In the introductory post of the series, "Personal Statements and What They're All About," we looked at (but didn't start!) potential college essay topics.
We left off on the idea that your personal essay should be unique and fresh. It needs to breathe and articulate your thoughts. While this does seem arduous and complex, it really isn't. Remember: Even Pulitzer Prize winning essays started off as something minuscule. On its own, a topic is just that -- a topic. It's up to you to make it come alive.
However, finding a topic is hardly an easy accomplishment. If you have yet to find "the one," this is the comprehensive guide for you.
"Your personal statement should be exactly that -- personal. This is your opportunity to tell us about yourself -- your hopes, ambitions, life experiences, inspirations." -- University of California on Personal Statements
1. As I mentioned in my last post, take a look at things that you value. What is your favorite book? Person? Event? Why is it your favorite? During a lecture at College Board's Forum 2009 New York (an annual convention in New York City), a guidance counselor admitted one of her students had chosen a "favorite event" -- particularly learning the Flamenco in Spain. At first, it seemed boring and typical, but the counselor insisted the boy's motto ("When am I ever going to do that again?") was "unique and memorable."
Rory Gilmore Tip: they have already been far too many essays on the influential excellence of Hillary Clinton.
2. Okay, maybe you don't have too many favorites. How about things that have impacted you? Have you ever been influenced by something? Honestly, I'll never be the same after looking at Edwin Sanchez's photographs at his exhibit in Art Basel, an annual event hosted in the Miami Convention Center that showcases thousands of artist's work. My school goes on a field trip each year. When I visited, I saw Sanchez's portfolio. I won't go into specific details, but it definitely impacted the distinction I once saw between art and pornography.
"If you write an essay about an offbeat topic (a passion, an obsession, a hobby...), chances are you not only will reveal a telling piece of your personality, but also show the reader how you think and what you value." -- Essay Hell: Lady GaGa as a Topic?
3. Perhaps the most reflective question, have you done or made something you're exceptionally proud of? From art projects and exceptional class presentations to making national-winning engineering projects, your essay could center on the hard work, stress, and sometimes pain you encountered while working on something you've created. Sometimes, it's hard for students to draw the line between bragging and describing, so, while it's better to be cautious, this type of essay might require some ego. "This is no time for timidity," former Carelton College professor Paul Wellstone exclaimed in his "Where Are We Going?" essay.