How-to: Creating your College List & Crafting your Personal Statement this Fall

After a relaxing summer break, students reluctantly jump back into rigorous class schedules, after-school activities, and/or jobs. This time can be stressful for all students— BUT, for high school seniors, the fall is even more daunting: lo and behold the college application process. Senior year presents an exciting opportunity for students to buckle down on the two most important parts of the college admissions process: finalizing the college list and creating a personal statement essay.

The College List

With close to 5,300 colleges and universities in the United States, creating a college list can be stressful. With options ranging from public to private schools, state and liberal arts schools, trade schools, and much more - the greatest question is: which college is the right fit for you?

There is no magical answer to this question, but there are steps that you can take to find a school that checks your boxes. There are many great schools out there, but the most important thing in constructing your college list is to have thoughtful conversations about EVERY school on your list. You need to determine a few reach, target, and safety schools that are a good fit for your prospective college list and not overload yourself with applications. The more applications you have to do, the less likely they are to have equivocal quality.

The Ignite Team recommends choosing at least 3 safety schools, 3 target schools, and 3 reach schools! Make sure that your GPA and standardized test scores fall within the lower, middle, and upper ranges of your chosen schools.


The Personal Statement

A personal statement is your main Common Application essay. On the application side, your academics, class rigor, extracurriculars, and jobs are all set in stone by the time you are submitting your applications. These quantitative factors are going to help the school evaluate you as a prospective student, but it is only a snapshot of you as a person. The personal statement is your opportunity to SHARE YOUR STORY.

There are about seven essay prompts each year for the common application that are released each year. No essay prompt is better than the other—they are intended to be an open-ended start for you to share a meaningful story about yourself, so pick the ones that speak to you. This portion of your application is where the reader gets insight into what makes you, you. The personal statement is an opportunity that every student needs to showcase their creativity, originality, and unique perspective on life.

If you are having a difficult time choosing your prompts, we recommend that you sit down and make a list of topics or stories you can write about for each prompt, then narrow it down to the ones that share a well rounded story about yourself. The essays should be telling your reader different qualities that you will bring to campus, so don’t obsess over semantics — focus on writing something meaningful that gives genuine insight into who you are as a person!


If you are interested in learning more about the college admissions process, join us Wednesday August 18th for a FREE college admissions webinar hosted by our in-house college application advisor and UCLA scholarship reviewer, Zach K.!

If you want 1-on-1 help crafting your perfect college application, book a session to work with one of our qualified tutors!

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