Personal Statement Advice from Teachers

It’s hard to write the personal statement because it’s a bit of page or page and a half and you know the three most common topics or at least the three topics that are really important to high school students or perhaps that have impacted their lives in the most profound way. Would be, you know, death of a loved one, or friend moving, or divorce and those are pretty heavy-duty topics and there have been outstanding authors over the years who have tried to approach those topics and have had a difficult time in a 500-page book and now we’re asking a seventeen-year-old to reflect on that in 750 words or less.

So it’s a it’s a great challenge to write the personal statement I think that if you don’t feel that you can trust the admissions officer to safeguard your secrets or to see you in a vulnerable light you’re going to miss an opportunity for the admissions officer to get to know you as well as he or she possibly could. One of the biggest mistakes that students make on their personal statement is to sort of make an embellished resume so we’ve already seen your resume, we’ve already seen you know what you’ve done, what you’re interested in.

Don’t use the very few words you have to tell us about yourself only to talk about what you do. I think the personal statement is sometimes thought of as a way to show yourself off and in reality what it is for us is a way to understand why you do the things you do, how those things impact you, how those experiences have shaped your worldview. One of my pet peeves when I read personal statement is when students describe an event without explaining the significance of it and so if you tell me for example about a snowstorm, okay sure, but um you know what does that tell me about you.

Last year I read the personal statement about a student or that a student wrote about his grandfather and it was very well written. Lots of wonderful imagery and good punctuation and grammar but by the end of the personal statement. I wanted to admit the students grandfather because it was all about him and so I didn’t learn anything about the student in that personal statement and so in that case although it was a great personal statement it was not great for this purpose students who were creative will sometimes think that they should have a more visually appealing personal statement and so they’ll create their personal statement to be in the shape of something that represents who they are you know it can be hard to read an essay that’s shaped like a chalice. Let’s say I’ve also seen students take the approach of a letter to a roommate or their presidential acceptance speech that they’re going to give down the road. Thanking Georgetown for the opportunity and I think sometimes the ploy can take over the personal statement and you can’t get past sort of the tool that they’ve used and you don’t actually get to the students.

I think it’s better to write a simple heartfelt personal statement than to try to put too much time into crafting something that you think will stand out or catch our attention. I kind of understand where students are coming from when they say let me mention all these different things but I try to encourage students to sort of hone in maybe on one experience on one extracurricular and use that as a lens through which we can get to see the way that you think the way that your world operates and also who you might be on our campus.

Persuasive Essay Outline—Minimum Criteria

Paragraph #1 Introduction of Persuasive Essay (40+ words)
Introduce topic, author, text+ 2 sent. summary of text

Thesis Statement (3+ sentences)
Take a stand on your topic
(topic +opinion about topic+ 3 reasons that support opinion)

Odysseus and his crew are responsible for their misfortunes because(reason #1)________________,(reason #2),______________________, &(reason#3)_______________________________________________.

Paragraph #2, 3, &4 Body Paragraphs—Repeat for ALL body paragraphs
#1 sentence Topic sentence ­­gives first reason that supports thesis #2 sentence Concrete detail­starts with For Example(lead into example)

#3 sentence Commentary—explain how your example proves your point—starts with—This shows that…
#4 sentence Commentary—elaborate­­say more about sent. 3
#5 sentence Concrete Detail—start with In addition(lead into example)
#6 sentence Commentary—explain how your example proves your point—starts with—This shows that…
#7 sentence Commentary—elaborate­­say more about sent. 6
#8 sentence Concluding sentence—closing commentary about this point  starts with—As a result, OR Because of this,

Paragraph #5 Concluding Paragraph of Persuasive Essay (40+ words, all commentary)
Summarize the opposing argument,
Acknowledge the other side—start with—Although some would argue that…
Rephrase thesis points  Closing sentence that finishes essay

Thesis Sentence
1st Reason
2nd Reason
3 rd Reason

Concrete Detail=

examples, quotes, paraphrasing, proof from the text—You must always “lead into” an example or quote.  In other  words, you have to introduce the example (Odysseus’ behavior can sometimes be described as arrogant when he confesses his name to Polyphemus, “Tell them that it was me, Odysseus that blinded you.”).


Analysis, interpretation, your thoughts about your opinion—why you believe the way you do?  Explain

Concluding Paragraph=

This is the last paragraph of your essay. It rephrases your thesis points.  A closing sentence that may include a final comment about  your topic.

Persuasive Essay Conclusion=

In a persuasive essay, you need to summarize the opposing argument, and acknowledge the other side—start with—Although some would argue that…

Essay Prewriting Techniques

Prewriting techniques are meant to help students get warmed up and start a free flow of ideas. This should be a low-stakes exercise, with just participation points awarded, if any, to cut down on anxiety or worrying about getting it “wrong.”

