"I Have Nothing to Write About!!!": The Tyranny of the Personal Statement

May 14, 2019

First of all, yes you do.  Before you disagree, let’s talk about the college essay or “personal statement” in realistic terms.  The point of writing this essay is to give admissions folks a chance to get to know the “you” behind the numbers.  The essay needs to be genuine, heartfelt, honest, and something only you would write.


Here’s what it does NOT have to be:


  • An account of your summer in Africa during which you dug a village’s first and only well

  • The time you won the Nobel Peace Prize for your work in ending human trafficking

  • How you became the youngest mayor of any town in America

Now, if you fit into any of the above categories, write away. But most of us don’t. So, what can you write about?


Here are some examples of the stories students wrote about in successful essays we’ve seen:


  • A weekly brunch with an elderly grandparent

  • A failed audition for jazz band

  • Working at a swap meet

  • How water moves

  • What it's like to be named Gonzales and not speak Spanish

  • A knitting project gone awry

In each of the above cases, the student took a relatively m