With the extremely competitive nature of college admissions these days it is incumbent that the applicant seek to secure any advantage that will distinguish them from others who too are after the same prize - admission to a top flight undergraduate or graduate college or university. In his March 2011 Sun Sentinel article titled "B Students Face Tough Admissions at Florida Universities,"writer Scott Travis reinforces the difficulty of getting admitted into college in such a competitive environment.
He offers, "Suddenly, doing above average work in high school may not be enough to get you into Florida's public universities. Competition is fierce this year, as top students flood state universities with applications. The state's high school graduation rate has soared from 60 percent to 80 percent in the past decade, putting more students into the college admissions pool."
The aforementioned no doubt is an accurate reflection and quite the norm of the college admissions dilemma many high school and adult students face across the country. With this in mind, developing a stellar college essay, personal statement and even responding to a college or university's pre-established set of select questions could be the difference between your acceptance to or rejection by the undergraduate school of your choice.
Here are some tips for completing a great essay and/or personal statement:
- Organize Your Every Thought
The arch enemy of admission essay development is unpreparedness. Take a day or two to process what is being requested of you by the university. Are you being asked to write about yourself? Were you instructed to discuss family influences, your upbringing or your home environment? What about your viewpoint on a particular subject matter or current event? Have you been asked to discuss both your strong points and shortcomings? Despite the type of information you are asked to provide first think about how to organize it into a short and compelling story. Admissions officials read through countless essays and personal statements some of which are quite boring and technical. They don't want to read what you think sounds dramatic and exciting...they merely want your authentic story and perspective and can spot a fake in a minute.
Don't be afraid to allow your humor (if that applies), unique hobbies and life experiences to come through in your essay. Additionally, remember that if it essay does not make sense as you think about and play it in your minds projector, it probably won't make a whole lot of sense or be convincing when you put it on paper.
- Obey Their Exact Terms
Roman Catholic saint, Saint Teresa of Ávila once said "The power of obedience can make things easy which seem impossible."The fact of the matter is that most essay writers sink their own communications ship long before the reader/reviewer can make an informed and favorable decision in their favor. More often than not, applicants damage their own cause by committing one of the cardinal sins of writing... answering something that has not been asked.
The specific terms listed by the college or university plainly tell you what they expect your piece to be about. If they want you to write about yourself, then simply do so as it relates to their established essay criteria. For example if you have been charged with the task of writing an essay involving who the most influential person is in your life and how their influence impacted your decision to attend college, a portion of your essay's body could read something like this:
"I have had the benefit of having a mother who has earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees which is one of the primary motivating factors in my decision to pursue my dream of earning a college degree. This undeniably strong woman has constantly reminded me of the value of remaining focused but more importantly also staying humble. Because of her I am a well rounded young woman preparing to enter college."
Quite simply, it is vital that the essay writer stick to the point! Remember that most essays and personal statements have word limit constraints and often only allow a maximum amount of words. Be certain to use the word count feature available on most PC's and laptops. Don't forget that straying from your established focus as a means to offer less significant information can quickly turn the reviewer off and jeopardize your chances for a fair and honest evaluation of your written work.
- Order Your Expressed Time
Completing the entirety of an admissions essay really does not take that long at all. You will probably spend a grand total of one to three hours to place your final thoughts in writing. Listen carefully...You must have a process. The method of creating a clean, systematic and easily understood essay or personal statement begins with having an orderly process. After you have gathered your thoughts and developed some notes as well as reviewed the terms of the essay requirements, you must now plan your work.
Take a day or two to review all of the information you have gathered up to this point and add any new observations or delete all unnecessary ones. After completing your information review and update, allocate one to three hours to begin writing in a location conducive to both your style and mindset. For example, my style requires that I have some noise in my immediate space in order to begin writing a piece. Others instead might require complete silence and still some may need a combination of both.
Make sure that your location provides some access to a restroom, beverage and snack that will provide opportunities for you to periodically get up and stretch your legs during your writing period.
Once you complete your work, it is important to have an impartial and qualified set of eyes review it and offer constructive criticism concerning your content, grammar, punctuation and intended focus. As a rule, always include the subject matter as presented to you by the school, your name and the name of the school somewhere on the document(a header or footer will suffice) so that your essay or personal statement is readily identifiable.
In closing, never forget that this is probably one of the most important writing exercises you will ever complete. Approach it with deliberation, preparation and focus while at that same time having fun with it. So get to it and happy writing!