How Can I Write My Personal Statement in One Night?

It’s the worst place to find yourself—the night before your college apps are due with nothing but a blank word doc before you. Check out these tips for how make it work even at the very last minute, from Ethan Sawyer the College Essay Guy.

First of all, if there is anything in this bright and beautiful world you can do to help it, please do not write your personal statement for college in one night.

Having said that, if you’ve TOTALLY procrastinated and it’s the night before your application’s due and you MUST write (or re-write) your essay in one night, here’s how to do it:

  • 1. First, take 15 minutes to do these Objects and Values Exercises.
  • 2. Get a blank sheet of paper, draw a vertical line down the middle, at the top of the right column write the word “My Values,” and list your 3-5 most important values, with space in between. (Example: “knowledge” – skip an inch – “nature”– skip an inch – “music.”)
  • 3. In the left column, beside each value, describe an image of you developing or expressing that value. (Example: beside the value of “knowledge” you write “I sometimes stay up ‘til 3am surfing obscure Wikipedia articles” or beside the value of “nature” you write “going camping alone with just a tent, my journal and five pounds of trail mix.” You get the idea.) Everything in the left column should be visual, like a snapshot or scene from a movie.
  • 4. Put your little movies in order-–chronological often works-–and write transitions that give the essay a sense of flow… but don’t yet mention the values!
  • 5.
    • A) If you have a specific career in mind, describe in the final paragraph how these values will serve you in that career.
    • B) If you have no idea what you will study, describe in the final paragraph how you will carry these values with you into and beyond college no matter what career you choose.

And that’s it!

However, if you’re not panicked and want to do this essay thing in a more carefully thought-out way, go here to get started.

For more personal statement help, visit me at

Ethan Sawyer, the College Essay Guy, has been helping students tell their stories for more than ten years. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, received an MFA from UC Irvine, and received two counseling certifications, one from UC Irvine and another from the Interchange Counseling Institute. He’s also a certified Myers-Briggs® specialist and his type (ENFJ) will tell you that he will show up on time, he’ll be excited to meet you, and, more than anything, he’s committed to–and an expert in–helping you realize your potential.

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