In the next few years, students applying to top-tier colleges will have to think about more than strong grades and extracurricular activities.
Posted: September 26th, 2022
In the next few years, students applying to top-tier colleges will have to think about more than strong grades and extracurricular activities. They’ll also need a killer personal statement. Today’s applicant pool is much larger than it used to be because of demographic shifts and changing academic expectations, says John J. Tinsley III, dean of undergraduate admission at Duke University in Durham, N.C. And that’s made it harder for colleges like his to make final decisions about whom to let in, he says. Personal statements are an important part of our new approach because they give us insight into applicants beyond their transcripts and test scores,” Tinsley says.
If you’re thinking about writing one, here are 10 top tips from admission officers:
1. Personal statements are not just about you but also about your ability to contribute to a campus community and the world at large. Make sure you can elaborate on how your experiences will prepare you for success in college, says Dan Reiter, associate director of undergraduate admissions at Washington University in St. Louis.
2. Personal statements should be honest — so if your grades or test scores aren’t that great, don’t try to cover them up. It can be hard to tell whether someone is trying too hard to sell himself with false modesty, Tinsley says. And it’s really awkward when we learn more about the student only after he has been admitted (and maybe matriculated) and his grades or test scores are poorer than we expected.
3. Personal statements should be about you, but they can also be about your relationship with others and the impact that relationship has had on you, says Eric Furda, vice president for enrollment at The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Personal statements should ideally make admissions officers want to know more about you, he adds. Personal essays that are too long or too short don’t leave a good impression, says Mollie Peters, assistant director of admission at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. She recommends keeping it around 400 to 500 words — and then some . “Make sure your essay has room to breathe,” she says. “If it feels like the end is nowhere in sight, take out another paragraph or two.”
4. Personal statements should be about what you’ve learned or done, not just how smart or hard-working you are, Reiter says. Does a particular project show a creative solution to a problem? Did it make an important difference to others? Has it convinced us that you have other strengths besides being smart? Personal statements are supposed to tell us something new that isn’t already evident from looking at grades and standardized test scores alone.
5. Personal statements should be about what you can contribute to the community, not just something that describes an ideal college student who sounds like everybody else, Reiter says. Personal statements are designed to help us get to know students as individuals and tell us more about them as people than we can learn from the standard application.
6. Personal statements should show some understanding of why “Duke” is special but don’t have to directly address why Duke is a good choice for you, Tinsley says. We understand that students are applying here because they think this is where they will thrive; it’s not our job (and it would be inappropriate) to explain or justify ourselves as a university in their essays.
7. Personal statements should never say, I am sick and tired of being poor, Reiter says. Personal statements should be about the student, not a parent or teacher with access to the computer. Personal statements should not be solicited or written by an applicant’s relative, friends or others. Personal statements may be edited for clarity and concision by a family member of the student, but they are not supposed to be part of the application package if they have been prepared by someone other than the applicant.
8. Personal statements shouldn’t just focus on recent achievements but also discuss how you’ve grown since entering high school, Reiter says. Personal statements offered up as recent additions to applications because applicants were disappointed with their ACT scores and realized too late that they haven’t yet talked about who they really are can feel like cheap tricks. Colleges want comprehensive information for review and decision-making purposes in a reasonable amount of time — so don’t stretch your essay too much.
8. Personal statements should never quote Shakespeare, Tinsley says; they cant use clichés that are so overused students might think they saw them on our website — like having learned from experience that life isn’t fair. Personal statements should also steer clear of platitudes (e.g., nothing in life worth having comes easy). They have to stand out as an individual voice and not seem trite and predictable, he says.
9. Personal statements can be funny but must be tasteful, Reiter says; humor depends on timing and context and something so clever or witty it made me laugh out loud maybe clever or witty but it’s not appropriate for a personal statement. Personal statements should never use obscenities, slang, or profanity in any context, Tinsley says. Personal statements cannot contain:
– race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.
– your social status without overcoming disadvantages overcome by the writer (except educational disadvantage)
– an opinion on political issues that are unrelated to why you want to attend Duke
10. Personal statements can include high school activities but must avoid clichés and platitudes about what makes student so passionate about activity, Reiter says. Personal statements can include volunteer experience but must avoid lengthy descriptions of daily activities without describing how those experiences have positively. Personal statements should include athletics but avoid stuffing them with clichés and platitudes about how students are so passionate about their sport. Personal statements can include a music or art talent but must avoid using clichés and platitudes (e.g., I love performing because its the only time Im not thinking about my problems). Personal statements should not describe family members regardless of whether they’re famous.
Personal statements cannot use the typical mistake where applicants write I know I’ll be successful at Duke because _________ instead of describing specific reasons (e.g., that you will apply yourself in coursework to achieve your potential, or work hard as an athlete to become part of a winning team) why you’ll excel at Duke. Personal statements shouldn’t discuss financial needs. Personal statements cannot include a description of outer beauty. Personal statements can’t take the form of an apology (I’m sorry I’ve never been to Europe). Personal statements shouldn’t discuss what it will mean for family members to come to watch you walk across the stage at graduation if you’re in a program where 90% of graduates go on to graduate school or are employed full-time upon graduation. Personal statements should not be too long — certainly, no more than 500 words, and often shorter is better.
It is important to make sure that your personal statement reflects who you are and the type of school experience you want. When putting together an application, it can be tempting to choose the “right” answer or what will get you in. However, this does not always produce a sense of satisfaction when applying for grad schools. The best way to ensure that your personal statement captures how you truly feel about entering law school is by remaining authentic and true to yourself while also communicating effectively with admissions committees on why they should accept YOU! To get assistance on your personal essay feel free to place an order at Best essay writing service us.
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