Should the personal statement be targeted towards direct admit schools within the university?

Should a student who is applying only to specific schools within a university write their personal statement geared towards their specific major? Example, business school, nursing school, pharmacy school, etc…

There are people who think personal statements don’t matter at all. Based on that point of view, it doesn’t really matter what you write :-).

I think it is helpful to write a career oriented personal statement for schools where decisions are taken at the department level, and the opposite at universities (ie., showcasing some aspect of personality) where decisions are taken at the university level.

This is just a guess. I don’t have a lot of evidence to support this view except anecdotal evidence of what has worked for my kids.

Define personal statement - I assume this is a supplemental.

Some ask about a personality trait or characteristic. Some ask about reason for choosing a major. Some ask about why a school is right for you, etc. Some ask - what would a roommate want to know about you.

I would mirror what the school is specifically asking for - but “personal statement” without context makes me hesitant to advise.

I do know this - if anyone knows the answer - it’s @Lindagaf So go with the gut.

I mean the full common app essay/personal statement.

Ahh - depends on the essay topic you choose - but most say - they are seeking insight on you related to something that doesn’t show in the application.

If you’re going to business school and you apply to business school, they already know that about you. If you had a job and describe it or worked with Junior Achievement, they’ve captured that in your activities.

Maybe they didn’t capture that you play the stock market, made 30% and even though that was just $50 because you play small amounts - that it excited you and taught you about risk taking

Or like the girl from Brentwood TN who wrote about how the anticipation of waiting for a papa john’s pizza was her favorite thing and got into Yale.

I’m not sure how much or not these essays matter - likely depends on the school - but I think you can write how you believe in UFOs and if it shows something about you, then you’re great.

I don’t think it needs to relate to your app (my opinion) but rather it needs to convey something interesting about you.

Schools that want to know about a personality trait- or characteristic or why did you choose this school or this major, they’ll ask in a supplemental. My daughter used her personality trait one 6 or 7 times and changed one sentence school related each time. But her Common App was unchanged for all 21 schools as was my son’s for his 15 schools. Both did as expected admission wise - so either the essays were solid (as I suspect most are - grammar free) or helpful or likely made no difference. We’ll never know.

Good luck.

Here’s a few links.

Yale University loved her Papa John’s Pizza college application essay, but she chose Auburn University - The Washington Post

Essays That Worked | Undergraduate Admissions | Johns Hopkins University (

Yes, all great points and I agree with you.

I’ve seen lately that there are some who feel that the personal statement for a business school applicant, for example, should be steering more towards the UK model, as in why do you want to study this subject.

and you can write about that - most likely on share an essay on a topic of your choice.

I wouldn’t - I would highlight a passion or unique trait, etc. I could be wrong - but as kids change majors and half don’t even know what business is when they apply, I don’t think it’s pertinent unless you bring something out in yourself unique.

But to each his own.

I personally believe, short of grammar issues, essays “likely” don’t make much a difference at all. Maybe one wows - but most probably are not retained five seconds after it’s finished and the next one is started. Just my opinion.

Personal statement essays are an opportunity to show what you are passionate about, display intellectual curiosity, showcase your ability to tell a story, provide insights into your personality, offer context that connect the various parts of your application, be interesting, entertaining, memorable or humorous, offer insight into how you might leverage an education and or contribute to your community, respond to adversity and or anything else you can think of. They can do some and often multiple but never all of the above. They are an opportunity that should not be wasted and at selective schools they are closely scrutinized and while they won’t get you accepted in isolation a bad one can adversely impact your chances and a great one (if otherwise qualified) can be decisive.

I have read great narratives about the big game, been made emotional reading about family traditions, and inspired by a determined description of how a student would (and had) planned on positively providing resources to the less fortunate. I have read about the art of tree climbing and how “falling sucks” but was part of getting to see the best view.

Last year I had the privilege of reading several draft ideas from a low SES student who was the only male amongst five family members living in a one bathroom apartment. He wound up writing about the importance of “the little things” and details like remembering to put the toilet seat down and wove it into a discussion of how adversity had led him to a regimen of details at home, at work, school and sports field. It was humorous, self aware and illustrative of who he was and why without ever “telling”. I am not doing it justice but he starts at Columbia this week.

Not sure if this answers your question and I suspect experiences vary based on school selectivity.


I agree with this. I would focus the big personal statement on who the student is as a person and not on academics. Most, if not all, professional schools (ex. nursing, pharmacy) have some sort of “why us” supplemental asking for a student’s knowledge about the profession.

In my opinion, a student should not use their essays to talk about what they’ve done (classes and activities will show that) but more about who they are now and what they want to do. They can reference how their past shaped them but use it as more of an intro rather than the focus of the essay. Look forward, not back. That, of course is just my opinion.

I’m most curious about students who are targeting specific schools within a college. Nursing, pharmacy, business, and so forth. Should the common app essay be targeted with a specific school in mind.

For example, does anyone feel that a kid applying to pharmacy school make his interest in that subject the focus of his essay?

Does the pharmacy school have a supplemental that asks that question? If so, that would be the appropriate place to address it.


For applications to a specific direct-admit major, wouldn’t it somewhat depend on whether the applications have some other way of showing interest in the major (e.g. additional essays on that subject)?

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Sorry I wasn’t specific nor do I think a “correct” answer to your question exists. My advice based on what I have seen however is that the most effective essays that yield the best results are those that present who an applicant is versus ones tailored to suggest what they want to become. Of course integrated interest or ambitions is fine but I would avoid the “tailoring” of a common app primary essay to a specific school at risk of missing a broader opportunity and seeming contrived. Again just my 2 cents.

Yes, this is my thinking too.

I think it depends on how that applicant’s interest/passion/accomplishments compare to the many others taking the same approach.

I did not focus solely on nursing in my Common App essay- I think I had one sentence talking about how I wanted to be a pediatric nurse that related to the story I was telling. I got into 6/8 nursing schools. I don’t think they were all separate within a college- but some of them were.


I think it depends but some of the best essays I have seen connected to their major in someway but were written about totally different things /idea’s like a hobby and then related it to the idea of the major as some examples above. They purposefully made the connection even loosely.

I had a kid who was 100% engineering focus and wrote her essay loosely about religion, highlighting her personality, and the kind of community member she would be in college.

I think her ECs, awards, and elective courses showed why she was applying to engineering and that the essay was a great opportunity to highlight something else. The colleges knew she was applying to their CoE. She didn’t need to beat that drum any louder.

There were also plenty of other opportunities to talk about engineering in the supplemental essays and in the interviews (she has 2 formal interviews with ad coms and a bunch of alumni interviews).


2 posts were split to a new thread: How does Direct Admission work for a School within a university?