Writing is a process -
commit to your vision.


Do you have a core idea and write with a vision?

Writing is a process. Each time you work on a draft, decide what you want to accomplish. 

Example: On this pass, I want to focus on the way this experience changed me.
Write expansively on that idea. Don't. Hold. Back.

Think like a storyteller.

Stories are about something. What's your story about? If you can write it in a sentence, you'll avoid a major pitfall: including too much information in your essay. 

Have some fun exploring your story's focus. Remember, you are the protagonist.

Directions. In one sentence, tell us what your story is about.


  • Athletic competitor with an artistic soul

  • Trendsetter with a passion for business

  • Deep-thinker on a quest to understand the mysteries of the universe

  • Rebel with a cause

  • Teen with a dream

  • First generation college student trailblazing a creative future

  • Storyteller with a funny bone and a YouTube channel

  • Caring helper destined to become a child psychologist

  • Community advocate with ambition to run for office

Stories have their own logic. Details. Revelations. Trust the images, words and phrases that are natural to you. 


This is not an essay for English class. It’s not for a grade, and you don't get bonus points for using a thesaurus. It has a completely different purpose. You're helping colleges get to know you as a person, and not just as a high school student. Think: conversational, not formal.

Personality and Voice.

Does your story sync up with the personal qualities you want to convey? For example, there's a fine line between demonstrating passion for a project and bragging about your role in it. But you can also underplay your part, too. The creative challenge is to strike the right balance. 

Sometimes students tap into their truths, write a raw confessional and declare they are ready to submit. Keep in mind, first drafts are not final drafts. (You already knew that, right?) 

Clichés – Don't Go There.

There are some stories that colleges don't want to read. You can probably guess that a story about a  privileged teen who learns to to appreciate poverty on a service trip is not a good idea. Or that a story about an athlete who kicks the winning goal after years of challenges will evoke groans. 

Here's the thing – clichéd writing is the result of generalized thinking. Honest introspection and thoughtful expression is the key to this process. 


Your life has been turned upside-down by the pandemic. Nothing is the same. You aren't the same. There is a separate question on the Common App for that topic. Don't write about your experience with the pandemic in your main essay. 

Review. Personal statements allow you to be reflective, thoughtful and inspired about the direction of your life. Commit to the vision you want to share and enjoy the process of self-discovery.

© 2017 by Susan Treadwell. Created with Wix.com