Top 10 Tips To Elevate Your Personal Statement

This is the 2nd part of our "Crafting the Perfect Statement" blog post. Here we share some of the tips we give our seniors after they've put together an initial draft.


Hopefully you're feeling inspired to share your story of personal growth and highlight your tremendous potential! Now that you've put some ideas on paper, it's time to fine-tune your statement to an exquisite piece of writing. To help you with that, here are 10 useful strategies and techniques that can quickly elevate your personal statement.

1. Be aware of your point of view. You've probably heard of the different POVs (1st, 2nd, and 3rd person). You'll most likely be writing your personal statement in the 1st person (using "I" or "me"), but make sure to be consistent. It can be easy to slip into 2nd person (addressing your reader). Shifting between POVs can be distracting for your audience unless you're doing it for stylistic reasons.

2. Vary your pronoun usage. Since you'll likely be writing in the 1st person, the pronouns "I," "me," and "my" will be used a lot. Try varying the way you start your sentences. (The same is true if you're writing the 2nd or 3rd person.) Lead with verbs or transition phrases that establish time or location. This helps break up the monotony of say "I did this" multiple times and creates a smoother flow to your essay.

3. Vary your verb usage. Déjà vu. But actually, try to expand your "verb vocabulary." Using standard verbs like "joined," "helped," or "made" is not very descriptive of the actions you actually took. Stronger action verbs like "managed" or "designed" can give your audience a better scope of the work you put in while eliminating unneeded descriptions.

4. "Right Click > Synonyms." We're all guilty of it. A lot of students think that the personal statement has to be an ultra-sophisticated piece of writing and that obscure (or just long) vocabulary words translate into being "smart." This couldn't be farther from the truth. If you try using words from a "synonyms" list, you're likely to use them incorrectly or awkwardly. Instead of focusing on "sounding smart," make sure your statement is eloquent--meaning that it reads naturally.

5. Be concise and comprehensive. Strong writers understand the idea of "word real-estate." This means that every word on your page needs to add value. Even without a word limit, there is such a thing as using too many words. Eliminate words that are redundant, or consolidate multiple words into a couple that effectively convey your meaning (like a strong action verb). 

6. Vary your sentence structure. Yes, it may seem like now we're the ones being redundant, but making sure your sentences vary in length is vital for developing a good "flow" or rhythm. Short sentences are a great way to recap a lesson you learned. Longer sentences, with dependent clauses and appositives, can effectively establish cause-and-effect. By utilizing different structures, you better engage your reader and demonstrate advanced writing skills.

7.. Understand your scope. In telling your story, it's easy to get carried away. You may feel like you need to share every single detail of an experience or trace back to the origins of an important decision you made. Providing context is important, but context should lead to your main point, not distract from it. Focus on the pivotal moments.

8. Avoid clichés and platitudes. Your personal statement should be unique to you. Clichés are, by definition, not. It might seem sage or enlightened to share a lesson such as "every story has two sides" or "even the best of us make mistakes," but those phrases tell nothing about your experience. In fact, using platitudes takes away from the importance of the story you're sharing. Develop a statement that guides your reader through the lesson you learned instead of just stating it point-blank.

9. Ask for criticism. Having someone help with your editing and revising can be really beneficial. However, when sharing your personal statement with someone else, it can be difficult to hear criticism. After all, who knows your story better than you? Maybe your editor just needs to "read it again" to understand what you meant. But here's the cold truth: if your statement isn't clear in the first read through, colleges aren't going to spend the time to decipher what you "meant to say." So take the opportunity to get a fresh set of eyes on your work and try to understand the problem your reader is noticing.

10. Don't lie. OK, this one may seem weird. But let's all be honest, it can be tempting to "embellish" your story to seem more impressive. Chances are, no one's going to fact check if you did 150 or 500 hours of community service. But where "stretching the truth" can come back to bite you is when you describe how those hypothetical hours of service influenced your growth and potential. After all, it isn't the sheer quantity of your experiences that is impressive, it's the value you gained and the value you will continue to add that excites your readers.


We hope these blog posts have helped seniors as they begin developing their personal stories. We realize that there's a lot more that goes into crafting the "perfect statement." Therefore, we're excited to announce that this series will continue! Stay tuned for our next post that breaks down each prompt on this year's Common Application.

We'll also be starting another blog series with lifestyle tips to optimize your time and energy!

What's Your Story?

This is the first of a 2-part blog post geared towards helping seniors craft the perfect personal statement.


It’s finally time to tackle the daunting task of writing your personal statement. Counselors have emphasized the importance of this essay for months and you’ve finally committed to getting started. Here’s how it’s going:

“                                                                                                        ”
… Great. 

