Writing a personal essay is a very important part of the college application process. A personal essay is required by many colleges as part of the admission process. Yet, many students find writing a personal essay one of the most fearsome processes in their life.
Why is a personal essay needed?
College admission screening has become rigorous. They want to confirm that the students they are taking possess the minimum ability to tackle the college courses and withstand pressure. They should be well-rounded.
Writing a personal essay provides evidence of that. It not only reflects on the writing and expression ability of the student but also conveys a lot about the personality and character traits of the future student. Hence, to get through the rigourous admission screening process, personal essays have to stand out. Here are some suggestions on how to make a compelling and interesting personal essay which is bound to attract and engage the attention of the admission officers.
Make it personal!
Firstly, your essay has to be very personal. As the name says, you need to recount something about yourself, such as a unique life experience or some talents which you are blessed with, which changed your life and shaped your person.
It need not be something earth shaking; but it could be anything which communicates to the reader something about your way of thinking, and acting and what would you do in certain situations. It could be something which communicates a lot about your attitudes and passions. For e.g. you can relate something about how you helped contribute to a good cause or some kind of unique adventure experience which changed your outlook on life.
The most important thing of a personal essay is that it has to be as truthful and honest as possible. It has to be genuine. It should not look as if you are making up something to please the audience.
The first thing you can do before you start out on your essay is to do some brain storming. Since, this essay is about YOU, it is good to get an idea of what all about you should go into the essay.
This can be done easily by listing out your attributes. Using a mind mapping or concept-mapping software can certainly help you in this as you can churn out ideas, sort them out and organise them in the way you want to present in the essay. You can thus prioritise and highlight those strengths/attitudes which you feel would be most relevant to the admission authorities.
Once you have done researching the point, it is time to embark on the next phase—which is to create an outline of the essay. This outline would serve as the skeleton on which you would hang your essay flesh.
The outline should include a proper start, middle and stop. You can also organise how the middle part of your essay would be—this is where you would recount the personal incidents or narrate the episodes as well as describing your interests. You can delineate the body into different paragraphs which would focus on these episodes and present it in a layered and organised fashion.
The outline can be followed up by the first draft of the essay. This draft is where all your ideas pour out, without restriction, without order. Let it come out this way. Organising and shaping the essay can be carried out later.
The introduction of your essay can specifically introduce yourself as the subject of your essay. The introduction is critical as it is at this point that the reader will decide, whether they should hang on or not. So, make it catchy, engaging, and intriguing. At the same time, do not make it too implausible and made up. That can put people off.
Starting lines such as “ It was that time of life when pimples were sprouting and emotions had started to skedaddle..” are interesting, whacky, creative and bound to interest the reader- the immediate impression would be that the writer is humorous, and has a gift for writing.
The next part, the middle part of the essay consists of the body paragraphs. Three to five paragraphs, each focussed on a specific part of the narrative (if, that is, you are sharing a narrative) or different qualities of yourself, which you have demonstrated at different points in life can be written.
Remember to ensure that the thoughts should flow seamlessly and logically from one paragraph to the other. The use of appropriate transitions phrases are encouraged as they help to ensure that the transition between consecutive paragraphs is smooth. The points expressed in the paragraphs must all validate the thesis statement expressed in the introduction.
The concluding part of the essay is where you summarise the whole essay in a few lines; the summation of your experience and why you feel that the experience or qualities have helped shaped you in your life and how it will contribute to your being a valuable member of the university.
Remember the importance of drafting and re-drafting your essay. The first essay draft which comes out may be crude, rough and full of imperfections. You may need to revise it a couple of times, removing the glitches and smoothening the rough parts before you get the final version. You can take feedback from your friends, parents and teachers to determine whether it sounds like you. It is important that the voice of the essay, sound like the real you.
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