In the personal essay for college applications, they want to understand your work ethic, the values you stand by and what experiences influenced those traits. Instead of writing about your accomplishments, tell a story. If you are on the debate team, tell a story about your favorite debate, the challenges, your thought process and what you learned from the outcome. If you are on a soccer team, tell a story about a specific game and a specific move in which your decision in a split moment changed the outcome, and what you learned from it.
In this New York Times article, a good read, the author didn’t feel proud writing about growing up without a parent, or trauma she experienced. It simply didn’t feel good to win them over with a sob story. In the end, she got accepted into a choice college with a personal story about helping out her mom who worked three jobs. The person who read the personal essay in the college applications wasn’t told: I am smart, hardworking, a good friend. When you list your attributes, it’s unmemorable. You want to stand out. The power in a well-told story is when the reader extrapolates their own view about what kind of person you are. In this case, the personal essay was about a thoughtful, compassionate, helpful, and a team player; someone any school would love to admit!