Rethinking Your Personal Statement
Does it feel like it’s too late to change the your personal statement topic? McKenzie Murray shares how she rewrote her personal statement right before the submission deadline and how you can too.
2021-11-10 Rethinking Your Personal Statement
[00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar on rethinking your personal statement. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation, then answer your questions in a live Q and a on the sidebar. You can download the slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q and a tab.
Uh, now let’s meet our panelists McKenzie Murray. So hi every, oops, sorry. Hi everyone. I’m the McKenzie. I attend Cornell university in the class of 2024. I’m a human development major with minors in education and policy analysis. And I’m just here to tell you about, um, rethinking your personal statement. I did.
I wrote it three times. We’ll get more into that later. So yeah, let’s just get started because it’s a lot of information. They shouldn’t have day. Okay. So. It is November too late to rethink your personal statement. [00:01:00] So this. Depends on a lot of different factors. So, um, I guess I’ll just skip down. It really depends on your deadline.
If you’re applying early action, a lot of the school’s deadline has already passed, so it might be a little bit too late. And then some schools are coming up on November 15th, which is five days, which is technically enough time to write a new, personal statement. Not sure if it will be your best work, depending on how you write, which is my next point.
But if you’re applying regular decision, you definitely have enough time to write something else. If you’re feeling kind of iffy about your topic, or if you just want to revise and edit the one you already have. Um, so now it really depends on how you write it. So like, do you get writer’s block all the time?
Do you get hung up on picking the perfect words, which I know I can, because perfectionism is a whole thing. Um, or do you have an idea sometimes you get stuck on like, what do I even write about? Some people have. And then topics. Some people have none just finding what you feel is important about you to write about.
Um, but if you are [00:02:00] seriously considering rewriting your essay and if you’ve already studied, it is definitely not too late. It’s not impossible. I started rewriting my personal statement for the third time in October, and I was applying early actions are Cornell university and Howard university. On Halloween.
And so that was 30 days. I will go more into my process a little bit later, so it isn’t impossible. But one thing to remember, procrastination is not a luxury. You have. I know some of us like to wait until last minute because we get that last search. But for this, this is not something you want to wait until the last minute on, this is something you really want to take the time to really think out what you want to do.
All right. So we’ve come to our first poll of the night. Um, have you completed your personal statement? All right. So at this time, if you can go ahead and start responding, um, and McKinsey, just a quick question for you in the meantime, uh, what would you say is your favorite tradition at Gordon’s?
Uh, okay. Cause a COVID we haven’t [00:03:00] really been able to do many of the traditions and stuff, so I’m not fully sure yet, but one tradition new, my best friend have on our own is watching TV together and just a marathon and making brownies. And I really enjoyed that. Awesome. That sounds like a very true fun tradition and, and we’ve received.
Um, some responses in, and they’re still kind of rolling in. Um, but we have 8% saying yes, completely. Uh, 15% saying just started another 15% saying halfway there and 62% saying not at all. All right. So it looks like everybody is in a pretty good place. So, um, I guess the next question is if you have started your essay, how can a student tell, um, if the personal statement shows the best version of themselves?
So the first thing is, do you even like your story? Do you [00:04:00] even like what you’ve read it? Do you feel passionate about what you’ve written? Um, the reason I say this is because whether or not you like it is going to be the most important thing, it doesn’t matter what the admissions officer says. What any of your teachers or parents may say about your story.
If you feel happy and confident with it, that’s going to be the best story to go with. ’cause I know, like during the process, different people will say like different things about your essay, what you should change, what she used to talk about, what she should add. But for the most part, most of them you can kind of just ignore, um, unless they are telling you like, Hey, this is kind of offensive.
Or if they’re saying it has completely nothing to do with you at all. Um, so if it’s offensive, that’s definitely something you should take into account. And it has nothing to do with you. Um, Like, if you made up your story or if you were just copying someone else’s story, that’s definitely something I want to change.
And the reason I say that is sometimes you may want to write the perfect story, um, to like sort of game the system and get into score, figure out what the perfect candidate [00:05:00] is for a school, but say you were to get into that school because they were going off of this application. Bait. They’re admitting that version of yourself that isn’t real, which, um, during the admissions process, they want to make sure that the school is going to be a good fit for you.
Um, so they may be, um, letting you in, but if they’re letting in this fake person, they’re letting in what they think this fake person will be able to fit in, not necessarily what you will be able to fit in. So you may end up not even liking the school because you aren’t really compatible with it. And then also, um, if you end up writing about.
Who you actually are, and you don’t get in that could show that, Hey, maybe the school just wasn’t a good fit for you. Not necessarily that you’re a bad candidate or anything, but maybe they saw something or maybe this version of yourself might get in while that fake version one is. So you might as well just go with yourself and see how that works.
Um, so my next thing is, um, Oh, also, uh, does it, um, [00:06:00] represent you? Yes. So, um, does it represent a part of yourself that you think is essential for someone else to know? Um, and is it something that you’re comfortable sharing, um, with complete strangers? So the reason I say, um, does it represent a part of yourself?
Some stories may just be kind of blend and clean, not cliche, but like vague to where it could be any one story pretty much. And those are the stories that you may not necessarily. Start over, but you may want to think about editing and we’ll go more into detail about that, but I’m also, is it a story you feel comfortable sharing?
Um, with complete strangers because admissions officers are strangers for the most part. So like the reason I bring that up is because sometimes people want to share a story about it, traumatic experience, or then in their life. And these stories are completely fine. I know a lot of people say avoid these.
The reason they say to avoid with these stories is because sometimes students tend to just make a penny story and not really show like who they are. It just becomes about a sad event, which isn’t necessarily, um, [00:07:00] you like you, aren’t your saddest moments pretty much. But really, um, like any experience, why is this the one that represents you explaining that?
