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Application tips for personal statements and resumes

Create a “College File”: keep brochures, college information and, in particular, a detailed record in a pocket folder or ring binder of where and when you applied.

Keep all correspondence you receive from the universities in your file and copies of all your applications and supporting materials.

Tackling your resume, personal statement, and all those essays …

For some of you, your resume and personal statement will be the first time you have really focused your writing skills on yourself.

This can be a difficult task. Your resume, is an easier place to start as it is a factual summary of your accomplishments. Nevertheless, there are rules to producing a respectable resume.

Your resume must include:

Ÿ Your name, address, contact details, phone number and e-mail address;

Ÿ A summary of your education: school, qualifications and awards;

Ÿ Your work and volunteer experience: name of company or organisation, job, title, duties and skills required by the position;

Ÿ Your interests: sports, hobbies, pursuits, music and community work (should reflect that you are independent/team player, well-rounded, etc);

Ÿ References: names and contact details (previous employers, teachers, coaches, or adults who have known you for a long time).

Tips:

Ÿ Keep it concise and comprehensive. It should be no longer than 2 pages.

Ÿ Use white, manila or pale-coloured paper, so as not to distract.

Ÿ Use headings, spacing and fonts to make the information easy to read.

Ÿ Use reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent experience. Proof read!

Now to your personal –statement …

To help you reflect on yourself, your interests, goals, dreams and beliefs, consider the following questions:

Ÿ List 5 people who have influenced you.

Ÿ What do you read?

Ÿ Discuss a failure that taught you something.

Ÿ What questions have you always wanted answered, and why?

Ÿ What is the most creative thing you have ever done?

Ÿ Discuss your definition of happiness.

Ÿ List three virtues that you admire and respect. Why?

Ÿ Describe three significant lessons you have learned.

Ÿ Give three quotes that mean something to you and explain why.

Ÿ Describe your greatest success.

Ÿ What is an education supposed to provide?

Ÿ List five special things about you.

Ÿ What is your “one sentence” philosophy of life?

Ÿ Name five places that impress you and explain why.

Ÿ What is your favourite social activity?

Ÿ Describe yourself to a stranger.

Ÿ Describe a fear you conquered.

Ÿ List three goals you have in life.

Ÿ What do your friends say they like most about you?

Ÿ What is your favourite pastime, sport or hobby and why?

Ÿ What have you done to improve things for others?

Ÿ What is the most creative thing you have ever done?

Ÿ What type of college do you want to attend and why?

Ÿ What type of college do you not want to attend and why?

Ÿ What or who is most important to you?

Ÿ What do you want to do after university?

Ÿ Do you enjoy working in groups?

Ÿ Do you like to be with other people most of the time?

Ÿ What possessions are most important to you?

As a sample outline, your personal statement would look something like this:

Paragraph 1:

General opening remarks — what you want to study and why

Paragraph 2:

Say something about yourself as a learner/academic.

Mention work experience and anything that has a direct bearing on your application.

Show yourself to be a thoughtful, reflective, all around student.

Paragraph 3:

Say something about your wider contributions to school life — show yourself to be someone who sees his or her whole learning environment as important and meaningful, that you are the kind of person who has made a contribution to that environment and will likely make a contribution at university.

Paragraph 4:

Say something about life outside school — your outside interests.

Paragraph 5:

Make some brief concluding remarks, pulling together paragraphs one to four.

Regardless of whether you are writing your personal statement or more general essays, some basics apply:

Ÿ Understand the purpose of the essay and keep the reader in mind.

Ÿ Answer the question. Get your points across quickly and accurately.

Ÿ Tell a concrete story that reveals something important about you.

Ÿ Tell it in your own voice and don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Ÿ Write in desirable tones about yourself. Don’t make yourself sound desperate or insecure.

Ÿ Be honest! Only include things you are prepared to talk about in an interview.

Don’t:

Ÿ Try anything silly, cute or outrageous.

Ÿ Be philosophical or profound.

Ÿ Show off.

Ÿ Don’t use negative language.

Ÿ Use your essay to describe all your wonderful attributes or to apologise for your shortcomings.

Ÿ Exceed the suggested length.

Ÿ Leave it until the last moment, but do prepare a draft, leave it for a time and come back to it and do have it proofread by a friend or family member.

Do talk about:

Ÿ Why you have chosen the courses you have chosen.

Ÿ What interests you in particular about the courses you have chosen.

Ÿ Particular interests you have in your current studies.

Ÿ Any job, work experience placement or voluntary work you have done, particularly if relevant to your chosen subject.

Ÿ Other achievements, prizes, accomplishments.

Ÿ Your future plans.

Ÿ Any studies you are taking that do not have an exam.

Ÿ If you are taking a gap year, what you will be doing, why and how it will relate to your studies.

And remember the ten most common mistakes made in applying to university?

1. Allowing grammatical and spelling errors to slip through. Get someone to proofread your application!

2. Sending in application forms marred by crossed-out words and whitened-over sentences.

3. Selecting a major the institution does not offer.

Be sure to check websites and catalogues carefully to ensure what majors the college offers. Similar majors can have different titles from one college to the next.

4. Mentioning every school-sponsored club or activity you ever had contact with, instead of recent ones, which you have participated in on a regular basis.

5. Failing to mention in your personal statement what you can contribute to the institution.

6. Not addressing, either in the personal essay or in a cover letter, why certain grades are poor (illness etc).

7. Failing to make certain that all credentials required by the college have been received; transcripts, recommendations and test scores in particular.

8. Failing to send in the processing fee with the application.

9. Submitting the application after the stated deadline.

10. Forgetting to take photocopies of your application and supporting documents before sending them in. If your application is lost, you are sunk!

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Published Jan 10, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 9, 2013 at 7:17 pm)

Time to get organized!

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