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MSJC > Honors Enrichment Program > Application Tips

Application Tips

This is a great site for students in development of the personal essay:
Also check out the resources in your Transfer Center. 

How to Write a Personal Statement

Description:  The Personal Statement is an important part of your application for admission and scholarships.  Universities use the statement to learn more about you as an individual—your talents, experiences, achievements and points of view.  Think of your personal statement as your opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions officers and faculty who will be evaluating your application.  This is the one chance that you have to distinguish yourself from other students.  While some believe that this is not an important aspect of the application, it is the one part of it that you can control.  You should take it very seriously.  What would you like them to know about you that may not be evident from a review of the rest of your application?
Author:  Your personal statement should reflect your own ideas and be written by you alone.  Present your information and ideas in a focused, in-depth, thoughtful, and meaningful manner.  Support your ideas with specific examples.  Personal statements composed of lists of qualities or accomplishments are not useful or effective. 

Application Advice:

  1. Follow Instructions: One of the most common mistakes applicants make is to skim the written instructions and not fully understand them.
  2. Don’t get cute with fonts or format: Again, follow specific instructions to the letter.
  3. Person: Let them see a picture of YOU.  This is your only chance to let your personality character, hopes, and dreams be seen by them.
  4. Story: Tell your story.  Tell them what shaped you.  Again, this means not just a list but a story.  How have your experiences/involvements shaped you for your intended field? Transfer students should write about educational goals—where did they come from and how did they develop?
  5. Passion: Let them see your passion, your enthusiasm for your field.  How have your experiences/involvements developed your interest into a lifelong passion for your major field?  They want to know how serious/committed you are to your decisions and your field.  They do not want people who do not care.
  6. Fulfillment: What would you like to gain from the school and the major?  Point out how your intended major will grant you fulfillment and how you will develop in that field of education. 
  7. Readable: Have sufficient details to be interesting and to provide information.  But, make it readable; avoid choppiness.  Make sure that you revise it several times and have someone you trust read it as well.
  8. Learning: Universities want to know what you have learned, not what you have done.  They are not interested in a list of the activities you have participated in but how these activities have influenced you.  In other words, the impact or significance of the activities is what is important.  Do include relevant work experience that can show maturity or problem-solving skills as well as academic and extra-curricular activities, but again, no lists! Do be sure to mention your participation in the honors program and what you have learned or gained from your honors courses.
  9. Bring to UC: What can you bring to UC? How will your presence make it a better place? What can YOU do for THEM? Make that link!  Many students talk about something special about themselves but don’t make the link, showing how that quality will enrich the university.  This is not the moment to be shy.  Do not feel that you should not brag about yourself.  This is one of those moments in life when it is socially acceptable to talk about your good qualities. However, don’t present an “if I don’t get into this specific campus/ college my life is over” attitude in your UC statements.  Detailing the wonders of a specific campus or program does not enhance the applicant’s chances of being accepted, according to the UC admissions officers.
  10. Overcoming Obstacles: Perhaps you’ve worked or have a family.  Make that story exciting—don’t make it negative or a sob story.  Don’t be a victim and don’t blame.  The key is to show that you have overcome adversity in the past and will do it in the future.  They want to know that you will not drop out of the university.  They want “no risk” students.  Turn the obstacle to your advantage by emphasizing problem solving rather than the problem.  Sometimes referring to a problem as having made a choice works better than apologizing for the problem.  The key here is that these things happened to you but didn’t stop you.  Don’t manufacture hardship!  And you need not include every single hardship or obstacle—pick and choose in order to show the tenacity and self-discipline that you have developed.
  11. Be careful of humor or a very creative approach:  One Education Advisor advises NO HUMOR.  Another Education Advisor says humor with caution can be effective.  Be careful—humor can be risky.
  12. Be excited about yourself:  Some student essays lack excitement about themselves, their majors, their work, and their abilities.  This is a major mistake.  The application process is not a moment for coolness.  If you are not excited about yourself, why should the college you are applying to be?  If you do not distinguish yourself from other students, why should they want you at their school?
  13. Proofread, proofread, proofread!!!
Finally, please keep in mind that different colleges and universities may look for different kinds of information in a personal statement and many have specific topics that they expect you to address.  If you are applying to a number of institutions, simply submitting the exact same essay to each one will not serve you well.  Be prepared to tweak, adjust, rewrite to tailor your essay to the specific requirements for each application.  The good news is, there is probably much that you can reuse, but dont slack offread and follow specific instructions and rewrite as necessary.