Why, who you are because of it, um, or who you are in spite of it, depending on what the narrative is. Um, that’s, what’s really going to be important and not just talking about a sad event or a happy event or anything it’s really going to be about. What does it have to do about you? What does it say about you?
And then also does it actually talk about you? And we will definitely go over this one in the next slide more, but like sometimes students tend to talk about a topic event or idea or another person, and then end up spending the whole time talking about themselves, but not really talking about that thing, but not really talking about themselves.
So, um, Yeah. Okay. So going along with that theme. So like I said, you ended up talking about this, how great this other person is or how bright this event was, but it doesn’t really say anything about you. And then sometimes students will try and end it by saying like, oh, I want to be as strong as them. I want to be [00:08:00] as hard working.
As them. And while that may be true, it doesn’t really say who you are now. It just says like, oh, I want to be like this person. Okay. But who are you? That’s who they’re admitting. They’re not trying to make your parent or this public figure or whoever else they’re trying to admit you. So you really need to make sure that the focus is on you.
Um, and then also like what the saying, um, I want to be as hardworking as them, some of the traits that you may like about someone else that you may want to gain, um, I’m going to go more into detail, but it’s better to leave out saying like, I want to be like hard working or certain trips like that, because then it’s saying the admissions offices, oh, you’re not hardworking.
School is hard work. So maybe you want to leave out those traits that you don’t have. Instead you want to focus on the traits that you do have and talk those up. Uh, So a way to get around this and to make your essay flow better and make sure it talks about you. As you can [00:09:00] talk about these other people, just use them as an intro instead of as your whole story.
So an intro is about a hundred to 250 words, full six 50, and you just talk about them, talk about how great they are at how great this event was. Give context about this person, whatever you want to say about them, but then spend the rest of the essay talking about. So, and the way you’re going to do that without just saying like, oh, I want to be as great as this person.
I want to have this tray like them and be able to use it here. You’re going to say like, what you, what the traits are that they have that you already exhibit and have and how you use that in your life. You’re also going to say like any sort of, um, Motto or method or way of doing things that they have, explain how you implement that in girl lives.
So like if a person that you admire says that they, um, think that self care is the most important thing. Okay. Self care is the most important thing. To them, but how do you implement it? Maybe you talk about how you go for a walk every [00:10:00] day to like relax and stuff and really clear your mind. It’s really, you can talk about how great this other person is and what they’ve done for you and why they’re significant, but the most important thing is explaining why it’s significant to you and talking about yourself and what you do.
Um, and then again, like I was saying, talk about the trace that you already exhibit rather than the ones that you want to have. Um, just because. Admissions officers want to make sure that your, um, you’re pretty secure in who you are and what I mean by this is like admissions officers know that you’re in high school, you’re still developing.
You’re going to be growing and changing as you go along. But they want to know that you have a pretty good idea of who you are now, so that they’re sure of who they’re admitting, even though they know you’re going to change throughout the time. So, um, Some things that are okay to say, to show that you want to still keep developing and growing is like, what’s your major?
Like they don’t expect you to already know rocket science right now. So you can say things like, I hope that your program helps. Well, this is more for supplements, but I [00:11:00] hope that going to college, um, helps me to understand. So I can apply it in the future. Those things are okay because they know you need to develop those skills, like skills and stuff are good, but characteristics, like, I want to be empathetic.
I want to be caring. I want to be a hard worker. Those things you might want to leave out because you don’t want to tell them, like you aren’t, those things already just focus on the things that you already are. So maybe you’re not the most. Hardworking person, but maybe you’re the best listener. Maybe you really try it.
Things like you come back. Um, you persevere, uh, talk about the things that you already have. Rather things that. Uh, another thing is, um, with talking about projects and world issues or ideas, thoughts, sometimes you can sort of use them end up using them as a crutch and just talking about this project or this thought or something that you did in an objective matter.
The fact matter of fact way. And it doesn’t, it tells all about what this activity and stuff [00:12:00] was, but it doesn’t necessarily tell anything about you. So what’s important to make sure that it talks about you still give context about this project ID or thought, but then go into, like, why do you think that way?
How does it make you feel? What was the growth that you got from that experience? What’s the impact on you or the world around you? That’s what’s going to make it significant. Um, And I think, okay. So yeah, that’s, what’s going to make, um, a topic, um, significant, I think I missed a slide, sorry. Um, that’s what’s gonna make, um, a topic significant and not just sound like, um, not just sound like, uh, it’s just telling about this thing that you did, but it actually gives them characteristics about yourself and actually tells them like who you are as a person.
And then, okay. So another thing that I noticed a lot of students doing is in the 650 word [00:13:00] limit, you try and tell your entire life story with just isn’t logical. It isn’t possible to do in 650 words and it ends up just being a list of either random things that you’ve done or random of. That aren’t really fully fleshed out.
And the thing with that is you already have your activities list where you can just list out things that you’ve done at wars that you have achieved. The personal statement is more so you’d explain your personality or character and not so much just things that you have done. And the reason that this can also be bad is it just becomes a string, a string of different events, but it doesn’t.
Because you’re trying to fill the word count. You end up not really explaining any of these topics. So we just know a bunch of things that happen, but we don’t really know why they matter. Um, so what I suggest you doing is to focus on one thing, whether that’s one day or one thought one, quote, one task, one project, just focus on that one thing and really fully explain it.
So that means like, what did you do? What did you think about it? What was the impact? [00:14:00] Um, what’s significant about this one thing. And I know some of you probably asked me, well, how can one thing tell someone everything about you and the truth is it really can’t, it’s just not going to the application.
