Written by Elizabeth Chen
A personal statement. The essay(s) that colleges require in the application process. Summer is one of the best times to start brainstorming these statements because you don’t need to spend six to eight hours a day in class, plus extracurriculars and homework!
Most personal statements ask questions that look like this:
– Provide an example of leadership experience or accomplishment.
– Reflect on when you questioned/challenged a belief.
– When did you overcome an obstacle?
At the core of these questions, admissions is trying to get a strong picture of you as a student of their campus and as a future citizen of the world. How motivated are you? How do you chase after your dreams? What do you do when you don’t succeed on the first try? Will you know to take advantage of what the college has to offer to achieve your goals?
The easiest way to answer these questions is to go out there and experience something you can write about. This is not to say that you can’t write about your family, your school experience, or your day-to-day life, especially if it’s impacted you in a significant way. But if you’re unsure of how to answer any of the questions above, you have all summer to try something new!
One way to tackle this is to make a list of things you want to try or have always been curious about. This could be an instrument you’ve always wanted to learn or a recent coding curiosity. Or maybe you’re interested in animation—digital, or flipbook. Jot these ideas down. From there, you can create a plan for how to get started. If it’s learning an instrument, look for a music store nearby that will help you rent one for a couple months to try. Take advantage! If it’s coding, websites like Codecademy have plenty of free lessons. And if you want to get into animation, pick up a pencil and look for a video on YouTube. For all of the above and more, there will likely be lessons you can find on YouTube. Try it. Have fun. Get stuck on a learning obstacle, and then learn how to get un-stuck.
Another way to go about it is to think about what you’re currently working on and how you can expand your horizons. Always logged on an mmorpg? Maybe try leading some raids instead of just joining one, or try being the shot-caller when the team fights come. On the other hand, if you’re always in the lead, try a support character and take a step back to let others learn their way to leadership. Or, gaming aside, if you’ve been loving and caring for your pets all your life, check volunteer opportunities at your local zoo, aquarium, or animal shelter.
As a senior, you’re likely working on these applications already, especially for campuses with rolling admissions. It’s still not too late to go out and make those experiences that could lead to even stronger essay topics. If you’re a sophomore or freshman (or even younger), you have even more of a time advantage because prepping for the SAT or ACT is not urgent business, yet. Regardless, now is the time to go out there and make this a statement summer.