personal statement tips
Today, the process of admissions for graduate programs is highly competitive. In addition to the quantitative data (tests scores and academic transcripts) and other materials that you will be asked to submit to a school’s admissions committee, a piece of writing — variously called a “personal statement”, “statement of purpose,” “personal essay,” or “statement of background and goals” — will probably be required as well.
The overall application package will represent who “you” are to people whom you will most likely not know personally. The written expression of your qualities as an applicant will often be a very important way for committee members to get to know why you are an acceptable candidate for their program. Thus, it is essential to take great care in preparing the personal statement part of your application. Because graduate schools make important selection decisions that are partly based on what you say in this personal statement essay, the writing of it can be an intimidating prospect.
This handout offers some points to consider as you undertake the writing of an application essay.
Start Early! Be Thorough!
If you have begun your application process early, take the time to investigate thoroughly each institution to which you are applying.
· Go to the library and locate/browse-through/read texts or abstracts by the school’s faculty members who work in your field or area of interest.
· Study and re-study the application materials sent to you very carefully; in particular, read through the school catalog and required course offerings.
· Find out if the school and program have web sites where you can learn more about them.
Taking these steps will familiarize you with the department, and allow you to weigh its specific strengths and weaknesses in comparison to those of other schools. While conducting your inquiry, take notes so that you will have something to base your personal statement essay on. Additionally, if you happen to know anyone — a friend, family member, colleague, or teacher — who has graduated from a school that you are considering, ask her or him for information as well. Although such people may be very helpful, be careful not to let their advice sway you too much, unless you are quite sure that they are particularly familiar with the department in question, and that their knowledge of it is up to date.
What to Include
The piece of writing that each school requests may be very different from that of others; some programs may even ask for more than one personal essay. Before you begin to write, study very carefully the essay directions on the application materials sent to you by the school and by the specific department to which you are applying. While some programs leave the content of the personal statement essay fairly “open,” others may place explicit content and length restrictions on it. Try to make sure that you have a good idea of what you are being asked to write about.
Whatever the particular form of the essay asked of you, there are a number of basic areas committees are interested in. When evaluating your application, each reader will ultimately have this question in mind: “Why should we let you into our school?” In order to answer this question, try to do the following:
· Clearly state your short and long term goals; tell how university “X” can help you meet them.
· Describe your areas of research and professional interest. You might indicate how your proposed studies are located within a broad field. For example, someone applying to a composition and rhetoric program might say, “I hope to examine the relationship between rhetorical invention strategies and demonstrated ability to write for members of diverse discourse communities.” Or, someone applying to an engineering program might say, “My particular interests are in optical communications, networks, and signal processing. As an undergraduate research assistant, I studied the principles of wavelet transforms, one of the most recent signal processing techniques, and I developed software models using Matlab to simulate the transform process. Currently I am investigating new applications of wavelet transforms. University X’s program in electrical engineering provides the direction and environment in which I can pursue my work in optimal communications networks and signal processing.”
· Give specific reasons why you are interested in a particular field, as well as why you have chosen this particular school to apply to.
· Refer to past experiences, both academic and “real world,” that are relevant to graduate study.
· Articulate what is particularly valuable about the perspective that you will bring to the prospective field of study and the specific department.
· Demonstrate your ability to think and express ideas clearly and effectively.
· Show motivation and capacity to succeed in graduate education.
· Write concisely and try to keep your readers interested. Remember that they are reading many application essays and therefore, you need to be considerate of their needs.
· Offer other information that demonstrates your need and desire to be accepted by the program.
Why this School?
Once you have developed a sense of the faculty’s interests and the department’s special features, you can make it clear in your application exactly why you want to attend that particular school. What is it about the department’s curriculum structure or general approach to the field that makes you interested in being a student there? Don’t waste your valuable personal statement essay space, or your reader’s valuable time, telling the reader how wonderful or prestigious their institution is; people on the admissions committee already know this. They want to know about you.
Nonetheless, if there are special programs or institutes at the school that seem appealing to you, briefly mention that you are interested in becoming part of them. For example, state that you “want to be a member of the XYZ Group for Blank and Blank Studies because . . .”, but don’t tell them how great, well respected, and world-renowned this part of the school is.