Really. Isn’t telling everything about you because that’s just not possible. But, um, the application process is a holistic process. So like, um, The recommendation is going to tell them who you are as a student, who you are as a community member, depending on who you ask, where your interests are, your activities list is going to tell them like what you do outside of score in school, what you’ve achieved, um, your leadership positions or your membership positions, what you do at your time, your, um, Your supplements.
We’ll tell them why you want to go to the score depending on what the question that the school is asking. They’ll tell you whatever they’re looking for. And then your personal statement can tell something that goes with the rest of your narrative, or it can tell something completely different. And if you really think about it, you can get a lot from [00:15:00] one thing about a person, because if you’ve ever talked about, or, um, with one of your friends, your favorite show or just one topic.
That’s going back and forth on. You can really learn a lot about a person from that one thing, because you could see what their sense of humor is, what their interests are, how they see something, what their perspective is. You can gain a lot from just one thing. And that’s really, what’s important about the personal statement.
It’s just explaining something significant about yourself. It’s not really trying to tell everything about. So, um, okay. So, uh, going along with, is it clear, is it focused, um, sometimes, uh, trying to either just listing out a bunch of random events or you may have a clear focus, but then as you’re writing you figure out something else that’s more interesting or you go off on tangents.
On writing these tangents instead of staying focus. What I suggest with that is if you are going off on this tangent, figure out what that tangent is and see what you can do with [00:16:00] just the tangent. Don’t worry about your original topic. Cause sometimes the tangent can be more interesting than what you originally thought was going to be the focus.
So see what you can do with. And then is it, um, is it vague or in detail? Okay. Here’s the part that I haven’t missed. Okay. So, um, the reason I want to know is like, is your topic in detail or is it big? Is because that’s, what’s going to make the difference between something that’s cliche and something that’s unique.
So we always want to say like, oh, just avoid cliche, um, topics, like don’t write about something. But truly every story is actually really cliche because everybody’s done everything. We pretty much all at the same experience at the end of the day. But what really makes the difference is those little details.
So how to make a cliche story unique is to explain your feelings, your thoughts, your perspective on it, those things that are inside of your head. That’s, what’s going to make a story more unique because no one else has. Backed up on that thing. [00:17:00] Even if they have a similar perspective, they still might not have seen it the same way you did, or they still, it still might not have occurred to them the same way that I did to you because we all have different experiences.
So that’s, what’s going to make it unique.
So how do you do this? Okay, so here’s an example. So the first sentence just says, I take care of my younger siblings. Okay. Anyone can do that. Um, a lot of people take care of the younger siblings, but how do you take care of. So you add, I take care of my younger brothers by making sure I read to them their favorite book every night.
Okay. That’s cool. That’s a bit more detailed. It shows what you do, but it doesn’t really explain why it’s significant or why I should care, because like I could read to my little siblings, I could make a pie. With specialist sprinkles, but that doesn’t really explain why it’s important. So what’s going to make it significant is adding the extra details.
So like I take care of my younger siblings every night by reading them to their favorite book. Because when I was younger, [00:18:00] I knew, um, reading, having my favorite book, read to me what helped prevent nightmares. Okay. That shows a characteristic that you’re empathetic. You understood when you were younger that you got scared, but reading this book.
Made you feel better. So you want to prevent those fears and being scared at night where your little brothers that’s shows that you’re empathetic without this straight up saying I’m empathetic. Um, another aspect, if you want to go the more career route, maybe you don’t really like talking about certain traits about yourself.
Um, maybe you talk about an interest of your. You say that you reach your brothers every night because you know that this will help with their reading comprehension when they get in school and you want them to be ahead so that not only shows that you care about them and that, um, you want the best for them, but that also shows that you have a comprehension of early childhood education and development was, can relate to your own later career and we’ll get them.
More about, um, relating it to your career. But, um, that is just another way you can do this and that’s what makes a cliche topic or something that anybody [00:19:00] can do more unique to you. That’s what makes it special. So, um, So, yeah, like I was saying, um, the point is to explain your thoughts, your experiences, and your feelings, and that’s what makes it significant and impactful.
And then it can connect to your career, can help build that overall narrative about yourself, but it doesn’t need to directly correlate, um, because. It just doesn’t like for me, I was applying for pre-med in public health majors, but my personal statement was about educational issues and access to education, which, um, though it’s not directly correlated the way I wrote it.
And the, um, what I talked about in it helped to show admissions officers that I had, um, initiative. And I still had like that community mindset, which are necessary for things like being a doctor or going into. How doing those sort of things. So it can still show the necessary skills and traits and characteristics for what you’re trying to go in.
Okay. [00:20:00] So, um, now we done talked about a lot of things, but like, how do you even figure out what new topic you should write about or any topic you should write about? So, one thing I suggest is for you to just write about something you can ran about for hours. So sometimes we can get so caught up in trying to figure out, like, how am I going to write 650 words?
The thing and we get so caught up on that number. Don’t worry so much about the number. Just think about something that you’re happy talking about because when you start talking about something that you’re passionate about, or that makes you mad, or that makes you happy or sad or frustrated or whatever, you can talk a mile per minute about that.
I know that I can. Um, and sometimes you may not even notice it, but you do tend to talk about something that makes you happy. So maybe that’s the topic you should go. And if you can’t figure out what, um, you ran about, or you don’t really think about yourself that much, maybe ask someone who knows you well to see what they say, that you talk about the most, or that you do the most to see if they noticed something that you didn’t even realize about yourself.
Um, and see if that’s something you can [00:21:00] write about. Another thing that you can do is think about what is the thing that you just have you people just need to know about you when you’re trying to make them. Brian, are you meeting someone new? Like what is the thing that you just can’t wait to share with this person?
Maybe that’s, um, something about you, your background, your interests, a skill you have, just whatever you think about a significant about yourself and your own opinion and the reason I’m emphasizing you, you, your opinion, your opinion is. You can’t try and figure out what the admissions officers or someone else is going to find impressive or interesting.
