21 Questions: Personal Statement Style

The Common Application is set to reopen in three days, and while many students probably planned to have their personal statements drafted by this time, we’re realistic enough to know this most likely didn’t come to fruition in all cases. For those students still stuck in the brainstorming stage, we’ve put together a list of 21 questions to get the creative juices flowing. While the answers to these questions won’t be complete essays in and of themselves, we encourage our students to use these as a jumping off point. Any response that gets you thinking, smiling, remembering, and sharing is a step in the right direction towards finding a topic that speaks to you, which is the key to creating an essay that in turn speaks to admissions officers.

  1. What are some of your favorite family traditions? (Can be holiday related, but don’t have to be. For example, could be something like all doing puzzles together on Saturday mornings.)
  2. What’s a story that your family always tells about you from when you were little?
  3. What have you changed your mind about since you entered high school? (Think big and small. Could be something like changing your mind about a subject you had never thought you were good at/liked, or something smaller like loving a new food you had never appreciated before)
  4. In your opinion, what’s the most beautiful place in the world that you’ve lived in or visited?
  5. Where do you go when you need to think/concentrate? Describe this place.
  6. What do you love most about your family?
  7. What do you love most about your life?
  8. What’s something you’ve done or accomplished that you never thought you would have or could have?
  9. What makes you different from your friends? (Think about different opinions, traditions, interests, outlooks, tastes, experiences, etc.)
  10. Name three topics, facts, people, places, or ideas that fascinate you most.
  11. What’s something you do every day no matter what (besides eating, sleeping, going to school)?
  12. Describe a day in your life you wish you could relive.
  13. Are you superstitious? If so, what are some of the superstitions you have?
  14. If you could only pack three non-essential items for a trip, what would you pack?
  15. What are some of the most cherished items you have in your room?
  16. What’s something you’re most proud of that you didn’t receive any recognition for?
  17. What have you written, created, assembled or explored in the last year that wasn’t related to a school assignment?
  18. List three facts about you that people usually find surprising.
  19. What’s something you’ve inherited that you love? (Can be a physical possession or a character trait)
  20. What will you miss the most about your current life/lifestyle when you go to college?
  21. What’s the one non-academic skill that you’ve tried to improve upon with the last few years? (Cooking, overcoming shyness, etc.)

Our best piece of advice is to not set out to write a polished personal statement in one sitting. Instead, brainstorm on a variety of topics, focusing on getting memories, sensory details, anecdotes and specifics down on paper until you hit upon a cohesive theme or topic that has the potential to become an essay that will encapsulate the spirit of who you are. Wonderful essays are built upon captivating ideas, and ideas don’t come completely to life in one day.


Interested in having Y.E.S. Educational Consulting help you with your essay? Contact us today to learn more about our college application assistance.

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