If, during your research on the department’s faculty, a faculty member strikes you as someone whom you might be interested in working with, indicate this in your essay; be concise and specific about why you want to work with this person in particular. A word of caution here: Do not try to use this as a way to “butter up” the admissions committee, because if there is any reason to believe that you are not sincere, your application may be adversely affected. Again, mention the person and how their work relates to your interest, but don’t load this personal statement with what might be interpreted as false or superfluous praise.
Some applications may ask you to give a personal history, telling about experiences that you have undergone which have led you to decide to pursue graduate education in a certain field of study. (If personal information of this sort is not required, then you are under no obligation to provide it.)
The information that could be included in a personal-type statement is limited only by your own imagination and life history, but you should be highly selective about what you include. There are two things to watch out for: (1) saying too much and/or (2) not saying enough.
Some applicants may ramble on about themselves in a manner that may appear self-indulgent and not very appealing to the committee. Remember, this is an application essay, not an autobiography. Conversely, some applicants tend to say too little, perhaps hesitating to promote themselves too explicitly or not knowing what about about themselves would be interesting to people whom they don’t know. In such cases, perhaps focusing more on what you want to do than on what you have already done (let your record speak for itself), may help in getting beyond self-inhibition.
Generally, keep in mind that the points about your life that you highlight should be somehow relevant to both your own interest in the field of study, as well as to the concerns of the admissions committee. In judging what information to include or exclude from your essay, try to balance academic, work-related, and personal information in a manner appropriate to your situation, goals, and the application requirements.
If you have additional, relevant information about yourself that does not easily fit into the essay, or into any other section of the university’s application, you may want to include a condensed resume or curriculum vitae with your application package. This is especially applicable to those who have worked professionally since having graduated from school. Relevant items here might include work experience, publications, and presentations, as well as language and computer skills.
Also, if you have experienced times of great hardship or extenuating circumstances that have negatively affected your academic performance at any time, provide a short explanatory statement. This is another one of those places where caution should be exercised: you want to explain the cause of your poor grades, etc. without alienating the reader by overdoing it. Once again, be specific and concise.
Although some people may be able to write an essay from start to finish in one sitting, most would probably not be particularly satisfied with the results of such an effort. Outlines, including a list of possible components to include in the essay, are often a good way to get started on your essay. Some writers prefer to start writing one paragraph at a time, re-arranging their ideas for orderly flow later on. Whatever method you use (only a few out of many have been mentioned here), make sure to allow time for revision — don’t start your essay the night before you have to send it out!
Ask others to read your essay and give you honest feedback; tell them that it is important to know what areas they find unclear or unnecessary. Don’t feel shy about asking for or receiving criticism; remember, the effectiveness of your personal statement essay depends on your being able to present yourself in a manner that is attractive to admissions committees. Comments such as “it’s good” are not going to be very helpful to you because they will not help you to improve your essay.
The Writing Center is available to offer suggestions on beginning, revising and finishing your application essay, so make use of this valuable resource. Also for ideas on form and style selected application essays that students have written in the past are on file for you to browse through at the Writing center.
After considering responses to your work, revise your essay until you are satisfied with it. (Remember to spell check the final draft). Also, make sure that your name and possibly the essay title — for example: “Personal Statement” — is included in a header on the first page, and that your last name is on a header or footer for each additional, numbered page (in case the first page gets misplaced).
For more advice on how to approach application essay writing and personal statements in particular, there are a number of extended treatments of this subject, some of which may be available at your library or graduate studies office. The graduate center at RPI has at least two books, as well as shorter documents within graduate school guides, that may provide you with a more comprehensive picture of application procedures than could be articulated in this brief handout.
what are your career goal and potential obstacles?
Several years ago while taking a Drawing and Design class, a project was assigned to create a functional child’s toy out of ordinary household items, otherwise known as junk. This construction assignment transformed into my personal mission because it demanded a skill set I was not comfortable with. In the end, it was not just the first place ribbon that affirmed my feeling of triumph, but the fact that my perseverance led to the achievement of my personal vision and goal. My hand-made creation became a symbol of what I was capable of. I will pursue my career goals with the same determination and tenacity I have demonstrated.
My ultimate career aspiration is to become a successful executive in a global company playing a leadership role in customer focused marketing, driving revenue and profit. This goal has been shaped and grounded by many diverse marketing assignments I have benefited from in marketing research, customer relationship management, and market intelligence at Xerox Corporation.