Copy the handouts for the students, or have them use their own paper. You may want to pass out the clustering example as a handout or use it as an overhead.
The reason short time limits are given on each exercise is because students should work quickly and spontaneously, and not over think each topic. Reassure students that no idea is too silly to write down. The point is to keep the ideas flowing.

Personal Brainstorming List:
Before beginning, have students make a list from 1 – 10 on their paper. Remind them that they should choose a topic that is meaningful to them and related to something in their lives. Then give them two minutes to think of as many possible topics as they can.

Group Brainstorming:
After Personal Brainstorming, have students form groups of 3 – 5 people. Give them
about 10 minutes to share their lists and ask each other questions. The students should get feedback on what the most interesting topics are, or what they liked to talk about the most. Ask them to write this down on their papers also.

Ask the students to choose two topics from their brainstorming session. For the first
topic, have them draw a circle in the middle of their papers. Then give them two minutes to make clusters of related ideas. In the example, you can see that the student started with “Images in the media” and branched off to different ideas.

Do a second cluster the same way with another topic. Ask the students to circle a section of one of the clusters that interests them the most.

Free write:
Give the students three minutes to write as much as they can on the ideas they circled on one of their clusters. Then have them re-read the free write, circle the most interesting thing, and start with that idea on another three-minute free write. If time allows, do the same thing for another round.

When free writing, students should never stop writing, even if they run out of things to say about their topic. If this happens, tell students to write “I can’t think of what to write next…” or something similar. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar don’t count.

Most essays, whether they are research papers, compare and contrast, or persuasive, will depend on an argument. To make sure students do not simply write an informational essay, have them do the last pre-writing activity when they have narrowed down their choices to two or three topics.

Ask the students to write down a topic, and an argument, that they will make. Using the example in the cluster, a student could write as the topic “media and eating disorders.” An argument could be “media images can be a cause for eating disorders in girls.” The opposition might be “eating disorders are caused by a mental illness and not the media.” This exercise helps students think through whether their topics have an argument and what direction their papers might take. Of course the ideas will change as they start researching and delving into their topics, but they will have a possible direction in mind.

Opinion Essays…Come to Life

Learning Goals & Standards Addressed
-Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information. Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which ideas are logically grouped to support the writer’s purpose.
-Provide logically ordered reasons that are supported by facts details.
-Link opinion and reasons using words, phrases, and clauses (e.g., consequently, specifically)
-Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented.
-With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1 -3 up to and including grade 5)

As an indicator of understanding, students should be able to…
– Develop a logical arguable claim.
-Use different print and/or non-print sources to compare and contrast two sides of their arguable claim.
-Organize notes into paragraphs using the Opinion Essay Organizer.
-Write a rough draft of the essay citing evidence from their sources to support their claim and refute their counterclaim.
-Revise and edit their rough drafts, including revising their Introduction Paragraph.
-Create a Final Draft based upon their revised and edited rough draft.
-Design a VoiceThread project, using the finished copy of their Opinion Essay, to apply what they’ve learned from their research.

Editing Checklist

___ My spelling, capitalization AND end punctuation were looked over by:___________________________
By signing above, this person confirms that they have looked over your paper to check the following:
____ There are Capitals at the beginning of every sentence.
____ There is an end mark at the end of every sentence.
____ Everything is spelled correctly.

Sentence Fluency:
___ My Sentences mostly begin with different words.
___ If I repeated anything, it was for effect.
___ If read aloud, you can hear a rhythm behind my sentences.

___ My Introduction “hooks” the reader in some way.
___ All of my ideas are presented in a logical sequence.
___ Each paragraph is ONE topic and all details are about that topic.
___ My Conclusion leaves the reader satisfied AND refers back to the main points in my paper.

___ My spelling, capitalization AND end punctuation were looked over by:
By signing above, this person confirms that they have looked over your paper to check the following:
____ There are Capitals at the beginning of every sentence.
____ There is an end mark at the end of every sentence.
____ Everything is spelled correctly.

Sentence Fluency:
___ My Sentences mostly begin with different words.
___ If I repeated anything, it was for effect.
___ If read aloud, you can hear a rhythm behind my sentences.

___ My Introduction “hooks” the reader in some way.
___ All of my ideas are presented in a logical sequence.
___ Each paragraph is ONE topic and all details are about that topic.
___ My Conclusion leaves the reader satisfied AND refers back to the main points in my paper.

Writing Hooks for Your Essays

A HOOK is a very important part of your essay. You can create suspense with your hook, making the reader want to read more! Do you think these Intro Paragraph Hooks are Dull or Exciting? Read each of the hooks then cut them out. You will need to glue each hook under the category of Dull or Exciting.

