One of the greatest parts of the college process is the personal statement. Rather than measure you as a simple statistic, UC’s and most private colleges will have a committee dedicated to reading the personal statements of prospective students. When I first began the college process, I imagined this committee to be a series of people in business suits seated around a circular table in a dimly lit room, their eyes digesting my personal statement and judging my entire life.

The first step of overcoming the stress of the personal statement is to let go of this notion. Once I came to Pitzer, I met some of the members of this committee and they turned out to be some of the friendliest people I have ever met. They are regular people like you and I who want to know your aspirations and goals because as a prospective student, you are an investment. It is up to you to show that you are worth investing in. It is called a personal statement because it is meant to be personal. You are sharing a piece of yourself in written form and you shouldn’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Because it is also “personal”, you should limit the amount you talk about people other than yourself.

In my own personal statement, I wrote: “Among the many qualities I inherited from my parents, such as language and culture, is also a relentless perseverance. Seeing them overcome the many challenges that came with earning a low income in a new country inspired me to fight through even the most difficult situations … Still, I can sincerely say that my struggles as a first generation American in a household of low socioeconomic status has never discouraged me from accomplishing my dream of attaining a solid education and a steady career, while providing for my family. I have constantly told myself that the cycle of poverty within my family will end with me.” Colleges select the students they feel are most motivated to go through their academically rigorous programs and you should show that you are determined to give all it takes.

My biggest piece of advice with supplement essays is to read the college’s mission statement which will be posted on the college’s website. Familiarize yourself with the values of the college and ask yourself what you have done to demonstrate these values. Work these values into your response and you will have a leg up on those who didn’t bother to read the college’s mission statement.  Also, “optional essay” means “you should still do this essay”. Nope, don’t give me any ifs or buts. Do it now.