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College Applications: The Personal Essay: Tips

Try this exercise out (from a Richard Bach book I read years ago when trying to discover who I was): Imagine that you are talking to the You of five years ago. What would you tell that version of yourself? What advice would you give, what would you change? Now think about the You of five years from now. Imagine what that Future You would say to you.

Also Read: An Education Abroad-Preparing to Set Sail

The Big Resume

While I believe that a good resume should only be one to one and half pages, I get my kids to first write what I call “The Big Resume”. This is just a place to list absolutely everything in one place. Don’t censor, if you think that one of your great skills is how well you part your hair, list it down. Get everything out there on paper. Once you look at all of these things in one place, see if you see any trends or common threads between what you do. Since an admissions person will likely read through everything and then “sum you up” in a paragraph, it is more important that you understand the “synthesis” of your many areas of activities.

Try this activity that I have my students do: In about 150-200 words in each page, describe three different friends of yours. You will likely find this activity pretty easy; knowing and caring for these friends allows you to sum them up in a flattering and succinct way. The harder part of this activity is the second part, when you turn the mirror on yourself and write your own 200-word paragraph to define who you are!


Tests You May Actually Like To Take

There are a multitude of tests available to describe your personality or likely majors or careers that you may be suited for. I take these with a grain of salt, given that at your age these things are still very much in development. They can be great tools to get to know yourself better and even to help you think about the descriptive version of yourself in new ways.  One of my favorites is Clifton Strength Finder 2.0: http://bit.ly/1hbs2h8. You can take the basic test to determine your top 5 strengths for very little cost. The idea behind this test is that we all have various strengths but it would always be best to focus on your top five strengths. I have found these to be very accurate and helpful in understanding yourself. Another free Myers-Briggs based Personality Test can be found here: http://bit.ly/1kKYHzI. Both of these could be used to help you think about ways of describing who you are.


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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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