Upon completion of my MBA degree, I hope to immediately join a business-to-consumer firm where I can apply my graduate education and marketing research knowledge in the consumer-packaged-goods industry. I expect to become a contributor to the delicate intricacies involved in successfully executing a consumer product to market. At first, I wish to own a piece of a product’s go-to-market strategy and then eventually gain greater participation. At the same time I will have advanced my competence in several facets of marketing. In five years, I anticipate a managerial position asserting a greater role in not only my individual responsibilities and output, but a team’s motivation and productivity as well. I foresee myself wearing the different hats of my past managers, encompassing what I found to be their positive traits with my own personality. I await that challenge.
Realistically, one must expect obstacles on their path to success. An aspect of my personality that could potentially inhibit me is impatience. Impatience strikes many of us at any given moment then quickly subsides. Mine is derived from unrealistic expectations. Whether the unrealistic expectation is of family, the workplace or life in general, it occasionally leads to disappointment or irrational decisions. As an example of such an expectation, I instantly remember my customer relationship management (CRM) project I managed when I worked for the retail organization at Xerox. The CRM concept was new and brilliant. The psycho-graphic, demographic and behavioral enriched customer data we were receiving was revolutionary to the organization. I was elated. For the first time we had detailed data on who our end users were and their purchasing behaviors at certain retail chains. My job was to communicate and educate all the specific findings and the CRM concept to the appropriate decision-makers on the marketing staff. I simply expected everything to promptly change. Disappointment overcame my enthusiasm. My “road show” lasted a couple of weeks and I was convinced that this sought after customer information would give our marketing programs another perspective it needed. Nobody jumped. Nobody even blinked.
I later discovered that being a “change agent” within a large organization or anywhere takes time, small steps and even more, patience. Several months after the CRM program was introduced it caught the attention it deserved. By then, I was awarded a new position in the corporate organization at Xerox.
Knowing that impatience is one of my shortfalls, I have to make a conscious and deliberate effort in recognizing it in my behavior. I do not believe it will ever be completely conquered but it can be contained. I need to dissect a larger goal or project into smaller pieces. With this strategy, my expectations are more grounded and measurable as progress is eventually made. I am convinced this will certainly help neutralize my impatience. In addition, feedback from peers and my increasing experience will greatly improve my efforts.
My strategic business marketing experience at Xerox Corporation coupled with my short term goal of consumer marketing experience will build the solid foundation needed to reach my long-term career goal. The MBA degree from the Robert H. Smith School will ultimately give me the tools I need to succeed. I will maximize my MBA experience by utilizing the cross-functional curriculum, the study abroad opportunity and the corporate/ community network the program has established. With both my perseverance and consistently being aware of the obstacles that lie before me, I hope to fulfill my career aspiration of becoming a true marketing leader.
Essay Critique and Examination
Harvard Business School is looking for students who show a logical progression from past career experiences to future educational and professional goals. Your essay should show your interest in obtaining an MBA by explaining how a degree from Harvard fits snugly within your long-term career goals and past professional experiences.
Some initial questions to consider:
2) What is it specifically about a Harvard MBA that will help you attain those goals?
3) Why is now the perfect time for you to obtain an MBA from Harvard?
Stage 1: Overall Theme, Flow, Topic, Organization
Thematically, your essay is strong. But, you need to present professional goals in a clearer fashion. How will your past experience influence your future career path, what is your greatest limitation, and how do you believe you can overcome your impatience by working with more manageable goals?
Caution: Word Length
Unfortunately, your essay is too long. Not only do you exceed the 2 page / 500 word limit, you often get tangled up in your own phrasing and language. I have tightened the language of your essay in order to make it easier to read and more direct.
Make sure you are impressive in the context of your essay and not just in your language. Various word usage is awkward and this makes your writing seem as if you are pulling teeth. For example, in a particular sentence, you use both “new and brilliant” and “revolutionary”. For all practical purposes, these two phrases are identical. I deleted the first to make the sentence tighter. It is more important that your sentences be clear than how large you demonstrate your vocabulary to be.
I am confused as to the relevancy of your first paragraph. How does this experience relate to your career goals or to your impatience? Your anecdote shows that you are capable of rising to any challenge, even if that challenge is outside your area of expertise, but you never go on to connect this idea to the rest of your essay. In order to save word space, as well as streamline the essay, I have eliminated this paragraph and have inserted its general ideas throughout your essay. If, in fact, you do feel that this paragraph is essential to your essay, then you must find a better way of connecting it to your larger themes.
