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US Counselor Updates: The Intangibles | Personal Statement & Supplemental Essays

US Counselor Updates: The Intangibles | Personal Statement & Supplemental Essays

Admission officers value things other aspects in your admissions other than your marks. They are known as intangibles. Our college counselor Hui Qin will help you understand what these are.

Hui Qin

  • Former Arts Peer Mentor at The University of Melbourne
  • Former Global Officer at Monash University’s Study Abroad Department
  • Ranked in the top 10 percent of IB grades globally upon finishing high school
  • Visual Artist for MudFest (Melbourne University’s Art Festival) in 2017
  • Featured visual artist in Antithesis Journal Volume 27 and Farrago Magazine Edition 5 in 2017
  • Intern at Shanghai Daily and at F&T group
  • Multicultural upbringing with living abroad experience  in five countries to date

Personal Statement


Hi Curios,

The personal statement can be a HUGE component in tipping admissions results for highly selective colleges (think Top 30s!). These essays are not meant to boast about your academic achievements (which admissions officers will be able to see from the numbered portions of your application such as your GPA, SAT, TOEFL and whatnot), but rather, to show who you are as a person.


Your target audience for this essay is NOT your high school English teacher. If I were you, I would pretend that you are writing this essay for your Curio counselor/mentor – someone who is an authority figure, but at the same time someone you trust and rely on, and can truly be yourself with. 


When writing this, I keep this notion at the back of my head:


“If you were reading your own personal statement, do you think you would like to be roommates with this person?”


If the answer was yes, then you’re on track! If not, then I would go back to the drawing board and edit/remove sections where you have not presented yourself as well as you could have.


While there are a list of prompts you can answer for your personal statement, my favorite option is the last option that allows you to pick your own topic. You and your counselor will be brainstorming your personal statement together in due time (if you’re a rising senior!) – College Essay Guy provides some amazing brainstorming resources, and I’m sure your counselor has a few tricks up their sleeve too! 🙂

Supplementary Essays

In addition to the personal statement, some colleges will also have you write supplementary essays to further gauge your interest in them. Below are some common supplementary essay questions that schools ask, and how you can approach them:


Why do you want to attend ABC college?

  • What is the point of you going to college?
  • Why does the college environment suit you?
  • What is your goal after studying for 4 years in this college?


Why do you want to pursue an ABC major?

  • How did you explore this major in your high school career?
  • Or were you inspired to pursue it because of someone/something you encountered?
  • How do you plan on exploring this major on campus?
  • What about off campus?


Describe a difficulty/challenge you went through.

  • You can discuss topics like financial issues, family break ups, health issues etc. and how you grew from this experience.
  • Try to avoid writing about topics you have not grown from yet. You are not writing this essay to complain about your life.


What does diversity mean to you?

  • Write about the difference between you and your community, and how you overcame it to thrive in your environment. This difference can include, but is not limited to, race, sexual orientation, skill set, socio-economic class and gender.
  • You can also write about a difference that is as simple as how you worked with people who are super disorganised when you are hyper-organised. The possibilities are limitless!
  • If you feel that you did not really encounter diversity in your environment, you can write about how you grew from not seeing diversity’s benefit before, and how you hope to apply diversity’s strengths moving forward.


How have you contributed to your community? 

  • You can write about formal participation, such as being involved in your school’s student union.
  • You can also write about informal participation in your community. For example, you can write about volunteering at your local community drive.
  • What was the impact you made? Did you positively change your community?
  • Further expand on this essay by writing about how you would like to continue this in college.


Most selective colleges place more emphasis on your supplementary essays compared to the personal statement, but that does not, by any means, render a personal statement obsolete!


As a general rule of thumb, I would advise all my students to write the “optional” supplementary essays – if you have a chance to further prove that you are a good fit for the college, why not take it?

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