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Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

The 4 Traits of an Outstanding Personal Statement

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Robert Crystal in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



Outstanding personal statements highlight your core values, provide insight into who you are, express vulnerability, and demonstrate craft and writing skills. By understanding these four traits of an outstanding personal statement better, you can improve the personal essay that you have already written further to ensure that it best highlights your goals, values, skills, interests, and personal qualities. The ultimate goal is to produce a piece of writing that speaks to who you are, what makes you unique, and what you have to offer. 


Highlight Your Core Values


Your core values are your personal set of beliefs about conduct, character, and ethics that guide you in making decisions, solving problems, and moving through life. Although you are the author of your own system of values, your values are determined in large part by the world around you and the people within it. There are so many possible values to hold and some may include honesty, loyalty, transparency, generosity, and humility. 


It’s important to distinguish between values and the means to express these values. For instance, if you value honesty, a method for practicing honesty is to never lie and always tell your truth regardless of consequence. 


Once you understand for yourself what your core values are, you will then need to figure out how to incorporate these values into your personal statement in an artful and impactful way by sharing experiences from your life that demonstrate how you live out these values on a daily basis.


Provide Insight Into Who You Are


An outstanding personal statement must include deep insight into who you are. To provide insight, you need to reflect on and analyze critically whichever anecdotes and life experiences you choose to share in your essay. These anecdotes and life experiences are the evidence that you furnish for the insights you have gained about yourself, what you have learned, and how your thoughts and feelings have changed with respect to your family, community, culture, socioeconomic situation, and more. The insights that you choose to share should determine which stories you choose to tell, and the reader―an admissions officer―should understand why you are sharing these experiences. 


Express Vulnerability


Vulnerability does not mean that you need to share your most deep and personal secrets. Rather, being vulnerable in your personal statement means being personal by sharing personal details about yourself, such as your background and upbringing, how you think about things, what you care about, and to what you aspire. Put bluntly, vulnerability is the “personal” in “personal statement.”


Demonstrate Craft and Writing Skills


An outstanding personal statement must be well crafted in terms of your word choice, grammar and syntax, authorial voice, and overall essay structure. The best way to demonstrate craft and writing skills is to follow the writing process and go through multiple iterations of brainstorming, outlining, drafting, revising, and seeking other people’s opinions on your writing. Equally important is taking time in between finishing your essay drafts to step back from the process. The more time you spend working your way through the writing process, the higher likelihood that you will produce a piece of quality writing.


For more information, review this comprehensive guide on How to Write the Common Application Essays for the 2022-2023 application cycle.