Caution: Passive Voice
Throughout your essay you use the passive voice. Your writing would seem more confident if you replaced weak, passive verbs with strong, active ones. You are not merely a pawn acted on by outside forces. I have gone through and changed verbs to an active form wherever possible.
One additional overall comment involves the theme of your essay. You seem to focus on a particular position that you hope to achieve (i.e. In five years, I expect a managerial position…). This is not a strong argument in the eyes of the Harvard Admissions Committee – they hope to provide you with skills in a particular field, not vocational training. In other words, you need to show that you are looking for more than just a job, but rather the knowledge base that will provide you with the means by which to achiethat position.
I have switched the order of your (new) first and second paragraphs, since the second paragraph seems more general and introductory than the first.
Stage 2: Sentence Level Nuts and Bolts
Often, I find that your discussion of your past experience is quite vague. For example, in your third paragraph you write: At the same time I will have advanced my competence in several facets of marketing . What facets of marketing do you mean here? I have deleted this sentence because it seems to make the paragraph rather long. Throughout the essay, I have worked to eliminate vagueness, keeping only the most salient points.
You use quotation marks twice in your essay, for “road-show” and for “change agent”. This punctuation is actually unnecessary, if not outright distracting. I have removed them.
Make sure you identify your pronouns. Your sentence, “I do not believe it will ever be completely conquered but it can b contained,” would be more understandable if you wrote “impatience” instead of “it.”
Also, I noticed that you use “my” very often throughout the essay. This shows that your sentence structures and word choice are not varied enough . I have gone through and added novel structures in order to eliminate this repetition.
Rather than talk about your impatience as incurable, why don’t you talk about how you can use it to your benefit? I have changed the end of your essay to include this idea.
Overall, your essay is descriptive and well conceived.
All The Best
Revised Essay 2 – Career goals and potential obstacles
Upon receiving my MBA degree from Harvard University, I will use my graduate education and marketing research knowledge in the context of the consumer-packaged-goods industry. First and foremost, I look forward to the challenge of successfully bringing a consumer product to market. Although I will begin working on a product’s go-to-market strategy, I eagerly anticipate gradually increasing my managerial context within the company. In addition to these future responsibilities, I am excited about managing a team’s motivation and productivity.
My strategic business marketing experience at Xerox Corporation, coupled with my short-term goal of success in consumer marketing, will build the solid foundation needed to reach my long-term career goal of playing a leadership role in a global company. I am particularly interested in customer focused marketing and am confident that my determination, perseverance and tenacity will lead to the successful achievement of this personal vision.
My greatest obstacle is likely to be my impatience, which is a direct result of hightened professional expectations. When I think of impatience, I recall the customer relationship management (CRM) project I managed for the retail organization at Xerox. The CRM concept was revolutionary, as was the psycho-graphic, demographic and behavioral enriched customer data we received. For the first time, we had detailed data on the identity of our end users, and on their purchasing behaviors at certain retail chains. My job was to communicate both these specific findings and the greater CRM concept to the appropriate decision-makers on the marketing staff. Because of my impatience, I expected everyone to promptly change. After several weeks of my road-show, disappointment overcame my enthusiasm. Although I was convinced that information would give our marketing programs a novel and necessary perspective, nobody jumped- nobody even blinked.
Later, I discovered that being an agent for change within a large organization takes small steps and, most importantly, patience. Several months after the CRM program was introduced, it caught the attention it deserved. As a result, I was awarded a new position in the corporate organization at Xerox.
My awareness of this shortcoming allows me both to recognize it in my behavior and to use it to my benefit. By dividing a larger goal into fundamental pieces, my expectations become more grounded and my progress more measurable. My impatience will help to accomplish smaller goals more quickly, and the lessons of increasing experience will encourage my efforts.
I am confident that an MBA degree from Harvard will not only give me the tools that I need in order to succeed, but the necessary personal insight into my own inner workings. I will maximize my MBA experience by taking advantage of Harvard’s cross-functional curriculum, the study abroad opportunity, and the corporate / community network the program has established. Through perseverance and consistent awareness of the obstacles that lie before me, I hope to fulfill my career dream of becoming a true marketing leader.
