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Are you in Essay Hell? Posted on:Monday, October 21st, 2013


Not to entirely freak you out, but your personal statement can be a huge tipping point for evaluators who review hundreds of mediocre essays in a given day.  I recently attended a college conference in Toronto, where an Admissions Dean from the University of Georgia did a mock read of a personal statement.  I was shocked.

A 30 second scan was all she needed to pull out key words and phrases that would either hold her attention, or direct the essay towards the reject pile.  Oh and about the reject pile, she advised to stay away from cliche topics like your school trip to Mexico to build homes or packing your entire life into one essay without drawing clear connections to the NOW. She didn’t hold back.

When you think about it, the personal statement is the one thing over which you have total control.

Here are 3 strategies for crafting a winning personal statement according to the U of G Dean of Admissions:

1) Lead the reader INTO the piece using interesting examples, metaphors and images.

2) Take the reader THROUGH your story using first person, great summarizing, and powerful images.  Show don’t tell.

3) Take the reader BEYOND, showing how your story connects to who you are now and who you want to be.  Provide an ending that evokes key characteristics and conveys moral.

If you’re a visual learner like me, you might wonder, “what does a winning personal statement look like anyway?”

Here are two excellent websites for viewing real personal statements submitted by students.  The John Hopkins link even shows feedback offered by evaluators.  You’ll notice that there are many angles that you can take when crafting your essay, the key is to paint a vivid picture, avoid cliche topics, tune into your authentic voice, and ANSWER the questions.

Essays that Worked – Connecticut College

Essays that Worked – John Hopkins College

And there’s more…
Essay Hell is a great website that provides more tips and strategies for writing your essay.

Finally, here is a great slideshow from another very helpful site called Getmetocollege.

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  • leslee mcgee November 12, 2013 at 5:36 am

    What a great website. This is so helpful!

    • admin November 13, 2013 at 5:59 am

      Thanks Leslee! Just posted a personal statement contest. Spread the word:)

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