Cause that’s just impossible because you can’t get into their head and everybody has different thoughts about everything. So really it’s just going to be important for you to write about something that you are interested in, happy and comfortable writing about because, um, no matter what it is, you could be talking about how you like the way paint, dries, depending.
If that’s something you’re passionate about, you’re going to, it’s going to show in your writing because you’re going to choose the right word. You’re going to make sure you get your point across. [00:22:00] And the reason I know this is because think about a show you do like, think about a show. You don’t like a show.
You don’t like, if you’re trying to get somebody to watch it, you may just tell them a few details about it. It may just be kind of boring. You may just be like, Hey, you don’t really need to watch it. But if there’s a show, you are trying to put someone on like what the most, uh, like conviction behind.
You’re going to tell them every single detail about it. Why it’s the most amazing show, how it made you feel? What got you into it. You’re going to tell them all these details about it and the way you talk about it is going to be different. You’re gonna be more excited to talk about it. And while you may not be able to add in that necessarily excitement, the way you write about it can give off that excitement.
Um, so that’s really, what’s gonna make a personal statement, stand out, not necessarily what your topic is. The topic doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. To talk about it, that matters. Um, so maybe you’re still at a loss, maybe, uh, a good way to sort of get your ideas going is, think about a quote or a saying that you like.
So I based my personal statement [00:23:00] off of credit, Scott King’s, um, statement about how it’s the members of the community that make the, um, Impact on society, something like that. I know I’m putting I’m misquoting, but, um, I based it off of that, and that sort of got my ideas going about how access to education relates to everything.
And that gave me a clear focus. Um, that could be a good starting point. It may end up in your personal statement. It may not, but if you’re having. Oh, at word count, you know, adding in the coat can also help too. Um, so yeah, that is something to consider too, and it doesn’t even need to be a famous quote. It could be something that your parents say around the house that you feel is just a way to live.
Okay. So, um, how will the student know if it’s the right choice? So I can’t really tell you how, you know, it’s sort of one of those things that you just kind of feel it, you know? Um, so like, think about these things. Are you impressed by what you wrote? Do you have fun writing it while you’re writing or does it just be like another essay to write?
Um, do you think it represents something about you that. So [00:24:00] important that anybody has to know about it. If they can’t know anything else about you, are you comfortable with sharing this story again? Um, even if you feel like. And experience is so important. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing it, then you, weren’t going to explain the details in the best way you aren’t going to feel happy when you’re submitting it.
You’re going to be concerned about what other people are going to think about it, because you are concerned about what you would think about it. So really make sure it’s something that you’re okay with writing and sharing. Um, Another way is to have someone else read over it. Sometimes when we get into writing, especially on the first draft, um, we can just write anything and then it just loses its all its focus.
So, um, having someone else read it can really help to see if it’s staying on track. If it’s giving, um, across the point that you want to get. Like with my personal statement, I had someone, my teacher read over it and he kind of sorta understood it, but it wasn’t giving off the vibe that I really. So I knew it [00:25:00] probably needed to be changed, so it’s good to have somebody else look up.
Uh, another thing is, does it fit the rest of your application narrative? So this isn’t necessarily essential, like I said before, but it can help with like, um, expanding on something that was mentioned in another part of your application, or really solidifying that you’re have demonstrate interest. You’re passionate, you’re dedicated to whatever a major.
Then especially competitive or niche programs. So with competitive programs like pre-med or engineering, a bunch of people are trying to go into those. Cause those are popular psychology too. Those are popular majors. So, um, you want to really show that you’re dedicated, you’re not just joining this just to join the bandwagon.
Um, so a personal statement could be a good way to exhibit that. And then also with. Each programs like anthropology or like maybe criminal justice. I think, um, those are less popular and sometimes people can apply to those to try and game the system and get into a school because they know that nobody usually, um, is [00:26:00] applying for that.
So they try and get in just to get admitted. I mentioned the offices can tell when you’re lying. Cause it’ll show up in the, it won’t show up in the rest of your application. Like, okay. You’re interested in studying birds, but you’ve never taken any courses related to animals whatsoever. You’ve never done any sort of club with birds.
Why are you interested in birds? Are you just lying? Um, the personal statement can be a good way to, um, exemplify your interests if it isn’t brought up. And where else in your, um, application. Um, also, if it does, it doesn’t even need to relate to what you want to study or do as a career, it can talk about something completely different about you.
Maybe it’s something that wasn’t brought up in any other aspect of your application that can just give a more full well-rounded view of who you are and can just really, um, give multiple dimensions of your. As long as it’s genuine, that’s the main thing. Don’t just write a story for the sake of trying to seem quirky.
It has to be something that’s unique to you. That’s genuine. That’s your voice that you feel [00:27:00] comfortable. Okay. So, um, when writing this, how can it help you? Right. Um, how can you take what you’ve learned from other essays to write a new one? So, um, just know, like, I know sometimes we can get stuck on words and we don’t like what we’ve written, go back to your old essays that maybe you didn’t like and see if there’s any piece or anything you can take from it that you did like and use for another application or.
For your new personal statement, because you don’t necessarily need to delete the whole thing. You can still recycle, reuse it. And some another thing is save all of the essays that you have written because you may be able to use them, tweak them and use them for either other schools, applications to write a new, personal statement, or you can even use them for scholarships or other things that you need essay sport, because it, you really don’t want to have to write a million essays.
Sometimes it’s just good to recycle.
All right. So I [00:28:00] find, uh, we’re going to be jumping into our second poll of the night. Uh, when do you plan on applying? All right. So we’ll go ahead and start collecting those responses. Um, and in the meantime, um, McKinsey, what is your favorite course? What has been your favorite course that you’ve taken thus far?
