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.