personal statement

<p>What exactly is a personal statement? What are adcoms looking for? Can the student write about any topic they want? Some colleges my son is applying to ask for either a personal statement or an essay. What's the difference?!! I realize colleges want to learn more about the applicant as a person. Does that mean personality traits, how the student learns, academic strengths, weaknesses, etc.? Asking for a personal statement is quite broad. Writing to a topic is easier.<br>
I told him not to bother asking his GC, as he has not been very helpful so far. I'm asking the experts!</p>

<p>personal statement is shorter and less in-depth than an essay.</p>

<p>Personal statement? Essay? It's all the same. I don't agree that writing to a topic is "easier". In fact, I think writing to a topic generally leads to a less effective college essay. They aren't interested in answers to the questions; they are interested in personality. All of the essays should be selected to best present the student and, only then, manipulated to fit the actual questions presented on the various applications.</p>

<p>Here's how I would recommend approaching it. Sit down around the kitchen table with a pad of paper and write down the most positive qualities, experiences, etc. that define the student. These can be academic, but be sure to think about non-academic stuff. Get the whole family involved, brainstorming, tossing out ideas, even if they sound whacky are first. For example, some that we kicked around with my daughter included our weekly "family movie night", cooking ethnic foods from around the world, and being the center of her group of friends. None of these made the final cut because she had a much more obvious essay topic, but they are things that could have been the basis of an essay to showed a facet of her personality.</p>

<p>Once you have the list, decide what is the single most effective quality to write about and then come up with way of presenting that -- most typically by writing about an actual experience that demonstrates that quality.</p>

<p>The goal here is quite simple: the personal statement or main essay is the applicant's best chance to show who they are and give the admissions office a reason to think he or she would add something to campus life. An effective personal statement or essay can literally define an applicant - to the point of being given a "nickname" in the admissions office.</p>

<p>In general, something a little different probably helps. In other words, they get a million essays about being yearbook editor. So, an essay about rock climbing may actually be more interesting to a poor adcom wading through 500 applications. </p>

<p>The topic doesn't have to be "big" or "grand". In fact, I'm inclined to think that a "nice, little essay" that shows some personality is the most likely to succeed. I think that far too many kids try to write a "teen angst" essay (about divorce or "parents who don't understand me") that ends up sounding like an episode of Dawson's Creek.</p>

<p>One really effective approach is to write about an outside activity that reinforces the student's academic strength. For example, my daughter's transcript and test scores showed an aptitude for math and science. So writing about teaching math classes in an urban summer enrichment camp program worked because it described a volunteer interest, presented a willingness to take on a tough challenge, and breathed some life into the numbers and stats on her academic transcript.</p>

<p>Start with the scribbled list on a yellow legal pad and something will probably emerge.</p>

Thanks so much. It is much more clear now. I like your "mapping" idea. I also like your idea of getting the family involved. Personal reflection is difficult for him (and for many, I would think). Dinner tonight should be interesting!</p>