So, uh, last semester I took a cost called the art of teaching. It was an education class and it was just the most fun class. And it was the first in-person class that I had last year. Mostly online. So that was fun. And it was just fun because the readings were about education issues and different types of learning styles.
The professor was really cool. Um, it was a small class, so we could really have road discussions when we were in person. And I feel like I took up most of the class cause I was talking all the time. I was talking about my job here and how it related. I was using the readings to help me what my job here.
Like it was just, I love. Like in high school, it just feels it’s like you’re learning a million things for the sake of, but when you get to [00:29:00] college and you get to pick your courses, I really like when a course lines up with what I’m already doing or what I’m going to do, and I know how I can implement it.
And so that one was just my favorite course and I got A-plus was. All right. Thanks. Thanks for sharing that story with us. Um, all right. So I think, um, most of our responses have come in. Uh, so we have 38% for early admissions, uh, 62% with regular ambitions, uh, as the result and, um, 4% with rolling admissions.
All right. Okay. So that’s a pretty good, um, place to be right now. Um, especially for my regular Cision folks and rolling admission, uh, as for early admissions, there’s still time, but this is about to get a little hectic. So. The guy had to address that. So how can students, where a great college essay under a time crunch?
So just so you know, um, I started writing my first draft of my [00:30:00] personal statement or my first topic back in like July the year I was applying because I was in a summer program. But then when I got back home, The school in August, I decided to change my topic. And then by the end of September, I realized I hated my topic and my teacher had some comments.
I was just like, this isn’t going to work. So in October I was just scrambling to find a topic. And then I finally found something. And the thing was that Cornell and how our university’s early action was on Halloween. So I was really in that time crunch. And then I. Started writing it. I spent two weeks trying to write and rewrite the first, the intro part of my personal statement, because I was trying to be a perfectionist and I, I w I killed trees to write that.
Um, and then I cried about it. My mom gave me some words of wisdom and then it was finished. So it was a stressful period. Um, it’s not impossible. It’s just going to be the most hectic, hectic time of your life. [00:31:00] Um, if you’re in that little time crunch, um, So one thing I suggest is to start journaling and brainstorming.
So what I mean by this is just writing down anything that you think you want to talk about. It doesn’t even have to be correlated to just be any million topics, events, or things that happen in your life or things that you’re interested in and just jot them down and then start treating. Um, like their, their own personal statement and just write it out, see which one you can get the farthest with.
See which one you have the most fun writing, whichever one, you feel exhibits the most character traits about yourself that you want to show off and then go with that one. Or when we’re trying to get it down to a few that you’re interested in and try and go with that. But at the end of the day, you’re going to probably have to get it down to one for your personal statement and then save the rest for somewhere else.
Um, so that’s my first. Another thing to do is to pre-write some way to how you would for a regular school essay. It’s important to like jot down what your talking points are going to be. So you don’t forget [00:32:00] anything there about what the structure of your personal statement is going to be. Just so you don’t go off on tangents are good, overwhelmed, and you make sure you hit all the points.
And then also writing off like that topic sentence or that theme, wherever your focus is going to be, just so you can stay on track with that. That’s really going to help you with not feeling so overwhelmed, like, oh my gosh, 650 words. Another thing that I’d say is, don’t worry about the word limit. Don’t worry about.
If you’re going under the word woman, you don’t necessarily reach six 50, but I’d suggest getting as close as possible just to make sure you really talked about what you needed to talk about. Um, but don’t worry so much about reaching that number. Just write until you can’t write anymore. And sometimes that’ll stop you short.
Sometimes that’ll go. Over 400 words, which I know I do all the time. I wrote a 27 page paper for a project that only needed 12. Luckily my professor read it. So it isn’t impossible to go over the word count. I honestly suggest it just so you can see what things you can cut out, make sure that you talked about [00:33:00] everything.
See what’s important. That needs to be expanded on more and what’s not important and can be left out. So I always suggest just going over. Also don’t try and write the perfect essay. I know I’m a hypocrite because I was trying to do that. Don’t try and read it as supposed to be not on the first time, because that’s just not possible.
You are going to get frustrated if you try and do that. So what acts just as just write as much as you can about whatever essay, topic or topics you want to go with, and then once you were done and can’t think of anything else. Uh, to add, just step away, take a break. Don’t look at it for a day or two, and then come back to it later.
When you, after you had a minute and then see what you can. See what you can change, see what needs to be added, what can be dropped or have someone else read over it because that’s the best way that you’ll be able to catch your mistakes. Cause sometimes when you just like write something and then you try and look over it, you miss a lot of the mistakes.
One thing I like to do is on word. I just like had the thing, [00:34:00] read it to me so I can hear what’s going on. And that helps me to catch mistakes. See how it sounds, how it blows and stuff, especially when I don’t feel like thinking. Um, also make sure. When you’re, I’m reading over it doesn’t have a clear focus.
Is it just a list of things to fill a word count? Uh, does it go off on tangents? Those are the things that you’ll be able to see better once you come back to it after a few days. And this is why it’s important, not to procrastinate to make sure that you have the time to be able to do all these things.
Um, so yeah. Excellent. Okay. So what was my experience like? So my first time. What’s talking about. Um, in third grade I had issues with figuring out long division and I just didn’t get it. And then I finally got after my teacher explained to me and I was so happy. And then when I was in ninth grade, I was in the science fair and I did my project on beans.
And the person in front of me did their project on literal camp research. And I just felt super inadequate. It was literal cancer research and mine was on Lima beans. And then my, uh, the last part [00:35:00] of it was talking about how in my summer program. Okay. The calculus class and I just did not get it at all.
And then I had to make the treacherous walk to office hours, which is tutoring in college, um, to figure it out. And then I got it. And I went from, uh, an oops. My professor wrote Oop on my paper to 98 on the final. So it was just like, it was showing my progression how I didn’t feel smart. And then I felt smart again.
