Erin Moriarty, Loyola University's Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Talks About University Applications: How to Write a Compelling Personal Statement or Application Essay

Originally published at University Herald.

A personal statement is part of the application process for many university undergraduate programs. Every applicant will provide one, and admissions officers will read them all. If you want yours to stand out, follow these guidelines from Erin Moriarty, Loyola University’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions.

1. Answer the Questions

Many university applications will ask questions about a person’s background, education, and aspirations. While you may be tempted to “copy and paste” your answers, it’s essential to answer each question clearly. Don’t include answers to questions they didn’t ask.

Admissions officers have a lot of experience reading applications, and they will notice when they’re reading something that doesn’t exactly fit what they asked. 

2. Add Important Details

On applications or personal statements, it’s easy to fill the page with general beliefs and goals. What’s more difficult is to find ways to stand out among the crowd. One of the best ways to do this is by being as specific as possible. Include valuable details about your life and the reasons you want to attend the university in question. 

Avoid generic phrases or statements that could be true of anyone. Instead, find ways to insert unique characteristics or explanations about yourself and your beliefs.

3. Focus on Your Opening Section

Admissions offices will read hundreds, if not thousands, of applications and personal statements each semester. One of the best ways to separate yourself from the pack is in the opening paragraph. 

Your opening statement has to find a way to hook the reader and make them want to keep reading. If your opening is too generic, the admissions officer reading it will quickly lose interest and may miss out on some of the better parts later on.

4. Avoid Clichés

Every aspiring doctor or teacher wants to help people. Every potential entrepreneur has the next big idea. That’s why it’s important to avoid using clichés or stating the obvious in your essay. Instead of wasting your writing space and the reviewer’s time, focus on the things about your life that make you unique and the reasons your goals matter.

5. Write Correctly

Finally, ensure your essay is written well. It should not contain typos, grammatical mistakes, or awkward phrasing. Your application and personal statement are the first impression you will make on the university. If it’s obvious you didn’t take the time to double-check and polish the piece, you’re sending a clear message to the admission’s office you don’t care very much. 

All of the above advice is a great starting point for completing college admissions applications and writing personal essays. Remember to stay true to who you are and show why you would be a great addition to any university campus.

Who Is Erin Moriarty?

Erin Moriarty, Loyola University Chicago’s Associate Vice President and Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, is passionate about students. She believes strongly in Loyola’s mission – to help mold young men and women to become leaders in today’s society and to seek God in all things. Outside of work, Erin can be found participating in Pedal the Cause or biking along the shores of Lake Michigan.