April 5, 2024

Dealing with Clichés in Your Personal Statement

Ideas become cliché for a reason. They’re universally shared and remembered because they have some fundamental truth or formative power in almost everyone’s lives.

And that can be a good thing–a source of commonality or relatability between people.

But clichés are usually a bad thing in personal statements, mainly because the admissions committees have seen them so often that they no longer stand out or resonate.

This can be hard to process or even frustrating for students: “you’re saying that my story about my grandma passing away is cliché?” It might sound callous, but the answer is yes.

So, what do you do with these stories and ideas that are foundational to your identity but have become old-hat in the admissions world?

This is one of the topics covered in my recent conversation with Janet Snoyer.

You essentially have two choices: bury your clichés deeper into your essay, or give them a glow-up (makeover) to provide a personalized touch in your own authentic voice.

Choice #1 - Bury Your Clichés

Rather than opening your personal statement with a cliché, move it down to the second or third paragraph. Putting it in the middle will make it more forgivable and avoid the problem of your first or final impressions falling flat.

Choice #2 - Give Your Clichés a Glow-Up    

This option requires a lot more work and creativity. To use a cliché to illustrate my point (haha) - rather than reinventing the wheel, you’re making the wheel uniquely yours. Using your authentic voice, phraseology, and style to ensure that the readers learn something meaningful and memorable about YOU that transcends the cliché.    

I recommend watching highlights of my conversation with Janet, where we discuss more admissions strategies on YouTube or TikTok .

- Rob

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