Pointers for Writing: College Application Essays.

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Purpose of the Application Essay

Pointers for Writing:College Application Essays

1UC does not receive letters of recommendations or secondary school reports like many independentcolleges/universities, so the personal statementsare very helpful to us in gaining a better understanding of the student as a person.

The Personal Statement is not a creative writing assignment. To make the best case possible for admission students will need to construct an argument and understand/acknowledge any counterarguments that can be made by readers based on the information provided in the completed application.

Purpose of the Application EssayThe information in the college application essay should add clarity, richness, and meaning to the information students provide elsewhere in the application forms.An application is not considered complete without a Personal Statement (UC) or response to a Common Application Prompt (specific private colleges).2UC does not receive letters of recommendations or secondary school reports like many independentcolleges/universities, so the personal statementsare very helpful to us in gaining a better understanding of the student as a person.

The Personal Statement is not a creative writing assignment. To make the best case possible for admission students will need to construct an argument and understand/acknowledge any counterarguments that can be made by readers based on the information provided in the completed application.

Purpose of the Essay cont.Admissions officers are looking for personal characteristics such as creativity; intellectual curiosity and achievement; unusual talent or ability; initiative; motivation; leadership; service to others; special potential; persistence; substantial experience with other cultures; ability to overcome or manage significant challenges.Use of the College Application Essay in the Comprehensive Review Process The college essay is one component of the application. An admissions decision will never be based on the content of a personal statement or prompt response alone.

4Some critics have charged that the personal statement is an opportunity for some students to emphasize personal hardship. The ability to overcome obstacles has been a factor considered in the UC admissions process for decades, and special consideration for students who come from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds is an explicit component of Regental policy.

Applicants who evidence an ability to succeed academically despite challenging circumstances have demonstrated personal qualities and a commitment to their own education that will directly affect their success in college. This would also be true for applicants without "hardship"who have created their own challenges with the aim of optimizing their own educational and personal growth.

The comprehensive review process, with its focus on academic achievement, seeks to understand how an applicant has responded to a challenging situation rather than focus on the situation itself.

The vast majority of students admitted to UC have no discernible hardship and come from affluent families and attend strong high schools. Additional AdviceTopics to emphasize and/or encourage . . . personal triumphs or challengesleadership opportunitiesoutside-the-classroom experiences (travel, youth groups, work, community service, etc.)coping with a genuine disabilityexperiences which have deepened or extended a students cultural identity51) This is not a creative writing sample - writing aboutone pivotal incident in your life, for example, will probably not provide campuses with the information they need.

2) Because background information is limited, short answer responses should not be used to address the applications most pressing issues. General GuidelinesApplicants should follow the word-count guidelines closely to stay within the strict word limits. The wiggle room which was permitted in previous years no longer exists. Encourage concision whenever possible (e.g., active verbs rather than adjectives).Students should proofread their personal statements very carefully for spelling and grammatical errors. Although admissions officers do not evaluate specifically for grammar or style, a poorly written personal statement is not an effective one.61) The two-page limit used in previous years no longer applies. Students should follow the word-count guidelines in answering the questions. Campuses will be sent all pages of a students personal statements. Additionally, under Question 1, students should be sure to address the version that matches their applicant level (freshman or transfer).

2) Dual Admissions Program applicants should answer the freshman question.

3) When providing feedback, counselors and teachers should request the application along with the personal statement draft. Encourage students to think critically about the applications content and to see their personal and academic experiences as worthy of reflection and analysis. Encourage them to connect the issues raised in the application to the responses provided in the personal statement.

4) Provide feedback on students ideas and the level of persuasiveness of their responses, not on the grammar and syntax, which students should address in the final proofreading stage and not in the drafting stage. When focused on grammar and syntax too early in the writing process, students tend to correct errors rather than revise prose for depth, clarity and persuasiveness. Make the Essay Come AliveStudents should . . . stay focused and stick to one topic per response.give concrete examples to support their assertions.use I statements; this is a personal essay.demonstrate sentence variety throughout the composition in order to develop momentum and promote reader engagement.

Pitfalls to AvoidStudents should not . . .rely upon quotationsfall back on generalitiesmake lists of accomplishments or activitiesraise questions without answersrepeat themselves (within one promptor across prompts)Electronic Submissions Today, virtually all students submit their applications on line, and they will find separate entry boxes for each question. A word counter helps applicants track the length of their responses. Still, essay coaches should encourage students to first draft their responses in a word processing program and save subsequent changes to disk. The UC site times out students; thus, changes in essays can be lost. Time limits may also apply to private college sites.9UC ApplicationPrompt #1:Describe the world you come from for example, your family, community or school and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations. UC ApplicationPrompt #2Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?Common Application PromptsEvaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact upon you.Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern, and its importance to you.Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work that has had an influence on you, and explain the influence.A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences add much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity of a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.Topic of your choice.New This Year (2011-2012)for Common Applications:

Word Limit: 500 words This is a large decrease from the 1,500 word limit in past years.For UC applications, the total word count is 1,000 words. A good rule of thumb is approximately a 300/700 split between the two prompts

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