"Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you."

(Respond in 250-500 words)

2012-13 Common Application

CALENDAR of early*bird classes
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{:.writing the self


Many students struggle with the personal statement because it requires a different style and tone than writing for school. In my experience, it's both harder and easier than they imagine. It's easier because a powerful essay involves illustrating one moment in extraordinary detail. The challenge comes in selecting a moment and linking it to long-term goals. For many students, the personal statement is a first introduction to college-level writing.

Most schools and all selective schools, including UTK, require several essays. Increasingly, a student's written work serves as the basis for both admissions decisions and financial aid as many schools do away with the paperwork of additional scholarship applications.

{:.the 'bad' essay myth


Truly "bad" essays are rare. An essay fails when it is generic or repetitive. Discussing church mission trips that "changed my life forever" or "My Mom is Amazing" 'fail' because the information they share about the student is not unique. The experience of the mission trip, or the relationship with a parent is authentic and meaningful, but a generic essay does not do the work it should. It does not set the student apart from other applicants.

Admissions officers are like the rest of us, they get bored reading the same thing all day. A well-written essay is rewarded in admissions in ways that vary by each application process. Some schools mark comments, others assign a numerical value to determine admits. Some schools attach a 'merit number' to each student they admit. This number is shared with the Office of Financial Aid and it can predict how much of a student's demonstrated need will be met if the school is not able to meet 100% of every admitted student's demonstrated need. Translation: 500 words can easily make the difference between $500 or $5,000 in aid.

To give an example of how this works: if an aid package is not adequate and a student requests reconsideration, the 'merit number' may, at some schools, play a role in the school's ability to adjust and improve the aid package.

Parents choose me to work with their son or daughter for a variety of reasons. Here are some commone ones:

  1. Low test scores or erratic grades make the student a "borderline" admit.
  2. Students are seeking admission to selective institutions.
  3. Financial aid and scholarships are necessary.
  4. Remove stress from parent-student relationship.