College Essays

Words arranged in the right order produce an afterglow.

Valeria Luiselli

College applications may require students to submit personal statements and other supplemental essays. Latinx Opportunities is here to help students learn how they can write the best college essays that showcase their talents and gain acceptance in the college of their dreams.

what is a personal statement?

A personal statement offers you the opportunity to talk about yourself or the prompt topics. Personal statements allows others to evaluate your writing and schools to learn more about you, your personality, your potential addition to the school’s community, and your interest in that school, more so than any other part of the application. Your personal statement addresses any points you might not have discussed anywhere else in the application, or extenuating circumstances. Personal statements create a holistic view of the applicant: more than just grades, numbers, and ranks. It is the ONE part of the application where you are in complete control at the time of the application: what you write about, and how you write it (within given parameters). Don’t wait till the last minute to write your personal statement. Your personal statement will go through many revisions until it finally ties your application.

types of college

Questions usually fall into 4 major categories, with variations in between:

  • “Tell us about yourself” questions
    “Facing a problem” questions
  • “Why this college?” questions
  • Creative questions

2020-2021 common application personal statement prompts

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

the writing process

Read and re-read the question

Make sure you fully understand what the question is asking you.


Before you start writing your essays, ask yourself the following questions like:

  • What details of my life might help the admissions committee better understand more about me?
  • What unusual circumstances or obstacles have I overcome?
  • What drives me?
  • What is important to me? The person reading my application will have read hundreds (if not thousands) of others.

read your essays out loud

After you write an essay, read it out loud to yourself. Can you catch any spelling or grammar mistakes? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my essay have any clichés or overused phrases?
  • After all these edits, does this still sound like me to people that know me?
  • Did I say everything I needed to say?

Quick Read: Details in the Way You Share Your Story

Version 1
I live in a house in west Provo. I like the view from our house. We have lived there since November. We also have a car that I like very much. We were in an accident a few months ago. We hit a deer that was crossing the street at night. I felt sorry for the deer, but it cost a lot of money to repair the car.

Version 2
My husband and I bought our first house last November, and we love it. It is located in west Provo near Utah Lake. Although we cannot see the lake from our house, we do have a beautiful view of Mount Timpanogos. Our house has three bedrooms, two
bathrooms, a living room and a family room, and a large kitchen and dining area. We also have a large backyard and a small garden. We are very happy to own our own home, and I hope that we will live there for several years.

When reading, DO:

• Find the “story” in your history
• Aim to define a central idea, impression or theme you hope to convey
• Strive for depth rather than volume
• Tell something that can’t be found in other parts of your application
• Provide the reader with insight into what drives you
• Be yourself, not the ‘ideal’ applicant
• Address the university’s unique features that interest you, if applicable
to the prompt
• Use specifics
• Use a writing style that is true to you!
• Pick a topic you’re excited about
• Turn negative experiences into positives
• Analyze & evaluate experiences, don’t describe them
• Proofread carefully
• Give to a core group of people that know you and ask for feedback: is
this me? Is this my voice?
• Be an active writer, not a passive one
• Focus on yourself, and no one else

When writing, DO NOT:

• Write an essay based on your resume
• Make the essay entirely about someone else
• Write to impress
• Complain, blame or whine
• Preach to your reader
• Remind the school of its ranking or tell them how good they are
• Use boring clichéd intros or conclusions
• Use unconventional essay formats
• Submit supplemental materials unless they are requested
• Get the name of the school wrong/forget to edit
• Use inappropriate word usage

Last Tips:

Essays & Personal Statements should do the following:

  • Provide insight into your life
  • Offer an opportunity to shine
  • Will take weeks to develop, and months to refine
  • Should not be left until the last minute
  • A very important factor in the holistic review of your application!

Connect with Latinx Opportunities

If you would like to schedule a meeting with us to discuss any questions you may have, feel free to go to our contact page or schedule an appointment down below for essay reviews