Outline and Draft of your Personal Statement
So if you are a rising high school senior, after exams are over and you are out for the summer in the US right now, you should be starting your Personal Statement for your college applications this fall. It is best to get this done and edited at least once so that you are in your second draft by the Fourth of July celebration. Many of you have some exciting summer programs for July, which is good. But before you bust out and get going on summer camps, programs and community service, take the few days of concentrated effort it will require, to complete two drafts of your college Personal Statement.
If you are in school in the southern hemisphere, then this is a great time to add in some extra time for this as well. If you are applying to study at a school in the United States, Canada or Europe next year, you will have to have your essay ready by September even though it is your spring, not your fall. All the colleges and universities will require a Personal Statement.
What is the topic?
Well, there are a few different application forms, and each is slightly different but some of the Common App topics are:
2015-2016 Essay Prompts:
- Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
- The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
- Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
- Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, and an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
- Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
The Universal Application’s prompt is:
Personal Statement 650 or fewer words for First-Year Admissions Application
Please write an essay that demonstrates your ability to develop and communicate your thoughts. Some ideas include: a person you admire; a life-changing experience; or your viewpoint on a particular current event.
So you see that this is a thoughtful exercise. Other schools that do not use these application formats have similar types of topics. Once you start your applications in August, you will also have to write College Specific or what are known as Supplement essays as well. So it is critical that you get this done now!
You will be under the gun from August through November getting so much done and sent out. All of you think it is not that big a deal; many of you feel you can fill out an application in a few minutes and be done! YOU ARE WRONG!!! I have lived through this process every year for 20 years, and it is not fun. It is not easy, and it is fraught with anxiety, stress and all kinds of mishaps.
Get as much done as you can now to save so much stress later. Get this drafted, edited once, and send your second draft via email to your school counselor and let it go for the time being. You should be prepared to write at least three to five drafts. Understand this is YOUR essay and your counselor can make suggestions and edits, but you do not have to agree. If you are 100% sure of your topic, then stick to your guns and do not allow anyone to dissuade you. Be smart, listen to those who know and have experience, but this is your story, and if you are telling something that is meaningful, you need not change it simply because a counselor or English teach likes another topic.
Also, the more people you ask to review your essay, the more your will get corrections, comments and criticisms. You do not have to change everything to suit someone else. In fact, colleges do not appreciate many people creating your essay. Over the years, I have had super intelligent, super professional parents and hired supporters who have actually crafted their child’s or client’s college essay. It is always obvious when someone other than the candidate creates the essay. Some loving parents over the years have written embellished stories that read like fictional works of art, replete with outrageous adjectives that no 17 year-old would ever use. I have also had businessmen write their children’s essays as if they are business resumes! Colleges know how high school students write. Essays that read like 40 year-old’s memoir stand out for the wrong reasons! Most colleges’ admissions will tell you, if asked, that the essay must be written by the student!
Initially you should write at least one page. Your actual essay will end up being shorter. You can write more than one page for sure. It is always easier to edit to the write length. How many paragraphs? No set number, but think at least 4, as many as 8 or 9 even. The length of the paragraphs is also not set in stone. But there should be a logical coherence to the essay and a nice flow from paragraph to paragraph.
You should outline your essay in advance. Be formal. This is not some thrown together story full of fun anecdotes. This is not an English paper. This is not a fictional piece. Do not write this essay as if you are telling a story for class and load it with ridiculous adjectives and verbs that disrupt the flow and show no intelligent thinking. This is a thoughtful piece. It is an ESSAY, not a story. Perhaps you want 1st paragraph to be a dramatic story that elicits some character strength or weakness that you will show its development through school or sports or whatever over your high school years. Paragraph 2 discusses how you were challenged or how you knew you had this talent. Paragraph 3 shows how you developed yourself and learned. Paragraph 4 shows how you will continue this development in college…I am simply offering a sample. You can draft and contact us for some guidance!
Yes, you can have an eye-opening, funny or surprising introduction. You can share something personal. You can be a bit dramatic even. But do not make your entire essay of this tone and style. Make an effort to think how whatever you decided to share has helped make you who you are today. Understand your character strengths and weaknesses. Craft a well-written document that paints a portrait with words of the person who will be going to college; note who you are today, who you were and what you are bringing to the school that makes you an individual.
Your tone can be formal and conversational, not fictional and creative. This is not the time to Rap, elicit poetic verse, or be overly sarcastic. This is an intelligent, thoughtful and somewhat explanatory text of you.
Challenged as to what to write or how, you can get help! Contact us.
But start this process now. I urge all of you to really commit to this, schedule an hour or two every other day for the next two weeks. Work on this. It is ok to write too much. Write several versions. Get it all out. Editing something too long is much easier than trying to pull out a story from a sentence. Try to keep the context of your essay within the last four years of your life. You can certainly reference childhood times or events but keep the essay to recent times.
Also limit that number of personal anecdotes. One or two to make or demonstrate a point is fine, but to make paragraph after paragraph a personal anecdote loses power and the attention of the reader. Also if you want to use a metaphor or a quote, that is great but do not drag it on and on through every paragraph either.
Get to the part when you are talking honestly about yourself without using literary devices to make your points. That is when you are being genuine, which always comes through best and creates a lasting positive impression on the reader.