How to Craft Compelling Personal Statements and Supplemental Essays

Rubin Caco

Supplemental essays and personal statements are crucial points of all college applications. In the highest strata of the college admissions landscape, top high school students will compete against their peers for a spot in one of the top US colleges. With schools becoming more selective year over year, students must take a strategic approach to their college applications and find the best way to make an impression on their college admissions officers. High grades and a robust academic profile are expected when applying to top schools, but admissions officers don't accept students based on scores alone. For students to have the best chance at getting accepted into their dream school, students need to display their personality through their personal statements and supplemental essays. To give your student the best chance, here are InGenius Prep's top tips for crafting compelling personal statements and supplemental essays. 

Research Your Colleges

At the top schools, admissions officers employ holistic review, incorporating everything about a student's profile in their evaluation. Review goes beyond just test scores and GPA—admissions officers look for candidates who would be a good fit for their campus academically, professionally, and personally. 

Due to the nature of holistic review, students need to display all their strongest characteristics on their college applications. Supplemental essays and personal statements (as well as other aspects such as the activities list) will be a few of the main ways students will illustrate their candidacy. But before students get started on these pieces, it's best to research and determine which schools to write for. 

The best applications are tailor-made for the school you're applying to, and in order to write material that will fit that school, one must learn about that school first. Research the school's history, its values, the type of people who that school created, and how all that information relates to your own journey. Admissions officers are eager to learn about students and understand how they think. However, students should also understand how admissions officers think, and researching schools is the first step in getting into the minds of the admissions office. 

Researching schools is essential to creating a diverse and balanced school list. To learn more, read our blog, "School List Advice from a Former Admissions Officer with 20 Years of Experience."

Find The "Why"

Every stellar personal statement or supplemental essay revolves around a central theme. Admissions officers want to know what makes a student unique and how they can apply that uniqueness to their schooling and careers. So, when brainstorming personal statements and supplemental essays, students should consider the aspects of their lives that set them apart from other applicants. 

Finding the "why" is an excellent place to start. Students should know their ambitions and why they choose to pursue them. Why have you chosen your intended major or field of study? Why does it matter to you? What are you hoping to accomplish down the line? A person who is driven in their purpose and willing to endure despite any hardship is the cornerstone of making compelling writing, and answering these questions authentically and passionately will give students a strong foundation on which to base their writings. 

Admissions officers seek applicants who display these qualities, and being a student who cannot only write about their convictions but can back them up through their academics and extracurricular activities will vastly increase the options available to you in higher education. 

Find Your Narrative Arc

Effective storytelling is a powerful yet difficult tool to wield. Writing effectively and conveying your thoughts and emotions in a way that can compel others is a skill that people spend a lifetime mastering. However, students do not need to spend all their time studying writing in order to effectively communicate through the written word. For personal statements, students should strive to find their narrative arc—a cohesive and compelling storyline that captures the essence of who they are and what they aspire to achieve. 

Students can achieve this by reflecting on pivotal moments, experiences, or challenges that have shaped their journeys so far. These anecdotes serve as the building blocks of your narrative, offering insight into your character, values, and aspirations.

Craft your narrative arc with careful consideration of structure and pacing. Begin with a captivating introduction that hooks your reader and sets the stage for your story. Then, navigate through the ups and downs of your journey, weaving in personal insights, reflections, and growth. Your narrative should unfold organically, drawing readers in with each twist and turn.

As you conclude, evaluate, and edit your writing, be sure to keep in mind the central theme of your application—the one sentence that defines your application in its entirety. This "application persona" should be the driving angle behind your application, and everything should tie back into that overarching theme, including your personal statement and essays. 

To learn more about the application persona and how they affect your results, read our blog: "Application Personas: How Top Colleges Find the Best Students."

Improve Your Application with Expert Guidance

College applications can be a complicated and strenuous process that seems to get more chaotic year after year. To stay ahead of the game and make sure no stone is left unturned in your student's college application, InGenius Prep is here to guide you every step of the way. Our Application Counseling program pairs students with Former Admissions Officers from the top US schools—ready to give your student expert insight into how to make a substantial impact on admissions officers and have the best chance of getting accepted into your dream school. To learn more, schedule a free consultation call with one of our advisors to start your journey into the Ivy League.

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