It’s cute, but it’s not a good story. Nobody cares. Um, the reason, um, I say that is because it literally showed nothing about it, about me and also college is hard. So if you had a little bit of struggle in a class, it colleges don’t really care. Cause that just sort of comes with college. But that doesn’t mean that writing about your academic struggles is a bad story.
Um, it can be good if it relates back to, if you give a reason why it’s significant. So like maybe if you had a learning disability or your school was under-resourced or you lived in a challenging area or time that. A little hard for [00:36:00] you. That can be an interesting story to explain, like how you overcame persevered and stuff, or, um, more so if it show, if it relates to something that you want to do it like, um, made you decide like, oh, I want to go into education and make sure other students don’t have to face that those stories aren’t bad.
It’s more so about, um, what you gain from it, who you are, what you want to do because of it, not just talking about that sad, um, or struggle that. Um, my second topic was about not being black enough at my majority black high school or in my friend group, which. Okay. Talking about your identity is in bed either.
Um, identity is a very important part. That’s why one of the topics on the personal statement is about identity, but for me personally, it wasn’t something that I really reflected on growing up. It wasn’t really something I thought about and the way I wrote it, it was just a bunch of different, random experiences that I had that were kind of not all that serious and stuff.
And I was [00:37:00] just like writing something for the sake of trying to seem interesting, but, um, I didn’t really care about it that much. It was just something about a page. And then I had my English teacher who was a white male, read it. And then he told me while he understood the nuances of what I was saying and like the cool colloquial colloquialisms, and the different nuances of my story.
Um, he. Pointed out how it was applying to Cornell university and the admissions officers may not understand some of it, which isn’t to say that you should try and take away your authenticity or what you’re saying or your voice when you’re writing about your identity is just to say it, to be aware of your audience and also to make sure that there’s a reason why as with any story, why is this significant about you?
It can’t just, you really have to bring it in home. Why isn’t. And I just didn’t. So then my last topic on this one, this is why I say, ask somebody else about it. Me and my dad were just talking on the phone and I was going into one of my [00:38:00] other Rams about like issues in education, why everything about my high school was just bad and something needed to change and this, that, and the other.
And he was just like, why don’t you write about that? You’re always talking about that. Every time we were on the phone, that’s what I was talking about. I would go on and on. And so that’s really, um, where I got the idea of like, write about something. Rant about that was something I was interested in. So I wrote about the club.
I started my senior year college readiness club, which I talk more about my writing about passion project webinar. I want to watch. And then, um, the reason this was good and significant and why I cared about it was because, um, it showed that I had initiative and I was able to plan stuff and I had a community mindset where I wanted to help people.
It showed all these traits without just saying, I like to help people imply it, all of these things. Right. It showed my technical skills, like web development presentations. It showed my passion and accessibility to education. And then even though it was applying to a pre-med program, it still showed those desirable characteristics for a caregiver or someone that’s [00:39:00] going to make an impact on the community.
And again, it was something that I cared about. That’s why it was a good story. Um, so, okay. Final thoughts. So. Oh, it’s from a call it’s. So what should students, um, do what’s my last advice? So my last advice is if you’re having a hard time talking about yourself, talk about something that you’ve done, or belief or idea that you’ve had.
Talk about something objective, and really get your thoughts out and then go back in later. And. Things like what you felt, what was the impact? What was the significance adding in those, um, your perspective on the situation. And that’s, what’s really gonna make a good story, but then it can also alleviate from just, you know, talking about me, me, me, and stuff.
Um, brainstorm all of your ideas. Like I said, write down everything and then go in and check. I see which one you can go the farthest with. Cause sometimes you may have an idea and then you realize like, oh, I have nothing to say about this. So if you have multiple ideas you can pull from, you can figure out which one you’re going to talk about the most.[00:40:00]
Ask your friends, your family, or anyone that knows something about Shu knows about you. Well, um, and then also after you’ve written it, have them read it over again so that they can see like, okay, does this represent you? And this is called the no-name test. So like, if this essay did not have your name attached to it, or no one knew it was you and they just read it, would they be able to know.
That it was you just because of what you said, or, and this is a good way to see if your story is vague or if it’s detailed and really represents you because if they are able to see like, okay, yeah, that’s definitely you, then, you know, you’ve done a good. And then, um, don’t try and write something that you think would impress the admissions officers that it’s just impossible to know.
Just write something that is important to you that impresses yourself, that you’re happy and comfortable with. That’s what matters at the end of the day.
[00:41:00] Perfect. So that is the end of the presentation part of the webinar. Uh, hope you found this information helpful, and remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab, uh, moving on to the live Q and a. Uh, really the questions you submitted in the Q and a tab, paste them into the public chat.
So you can see, uh, and then read them aloud before our panelists. Uh, so, and McKinsey could give you an answer. Um, and as a heads up, if your Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, uh, just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page.
All right. So let’s go ahead and get started. Um, oh, Uh, and Mackenzie, if you can just also check if anyone has private message to you because, um, I, as of right now, I don’t see any questions in the Q and a. Oh, okay. Um, so I don’t have [00:42:00] any. Let’s not have any at the moment. Um, all right. So just a quick reminder to all the participants.
If you do have any questions, um, about the personal statement, this would be your time to go ahead and add them to the public Q and a, uh, if it’s, if you’re finding it hard to find that tab, you can go ahead and, um, private message me or McKinsey as well, uh, while we’re here. Um, and we’ll be more than happy to answer them.