A Few Pointers. Opinions differ as to what constitutes the best approach to this essay, so it’s hard to offer much guidance here. In general, though, try to keep these ideas in mind:
· Originality. Try to guess the top 3 most common personal statement topics and then avoid those themes. In particular, skip the “Why I want to be a lawyer” dissertation — instead, tell an original story or relate an original experience that is not inconsistent with a desire to attend law school. This is just another way of saying “show don’t tell,” but it’s important. Many personal statements look like a string of clichés, and nobody wants to read that. Plus, law schools get a bazillion personal statements about how the applicant wants to go to law school because law is a force for change, law can make a difference in people’s lives, underserved communities need lawyers as champions, public interest law is a noble form of service, etc., etc. It will not help you to write such an essay, no matter how well written it may be! There is only one exception to this rule: alumni/ae who have been away from academia for many years may wish to address the “why law?” question directly (more advice for alumni/ae).
· Avoid Corny or Flashy Tricks. Don’t write an epic poem about your quest to enter law school; don’t draw a picture as your personal statement; don’t write in stream-of-consciousness style; don’t write a short story in which you’re on trial and the admissions committee is the jury…. You get the idea.
· Keep It Personal. It’s called a “personal” statement for a reason! Many, many students try to impress admissions officers with essays on philosophy, Russian politics, the need for prison reform or whatever. Don’t bother! An extremely well-written essay on current events or an academic subject might win awards but it will NOT get you into law school. Stick to subjects that are personal to you. Here’s a test: if your friend or roommate can read your essay and say, “yep, that sounds like you,” then you’re on the right track.
· Don’t Recycle Your Resume. Some students make the mistake of devoting their personal statement to summarizing their accomplishments. Your personal statement can certainly concern something impressive you’ve done, but don’t let it just recycle your resume. Think of your personal statement as an opportunity to add something new to your application file. If it helps free you from worrying that your accomplishments won’t be clear, you can simply include a copy of your resume in your application – even if the school doesn’t ask for it! Use your personal statement to give the admissions committee an idea of who you are beyond your resume.
· Contribution to the Law School Community. Remember: law school admissions officers are looking for interesting students who will make their school a more vibrant community for other students and staff. They’re looking for diversity in interests, backgrounds and experience. Think about your personal statement as a chance to step outside of the GPA/LSAT numbers in your application and illustrate why you have the kind of background and experiences that will make their school a better place for other students.
· Make It Easy to Read. Write clearly. Use declarative sentences in the active voice wherever possible. Organize each paragraph around a topic theme or idea, like you would in a closely argued paper for a tutorial. Do not try to distinguish your essay with its physical features — use a regular font (e.g., Times New Roman), ordinary margins, white paper, etc.
The Harvard Law Dean of Admissions has given students a few very valuable tips for the personal statement. First, he prefers statements that focus on the past, rather than the future. He wants to hear what you have done, not what you might do in the future. In light of that, two of the best questions to ask yourself when writing your personal statement are “what are your 3 biggest accomplishments?” and “what is the thing that is most important to you?” This will get you well on your way to writing a statement that is interesting, personal, and of the appropriate scope.
georgia tech personal statement
For the past four years I have been studying the relationship between humans and computers from many perspectives: computer science, human computer interaction, human factors, even tech support. It’s only in the last two years that I have found psychology, and it has had a huge influence on how I think about computation. I worked on several fascinating independent projects in psychology, one with Whitney Tabor developing an argument against Lakoff and Johnson’s ‘Metaphors We Live By’ and another with Michael Turvey studying the philosophical difficulties semantics pose for an automatic formal system that tries to pull salient information from large information spaces. In both cases, knowledge brought from courses in computer science, on topics like graph traversal algorithms, context-free grammars and theory of computation, allowed me to engage these topics quickly and in interesting ways–topics like connectionist networks, the psychology of language, and the relationship between syntax and semantics.
Still, it has been a long road to understand the connection between these projects and my ongoing research in computer science. For my honors thesis project, I put my psychology research methods to work assembling a coherent quantitative measure of usability and using it to gauge the success of a dominant user interface philosophy in my lab. I gained valuable experience soliciting participants with medical knowledge, securing funding to compensate them, negotiating lab space, writing custom data collection software and running the study.
