How To: Write Your Personal Essay . Vanderbilt University Undergraduate Admissions.
When it comes to applying to a college or university, many students fear the personal essay above all. Get college application and admissions tips for your college essay from expert Bari Norman and read a sample of a student's personal essay before and after Norman's edits.
Find tips, sample essays and essay critiques for each of the Common Application personal essay options.
Guide to applying to colleges and universities. Tips to help you in the college admissions process.
Need to write a college application essay? Check out these resources and sample essays -- designed to help you write a successful application essay.
Your essay can give admission officers a sense of who you are, as well as showcasing your writing skills. Try these tips to craft your college application essay.
Structure of a Personal Narrative Essay Narratives written for college or personal narratives,
The program. why is this the program you want to be admitted to? what is special about the faculty, the courses offered, the placement record, the facilities you might be using? if you can’t think of anything particular, read the brochures they offer, go to events, or meet with a faculty member or student in the program. a word about honesty here—you may have a reason for choosing a program that wouldn’t necessarily sway your reader; for example, you want to live near the beach, or the program is the most prestigious and would look better on your resume. you don’t want to be completely straightforward in these cases and appear superficial, but skirting around them or lying can look even worse. turn these aspects into positives. for example, you may want to go to a program in a particular location because it is a place that you know very well and have ties to, or because there is a need in your field there. again, doing research on the program may reveal ways to legitimate even your most superficial and selfish reasons for applying.Some writers take risks by using irony (your suffering at the hands of a barbaric dentist led you to want to become a gentle one), beginning with a personal failure (that eventually leads to the writer’s overcoming it), or showing great imagination (one famous successful example involved a student who answered a prompt about past formative experiences by beginning with a basic answer—”i have volunteered at homeless shelters”—that evolved into a ridiculous one—”i have sealed the hole in the ozone layer with plastic wrap”). one student applying to an art program described the person he did not want to be, contrasting it with the person he thought he was and would develop into if accepted. another person wrote an essay about her grandmother without directly linking her narrative to the fact that she was applying for medical school. her essay was risky because it called on the reader to infer things about the student’s character and abilities from the story.Yourself. what details or anecdotes would help your reader understand you? what makes you special? is there something about your family, your education, your work/life experience, or your values that has shaped you and brought you to this career field? what motivates or interests you? do you have special skills, like leadership, management, research, or communication? why would the members of the program want to choose you over other applicants? be honest with yourself and write down your ideas. if you are having trouble, ask a friend or relative to make a list of your strengths or unique qualities that you plan to read on your own (and not argue about immediately). ask them to give you examples to back up their impressions (for example, if they say you are “caring,” ask them to describe an incident they remember in which they perceived you as caring).Now, look at what you’ve written. find the most relevant, memorable, concrete statements and focus in on them. eliminate any generalizations or platitudes (“i’m a people person”, “doctors save lives”, or “mr. calleson’s classes changed my life”), or anything that could be cut and pasted into anyone else’s application. find what is specific to you about the ideas that generated those platitudes and express them more directly. eliminate irrelevant issues (“i was a track star in high school, so i think i’ll make a good veterinarian.”) or issues that might be controversial for your reader (“my faith is the one true faith, and only nurses with that faith are worthwhile,” or “lawyers who only care about money are evil.”).
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This handout provides information about writing personal statements for academic and other positions.