admission essay, personal statement

You decided to go to college, what next? Writing an admission essay and personal statement

Oct 25, 2012
The admissions essay or personal statement is a requirement of most post-secondary schools. It provides the prospective student with an exclusive opportunity to share with the admissions staff special details and elements of themselves that cannot be adequately portrayed in any other part of the application.
This portion of the application serves a significant purpose. Being admitted to an institution of higher education is a privilege of sorts and likewise applicants must not only be deemed eligible with regards to grades and test scores but must also demonstrate a sincere desire and a zeal to be a college student with the particular institution.
Most prospective students are aware of this section of the application and may be a bit anxious regarding it. This could be for several reasons. Firstly, a personal anything is hard to write. Personal statements tend to be much more difficult on the individual than for example an essay on a historical event or an article covering current issues. For instance, we sometimes have to dig pretty deep to prepare such a work and possibly touch on sensitive subjects that may be trying to write about. Secondly, we may be at a loss for what to write about since our lives are filled with a variety of stories, complexities, and noteworthy occurrences.

Preparing your response

The admissions essay or personal statement request is generally in the form of a broad question, multiple specific questions, or a topic of your choice. Regardless of the form, almost all admissions essays revolve around the same subject matter-you. So before you write get to know yourself a bit more by brainstorming ideas to share as it relates to your life in general and any unique passions, experiences and goals. Knowing the main areas likely to be addressed in the personal statement can aide you in forming those ideas.

Common areas to address in your personal statement

Background information on your life

As you introduce your main idea or topic of discussion provide the reader with a few helpful details about your background. This information is important to set the tone for the essay and provide a framework for any events or occurrences in your life.This can include general information such as your geographical location, educational background, work experiences, family structure, or ethnic and cultural impressions.

Your personal goals and objectives

Provide the reviewer with specific goals and objectives - both short term and long term - that you'd like to accomplish in your life. Since you are applying to their school, and may be there for quite sometime, your degree attainment should obviously fit somewhere into your goals and objectives. To avoid being generic make sure that it is relevant and in support of the things that you'd like to achieve in life.

Your journey to the realization of those goals and objectives

An important and common inclusion in the admissions essay is to explain how you arrived at your decision to set these specific things, whatever they may be, as your personal goals. What outside influences did you have? What events occurred in your life that may have affected your choices? For example, if you chose to become a nurse, was it affected at all by having a sickly relative or a parent that was also a nurse?

Influential people or experiences

Most people enjoy a good story. And what better way to captivate an audience than by sharing with them that one person, or that one thing that really 'changed things for you'. Even if you have the choice of selecting your own topic for a personal statement you should not forget to expand on this point. Our role models, advisors, teachers and other influential people really make a momentous impact on our direction in life and the things that we hold dear and regard as significant and earnest. Additionally 'life changing events' or difficult experiences and amazing occurrences can likewise affect the decisions we make and the opinions we hold.

Personal triumphs

Without being dishonest or exaggerating you can and should include a personal triumph that you overcame or an obstacle presented to you, for example in your personal or academic life.
*Perhaps you have a unique family situation that makes it difficult for you to attend school or live a comfortable life. Or perhaps you experienced a traumatic event such as a death in the family or similarly suffer from an illness or injury that has notably impacted your life and present situation.

Special talents and skills: What you will bring to the program

Are you a great organizer or manager? Can you establish and facilitate community outreach programs? Are you fluent in sign language? Are you really great at something?
If you have any skills or advantages that you think the school or program would be interested in list them and then find unique and interesting ways to expand on each. This topic will usually find its way into an admissions essay and is a crucial part of 'selling' yourself to the admissions staff. Highlight aspects that really make you special and set you aside from the other applicants. Even if its something that many people already possess - if it can make a difference in the program or college- then mention it.
Think about the college as a company. A hiring company will search for a candidate that can add to its dynamics and be a valuable addition to the team; colleges and academic departments as well are looking for candidates that can add to their school's worth and reputation of excellence. Therefore explain what specific talents you have that will benefit the school as a whole and how.

Simple tips for your admissions essay

Avoid recycled papers and general statements

Recycled papers are not good for much-and their especially not good for your personal statement. A personal essay that you've written before that touches some of the areas covered here may not be suitable for your admissions essay. Its likely that it will not answer the question as directly as it should and may seem out of place from the rest of your material because it was written for a different purpose.
This essay can have a significant impact on your being admitted to the school of your choice if for example you are lacking as it relates to other requirements or there are many eligible applicants applying. Therefore take your time in providing original and unique statements and ideas about yourself. General statements sound impersonal and don't add much to your application or reveal much of your character and personality.

Answer the question!

This may seem obvious but students often overlook it and actually end up providing half or slightly relevant answers to posed questions. This situation can arise due to many factors. For instance you may get overly involved in sharing a particular anecdote or expanding a life-changing experience that you fall off track and forget your direction.
*A tip to ensure that you adhere to the topic and fulfill each questions key points is to cut and paste or type the question into your word processing document. In this way you can constantly refer back to what is being asked of you as you prepare your responses.
The college application process can be an overwhelming one. With transcripts, scores, references, and other requirements, you have a lot of important information to gather before being considered for acceptance. Not to mention the pressure and uneasiness associated with deadlines and the anticipation of a life-changing event. With all of this, the personal statement, which may seem like one of the least important aspects of the application, may fall to the waist side. Safeguard your chances by playing it safe and giving your admissions essay the attention it deserves.
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