The project also helped me to understand that it is critically important not just to improve the relationship between computers and people, but to understand it theoretically. And I believe such an approach can illuminate some big questions in psychology in a fresh light. Unlike human-human communication, in which referents are manifested in the massively complex natural world, referents in human-computer communication often exists in a formal information space that a computer can more easily “understand.” I would like to investigate what happens when we try to formalize and constrain natural languages so that computers have a chance at understanding them. This brings to bear many important questions in psychology: how language is formalized, what types of computation are necessary for language processing, and how automatic formal systems deal with semantics, among others.
Because of the mixture of HCI and cognitive psychology, and especially applied cognitive psychology, the Georgia Tech psychology program is an ideal place for me to do this work. More specifically, I would enjoy working with Zenzi Griffen in language production–in particular, the types of computation necessary for language production and comprehension. There’s a post-doc too: Horton
Much of my extracurricular work has focused on the human side of computing. As an undergraduate I created and a web site with several other students that drew as much as 25% of our undergraduate population on busy days. That success was achieved by focusing not on the technology, but on how the strengths of computer systems could fit into niches in the behavioral patterns of students on campus. And my work as a support technician for UConn’s psychology department provided ample opportunity to observe how computing fits into people’s lives.
In addition to these experiences, I have a few accomplishments worth of becoming sound-bites. As a freshman, I was invited into UConn’s select Concert Choir. In 2000, I tied for first place in UConn’s Undergraduate Calculus competition at the intermediate level. And after graduating this spring, I successfully completed a 200 mile solo backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. And I co-authored a paper which was accepted as a poster to the 2003 User Modeling conference. This and my other research projects have really been my biggest accomplishments as an undergraduate.
My credentials in computer science go back further than my credentials in psychology mostly because I found psychology relatively recently. But the work I have done in both psychology and computer science has led me down this path
So how does one determine the style of one’s college admission essay? Personally, I like to pretend that I am a teacher telling a story to a class of extremely interested students. I like to write in short sentences so the material won’t be too much to digest. I also like to use fun, sparkly vocabulary words every now and then (note: fun words, not huge, multisyllabic words). To demonstrate what I mean, let’s describe an old tree. Remember, there is a class of kids hanging on every word you say…
The tree at Grovsvenor’s Park is massive and knobby, with spotty bark and a mysterious hole in its center.
Given that trees aren’t the most exciting subject for an admission essay, I think the above sentence was charismatic enough to hold the class’s attention. I poured on the adjectives, without injecting any awkward SAT words. You get more mileage out of interesting, easily-understood words like “knobby.”
No one ever knew how the hole got there; it just seemed to be a natural part of the tree. Though it was too small to stick your head into, there were rumors that it led to a massive treasure trove underground.
Are you starting to become interested? That’s not just because of the mention of hidden treasure. It’s because the writer has brought you into his neighborhood fantasy. Did you notice that? Probably not–that’s because his style was even, assured, and believable. As a narrator, he did his job.
In your own college admission essay, you should do the same thing. Find your own style. Be eerie, or eccentric, or bad-ass. Be yourself. Write as if you’re speaking, except with better grammar. Once you have your style down, just keep writing. As long as it’s distinctly yours, and not the style of a famous author or favorite magazine, it’s bound to catch the interest of the admissions office.
College Admission Essay Mistake # 10
Using the same essay for all of the colleges you apply to
All colleges have their own identity and mission statement. Pay attention to what their ideology is and think about what you can do to cater to it.
College Admission Essay Mistake # 9
Plagiarizing other students’ work
DO NOT COPY FROM OTHER PEOPLE’S ESSAYS! Many students assume that if they copy directly from other people paper’s and sources that no one will find out. This assumption is definitely wrong. Often, the papers they copy from are littered with errors, and they don’t take the time to check.
College Admission Essay Mistake # 8
Using a thesaurus for too many words
This mistake can lead to a big awkward tangle of an essay. Many times if you use a thesaurus and extract overly verbose words, they will stick out like sore thumbs in your essay, and the first assumption the reader will make is that you used a thesaurus.
College Admission Essay Mistake # 7
Not streamlining the essay with the application
Many applicants do not pay attention to the unity of their essay and their actual application. It is jarring to the reader if the essay seems to portray a different picture of the student than the application. This can also happen when you plagiarize; things do not match up, and the reader will quickly discredit you.
