Personal Statement Pointers!

Hi peeps, a lot of you have been asking for personal statement advice, like “what should I write about?,” “how do I get started?,” and other queries of that nature. In light of that, I’d thought I’d post the following pointers:

1) Think strategically: this is the time to reveal something about yourself that isn’t obvious from your application information. Think about what makes you unique. For example, let’s pretend that I’m a college admissions counselor who’s reading your application. From it, I know that you have a 3.3, you took AP English in your Junior year, you got a D in Algebra II, and you were captain of your soccer team. That’s all fine and good, but that doesn’t tell me much about you, does it? I won’t know that you’re dedicated to animal rights, you love the smell of old books, and you taught your nephew how to read–because there’s no box for those things in a formulaic application. Thank about it, what do you want to showcase about yourself?

2) Be reflective: I’ve seen a lot of personal statement that simply tell a story. Many students never go into why they’re telling that particular story. Don’t just tell–explain why it had an impact on you. What did it all mean, and how did it help you become the person you are today?

3) Start early: I don’t think I need to explain why you need to start early, but I will say this. A good personal statement will go through at least two drafts. An excellent one, will go through at least three. Theses drafts are not written overnight or at three in the morning. Take your time and do it right.

4) Brainstorm with family, friends, mentors, and teachers: the people around you may see something special about you that you don’t see. If you’re having a hard time figuring out what makes you unique, ask someone who knows you. Chances are, they’ll have a good answer.

5) Avoid Clichés: a cliché is something that has been done by many people and is overused. In other words, it lacks originality. For personal statements, it’s very common for students to write about parents divorcing, not “fitting in,” and scoring the winning point in a big game. I’ve heard from many college counselors that the biggest thing they’re looking for is originality. If you’re wondering that your statement is cliché, ask for a second or third opinion.

6) Stay on message: another very common thing that I’ve seen in personal statements is that they wander from one topic to another. Pick a theme and/or topic and stick to it. You don’t want your audience to finish reading your statement and be confused about what it was all about.

7) Don’t be afraid to use humor: do you like to laugh? Well, so do college admission counselors. I’m not saying to take treat the statement like it’s a joke, but don’t be afraid to lighten things up a bit. I read a really funny statement where the student talked about being in a foreign country and how he couldn’t figure out how to flush the toilet. He relayed this humorous situation back to his desire to become an engineer–and it totally worked. It was a balance of humor and entertainment with a sincere explanation of his hopes for the future.

8. Start strong and end strong: your audience will pay the most attention to the beginning and the end of your statement. I’m not saying to let the middle part go, but you want to draw in the reader and make sure that the strong parts of your essay are in the spots where the reader is paying the most attention.

9) If you don’t know what a word means, don’t use it: I once looked at a statement where the student used the word “incontinent.” She meant for the word to explain her lack of self-control, which is a secondary meaning of the word. The primary meaning of the word, however, means to have no control over urination or defecation–not an image that you want your audience, especially a college counselor, to have about you! The use of the word may have been technically correct, but the general population wouldn’t know the definition she was using. In this case, she should have gone for simpler language or a word that she was comfortable using.

10) Relax: if you’re nervous and freaking out, you’ll probably shut down and not be able to write anything at all. Start early and give yourself plenty of time to write a good essay. And remember, your statement is just one of the many components of your application. Your admission decision will not be based solely on your personal statement (but is does need to be good, so don’t be too relaxed :))

11) Proofread: make sure your essay is free of glaring errors. Even little things like confusing “your” with “you’re” can affect the clarity and tone of your statement. To assure that you catch all the errors, have someone, like a tutor or teacher, look at it.

12) Proofread

13) Proofread

14) Proofread

15) Proofread

Now that I’ve bombarded you with info, it’s time for you to start drafting, right? Talk to our awesome NAC tutors: Chandra, Danny, and Sean. They’ll help you not only get started, but to finish and polish the whole dang thing! They also have examples of excellent statements they can show you, so hit them up 🙂

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