College Essays and Personal Statements 101 by MyCollegeCoaches

welcome to my college coaches video coaching series my name is Sarah and I’ll be your coach today for essays and personal statements 101 in this session we’ll discuss the purpose of a college essay and we’ll go over how you choose an opening and a fee to get your essay started we’ll talk about the organization of your essay and how you should put it together we’ll also go over two critical acceptances that should be in every single essay that you write we’ll talk about how you should go about polishing your essays that you avoid any typos and then we’ll go over a couple of sort of pitfalls to avoid so what’s the purpose of a college essay again like everything else recommendation letters short answers resume its context for a set of your accomplishments it’s not supposed to be about all of your accomplishments it’s not your resume in paragraph form but your essay is supposed to be one statement about one set of your accomplishments and how they look to the future it’s a look into your personality because of course when you’re writing one or two pages some of you should be in that work it’s not cold 12 point Times New Roman font resume that just lists the facts and the dates this is sentences and structure they’re supposed to convey something about you again it’s a chance to distinguish yourself it’s another opportunity from you to stand out from the pool of other applicants it’s also interestingly enough and this is definitely unlike your application an opportunity to explain some of your future goals where you see yourself in ten years it’s a nice part of the essay that shows that you’ve thought about why you want to go to college and why this college in particular and that’s another thing about a well-written college essay you want to be able to show that you did your research and that you understand why this particular college that you’re applying to is a good fit and how you would be able to contribute back to the school and make it bigger and better place the college essay can also when used carefully be a good to explain shortcomings such as a bad grade an incident at school or something else that you seem to need to explain that maybe isn’t as appropriately done in a recommendation letter the ideal essay is one or two pages single-spaced a lot of times it says minimum 500 words it leaves with a unique gripping opener you’re always told in short essays and short stories that you need to grab your audience’s attention the college essay is no different there needs to be something unique something that they just haven’t heard before right at the very beginning however you don’t want to just lead with a bang and then sort of end with a whimper you need to use that momentum to tell one cohesive story that reflects on the past your accomplishments and what you’ve done through high school and then looks into the future what you want to do with this particular school and what you want to do potentially with the rest of your life and it explains why this school and potentially why this program like a major or something you want this essay to be one story that leads from beginning to end is easily read and is well received so how do you go about choosing an opening in a theme well first you have to take a look as to see whether you have to write a prompted or an open essay prompted essays or something that will say something to the effect of write about an experience in your life where you’ve had to face a challenge and how you overcame it open essays are just that you get to write about whatever you’d like obviously if you have a prompted essay you need to do as you’re told you need to make the essay fit the prompt if it’s open you can be slightly more creative when you’re thinking about your opening you should try to in your head link a past anecdote from your life to a future goal for example I’m a lawyer I always wanted to be a lawyer my father’s a lawyer and so every day we need come home from work my brother and I would run to the top of the and jump into his arms he was always wearing a trench coat and a big brown floppy hat I would steal the brown floppy hat from him and put it on my own little head and look at my daddy and say daddy did you put any bad guys in jail today from that particular story I was able to move on and talk about how law had always been of interest to be how I followed my father’s career and then in high school joined the mock trial and Youth Court teams and then how I hope to you know go to college do the same study the law and then go on to be a district attorney myself you can see how you take that interesting first story link it to things you’ve done in the past and what you hope to do in the future now you’re actually going to craft your first paragraph first sometimes you just don’t do this sometimes you wait till the end do your first paragraph because you don’t know where your story’s going to go but this story you need to start with your paragraph right up front and you need to get it perfect because until you are comfortable until you’re happy with that first opening paragraph the rest of the essay is just going to seem boring you’re not going to be able to weave a theme through it and you’re not going to be able to get it to do what you’d like and that’s what you have to do you have to take that story and identify a theme that you can weave through the rest of the essay like in my example just now it was the law it was my father as a lawyer how I wanted to be a lawyer and how the law had always sort of had some part and parcel of my life another story that I helped another student write was about their family store how the family’s store had always been the heart and soul of the family how as a child that student had worked at the store how the student had gotten to know customer service and the ins and outs of the business and how that student hopes to go to a business school majoring business open his own business and go on to be an entrepreneur like his father you can see how the whole story weaves itself together but could start with something as silly as a customer interaction story at the beginning that sort of gives some color to the essay once you get that first paragraph down that is the absolute hardest thing to do another three or four paragraphs that you’re going to write are pretty simple we’ve got this map up here to take a look of the other