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Writing Personal Statements
Transcript of Writing Personal Statements
Different Types of Prompts
Many Thanks To:
NELA (Northwest Education Loan Association)
Vincent Pham and Vincent Kwan, Dream Project mentors
Nicole Guenther, Dream Project mentor and current Assistant Director of Curriculum & Student Services
Be Honest, and Be Yourself
Describe a challenge and how you overcame it
The most popular type of college essay
Tip: Show don't tell
Where do you come from? Describe the community you grew up in/live in (or even just one of the communities you've lived in)
Culture can mean anything and everything that has to do with the environment that has made you who you are (not just race/ethnicity)
There's no perfect formula to writing a personal statement. How you tell your story is your choice, but remember these key things as you write:
You'll have 2 minutes for each prompt.
Write down what pops in your head first.
Eyes on your own paper!
Words/phrases that come to mind when you think of the life you have lived up until now.
Obstacles or challenges that have shaped you
Triumphs, important moments of success that you have experienced.
Be as specific as possible —
use whatever words come first to mind
when you think of your life.
6 people who have been —
for good or bad
— important or significant in your life.
These can be:
Even someone you only encountered once,
who influenced you in some way
4 significant events in your life that have shaped your life experiences thus far.
At least 3 dreams or goals you have for the future
What was the point of that?
There's a reason those challenges and dreams were the first things that popped into your head: they are important to YOU
If you're still unsure of what you want to write about, think about the next couple of questions
Why do I want to go to college?
Not your parents/siblings/teachers/etc.
What are YOUR reasons?
What makes me stand out from everyone else applying?
If you don't think there's anything unique about you, THINK AGAIN!
Most common writer's block: students don't think anything they've done or overcome is special, but if it's important to you, it's important to put in an essay
What is a story you can tell that no one else can?
Get Straight to the Point
: Admissions counselors are reading thousands of essays
: This doesn't mean that you can't be descriptive and creative. However, you do have a word limit so make sure that every word matters
When first writing...
30 minutes of free-write
Brain vomit: say whatever you want! It's much easier to shorten an essay than to lengthen it
Don't worry about grammar, spelling, etc. Focus on the content
Set aside a couple hours a week to work on it
You will probably sit in a front of a computer and not write anything for a hour (and that's OK)
Answer the question: it's easy to get off track when writing essays, so paste the prompt at the top of the page to remind yourself what question you're trying to answer
Tell us a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
Why do you want to go to this school?
Why is this college a better fit for you than the thousands of other colleges out there?
Avoid focusing on how great the school is
Tend to have shorter word limits
Georgia Tech: Why are you interested in attending Georgia Tech, and what do you hope to contribute to our community?
University of Michigan:
Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it.
It's your story and your voice.
Never write something because you think it's what someone else wants to read about
It will be frustrating, but be patient! You got this!
We As Your Mentors...
for choosing to share your story with us
Will read your essays
Will give you
honest and constructive feedback
Will not be offended if you don't use our suggestions. It's your essay and you can write it any way you want to :)
Will be here to
support you any way we can
Only you can write this essay (not your mentor)
Accept that it may be difficult, and it will take
Always remember that you've worked really hard to get to where you are today and you have a unique story to tell
Your mentor can only work as hard as you do
Tell, then Explain
Every time you tell a piece of your story, explain what you learned from it, why it was significant, how it changed you, etc.
Avoid stating general qualities without backing it up
Example: "I care about animals" vs. "I volunteer every day at an animal shelter"
The UW Dream Project, YouthForce University
When Working With Your Mentor...
We guarantee a 48 hour turnaround with essays (it's ok to e-mail/call/text us if we haven't gotten back to you by then!)
Copy and paste the essay prompt and word limit at the top
Try to explain what your main points are
Also, try to explain what you want to focus on in your essay
If you guys help us understand you, it'll help us give you the best support we can :)