The pencil gently scratched the surface of the paper for over an hour, with hopes and dreams waiting in the wings, ready to see the impact of what was written. 

A little dramatic, maybe, but opening lines matter, especially when it comes to writing your personal statement for college. Your personal statement is your chance to tell colleges what makes you different and why you would be a great fit for their school. Personal statements show admissions counselors your interest, values, habits, passions, and views about life. You want your essay to truly reflect you. 

But where do you start? And how do you choose your topic? 

Start with Your Passions

When you’re considering potential topics for your essay, choose one that’s easy to write about. If words aren’t coming to you, it probably means you aren’t passionate enough about your topic. 

Counselors will be able to tell if you don’t have passion behind your words. Remember that admissions counselors are reading hundreds of essays each week. You want to share a topic that’s unique to you (if possible), backed by story-telling that shows a different angle than other students who play lacrosse or love debate or mastered the violin. 

Pick Your Personal Statement Topic

Still struggling? Here are a few tips to help you choose your essay topic: 

    • Brainstorm topics. Set a timer and make a long list of every topic that comes to mind that you could write about. 
    • Talk to your family members and close friends. Ask people close to you about the things that they see you’re passionate about. You might not realize what makes you light up when you talk about it.

Still not sure? Maybe these potential topics can inspire you:

    • Hobbies you have outside of school 
    • Social causes you are passionate about
    • A volunteer opportunity that changed your view of the world 
    • An event on a local or even international level that’s impacted you
    • An academic subject that has led to experiences or personal study outside of school
    • A special trip you took and how it impacted you 

Or, if you plan to apply for colleges with the Common App, take a look at their topics. (Even if you aren’t using the Common App, their ideas can be good inspiration): 

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Other Personal Statement Tips

No matter what personal statement topic you choose, some rules and tips apply. 

First, make sure you answer the question that the specific application asks. If they give you a specific question to write your essay about, then make sure you follow all the given instructions. 

Also, make sure the essay is primarily about you. If you are writing a tribute to your grandmother and her influence on you, be personal and specific, not just sentimental. Explain how what she did and said were important to you. Your goal is not to get her admitted but to get you admitted. 

Then, start off with a strong opening statement and develop your argument and narrative. Make sure you check all your facts as well as your grammar and punctuation. Proofread! Then have someone else proofread. Then proofread it again! 

Tell about your life and your passions through stories, specific examples, and even humor! 

Finally, get at least one draft done before November so you’ll have plenty of time to perfect it. 

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A well-crafted, unique personal statement is worth the effort. Put forth the work to stand out among the applicants. If you want more tips on your essays or the college admissions process, learn more about our college admissions counseling