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Crafting the Personal Statement

Sunday, June 17, 2018


As final exam season begins to wind down, students turn their attention to the next phase of their application college process: writing the personal statement.

Unlike a typical classroom paper or analysis, the essay component of a college application invites the student to share a focused perspective or experience that allows Admissions a view into personal purpose; strength or character.  A personal statement can emerge from unexpected places.  Sometimes there is a funny story to share.  Sometimes there is a significant turning point that provides meaning to the student's experience.  

Emory University shares with readers examples of personal statements written by accepted students along with insightful comments shared by admissions officers who have reviewed these applications. Regardless of the story or the background of the writer, introspection underpins each essay. 
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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and NACAC. Contact Marla via www.achievecoach.com







The 2018 - 2019 Common Application Essay Prompts Have Arrived!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Common Application has announced its 2018-19 college essay prompts, reflecting no change from the prompts established in last year's admission cycle.  

Over 700 US and international colleges utilize the web-based Common App. Students choose among seven essay prompts, providing a platform for students to to create a personal statement that conveys aspects of their character; unique experience; personal growth; or individual focus. Students are permitted a maximum of 650 words to convey their personal statement through one of their chosen Common App essay prompts.

Here are the prompts for the upcoming admission cycle:

2018-2019 Common Application Essay Prompts

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.



"Through the Common App essay prompts, we want to give all applicants - regardless of background or access to counseling - the opportunity to share their voice with colleges. Every applicant has a unique story. The essay helps bring that story to life," said Meredith Lombardi, Associate Director, Outreach and Education, for The Common Application.

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Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com


Start Writing With This Good Advice

Monday, April 03, 2017

A good college essay can help you to favorably stand out in the applicant pool. When applying to selective schools, standing out in a positive light can make the difference between admission, deferral or deny.

No matter which essay prompt you choose, consider: “What do I want the college admissions office to know about me beyond my grades, test scores and extracurricular activities?”

Before sitting down to write, consider that you are not necessarily or literally answering a question. Instead, let the prompt guide the story you tell.

A college essay is actually closer to a personal statement and:

  • Features YOU as the subject; the topic is somewhat secondary.
  • Communicates a meaningful story that is focused, not overly broad.

    Examining one smaller feature/concept/event allows the writer to go into more depth.

  • Communicates what you learned from your experiences, not just what you accomplished.
  • May demonstrate elements of character
  • Sounds like you – an insightful high school student ready for college.

Consider These Helpful Tips:

  • Incorporate your values or what is important to you.
  • Communicate how you deal with challenges or set backs.
  • Provide insight into your personal growth or development.
  • Reflect on how you think or elements of your character.
  • Become a proxy for an interview. The essay should enable the reader to gain a sense of you almost as if you were in the room with them.
  • Be personal. You are in some way the subject of the essay, so it is totally appropriate to use the first person “I” — different from a high school 5-paragraph essay or research paper.

Caution: The essay should not be TOO personal! If there is anything that could be embarrassing to you or to the reader, then it’s TMI and should be left aside. Project your grandmother or uncle reading the essay. If they would be ok with what you are sharing, then your content likely is appropriate.

Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. She is a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via www.achievecoach.com


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