College Admission Essay Mistake # 6
Trying to impress the essay reader
Do not try to impress the admission officer. They will be able to sense a pretentious voice beneath descriptions of grand earth-shaking events and ontological musings. Write about what you know and draw from your own life experience.
College Admission Essay Mistake # 5
Picking an inappropriate topic
In an attempt to be clever many people resort to self-deprecation and end up painting a less than flattering image of themselves. You may think it would be witty to write a paper about your less than perfect grades in high school, but this can come off as not taking responsibility for your actions.
College Admission Essay Mistake # 4
Making an essay into a resume
Many times people want to impress the reader so much that they completely ignore the essay prompt and make the essay into a list of their accomplishments. Unless this is specifically what they asked for, just don’t do it.
College Admission Essay Mistake # 3
If you are sending a school an application, they will simply assume that you want to attend. You don’t have to “lay it on thick” by lauding their campus and faculty.
College Admission Essay Mistake # 2
You CANNOT edit your essay too much. Write several drafts and edit each draft thoroughly for syntax, grammar, spelling and general structure. Admissions officers will immediately discredit you for making petty errors that would be easily fixable.
College Admission Essay Mistake #1
Not answering the question
The admissions committee uses certain essay prompts for a specific reason: they want you to answer it! So beware of steering away from the point and running off on tangents.
sample motivation letter
I am writing to apply for the XXX scholarship for artists.
I graduated in architecture in March 2003 from the University of XXX, Faculty of Architecture in XXX, XXX. My degree focuses on architectural design and urban planning. I also took several courses in urban management, which provoked my strong interest in issues that affect urban development and future of urbanity.
The urban metropolitan areas are interesting to study because they are places where different cultures and urban practises encounter each other. In the age of economic globalisation, multimedia communication and transnational migration these urban areas are increasingly changing. On another level, this phenomena influence people’s lifestyles and as a result their dwelling practices are changing. This affects the Eastern European cities as well as Western European cities. Generally, the urban spaces are in need of new strategies that deal with the problems facing urban development. I am interested in studying the urban condition globally and analysing the urban design strategies and practises of urban space creation.
My diploma project was based on research that I conducted on the new political, economical and social circumstances in my country that affect the urban living. The focus of the project was creation of a new type of collective residence in an urban area that would be able to accommodate the changed life style practises of the urban dweller. In addition, I have successfully participated in domestic and international open competitions that are dealing with the subject of urban condition on different levels. I have a passion for research and am especially interested in further developing my skills in urban research.
The XXX in XXX, to which I am interested to apply, has been offering a one-year postgraduate program focusing on urban topics since 1999. The design-oriented XXX deals with the future of urbanity. The program is both international and interdisciplinary. It is the objective of the XXX to develop unusual strategies that transcend purely scientific analysis or design- and planning methods. The one-year XXX is divided into two parts: an orientation phase that concentrates more on theory and analysis and a project phase that focuses on the development of methods and strategies. I am very exited by my decision to pursue my Master’s Degree at the XXX. I believe that their approach will enable me to acquire knowledge and skills that will help me meet new professional challenges.
I have made the necessary contacts with the XXX contact person Ms. XY to ensure that I am eligible to apply for the academic year 2005.
With a solid foundation in academic theory on urban planning and intensive research gained through the Master’s Degree program in urbanism at the XXX, I am confident that I will have the skills, knowledge and contacts that will enable me, as architect and urban planner, to deal with the complex issues of the urban condition in my country.
Thank you very much for considering my request. I look forward to your positive response.
Since I was in Senior High School, I have believed that mathematics is an important factor in a life. All human activities in several fields such as information technology, economics, physics, social and others will run well if they are cited in a good mathematics framework. This circumstance stimulated me to attend faculty of mathematics and natural science. I choose statistics as my specialization even though at this time, there weren’t many people know about statistics and few students choose statistics as their specialization. I saw in several developed countries such as The Netherlands and Belgium, the mathematics degree-holders not only have many opportunities but also were cited as important scholar in their societies.
As a student at XXXX Department faculty of XXX of XXX University, I had numerous opportunities to do many activities. From XXX to XXX I had chances to become a lecturer assistant in mathematics and statistics laboratory. My resposibilities are taught and supervised students in the following subjects; Basic Programming, Computational Statistics, Statistical Methods and XXX.
