Writing Tips

Having a hard time writing personal statements and supplementals? Check out some writing tips from our team to help you!


‌As someone who struggled a lot in English class, I found writing personal statements and supplementals difficult. What should you write about? How do you approach it? How do you make it perfect? We will not be able to read your personal statement to help you, but we have tips for you to help make your personal statement better!

Topic

What to write about? It depends on the prompt you chose, but the most important part is to tell admissions officers about yourself and highlight your great qualities! Put your best foot forward here, and that doesn’t include lying! Being truthful and yourself will shine louder than lies, plus many admissions officers can see through any lies you try to sneak in. It may be hard to know what you want to write about, so we recommend keeping a note file so you can jot any ideas down and get back to them later. I also suggest reading some examples of personal statements online to help inspire you but make sure not to copy the personal statement you read. The best ideas come at the most random times, and it may help if you go out, walk around, and observe your surroundings. I only had an idea of what to write about for my personal statement on my way when I was taking the bus to go home from my summer internship.

Personal Statement Writing Tips

  1. Over your word count? Look through your essay and reconsider every “that” or filler word  you use. Read the sentence out loud and see if it makes sense. A lot of times, the use of the word “that” is unnecessary. The same goes for many filler words like “literally” and “like.”
  2. Under your word count? Try to be less vague with your choice of words. Make sure you write out what “they” and “that” is. You can also try adding more adjectives to your writing.
  3. Show, don’t tell– a classic tip in storytelling that should be used here too. Your teachers emphasized figurative language because it can make your writing more interesting. If you just directly write everything out for your admissions officer, it will get boring for them to read.
  4. A motif! Every good story has one; try to find one in yours too!
  5. Don’t just shove in the unfamiliar vocabulary you don’t know how to use. I understand you want to look smart, but you’ll end up doing more harm if you the words wrong.
  6. The last word of your sentences should be powerful words. Don’t end sentences with small words like “on,” “is,” or “that.” It may work out when you read it aloud, but it won’t make your essay as impactful as possible. Try to end sentences with nouns; that way, when you read the last word of every sentence in your essay, you’ll get the main idea just from those few words.
  7. Your essay should go full circle. If you start your essay writing about apples, end it by relating it to apples. This way, it will feel whole and satisfying for others to read. A great way to check this is to connect the last word of the first paragraph to the last word of the essay or have them both be the same. For example: If your last word of the first paragraph is tree, then the last word of the essay can be an apple; as apples grow on trees, they relate to each other.
  8. Let others read your drafts! It never hurts to have more people give you opinions and catch grammar mistakes you may have missed. Also, try to get a range of ages of people to read your essay, as you don’t know how old your admissions officers are. Different generations may have other ideas about what you wrote, so it'll be an excellent way to consider all possible audiences. We recommend asking some teachers to review your essay, especially English teachers!
  9. It doesn't have to be perfect! A few small grammar mistakes are passable, but fix your essay before submitting your application as you still want to put your best self forward. Admissions officers understand you are still a student continuously improving their writing skills; plus, all humans make mistakes.


Supplementals

Not every school may have supplementals, but those who do all have different ones. The one I'll focus on today is very common, the "Why (School name)?" prompts.

  1. Go deeper than just location. Let’s say your school is in New York City, don’t only write about why you love New York City. Small parts of the location can be mentioned in your answer, but your school has much more to offer than just the locations.
  2. Go to their website, check out which clubs you want to join, and write about them!
  3. If possible, look through their course selections and see if there are any classes you would like to take!
  4. Write about how you would fit into their school with your plans.
  5. Name dropping some professors can also show you did your research, but ensure you have the correct information about who you name drop and include how they have inspired or can help you.
  6. Since supplementals usually have a smaller word limit than personal statements, you can be more direct with your writing.
  7. Have a theme! This way, it’ll make it easier to read. For example, my Why NYU essay theme was flea markets since I grew up in one. I compared NYU to a flea market and how NYU would make me feel at home.
  8. Check out some school-specific tips on YouTube! Some people will explain the supplemental prompts by the school on YouTube and give you helpful school-specific tips.
  9. If you took notes about the school during your college search process, take them out now and see if you can incorporate some of your notes in your answer!‌

Need more help on your essay? OperationSTART has many programs on our website that can provide free, personalized support on your college applications!

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