Personal Insight Questions

Personal Insight Questions are about the most important component of your application. It's reviewed by both, the scholarships and admissions offices, and is your opportunity to share your story, while making your case for tuition money.

We have a proven 3-step process to help you choose the best questions, and answer in a compelling format.

3-Step Process:

  • Step 1: Outline and Choose 4 Questions
  • Step 2: Craft Your Story
  • Step 3: Tie it All Together


  • Personal Insight Question Examples
  • Frequently Asked Questions

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Step 1: Outline and Choose 4 Questions


Use an outline to strategically choose 4 personal insight questions

There are 8 Personal Insight Questions that are provided to you for you to choose from, and you can respond to only 4 of them.

A few things to keep in mind when considering which 4 questions to choose:

  • Your goal is to choose the 4 questions that let you demonstrate diverse aspects of your personality, in a complementary manner.
  • An outline allows you to efficiently cycle through all 8 questions, making a list of all of the potential stories, experiences, accolades, etc. you have per question
  • There is no "right answer" or "perfect essay" - it doesn't exist, period.

Your application is an opportunity to tell your unique story, and building an outline for each question is a great way to pick and choose the stories that flow seamlessly.

Outline Personal Insight Questions
Forcing myself to write an outline really helped to structure my thoughts. Everything started to slowly click together.

Strategy Tip: Pick Your 4 PIQ Questions Wisely

Selecting the right personal insight questions can be the difference between a successful application and a missed opportunity. Build an outline to flesh out your story, and optimize  for the 4 questions that best communicate that story.

Step 2: Craft Your Story

Personal Insight Questions - Share Your Compelling Story
Write for the admissions counselor reading your essay, not your English teacher.

Share compelling and connected stories, designed to engage and impress

Your goal is to highlight the stories that you would share with an admissions counselor in an interview. Each story is your opportunity to show how you are different from your peers, and why that difference is an asset to the university.

Here are a few examples of themes that you can communicate in your essay:

  • Entrepreneurial spirit
  • Self-starter and independent learner (ie. self-taught programmers)  
  • Inspiring leader with accolades
  • Optimism, channeling major setbacks into opportunities 

Writing Tip: Use More "I" Statements

Optimize for the number of "I" statements in your PIQ responses (even the college admissions office says you should). When used correctly, "I" statements give you the power to connect with your reader, reducing the "distance" between you and the admissions officer.

Step 3: Tie it All Together


Tie it all together with one central message

Through your essays, your goal should be to communicate a very clear vision as to what differentiates you from the rest of the applicants. 

There are a few common, underlying traits with some of the better personal insight question responses: 

  • Thought-provoking - share your way of thinking in a unique manner
  • Engaging - write like you speak - if you're considered a funny person, showcase that humor with some well-timed wit
  • Authentic - try to stay away from embellishing your stories, and stay true to yourself 

Make sure to leave enough time to brainstorm, write, explore, and re-write some more, when planning for your college essays.  

Personal Insight Questions - Personalized Help
I would have never thought to add that into my essay. Thank you for helping me revise and being patient. This was very helpful.

Strategy Tip: Ask Alumni to Review Your Essays

Optimize for actual alumni of the university to read and critique your essays. Most students have a tendency to ask people who have never applied or been admitted to the university, (ie. teachers, peers, parents) to review their essays.

While helpful for a first draft, we have found that most students find greater benefit in having real alums to review their essays. Alumni have the unique benefit of being able to add "little nuggets" into your personal insight question responses. 

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Frequently Asked Questions about College Essays

Why are college applicatoin essays important?

In the essay section of the application, each school's admission office is looking to get to know your individual life experience, interests and aspirations. While it is just one part of the decision, it helps provide context for the rest of your application.

  • Improves your chance of admission
  • Tells the admissions office about you
  • Gives context for your application

How long should your college application's essays questions be?

For most applications, there is a word limit you must follow, for each one of the prompts. We optimize for maximizing the story, in a concise, clear manner. 

How do you write a college application essay?

We think the best way to write your essay responses is to use our 3 step process:

  • Step 1: Outline and strategically choose which questions to answer
  • Step 2: Draft a compelling story, connecting it across all questions
  • Step 3: Revise and rewrite until your polished, final version is ready

What do you write in a personal statement?

Your goal is to communicate why you're a valuable addition to the specific college's community - both, as a student, as well as an alumni. 

Creating an outline is a helpful first step, in determining exactly what themes you would like to focus on. 

What should you not do on a personal statement?

Here are a few, common mistakes that students make, which you can avoid:

  • Wasting words on unimportant details: Every single word of your 350 word count should serve a purpose. Don't waste words overexplaining things, embellishing details, etc.
  • Starting with a quote: the "Be the change you wish to see in the world..." essay days are long past us, unfortunately.
  • Staying high-level: get specific within your essays, hammering in (but from a different angle) your "differentiating factor"
  • Creative writing: stick to the traditional writing style, avoiding poems, haikus, and any other creative apparatus. Short, sweet sentences, with a clear point are most effective.
  • Lacking clarity: avoid hedging across your 4 different essays, and stick to 1 or 2 themes/ideas, which you'd like to communicate to the admissions officer

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