Can I use second person "you" in a college personal statement?

I am writing my personal statement for college and the prompt is: Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations. In my personal statement I am giving the reader a tour of my room. For example "As you look to your left, you will see my over-stacked bookshelf." Would this be an exception for using second person? Because I want to direct the reader into visualizing my room as if they were actually there and I was giving them a tour. Would using second person hurt my score on my personal statement?

1 Answer
Apr 11, 2016

I think your approach is creative, I'd say go for it!


As an undergraduate I was employed by Admissions for my university (specifically, PLNU) so I'm writing from experience here.

What the admissions council is looking for is individuality, they want a "snapshot" of your life. Basically they're asking: "Who are you? Tell us a little bit about yourself?" Universities get literally thousands of applicants and many (probably 60%) personal statements start the same way, they go something like:

"I want to go to school X because I think school X could challenge me, they are top-notch in research, academics, and student life."

The admissions committee most likely thinks so too, if they didn't they probably wouldn't be working admission at that university.

What a university really longs for is someone that deviates. Deviation shows that they can think for themselves and that they are confident in themselves and their conclusions (it shows initiative and the ability to problem-solve).

I'm actually applying to graduate school now so I guess we're in the same boat (for the school I'm applying to [I'm only applying to one and I'm not going to implicate them] they say you have 1,500 words write something). I actually address the graduate commission using "you" on several occasions (I feel its worth mentioning that the school within this university is ranked 12th in the US and the program is the only one of its kind).

Oh, and at least where I worked, the admission council does "grade" or "score" your personal statements, they just read them (a 5 minute read-through is even over-glorifying it, they may spend about 60-90 seconds on it). That isn't to say that you shouldn't put blood, sweat, and tears into it though because after reading literally thousands application essays admissions counselors are trained psychologists, literary critics, and professional speed-readers all rolled into one, they can spot a slapdashed essay from 12,000 miles away.

I know it's incredibly stressful, I've been there. I hope this provides some assuage!