The Personal Essay

Whether applying for admissions to UC or applying for a scholarship, you are required to write a personal essay as part of the application.

A. The essay is an important part of the application.

B. It must be submitted with the application.

What is the importance of the essay?

A. Purpose
1. To give you an opportunity to tell aspects of your background.
2. Aspects that may not be apparent from other parts of the application.

B. In decision making, they consider
1. Personal attributes
2. Academic record
3. Financial need

C. UC's & scholarship foundations have more applications than awards. Therefore,
1. The majority of applicants meet minimum requirements.
2. Academic records are quite similar.
3. Committees discover and evaluate distinctions among applicants. They will look at the individual's entire application.
4. Entire package: academic record, information about accomplishments, activities, recommendation letters, and the personal essay provide insight into the student's character.
5. Factors enable committees to evaluate and weight its options.

Writing the Essay

A. Begin
1. Carefully read the instructions for the essay. Instructions provide information about the essay format & content (prompts).
2. Save time by taking a few minutes to review all instructions carefully.

B. Write the essay yourself
1. Everyone reviewing your application expects you to write your own essay, although you may seek the advice of someone.
2. Have a friend, instructor, or family member provide feedback on how well the essay conveys your points.
3. Remember purpose: To provide insight about you on a personal level.

C. Give yourself plenty of time
1. Recognize the importance of the essay.
2. Difficulty of task.
3. Follow the steps of the writing process. 4. Give yourself enough time to produce a thoughtful carefully composed essay.

D. Follow the rules.
1. Usually the essay is no more than 2 sheets of 8" X 11" white paper.
2. Use only one side of each sheet.
3. Additional pages are not accepted.
4. Type the final draft of your essay; produce legible copies.
5. In a header, put your name, SS#, "Essay Title" if one is suggested.
6. Page numbers at the bottom. 7. Include your essay with completed application.

What do they look for in the essay?

A. Criteria
1. Creativity
2. Intellectual curiosity
3. Achievement
4. Exceptional recognition
5. Ability to overcome hardship
6. Initiative
7. Motivation
8. Leadership
9. Persistence
10. Service to others
11. Special spark
12. Substantial experience with other racial cultural groups
13. Rare talent

B. You don't need to touch on nor write about all these characteristics and possible topics. Prioritize.

C. You do need to make sure your essay clearly conveys what you think is important for them to know about you.

D. One approach is to

1. Describe what is important to you.
2. Why it is important.
3. How you have demonstrated that importance in your life.
4. Prompt: I used to be _______, but now I am _______.

What makes a good essay?

A. There isn't "one" good type of essay.
1. Selection committees search for essays in which the quality of your character emerges.
2. During the evaluation process, the question arises:
"What do we know about this individual?"
--If little has been learned about you, the essay has not been successful.

B. Remember, your application will be compared with other highly competitive students.
1. Shared experience
    a. Student leaders
    b. Joined organizations
    c. Played on sports teams
    d. Significant work or volunteer experiences.

C. Many will write on these topics, so the approach you use is important.
1. Committees need a unique sense of the person.

D. They want to learn
1. How the activity, job, experience changed your attitude about something.
2. Solidified a belief
3. Established a goal
4. Sharpened a perception

What is the committee not looking for?

A. The essay is not a test on
1. Writing ability
2. Composition skill
3. Mastery of Language
These abilities are measured by grades & standardized tests

B. Scholarship sponsors also evaluate the following:
1. grammar
2. spelling
3. sentence structure
4. organization

C. A good essay is more likely to make a favorable impression than a hastily written fast draft.

D. However, a highly polished essay that fails to convey significant information doesn't help reviewers gain additional insight about what makes you a unique person.

What types of essays should you avoid?

A. One type that isn't successful is one that simply lists information

1. found elsewhere in the application
2. adds little to the understanding of who are as an individual
3. tells what you do, not who you are.
4. you may be successful with this type if you
    a. discuss a wide range of activities
    b. convey a sense of your broad interests and abilities
    c. in the process, reveal something about yourself

B. Also avoid any essay that is so predictable and one-dimensional it becomes a stereotype
1. so common it doesn't distinguish you
2. examples:
    a. My summer trip.
    b. I learned a lot from sports.
    c. The D's: Determination, Discipline, & Desire for admission to your campus or for your scholarship award.
    d. I've always wanted to be a doctor.

C. When deciding what to write about, don't reject writing about these subjects listed above
1. The problem is not with the topic — it's with the predictable manner in its presentation.
2. Essays about these subjects can be successful if they elaborate on the insights gained from the experience & on the ways the experience influenced your outlook, activities, commitment or goals.

D. No matter what you choose to write about, your essay needs to provide an answer to this basic question:

What do we know about you as an individual?

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