StudentsReview Advice!• What is a good school?
• Statistical Significance
• How to choose a Major
• How to choose your Career
• What you make of it?
• How Ivy League Admissions works
• On the Student/Faculty Ratio
• FAFSA: Who is a Parent?
• FAFSA: Parent Contribution
• FAFSA: Dream out of reach
• College Financial Planning
• Survive College and Graduate
• Sniffing Out Commuter Schools
• Preparing for College: A HS Roadmap
• Talking to Your Parents about College.
• Is a top college worth it?
• Why is college hard?
• Why Kids Aren't Happy in Traditional Schools
• Essential College Tips
Ah, college. Considered by many to be the time of a young person's lif... more→• Cost of College Increasing Faster Than Inflation
According to NPR, the cost of college... more→• For parents filling out the FAFSA and PROFILE (from a veteran paper slinger)
Just so you know, filling out these forms is a lot more than penciling... more→• How to choose the right college?
My name is Esteban Correa. I am currently a second year INTERNATIONAL ... more→• Create The Right Career Habits Now
Getting ahead in your career can be easier if you make the choice to b... more→
• Senior Year (Tips and experience)
It's the end of junior year and everyone is anticipating the arrival o... more→• Informational Overload! What Should I Look For in a College or University?
We are in an instant information age, where you can find almost anythi... more→• Personality Type and College Choice
Personality type is something very important to consider when deciding... more→• A Free Application is a Good Application
As a senior finishing her scholastic year, I feel that it is my duty ... more→
• College Academic Survival Guide
The leap from high school to college academics is not an insignificant... more→• Getting Involved: The Key to College Happiness
As a tour guide, the absolute, most frequently asked question I got wa... more→• Choose a Path, Not a Major
Unless you're one of the fortunate souls who's already found their cal... more→• The Scoop on State Schools
A recent college graduate, I vividly remember touring campuses as a p... more→
• The Purpose of a Higher Education
You are one of the millions of people this year applying for admission... more→• The Importance of Choosing the Right College Major (2012)
One of the most important academic choices you'll make while in colleg... more→• How to choose a college major
I was not sure what college major to choose. When you are in your late... more→• How to guarantee your acceptance to many colleges
Are your grades are not what you think they should be from high school... more→
• Nailing the College Application Process
College applications seem to always be put on top of students procrast... more→• What to do for a Successful Interview
Interviews seem to become more commonplace in every facet of life as o... more→• I Don't Know Where to Start (General College Advice)
Preparing for college is a difficult time for every student and it?s o... more→• Attitude and Dress Code for an Interview (General College Advice)
An interview is something we all have to go through when we get a job... more→
• Starting College (General College Advice)
College is a huge milestone in your life. You?ve seen the castle like ... more→
(Image: Polka Dot/Thinkstock)
Whether you’re applying for an undergraduate school or trying to get into graduate programs, many applications require a letter of intent or personal statement. Personal statements are one of the most important parts of the application and sometimes the deciding factor for admission.
Personal statements give a better understanding of who you are, beyond the rigid constraints of the “fill-in-the-blank” application.
Like many around this time of the year, I am finishing my graduate school applications. Looking for advice and guidance, I decided to compare different schools’ personal statement requirements and ask admissions offices for advice. Here’s what I found:
1. Be yourself
The Columbia Graduate School for Journalism encourages students to write about family, education, talents or passions. They want to hear about significant places or events in your life; about books you have read, people you have met or work you’ve done that has shaped the person you have become.
Schools want to know about you so don’t portray someone else in the essay. It’s almost like going on a first date. You want to display your best qualities but be yourself at the same time. You want the other person to like you, not someone you’re pretending to be.
2. Show diversity
Rayna Reid, a personal statement guru, received her undergraduate degree at Cornell, Masters at the University of Pennsylvania and is currently pursuing a Law degree at Columbia. Reid says a personal statement is really just a way to make the college fall in love with you.
“The essay is where you really get a chance to differentiate yourself from the other applicants,” she said. “Explain why they should accept you. What will you contribute?”
Sean Carpenter, University of Southern California Student Services Associate and undergraduate student, reiterates the importance of differentiating yourself from other applicants.
He works in the Annenberg School for Communication admissions office and deals with prospective students daily. Carpenter says USC or any major school want to see diversity.
“They want to see how you’re different from all other applicants, especially through diversity. What makes you unique out of all the other applicants?” Carpenter said, “Tell things that has helped you grow as a person and built your character.”
3. Do research and tailor each essay accordingly
Every college is different, so each personal statement should be different. Many students try to get away with having a universal essay but admissions departments will notice.
“Do research to give concrete reasons why you’re interested in particular program,” Carpenter said. “Speak with a faculty member that you’re interested in working with or doing research for and mention that in your statement. It would also be beneficial to say what classes you’ve taken that were relevant to the field of study.”
4. Be concise and follow directions
Make sure you read the directions carefully. One of the biggest red flags for an admissions office are students who don’t adhere to word limitations. Don’t give them a reason to throw out your application.
Believe it or not, there is a way to say everything you want in a page or less. If you need some help, ask several faculty members to read over your essay and give you feedback.
5. Go beyond your resume, GPA and test scores
Many students worry about how their GPA and test scores will affect the admissions process. The personal statement is an opportunity to explain any strengths or weaknesses in your application — such as changes in major, low GPA or lack of experience.
For instance, Reid was worried about not having a 4.0 GPA. Since Reid didn’t have the perfect GPA, she explained what she did with her time to make up for that fact. Being on the Varsity rowing team and a Teach for America Corp member are great examples of how devoting her time to other things made an impact on her GPA.
6. Tell a story
“Nothing makes someone fall in love like a good story. It does not have to be the next Pulitzer winner,” Reid said. “For college, one essay I wrote was about how I have often felt like my life was a movie and how Dirty Dancing (yes, the movie) changed my life. My sister who currently goes to Princeton even wrote about killing a fly!”
One of the worst things you can do is bore the admission officer. Make yourself memorable by telling a story about something distinctive from a creative or different angle.
With this advice, your personal statement will be the highlight of your application. Good luck!
Alexis Morgan is currently a senior at Penn State University. She has extensive experience in public relations, broadcast journalism, print journalism and production. Alexis truly believes if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. Follow Alexis’s career on her website.
Alexis Morgan, Columbia University, Cornell University, grad school, Penn State University, the application, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, COLLEGE CHOICE, VOICES FROM CAMPUS