Besides studying, I was active in the student senate and became the head of research and development division. In XXX I, in a team, became the third winner of Indonesian student research competition. Overall I am pleased with my academic record and I believe that it has prepared me very well for graduate school.
Presently, I work as a XXX for XXX. My responsibilities are teaching, conducting research individually or in a team and etc (mention your responsibilities)…… Working as a statistics lecturer needs deep knowledge of fundamental mathematics and experiences in advanced research of applied statistics. Even though my undergraduate programme has given me a strong background in the fundamentals of various mathematics especially statistics, this is not enough for me to be a professional lecturer. I have to continue my study to enrich my skills and broaden my knowledge.
Currently, our institution which one of the functions is to XXXX to the government of Indonesia, has formulated its Long Term Plan known as the XXX PLAN, which directed toward the establishment of the Integrated National XXX System. This plan is including the development of statistics in various fields such as economy, demography, agriculture, and health. It leads the need of statistician who expert in those fields. Today, there is no Master of Science in XXX in our institution. These circumstances persuade me to apply Master of Science in XXX under XXX Scholarship programme.
Master of Science in XXX is needed in Indonesia because of the following reasons:
It will improve education in XXX and Indonesia in general, and strenghten the establishment of the Integrated National System
I will fill the masters of XXX scarcity and strengthen the sustainable development of Indonesia.
Considering all factors above. I believe that the chosen study will benefit Indonesia in general
I consider myself to be a good candidate for XXX Scholarship because I am young, energetic, hardworking, visionary, and motivated person who believes that I can do something for the benefit of my country to whom I have been working. I did my best with all maximum efforts I could give for my institution. But this is not enough. Frankly, I am not satisfied yet with what I did. I believe that I can do much better if I am trained and developed through a master of science in Belgium.
POLISHING – THE ‘IN THEIR SHOES’ CHECK
Put your essay away for a day or two. When you take it out, lay it face down for two minutes while you put yourself in the admissions committee’s place. Imagine yourself to be a professor or graduate student who is going through a few hundred applications and classifying them into ‘yes’, ‘maybe’ and ‘no’ piles. Think of how you would look at SoPs and try to read yours through a stranger’s eyes. What do you see?
- Remember that for graduate school, your essay need not be great writing. What the school is looking for is a competently written statement of goals and interests that demonstrates how you think, whether you have thought through this decision to apply, and whether your interests and strengths fit in with the program you are applying to. To this end, they expect to see the following in an essay –
· What areas are you interested in and why,
· How well defined your interests are,
· Are these interests based on experience (academic or on the job) that the school may find useful,
· Where do you see these interests taking you,
· How do you think graduate school will help you,
· What experience have you had that will help.
Does your essay cover these points? Does it do so in an honest and interesting manner? Many of the students applying will have backgrounds similar to yours, so avoid cliched ideas.
- Are you repeating information that is available from the resume? Do so very sparingly, and only if you are making a point about your learnings or achievements during that experience. Weed out all other information that sounds like repetition (it will only irritate the reader), or can be included in your resume, or does not actively contribute towards making a point in your essay.
- Does your essay have an interesting beginning? This need not be witty, but should persuade the reader to stay with you.
- Have you talked about specific incidents that illustrate your interest or familiarity with the subject, or show something about you? These incidents might include, for example:
- A college or work project that was instrumental in confirming your interest in the field (be sure to include a recommendation from your guide!),
- Extra-curricular activities that brought out useful aspects in you (leadership skills or team activities are particularly helpful for business school applications!),
- A book or person who had a strong influence on you.
- Does the essay bring out your personality? Or could it have been written by just about anybody?
- Have you mentioned why you are applying to that particular school? Does this section of the essay demonstrate that you have researched the school and the program? DON’T stop at the standard formula phrase, ‘I am applying to XYZ because of it’s great reputation in _______.’
- Does your essay flow smoothly? If it is choppy and abruptly jumps from paragraph to paragraph, your readers will have a tough time keeping up. Make it easy on them – smoothen the transition between paragraphs.
- Is the tone too formal or not formal enough? Be professional yet informal – the tone you would take with your Principal or Head of Department, for instance.
- Does the essay end well? Does it leave the reader with a sense of completion? Avoid usage of cliches like, ‘ I hope the admissions committee finds my application up to their expectations’.
This self-check will yield a few ideas for improvement. Use it at least 3-4 times during this last stage of polishing up your SoP.
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