three to four paragraphs that you could write the second paragraph needs a transition you need to get from that opening story to something about you you can do this as part of the third paragraph and merge numbers two and three but you need to get from that story particularly if it’s about something that happened to you or something about somebody else and you need to get it back to you as a person and what you’ve done so you kind of have to talk about who you are in relation to your opening your past achievements how that story deals with you and is important to you because in your fourth paragraph you’re going to transition and talk about the future why that particular trait why that particular theme is going to continue in your life what you want to be what you want to become a hobby that you want to keep in your life say if you’re writing about volunteerism how you hope to say work with Big Brothers and Big Sisters and do that in the future that’s the sort of thing you need to talk about as it moves to the future the fifth paragraph is essential but actually not too hard to write you need to write in your final closing paragraph how the specific college you’re applying to will help get you to your future goals and that is when we talk about two critical sentences that need to be in at least one essay that you submit to every single college it takes a little research but here we go so for each school you’re considering do your research so that you can fill out the bottom two sentences and include them in your essay you see this on your screen at name of the school I would hope to study X by majoring X so that I could explore my interest in Y and possibly one day pursue rear as a I believe that this school is an ideal place for me to study this because of XY and Z these two sentences should be in the fifth paragraph of the essay that we’ve just outlined now why are these sentences important this is where you prove to the admissions people that you’re serious about their school this is where you show that you’ve done the research that you know why you want to go to this school and why it would be good for you and what would make it good for them to have you there it’s a critical part of the essay that far too many students forget and done well it’s pretty much the knockout punch of your essay once you get dropped down you need to polish to a high gloss make sure that you put your paper together so that it’s an easy to read font:arial Times New Roman Garamond those types of fonts nothing crazy 12.1 inch margins again sort of like with the resume no trying to sneak extra words in just so you get it all on one page make it easy to read once you get it down read it out loud slowly with a pencil in hand you’d be amazed how many times you miss things when you’re proofreading just because you’ve read it that many times to yourself by speaking something out loud you find the trouble spots you find the things that just don’t sound right and as long as you’ve got a pencil right there and ready to go you can Circle it so that you can go back to it and try to fix it once you’ve done your own self editing you really need to hand it over to some teachers and counselors for them to review maybe you don’t take their suggestions and content but make sure you have a clean draft that grammar is sound and that your point gets across the last thing you want would be a typo or a sentence that just doesn’t make sense nothing would be worse than you sending out ten copies of this say to all of you different colleges with some glaring error in it that you really should have been able to catch some things to avoid when you’re writing your essay essays that are about somebody else and not you now you’re in state wait a minute you just told me that you wrote your college essay about your father I wrote the first paragraph about him and about me and everything else was about me and that’s how you can do it college admissions people hate when someone writes an essay all about their hero oftentimes a parent because the college essay isn’t supposed to be about somebody else it’s about you it’s supposed to be giving context and clarity and details and personality to the resume and application in front of them it needs to be all about you another thing they can’t stand and you probably couldn’t either is some cliche like the big game the big football game the winning pass the score of the state finals wha-hoo been done before in many essays and many movies do something more creative it’s in you you can find it even if the big game is really a big game even if you won Olympic gold I’m sure you can find something else to write about so that it doesn’t quite sound like the big game essay next make sure that when you read your essay it doesn’t sound like you just took your resume and put paragraphs behind each bullet this is not about trying to cram every accomplishment you’ve ever had into your essay your essay should focus on one story about you one story one part of your personality one thing you’d like to achieve in the future it’s one part just like each recommendation letter you’re going to have written for you is one part of your application and finally try not to write about something that happened to you if you don’t also write about what you did in response for example say god forbid when you were a child you have leukemia it can be a fantastic essay to write as long as you don’t focus on everything that happened to you you’ve got to make it about what you did to it what you responded with the strength the courage the fight how you became a better person because of it and what it inspires you to want to do in the future again sort of along the lines of not what just happened to you you can’t spend the whole essay in the past it has to be forward-looking you’re asking someone to admit you to their school so that they can teach you give you an education and send you out into the world it’s that send you out into the world part you need to have in your college essay as something you want and understand and are ready to embrace I hope this has been helpful and that if you go back through this a couple of times you get an idea of exactly how to write your essay I invite you to check us out at WWF in sessions as well as other resources for writing your essay and preparing your college applications good luck and have a good one bye

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