Friday, October 4, 2013

College Talk: The Personal Essay

"Your application, transcripts, and test scores are the bones of your application," Dominique Lightsey informed the parents attending the first annual UCLA open house on September 28, 2013. "Your personal essay is what makes you different for the other applicants." She went on to compare your essay to the fleshy part of your body that makes you who you are.

Imagine that you can use words to express why you would be the perfect candidate for your dream school. Then choose the right words to convey your thoughts. This is the only thing that sets you apart from other students with the same GPA and testing scores.

Here are some tips to help you express yourself.

1. Read the questions. Often when telling a story, you can find yourself going off on a tangent. Doing this takes the reader away from the topic. If you don't answer multiple part questions, this will count against you. Either you want to go to college or your don't. So make sure your screener knows that you are taking the process seriously by answering the questions completely.

2. Be Interesting. When your application is being read, the admission staff is looking for certain answers. When they find them, they may stop reading so keep them interested by telling a compelling story.

3. Stick To You. It is great that your grandfather wanted you to go to ABC University. Say that, but also say that you want it too! Say why you want it from a very personal standpoint. It's not enough to say that it is a good fit for you. Instead, say that attending ABC University will fit in with your life plan of xxxxxx by xxxxxxx.

3. Choose Your Words Wisely. Make sure that you are using the right words correctly. Some words have duplicitous meaning so make sure you offer context to support your word choice. Also, read your completed essay out loud. Listen to the flow of the words. Does it make sense?

4. Deadlines Are Not a Suggestion. Stick with the deadlines that are posted. Often, the application is opened before you can submit it. Take your time to fill it out completely and check the information twice before you submit your answers. Work on it everyday until it is completed. Submit it well ahead of the deadline.

5. Brag About Yourself. It's okay. "Often, applicants don't brag about themselves enough," Lightsey said. Admission counselors want a clear view to why they should offer you admission. Give it to them! Before you get started, write down your high school resume. For each year, you should have a list of all your after school extras like sports, clubs, or organizations you participate in. Organize each year from the most influential to the least in regards to the importance in your life. Include this information when appropriate.

Thank you to Dominique Lightsey, UCLA Admissions office, for answering my questions.

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