Writing the Personal Essay

Blog, She Wrote: Writing the Personal Essay

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If you have a high school senior, chances are you helping them to navigate the college application process right now. Or maybe your aspiring middle or high schooler wants to enjoy a special program requiring a personal statement. It’s time to sharpen our skills with Writing the Personal Essay.

Reasons to Write a Well Composed Personal Essay

Why take the time to master the personal essay? There are many reasons. Here are some:

  • Applications for Special Programs– Summer camps, gifted programs, and other opportunities often require an essay from the student stating why he or she is qualified and why they want to attend.
  • Job Applications– Depending on the job, your student may be asked to tell why he or she wants to work there.
  • Job Interviews– Being able to talk about oneself in a confident manner is an important life skill we all need to have.
  • College Applications & Interviews– If your student is college bound, then without a doubt she will be asked to write a personal essay for the college application. He may have to write many depending on how many schools he is applying to. Some schools follow up the application with an interview.

Qualities of a Well Written Personal Essay

The organization or college receiving the application will deterine who your student is and how well they write by reading this essay. Often it is the only part of the application process which allows your student to share his personal voice. Ready for some advice?

  • Be self-reflective. Your student wants to be thoughtful and honest. The institution wants to see she has gained a clear perspective on her experiences.
  • Personalize the essay to its purpose– for the individual college, program, or job.
  • Take the time to plan, write, edit, and revise until the essay is perfect in topic and composition & grammar. This is not meant to be a quick process, so make sure you leave time for the task.
  • Give a unique perspective of yourself (written by the student)
  • Be authentic.
  • Give a vivid & compelling picture of yourself.
  • Strive for depth, not breathe– you don’t want just a list of accomplishments, but an essay that well supports the them with your experience (think quality vs. quantity).
  • Hits & conforms to the target guideline– did you answer the question the application is asking?
  • Contains compelling introduction– which makes the reader want to keep reading.
  • Transforms challenges into positives– it’s ok to have flaws. Remember to be authentic.
  • Avoid repeating information from the essay in other parts of the application- I read this from several different sources. Must be important!
  • Avoid sarcasm & snark– even if that is authentic!
  • Demonstrates confidence– to overcome obstacles and achieve goals.

That’s quite a list! However, it’s pretty specific. Based on this list, I can see how the personal essays we’ve written can be improved dramatically. Focusing on the quality of the essay and its uniqueness is desired over the laundry list of accomplishments. Remember, those will be enumerated in other parts of the application process.

Other Benefits of a Well Written Personal Essay

Taking the time to write about oneself has many benefits. What other activities help to do the following:

  • Helps students to reflect on what they like to do
  • Gives students pause to formulate who they are & what they are about in a succinct manner.
  • Gives voice to their talents
  • Refines the skill of finding a niche when they retool the basic essay for various venues

Using a Mentor to Write the Personal Essay

It’s good practice to start practicing good personal essays before you need them! It’s a great high school writing task no matter what grade your students are in. How about resources for getting the job done? The list above is a tall order. Perhaps you need some help.

  • Tips from Websites– a simple search yielded a lot of results including this one. While we focused on the qualities of a good essay, it might be good to check on the non-examples too. Make sure to avoid the pitfalls!
  • Books on Preparing for College– There are so many on the market from the College Board to Homeschooling books aimed at helping your kids get into college.
  • Personalized Mentoring– Fortuigence offers an Essay Rockstar course in Mastering the Personal Statement Essay. Even more than knowing what makes a good personal essay is practicing it and refining it until it’s neared perfection. If you are not confident in your expertise in this area, outsourcing can be a solution. The one on on mentoring through Fortuigence offers your student additional feedback and as a parent you are not left out of the loop. Working with Essay Rockstar courses can help you, as a parent, to be a better mentor for your kids as writers.

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