How to Write a Personal Statement for College: Showing Leaders’ Qualities

Showing leadership qualities is a common theme in personal statements for college. If done incorrectly they could land you in some trouble by not sticking out any differently than other applicants’ essays, but if written correctly it can set you miles ahead of the pack.

Here’s how to effectively show leadership qualities in your personal statement for college:

  • Start by identifying your leadership qualities. First, take a critical look at your leadership experiences. Do your recall moments where you led people to action? What about motivate people towards a common goal? Don’t think about “leadership” as a broad term; instead, focus on a few of the sub-qualities that are linked to leadership – integrity, vision, initiative, responsibility, listening, planning, reliability, etc. Find experiences that relate a few of these qualities and explore the how they are good examples of leadership. Taking this approach opens up your options to a broader and more creative landscape. Finding a unique experience keeps your personal interesting when writing about this difficult topic.
  • Give examples of how you lead. You’re probably familiar with the piece of advice that says that the best writing shows and doesn’t tell. That’s also true when it comes to personal statements. Be very creative when you think of an example of your leadership. Think outside the box and instead of stating that you were a leader draft the experience as a short story, filling in details and describing the hurdles you had to overcome. It’s not enough to say you led the team to victory in the fourth quarter, it’s more effective to show the reader the speech you gave in huddle and how you forced yourself back up to your feet after an injury. The first is unspectacular; the latter is inspirational.
  • Reveal the impact of your leadership qualities. All of the best colleges will want to admit students who will have a positive effect in their community. The best way to finish this essay is to show the impact your leadership had and hint at what could have occurred had you not been around to lead. Using the example from above think of what may have happened had you not stepped up and motivated your teammates in the huddle. Would someone else have stepped in? Would the team have felt defeated long before the final score? Describe the impact of your leadership qualities in a way that shows you are truly valuable to the school.

These three elements will make your personal statement strong and help set it apart from the hundreds of other leadership-themed essays the admissions officers will encounter.

Posted by June 27th, 2014