity for all applicants to bring their personality to life and tell the admissions office they are more than just the numbers on their applications. 

Every individual has multiple interests and many layers to who they are. So, how do you decide on one particular topic to write about? One of our recent college admits reflected back on her college application experience and how she eventually came to choose her personal statement essay topic. 

The summer before senior year, I thought the purpose of the personal statement was to set myself apart from every other applicant. So I brainstormed all of the things that I believed made me quirky: “My middle name is Hope! Many people don’t have that name.” Or, “I doodle on my hands a lot and am a very hands on type of person, so hands is the right topic!” Turns out that trying to fabricate something unique about yourself isn’t unique and that being completely honest to both yourself and any reader makes you sound much more “real.”

Let me clarify what I mean by “real.” When the admissions counselor picks up your application from an enormous stack of applications from kids from your state, your scores and grades that you have poured your heart and soul into achieving over the last three years are just numbers on a page. When you write a truthful essay about an experience that seriously impacted the way you stand on an issue, or the way you view yourself as an individual, that’s when an admissions counselor connects with you. You want the counselor to say, “Wow, I feel like I know him/her” when they finish your essay. 

Of course, I didn’t know this when I first started my application process. I was completely lost and didn’t know what to do. I thought I had nothing unique about myself and that I was just an average, brunette, blue eyed, quiet and passive 17 year old girl. Eventually, I reached out to one of my recommenders, my AP History teacher, for some guidance. He told me that though I was quiet, he saw the determination I had in his class. He said that I just needed someone to push me, and gain more confidence. 

So the next thing I knew, I was vigorously typing on a computer in the public library about my summer experience studying International Relations, and how my love and involvement in politics helped me open up and become a more confident person willing to express her beliefs and ideas. And by just writing every ounce of raw emotion and feeling I remember about the experience on that Google Doc, my essay was believable, truthful, and about a defining moment I was proud of.

So my point? When you sit down to write the essay, just write. Write about something that you care about, write a small defining point that changed your perspective. The moment could be as cliché as my essay was about speaking out, but your experience is unique to you, and that’s what hooks the reader.

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About The Author

Frances Wong
Frances Wong

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.


Browse Successful Application Files

Williams ‘20

Accepted to Williams, Claremont (CMC), Amherst, Swarthmore, Pitzer, Northwestern, Tufts, WashU, Grinnell, Rice, Emory, LMU

Hey! I’m an Econ & Bio major / transfer who’s passionate about STEM, social issues, and design. I learned a lot from navigating this hectic process twice, and I’m excited to help!
Williams ‘19

Accepted to Utah, Colorado, Colby, Williams, SMCVT

Hi! I go by Izi and I am a current student at Williams College Class of 2019. I hope to be a biology or sociology major with a neuroscience concentration. I am on the NCAA Division 1 alpine ski team here.
USC ‘19

Accepted to USC, NYU, UMich, UCSD, Rochester, BC, BU, Miami OH, Loyola U Chicago, Miami, U of Minnesota, Drexel, Illinois

Typical Student from Chicago who has had the best of the American/Hispanic Culture. As well, I applied to 25 schools
USC ‘19

Accepted to USC, UMich, Northwestern, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Swarthmore, CMU, NYU, Vassar, Reed, Kenyon, UC Davis, Syracuse, CU, Fordham, Santa Clara, CSU Chico, CSUF, UC Riverside , UCSB, UCSC, Bard

Theater/business double major from classic and online highschool background. Here to help navigate audition and business interview processes! On full tuition scholarship

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