Hmm. I feel like there was a point in the webinar that I want it to extend on what presidents say. You’re just really good at explaining things. Thank you. Um, There was one part that I meant to add on to earlier. So I’m just going to go back, but if anyone has any questions, please feel free. Um,[00:43:00]
Uh, if anyone wants any more examples or anything I can give, maybe a live demo of something, um, more specific or, um, just go over any topic that you’re interested in. Um, I have a, I have a way that she. Uh, address something kind of random McKinsey. I know that you’ve worked with many students with their personal statements.
Um, can you just kind of talk about maybe what has been, would be one of your, maybe top two common app, personal statements and some things that made them so great in your head. So maybe they used a lot of metaphorical language or they just had this brilliant intro [00:44:00] or, you know, just something like that.
So can you kind of talk us through. So one of my clients, this is just a funny story. We were talking about her ideas and stuff, and she had switched clients and like her other advisor kind of shut down some of her ideas. And so she wasn’t sure if she should go with them. Um, so then I was just like, okay, what was your topics?
And then she was just talking and she said that, um, She said she was saying different topics, but then she said, um, she’s interested in like education. And then she said, when she was in sixth grade, or since she was in sixth grade, she really want it to be a nun. And I was just like, huh. And we just paused right there.
And I was like, why did you want to be a nun? And then, so she just wanted to detail about like, why she wanted to be a nun, what this story had to do with anything. And I was just like, you want it to be a that’s hilarious. So I had told her to just like right on the first topic she had mentioned, but then also write the [00:45:00] story.
Cause she said she liked that one the most. And then so she wrote it out and it was just this great story. It just started off with like a funny thing about like how she wants to be a nun, but all the characteristics of a nun just are not at all her personality. So like, why would she want to be on none if she has no, none of the like meekness of a non incident.
And then, um, then she goes into explaining how her. Sort of made her this way, made her personality, not exactly fit to be a nun. And then she ended up seeing like, cause she is a very faith-based person. So like even though being a nun, wouldn’t be all that great. Or it would have all these great things. It wouldn’t be perfect for her because she likes to explore different things and being a nun just wouldn’t let her do that.
So it sorta came full circle and it was just a really random story. So like having those random conversations and then with another one of my clients, we were talking about. We’re just because a lot of my clients had a hard time just talking about themselves, thinking of something to talk about. Cause that is something that’s difficult.
Um, and so [00:46:00] we were going back and forth. I was just like, okay, describe yourself in three words. And she’s kind of like shy, reserved, um, smart. And I was like, okay, can’t do nothing with that. Uh, and then I was like, okay, give me three things that you’re interested in or that you do, or like, and then she was just.
Anything else again, anything. And then she was like reading and I was like, okay. And then she was like, I’m interested in writing and stuff. And I was like, okay, maybe that’s something. And then she was just like, she likes astrology and I like astrology. So I was like, tell me more. And then, so she was telling me this story about her grandma and how her grandma got her into astrology, what it did for her, really getting into the research and stuff.
And she just went on and on and on about astrology and stuff. That’s your topic. And then so yeah, sometimes it’s just like the random things that just come up, like just have a conversation with somebody really, and figure out, have them like, try and write down what they hear about you or think about like, just random things that you find interesting and see where you can go with [00:47:00] it.
And there are a few things. Um, okay. So someone saying, share an example. Do you know any.
Okay. Uh, I’m interested in playing two coordinators. Okay. So, um, Okay, so I’ll go with the second one. So my son is a senior and he’s more of an introverted person. Do you know of anyone who is more like that and know how to help them figure out how to, um, speak a lot about something. So that’s where it’s good to like, sort of lean on something that you’ve done or a thought or an idea that you’ve had.
Cause it doesn’t. Okay, well, she done a little bit hard if you’re more introverted, but a thought or an idea that you had is a good place to start, or like a quote that really resonates with you or something that just interests you talk about that and give context to it, to like build the context of like, okay, I’m interested in video games.
I really liked. [00:48:00] I really like the characters and the techniques and stuff. And it just gives me another place to escape and then go into talking about yourself, um, more and boating off of that. Oh, that was a kind of a bad example, but use a objective event or thought or idea to like, sort of get you started talking about something and then later on, um, To yourself to get those character traits.
So like with video games or something of the, like, um, maybe the, um, the way that the characters, um, the traits of the character. So like when you get to pick your own avatar and stuff, maybe you make a character that’s completely different from yourself, just so you can like live vicariously through that and then sort of psychoanalyze yourself and be like, okay, so I choose these traits of this character.
So like they’re more extroverted. They’re more, um, they’re more. Heroic then more outgoing. They’re very loud and colorful and I make them this way and then [00:49:00] compare it to yourself. Okay. Maybe I’m not this, but this trade is good about, I mean, maybe I don’t do that, but I do find different ways to sort of be the hero, even though I’m a little bit more introverted than my character would be.
So while I live vicariously through this character, I still am able to, to I’m S I still have character. Myself, but it’s just fun to live in a fantasy, something like that. That’s spitballing. Yeah. Um, and I w I actually like to add on something. I would actually like to add on something here as well before you kind of continue on, um, something that also has worked with some of my like more shy, reserved students is, um, kind of mirroring what Mackenzie was saying, but kind of in more specific steps.
So like, um, you know, I have them do exercises where they like, literally I love top five, so that’s kinda like my favorite thing. So I will have them do like top five values, um, top five points. Personal relationships, top five [00:50:00] personal items, um, that they own, um, top five random interests. So how she was going back and talk about astrology, her student with astrology, um, and then top five members.
Um, and then kind of usually gets the conversation flowing sometimes there’s connections in between some of those top fives across those different areas. Um, and then again, for the shy reserved, you know, and this could really work for anyone. You don’t have to be necessarily introverted, but, um, another way that I kind of have, I kind of see what’s in their mind with them having to talk too much is having them create a storyboard.
