Writing Your Personal Statement

By Colleen Smith, associate director of admission

In college admission, the personal essay is a big deal. There are books and workshops on the subject, even private tutors you can hire for your writing roadblocks. Just picking a topic can be a source of agony.

High school admission? Not so bad in comparison. For one, there’s no gut-wrenching indecision about which topic to pick: we’ve decided for you! Yup, there’s just one option for the essay. Maybe you’ll like the topic, maybe you won’t. Point is, it’s simple, and you don’t have to worry that Applicant X has brainstormed something more innovative and glamorous.

The second reassurance: we don’t expect perfection. We hope you’ll write thoughtfully and give us a glimpse into who you are as a person. Structure and grammar are important (and in this age of computers, you have no excuse not to spellcheck), but a few errors are okay. We’d rather the essay be true to you than polished past recognition by well-intentioned parents and counselors.

The best essays aren’t all sunshine and roses. Every school wants to admit students with resilience, which is why we ask you specifically about a difficult experience. Maybe you were able to resolve it perfectly; maybe the outcome was nothing like you anticipated. Either way, we hope you learned from it. (Admission counselors are big suckers for growth.)

Finally, remember that the essay is just one part of the application. We’ll learn about you from your recommendations, your interview, and other pieces of the admission puzzle. Be honest, be reflective, and have fun with it.

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