What are your chances of acceptance?
Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
+ add school
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

What does a personal statement look like for university applications?

Hey folks, I'm drafting my personal statement and I'm kind of lost on where to start. Could anyone share what a strong personal statement generally includes? Should it be more of a narrative or focus on my achievements? Any tips on striking the right tone and standing out would be much appreciated!

8 months ago

Hi there! Starting your personal statement can indeed feel daunting, but it's a wonderful opportunity to showcase who you are beyond grades and test scores. Strong personal statements usually combine narrative with reflection on your achievements, whether those are academic, extracurricular, or personal. The narrative part should tell a story that offers insight into your character, values, or unique perspective. Reflect on an experience, or experiences, that led to personal growth or a moment that sparked a passion.

If you want to discuss some of your achievements, you don't want to just write a list, but rather connect them to your personal journey and explain how they've shaped you. Remember that admissions officers already have your activities list, and the honors section of the Common App, so you don't want to just rehash the information already provided there. Instead, enhance admissions officers' understanding of that information by showing which aspects of your personality helped you en route to these achievements, and how the experiences have shaped you moving forward. Your tone should be authentic and self-reflective—don't aim to boast, but to genuinely explain how your personality and perspectives have developed over time.

To stand out, focus on specifics rather than generalities—concrete details resonate more with readers, as other students may have similar values to you, but none of them have the same backstory of why they hold these values. For example, rather than simply saying you enjoy science, describe the thrill of your first successful experiment and how it led to more complex projects. Remember, it’s not just what you’ve done, but how those experiences have impacted you and others.

If you want to see some examples of strong personal statements to inspire your thinking, you can find 21 excellent ones on CollegeVine's blog: https://blog.collegevine.com/common-app-essay-examples. Moreover, if you want help with your essay, you can utilize CollegeVine's free peer essay review service, or submit your essay to an expert advisor for a paid review.

Good luck writing!

8 months ago

About CollegeVine’s Expert FAQ

CollegeVine’s Q&A seeks to offer informed perspectives on commonly asked admissions questions. Every answer is refined and validated by our team of admissions experts to ensure it resonates with trusted knowledge in the field.