Uh, so either using like graphics or just like. In different boxes and kind of outlining that story plot for me and the way that it’s it’s in their head, but they’re not actually saying aloud. So, um, and that also kind of helps as well with, with more introverted students. Sorry, back to you, Mackenzie. I think I remember what the thing was.
No, no, I don’t. [00:51:00] I thought I remember this from earlier in the slides. Um,
Uh, okay. So another example, uh, okay. So if you, maybe you don’t want to like talk so much about yourself, but you want to talk about your career interests. This is a bit more for supplements than for personal statements. Cause they’re a bit more school specific, but a good way to really like get in what you’re interested in.
What’s important to you is when you’re talking about. Like why you want to go into psychology or something, or why you want to go into whatever, talking about how a school would. This is again, more for supplements, but talking about a school’s programs and stuff so that you can show, demonstrate interest in what they have to offer.
Or if it’s is your personal statement talking a bit more broadly, like saying like, oh, I would join. Um, program and do this class and take classes here and there and the other, and then taking the learning objectives that they [00:52:00] usually have listed on like the syllabus or the website and saying like how, cause the learning, um, the learning objectives and learning outcomes will show you like what skills you’re going to gain, talking about how those skills will help you in your career.
So like, um, me, I’m interested in education and counseling, so, um, Uh, I would say like, okay. Taking classes and like, um, psychology would give me the skills to be able to read into somebody and understand how their mind is working and then, um, being able to do, um, that’s one skill. Um, I’ll take classes in like education and learn how classrooms are structured and stuff.
I’ll take classes in. I don’t know policy and see how policies affect how classrooms and funding goes towards schools. And I’ll take all these different classes and stuff, and they’ll provide me the knowledge and the skills to be able to, um, be able to address the issues that I’m interested in, like access to education.
So adding a bit more filler about like some skills or some things you want to [00:53:00] study can help with like, um, not so much talking about. Like your character, but talking about like what you want to do, how you want to develop and stuff. That’s a good way. And like I was saying earlier with the, um, you don’t want to say like, oh, I want to become hardworking.
Those are things you don’t want to say. Cause those are characteristics, but like skills and stuff, you definitely can say like, okay, I want to have this skill, this skill, this go to help me to become, to get. Alright, Mackenzie, we have another question in the Q and a, uh, who in an, or how many people should I ask to read over my essay and provide feedback.
So you don’t want to have everybody read over it. Cause then that’ll just be too many opinions. I’d suggest having a. Depending on how comfortable and what your topic is. Maybe have your parents, or have a sibling, probably older sibling, someone that’s gone to college if they have, um, or just, or your best friend or even, um, you can have a teacher that you really [00:54:00] like, and that knows you well, Anyone that knows you.
Well, it was really going to be the person that can give you a good idea about if it represents you, but you can have anyone like a school counselor or an advisor. If you’re just meeting. Read over it to see like how it blows and like, they can tell you what they gained from it. Even if they don’t know you necessarily like I’ve read over somebody else’s client’s paper.
And I was just saying to say like how I think it flowed what I think could be expanded on more, what I was able to gain from it. Um, though, I may not necessarily be able to say like, oh, this definitely represents you. Cause I don’t really know them. So there isn’t really a set number. I just say probably no more than.
Three at the most, because then that’s just too many opinions. All right. All right. Well, what to, uh, want to work on one-on-one with an advisor? Um, uh, so sorry, from, from our team of over 225 advisors and admissions officers sign up for a free [00:55:00] consultation with us, by going to CollegeAdvisor.com and clicking the green chat button in the bottom.
Of the screen, uh, from there just right in consultation and a live team member, we’ll get back to you to help coordinate your free consultation with us. All right. Now, back to the Q and a, um, yeah, I’m not seeing any new questions, uh, published in the Q and a. So I think we would have time for about just one or two more questions.
If you want to go ahead and post those.
Yeah, the personal statement is a fun time. I was just thinking about this, but my, um, I was helping my best friend because when my college training club, I was helping people write their essays and stuff, and my best friend was having trouble figuring out what he wanted to write about. And I just remember, I came back after doing.
Thing, um, like a parent night or something. And I was just thinking [00:56:00] about like, oh my gosh, that could have been ran so much better. And I was just thinking about like, oh my gosh, me and him are always talking about this, that, and the other could change the stuff. And I was like, he is always talking about how this could be changed in medicine and this needs to be changed in the hospital.
And this needs to be better. He should write about that. And the crazy thing is I was in the shower and I was thinking about this. So those shower thoughts can really help. Um, and then I just texted him and I like wrote up a whole page. I was just like, oh my gosh, this is definitely your topic. You’re always talking about this and you can relate it to this.
And you can use those skills from this and that. And talk about how being in DECA helped you learn leadership skills and doing this class and this experience you had, like forming it all together to like a central theme of, he wants to fix hospitals, which is what he’s doing that well studying to do now.
So sometimes, um, a close person can help come up with a topic for you or sometimes just like stepping away and just having random thoughts can help you come up with a topic for yourself. All right. Um, [00:57:00] Perfect. Well, thank you all for coming out tonight and thank you to our panelists this evening. Uh, McKinsey Marie, um, that is the end of the webinar.
Um, we had a really great time telling you about rethinking your personal statement. Um, and as you see on the screen here is the rest of our November series upcoming webinars, uh, that you will find useful. Um, and at this time, Mackenzie, did you want to ask. Uh, yeah, you can go look on our blog and find out more information on specific schools.
If you’re interested in those schools, are there supplements, uh, and you can also look on there for a more personal statement help. And then also, if you’re in CollegeAdvisor, we do have the essay review team that you can ask,
um, is that.[00:58:00]
Some live demonstration. So I’ll be doing a live demonstration done on supplements and like short answer with sponsors. So if you want to see how to write something more specifically, stay tuned for that. All right. Perfect. All right, well, have a good evening, everyone. And thanks for coming out.