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College Applications: The Personal Essay: Tips

Tips for writing the US college application personal essayNarrating Your Life: Getting used to talking about yourself. Examples of how students can articulate who they are

We have addressed in other blog posts how important it is to communicate who you are both in and out of the classroom. College is about far more than just academics, and admissions officers are focused on how you will participate and contribute to their student community outside of your academics. The problem with this is that while you have known yourself for 16-17 years, have you ever had to communicate who you are to others? Or even to yourself? Chances are that you have not. So, before you can even begin to tell someone else about yourself, you need to get to know what makes you, you. The good news is that you tend to spend a lot of time with yourself, and even better news is that there is no one else in the world like you!


Your Activities

What you do says a lot about you. But the tendency is to focus on only your “achievements”. In India, we seem to be obsessed with “Certificates”! Any family I meet will have shoeboxes full of certificates apparently demonstrating exactly how passionate a student is about various activities. The problem with this is that colleges don’t care about certificates and prefer that you DO NOT send them. When thinking about your activities, think about these questions: Why did I start doing this? What have I learned through these experiences? What internally motivates me to do these activities? What intrinsic rewards do I get out of doing these activities? What are the personality characteristics that make me good at these activities? How have I cultivated and improved in these activities? Have I shared this passion with others? Actually write down your answers to these questions, discuss these write ups with others and see if they have anything to add. Sometimes the people you work/play with will have observations about you in activities that you would not have thought of.


Our Masks

We all wear different “masks” as we interact with our external world. Look at your various masks and how different people perceive you. I get my kids to think about the different adjectives that different people in their lives would use to describe them. Try to identify the different roles that you play as you interact with the world. Talk to your parents or others that have known you for a long time and see what personality characteristics they recognize that you have had since you were very small. Were you always an extrovert? Did you study things with meticulous care even when you were a toddler? Remember that who you are now is not necessarily the whole picture.


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Prab Singh heads CollegeSource (http://thecollegesource.net/), an organisation that provides life coaching to adolescents and support to their family through the process of deciding their higher education and career goals.

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