There’s no denying that writing an eloquent, comprehensive, enlightening, introspective, and enthralling personal statement is a tall order. How do you even get started? Everything you put on the page seems as rudimentary as “I want to go to college because…” So what’s the secret to crafting a great personal statement? Know your story.

To be clear, admissions counselors don’t need an hour-by-hour account of your daily schedule. And don’t bother recapping all the successes you’ve had in your high school career (that’s already in your application). Instead, think about this: Why are you sitting there—in front of your computer—stressing out over 650 stupid words that seem to be withholding you from a magnificent future?

It’s because you, at some point, understood that a college education will add incredible value to your life. More importantly, you made the decision to commit to this path, no matter what challenges may hinder you. This journey has influenced you into becoming the scholar and citizen you are today. Now share that pursuit in your statement.

Show, don’t tell—it’s a common piece of advice given when talking about personal statements. But there’s more to it than that. You need to guide your audience through the experiences that helped shape you as a person. After reading your statement, admissions counselors should believe in your ability to succeed in any situation. Your personal statement must reflect on the growth you’ve made thus far as a young adult as well as highlight the potential you have as a collegiate academic. Every college-bound student has these two features; it’s time to accentuate yours. 


Stay tuned for our next post which will provide useful techniques and elements to incorporate into your personal statement.

December 2015 SAT Scores!

It's that time of the year! SAT scores are in! 

By now, you should have accessed your SAT scores on the CollegeBoard website. This set of scores is especially important given the change in the SAT's structure starting in March. Here are some of our thoughts for December SAT takers as you plan the remainder of your testing schedule:

1. If you scored close to your target score:

If your score was within 100-150 points of your target score, it's not too late to increase that score come January. With school on break, you have plenty of time to practice before the January test. That said, if you plan on taking the test in January, remember to register on time! This is the last time you can take the SAT in its current form, so give it your best!

2. If you are a sophomore:

If you are a sophomore who took the SATs in December, there are a number of things to consider. First, you have plenty of time to adequately prepare for the new SAT / ACT. That said, if you fall into the first category, it may be worth dedicating the time to mastering the SAT in its old format. That way, you will have more opportunities down for the new SAT / ACT while having a great fallback score from the old SAT.

3. If you are a junior:

If you are a junior who took the SATs in December, you have to make some important decisions. There are many educators who recommend waiting before taking the new SAT. Because the new SAT is very different in format, it is important to ensure that there are enough quality practice materials available. In addition, waiting a few iterations of the exam allows the CollegeBoard to work out whatever kinks it may find in the administration of the exam.

That said, if you fall into the first category, we definitely recommend taking the old SAT again. If not, we would recommend getting your hands on as much material as possible in preparation for the new SAT. We would then recommend waiting for at least one iteration of the new SAT in order to see what the verdict is on a number of uncertainties regarding the test (based on your time constraints, it may be necessary to take earlier iterations of the new SAT, if so we can consult regarding these issues). 

Lastly, the ACT is always a great option to take.

We hope this information helps as you plan your schedule moving forward. As always, we are here to help and feel free to leave any questions in the comment box on this blog post or on our home page. Happy holidays!

-The Ivy Team

Our Summer Session is GEARING UP!

As this summer draws near, there is no better place to get SAT Prep / SAT II Prep / Private Tutoring than at the Ivy Advantage! What's our secret ingredient? We hire the best teachers from top universities who are COMMITTED to seeing our students grow intellectually. At the same time, Ivy strives to foster a culture of mentorship and giving back, so students will be empowered to make a difference in this world. 

We'd love to hear from you so give us a call anytime at 215-782-1000 or email us at! 

New Year, New Office, Same Purpose

As 2015 begins, we are excited to move into our brand spanking new office and continue working with students to achieve their academic and personal goals. Our new office features three 3 full size classrooms for every category of standardized testing as well as a computer room where students can work on apps, research schools, and study.

We look forward to another year in which we can help students exceed their potential! 

(Pictures of our new office to come!)

The Importance of College Visits

Here at Ivy, we have worked with many students on their college applications. They have applied to schools far and wide, pondered majors that run the gamut, and racked their brains concerning which schools would be "right" for them. 

One of the things that we have continuously recommended to our students is to visit the schools that they are most passionate about. Fancy brochures and websites do little justice when it comes to revealing the true character of a university. Colleges are live ecosystems that are comprised of students, faculty, a campus, and countless unique traits that can only be truly understood in person.

We at Ivy make it a point to provide private tours of universities for all of our college consulting students. We have also been building out our College Tour program, which will allow groups of students to visit universities in all major northeastern cities. You can read more about our college consulting program here - don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions!