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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Personal Essay – Freedom, Not Formula

In looking back at the hundreds of applications I read this season, the personal essay was always my favorite part. Sure, grades and extra-curricular activities are vital to the application. Yet, the chance to sing in your own voice adds a flavor unlike any other portion of the admission process!
I scanned the internet to find 101 different ways to make the perfect admission essay and believe me I saw them all while reading! Many of the tips and tricks stressed for the personal essay are important to keep in mind, but here are some personal Do’s and Don’ts given my own reading experience.
Do – Take time to prepare the essay. Summer is a great time to sit outside and think about a great topic or story to use in this segment. Once school starts, you may fall into the same routine; lots of homework and rushing to get things done. With your essay out of the way before September rolls around, you will automatically worry less! Summer offers the ability to remember fond memories and think with a more care-free attitude. Take advantage of it.
Do – Write about you! Nothing is more disappointing than to read a magnificent essay about someone’s favorite character or their eloquent description of the sky. Admissions officers want that small essay to explain something about your personality that won’t be seen in the rest of the application. You favorite Shakespearean sonnet may be the perfect way to define your life, but show us how!
Do – Use first person! While many essays in high school ban any personal thoughts, this essay should be about you.
Don’t  - Use a thesaurus to make every word seem more impressive. Application readers can tell and often words don’t quite fit what you are trying to say!
Don’t – Use a generic or prepared theme. It is amazing how many people have had personal moments with Legos – realizing in turn they want to become engineers! Not that these generic themes will count against you, they just will not stand out or make for a memorable piece of writing.
Don’t – cut corners. Writing a great personal essay is so important, but it should be equally as impressive in style as other smaller parts of your essay. If your shorter sections are poorly written, it makes the personal essay seem as if it had quite a bit of help! This is your application, treat the entirety of it with respect!
In the end, taking some time and consideration to write your personal essay is very important! Yet, overwhelmingly, there is no formula. The essays that stood out to me were often simple. A personal experience, the willingness to let a stranger look into your life for just a bit, can add a dimension to your application that your resume and activities cannot.

A prospective student who views the world just slightly different than many others… that is exactly what universities are looking for. Readers can read up to 50 essays in a day, don’t make them guess where you fit in. Show them!

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