3 Tips to Stand Out in Your Personal Insight Questions

So you’ve been brainstorming for days, hours, and minutes on end. Your brain is fried and you can only think in the most generic of terms.

“I am a good person who likes to help others”


“My favorite thing about myself is that I have always loved learning new things.”

You know these statements are not going to stand out from millions of other applicants with similar responses.

In this post, my goal is to share 3 simple tips that you can use, to stand out in your Personal Insight Question essay responses.

1. Understand the importance of sharing your voice in a college essay

One of the most important things that admissions officers are looking for in a personal insight question is to know who you are. It’s not enough to write about your grades, extracurriculars, and family history. They want you to share who you are as a person.

Avoid writing in the third-person or generically stating “I am an average student”. Instead, be more specific by sharing how you feel that what is unique about yourself might provide insight into who you are.

The goal (at least from your side as an applicant), is to:

  • Ensure you are not lost in the crowd
  • Show true passion for a topic
  • Expand upon a dimension of you that is only briefly captured in your application

For example, if one of your interests is computers, and you’re applying as an engineering major, then tell the reader how you’ve explored your passion, even outside of a structured learning system.

This is an opportunity to showcase projects that allowed you to learn new concepts, ideas, leadership, etc. – whatever it may be, and what that reveals about your personality (e.g., “I taught myself how to write automation scripts in python, when trying to “work hard not smart” at my internship) or how it has shaped your life (e.g., “my interest in engineering helped me connect with my mentor which has opened up x, y, and z opportunities”).

To summarize the first tip, you want to share your voice in the essay. Doing so will help admission officers get a better idea of who you are and what makes you stand out.

2. Avoid cliches and overused phrases

An admissions officer reads hundreds (if not thousands) of essays every single day, during the admissions process. It’s harder to stand out, if you’re using the same phrases as most other applicants.

Try to avoid using these phrases in your personal insight question:

  • “I have always wanted…”
  • “I enjoy…”
  • “My favorite thing about myself is that I…”
  • “It’s my dream to…”
  • And, my favorite one of all time… “In the future, I plan on becoming…” (who doesn’t?)

Instead, focus on sharing who you are as a person and what makes you unique. Share your voice in the essay, by giving insight into who you are or what topics interest you most.

Personalize it.

The simplest way to write an outstanding essay is by sharing a story the way you would communicate it, if you were speaking it out loud.

The goal from the applicant’s side is to make sure they are not lost in the crowd

  • Make sure you show true passion for a topic
  • Focus on sharing who you are and what makes you unique

Drop the exaggerated stories that would have your audience questioning the intent. You wouldn’t use generic phrases to describe an “un-generic” story – so, don’t do it in your personal essays either.

On the other end, using vernacular that is used less often, or unique phrases (e.g. an important phrase in your native language, that has driven you to your [x] passion), is an easy way to stand out.

Remember, your goal is to have the admissions officer read your essay, and think, “Wow!”

To summarize the second tip, try to avoid using cliches and overused phrases in your personal essay. Doing so will help you stand out more to the admission officer, because they are less likely to have seen these ideas before.

3. Be Personable and Relatable

The most memorable essays are those that tell the admissions officer something about an applicant’s personality.

For example…

  • If you’re applying to college as a pre-med student, what do you think your future patients might like to know about you? Are there any qualities or skills that set you apart from other applicants in this field and make them more comfortable with the idea of you as their medical professional?
  • If you’re applying to college with the intention of becoming an English professor, what is your ideal classroom like and why do you want to put yourself in front of students every day?

Your personal insight question responses should be about who YOU are – not just facts that tell them about your background.

To summarize the third tip, make your essay personal and relatable.

Personal essays are more memorable to admissions officers because they get a better idea of who you are as an applicant for college. This is important if you want them to remember why they should accept you into their school.

Your goal is simple: Prove to the admissions counselor that you (unquestionably) have what it takes, to not only represent your college in a positive light, but further its establishment as the #1 Public University in the World.


In the end, it’s up to you.

You know what your strengths and weaknesses are better than anyone else does, and your essays are meant to be a reflection of you.

I hope you found these 3 simple tips helpful. If you have any questions about your essays, please reach out! We are always happy to help 🙂

Just send us an email with any questions or concerns that come up during the application process for admissions. We read every single email received from applicants so we can help in whatever way possible!