Note: Some of the hooks are for narrative essays, creative stories. Other hooks are written for explanatory essays or research reports.

The Hooks
Do you know much about dolphins? Read this essay to find out more.

The wind was blowing through my hair as I glanced down from the top of the Eiffel

Tower at the gleaming city of Paris below.

I heard a knock, knock, knock at the door. I peered out the window and realized, “Uh oh!”

I am going to tell you everything I learned about volcanoes.

I’m black and white, fluffy, and I have four legs. Are you curious to find out who I am?

This essay is all about the important island of Sicily.

Do you know about a dangerous animal that lives in the Amazon River?

Here’s a hint about this animal: it likes to eat humans.

The great white shark is a fascinating animal.

“Watch out!” I shouted to my sister below. “Help,” she cried, as her foot started to slip toward the edge of the cliff.

I will tell you a funny story about a guy named Leonard.

Do you know about a chemical substance that is explosive enough to destroy an entire building in under three seconds?

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Sophia.

Flying through the air at full speed, the harrier jet is one of the fastest military planes.

“I’m not afraid of the dark. I promise I’m not afraid of the dark,” I
told myself as I ran through the pitch-black field alone.

4 Ways to “hook” your readers

1. Strong Mental Image or Picture
Imagine the delicious smell of hot chocolate wafting across the room on a chilly December night or biting into a warm chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven. Imagine a room filled with piles of chocolate different shades and flavors.

2. Interesting Facts or Statistics About the Topic.
Chocolate has been known to lower your risk of stroke and has been proven to help you breathbetter.

3. Interesting Quote
“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.” Linda Grayson

4. Rhetorical Question
Did you know that your health could be directly related to chocolate?


Italian Lessons Reviews

Of all the learning Italian programs I have come across, my favorite is Rocket Italian. This the program for learning Italian in least time possible. I won’t go on about it too much here, you can read the full review below, but make sure you check his site out. I don’t think you can find a better solution to learning Italian on the internet.

Below, you will find reviews of the top 3 Italian learning packages on the internet. I know, because I’ve done the research.

All of these products will help you develop your Italian language skills and I’ve ranked them in my order of preference.

Rocket Italian Review

Rating:Rocket Italian Rating - 5 Stars




Rocket Italian Review

Rocket Italian is my top most recommendation for anybody who wants to master the Italian language. Designed as a course to take you from novice level to an intermediate level in less than eight weeks, this stuff delivers the best. I have had a number of students who have followed this with my classes and the results have been amazing.

As a Italian Teacher, I know that students have biggest difficulty with mastering things like Italian Grammar and Vocabulary. Learning pronunciation is also a tricky issue. Rocket Italian solves these issues effectively with audio courses and software. There are interactive games that make learning vocabulary a breeze.

Other thing that helps you learn Italian really fast with Rocket Italian is the fact that you can learn at your own pace. Unlike a classroom session where you are forced to learn at the pace of the rest of the the class, with Rocket Italian you can go with your comfort level.

Even though I have mentioned this course as the best course for learning Italian fast, it does not stops there. For those who want to take their Italian to next level, Rocket Italian covers the advanced topics equally well. The technical aspects of grammar, colloquial usage, pronunciation are equally well covered.

I really can’t recommend Rocket Italian any stronger, if you want to take your Italian to the next level, then go check out the site today. At $99 (for a limited time), this stuff is nearly available for free. Other comparable packages like Rosetta Stone or PimsleurItalian cost from $500 to $1000 and provide lesser value for money. There is no waiting time and it is available to get you started right now.

Rosetta StoneImage


Rosetta Stone Italian Review

This is my second favourite product because it’s quite comprehensive. Compared to Rocket Italian this offers lesser value for money, but they have also done a fairly good job – much better than paying a couple of hundred dollars for classes.

However, this product requires you to be online, a big handicap. I could not listen to it in car or load it up my mp3 player. I won’t recomment this to those people who cannot stick to long hours on computer.

Rosetta Stone has a reputation in field of linguistic training and they have lived up to the reputation. However, if you want to buy only one product that meets all your needs, Rocket Italian is the product to get!

Pimsleur Italian

Rating:Pimsleur Italian Rating - 3 Stars

Pimsleur Italian Review

The Pimsleur course was designed by Dr Pimsleur quite a while ago and he’s done a great job. In the full package, there is over 100 20 minute audio lessons. These will take you from novice to confident speaker in less than 3 months.

However the price tag for this product was too heavy for a student like me. Priced at nearly ten times the price of Rocket Italian, the program lost its value.

If you can afford a grand price tag, this is the program. I felt that with Rocket Italian available, there are much better places to spend that kind of money.