Writing a personal statement is easier than you think

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Universities and colleges are currently accepting applications for fall 2010 but deadlines are fast-approaching. The UCs have a Nov. 30 deadline while private schools such as USF and Stanford require applications to be submitted in the next month or two. What does this mean for Skyline students? If you are a student applying to a four-year college or university and your application has not yet been submitted, now is the time to fill out forms and have your personal statements ready.

However, the reality for many college students is that meeting deadlines can range from difficult to impossible. Homework, activities and jobs can take up large amounts of time and when factors like procrastination are included, many students end up scrambling at the eleventh hour to turn in their applications on time.

“A lot of students wait until the last minute to fill out their applications when applying to UCs or private schools,” said Joyce Lee, Honors Transfer Program counselor.

Lee advises students to start early in order to allow enough time to write several drafts of the personal statement and also to provide ample time for critiques and feedback, one of the most important steps in the writing process. A good way to get started if you’re having trouble writing or deciding on your topic is to try brainstorming-it’s a great method to get ideas onto paper without having to worry so much about spelling, grammar or punctuation.

One common mistake that should be avoided is that “students tend to treat the application and the personal statement separately,” said Lee. “Also, some students worry too much about fitting it into the allotted space, that they lose the life of their statement.”

Both Lee and Katharine Harer, the Honors Transfer Program Coordinator, agree that students need to find a way to write their statements as a direct reflection of their personality.

“Be yourself on paper,” said Harer. “They’re looking for a real human being.”

“The more they feel like you’re a real person, the more likely they are to admit you,” added Lee.

Having a well-written personal statement is important because “UC systems and private schools receive so many applications and on paper, students tend to look the same because they have all met the required grading criteria,” said Lee. “Because these schools do not have an interview process, this is their way of hearing from you.”

Students should be glad to hear that most of the budget cuts in the UC system have come at the freshman level.

“The good news is that freshman students aren’t competing against transfer students’ slots,” said Lee.

This should provide students who are looking to transfer with some peace of mind, but university admissions can still be competitive and intimidating.

“Students often freeze up because they’re so afraid of writing their personal statements,” said Lee. “Know that it most likely will not hurt you. You have to think about it in the sense that you’re doing it to help yourself.”

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Sidebar:

Helpful Tips:

Do …- Start early- Spend time brainstorming- Write about what motivates you- Find a way to be yourself on paper- Get feedback from teachers and peers- Watch your spelling and grammar- Expect to write a lot of drafts

Don’t …- Avoid waiting until the last minute to do your application- Avoid cliches – Avoid writing about topics that are common

Questions to ask yourself …- What do I want the reader to get out of it?- How do I stanf out from the other applicants?