Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Writing Personal Statements (Part 1 of 3)

Brainstorming Personal Statement Topics

When choosing your essay topic, don’t just write about the first thing that comes to mind after you’ve read the essay question. If it’s the first thing that occurs to you, it’s the first thing that occurs to many other applicants, too, and your essay won’t set you apart. Instead, make a list of many possible topics and choose the one that no one but you could write about. You’ve had experiences in your life that make you unique; it’s up to you to think of them and to find a way to write about them.

Spend as long as possible brainstorming potential topics before you begin writing an essay. One way to brainstorm topics is to make lots of lists, and to include at least ten items on each one. Here’s a sample list:

Jobs I Once Wanted to Have
1. Firefighter (age 5)
2. International Spy (age 7)
3. Animal Hypnotist (age 6)
4. Personal Shopper (age 12)
5. Video Game Tester (age 14)
6. Writer of Blurbs on Back of Novels (age 16)
7. Wedding Planner (age 13)
8. Concierge (age 14)
9. Pilot (age 9)
10. Barrista (age 17)

So, how does this list help you select a topic? Say that I’m applying to veterinary school. Writing the above list has reminded me that I, at age six, wanted to be an animal hypnotist; this story will make a great anecdote to open my application essay, and will also lead into a more serious discussion of why I want to be a vet, etc.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of 3 with more tips about selecting an essay topic . . . coming soon!

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