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If you don’t do what they ask, the reader may wonder if you will be able to follow directions in their program.
You may want to start by just getting something—anything—on paper. Think about the questions we asked above and the prompt for the essay, and then write for 15 or 30 minutes without stopping.
What do you want your audience to know after reading your essay? Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, organization, or anything else. For help getting started, see our handout on brainstorming. Find the most relevant, memorable, concrete statements and focus in on them.
The essay may take two forms: This is a hard essay to write.
It’s probably much more personal than any of the papers you have written for class because it’s about you, not World War II or planaria.
By simply talking about those events in your own voice, you put the emphasis on you rather than the event or idea.
Look at this anecdote: During the night shift at Wirth Memorial Hospital, a man walked into the Emergency Room wearing a monkey costume and holding his head. One of the nurses ascertained that he had been swinging from tree branches in a local park and had hit his head when he fell out of a tree.The narrative should reflect your perspective, experiences, thoughts, and emotions.Focusing on events or ideas may give your audience an indirect idea of how these things became important in forming your outlook, but many others have had equally compelling experiences.Find what is specific to you about the ideas that generated those platitudes and express them more directly.Eliminate irrelevant issues (“I was a track star in high school, so I think I’ll make a good veterinarian.”) or issues that might be controversial for your reader (“My faith is the one true faith, and only nurses with that faith are worthwhile,” or “Lawyers who only care about money are evil.”).It should reflect how you arrived at your professional goals, why the program is ideal for you, and what you bring to the program.Don’t make this a deadline task—now’s the time to write, read, rewrite, give to a reader, revise again, and on until the essay is clear, concise, and compelling. You know most of the things you need to say already. One of the basic tasks of the application essay is to follow the directions.Your readers may have thousands of essays to read, many or most of which will come from qualified applicants.This essay may be your best opportunity to communicate with the decision makers in the application process, and you don’t want to bore them, offend them, or make them feel you are wasting their time.This handout will help you write and revise the personal statement required by many graduate programs, internships, and special academic programs.Because the application essay can have a critical effect upon your progress toward a career, you should spend significantly more time, thought, and effort on it than its typically brief length would suggest.