Almost all high school juniors find themselves asking this question, and wondering just how thorough an investigation are those college admissions officers going to do.
Surely they’re too busy to Google you, to look you up on Facebook, or to find your Twitter account, right? They’re busy people! The last thing they have time to do is look through your photos from homecoming, when things got a little messy, or notice that your last couple statuses were ragey rants about your math teacher…right? Can’t we just throw those rumors in the conspiracy theories pile, and forget about it?
How should I approach writing my personal statement for college applications?
Writing great college admissions essays can be tricky—especially on top of juggling classes, extracurricular activities and SAT or ACT prep—and of all the admissions essays you’ll have to write, the dreaded personal statement will probably be the trickiest of all. A written account of who you are as a student, an applicant, and a person – the personal statement can seem like one of the most intimidating parts of the entire college admissions process.
How can you sum up in a short essay everything there is to know about you? How can you write a personal statement that will impress the admissions office, and will set your college application apart from the hundreds of other applications they’ll receive?
First, don’t panic. If you give yourself plenty of time to write your personal statement, you’ll already be way ahead of the curve. Make yourself a schedule, and stick to it. This is definitely not something you want to put off until the night before it’s due. By the end of September, at the very latest, you should have your first rough draft. Since the personal statement is such an important part of your college application, you’ll want to write at least three drafts. Don’t forget to give yourself enough time to get feedback from parents, teachers and mentors in between each version.
Second, avoid the temptation to write what you think the admissions officers will want to read, rather than a personal statement that accurately reflects who you are and what you’ve done. You may think it’s a good idea to pepper your essay with adjectives like “hard-working” and “intelligent,” but qualities like these are notoriously subjective and tough to prove, and admissions officers see them in a lot of essays. There’s a reason they call the essay a personal statement. First and foremost, it should reflect who you are.
So what should you write? The answer to that question is going to be different for each student. The admissions officers want to know what make you tick, so keep it specific to who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and what you want to do. What are you most passionate about? What subjects do you find most interesting? What activities excite you the most? What specifically sets you apart from other college applicants?
If you follow this advice, you’ll be well on your way towards crafting a killer personal statement.
In the midst of studying for your SAT and ACT exams, staying on top of your classes, securing recommendations, writing admissions essays, and setting up visits to colleges, it’s easy to forget about one last element of the college admissions process: the interview.
Unlike college board exams and admissions essays, you may not yet know what to expect from a college interview, and you’re likely to feel a little intimidated. Don’t worry. Like everything else in the college admissions process, there are surefire guidelines for how to prepare for your interview, too.
First, take the time to research the school to which you’re applying. Pick up a couple of college guides, check out the school’s website and college admissions materials, and—if possible—talk to some current or former students.
Is the interview optional or required? Is it a formal interview, conducted by an admissions officer on campus, or is it an informal, off-campus interview, conducted by a graduate of the university?
What appeals to you about this particular school? (The admissions interviewer is likely to ask you this question, and you’d better have an answer ready.) Does it pride itself on its high-profile professors, or on small class sizes? Does it require students to take “Great Books” courses, or does it have few or no general education requirements?
The more specific you can be about your interest of this particular college or university, the better for the college interview. You’ll also probably be asked what you can offer the university community and what activities you’re likely to pursue in college. Resist the temptation to give general answers to the admissions interviewer about how you’re a “great student” or “hard-working”. Keep your answers concrete and specific. Like your personal statement, you’ll want each answer to accurately reflect who you are.
Finally, how you come across in the college interview is going to be just as important as what you say. Have a firm handshake. Stay confident and upbeat. Maintain eye contact with your admissions interviewer. Speak clearly and slowly enough that you can be easily understood. Also, make sure to dress appropriately. Look sharp and professional.
Have a parent or friend, or a CATES tutor, conduct a few mock interviews with you. The more experience you have with the interview process, the more comfortable you’re likely to be in the actual college interview.