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Your college application personal statement: from the perspective of a person that reads them

Have you ever wondered just who is reading that personal statement you have to submit (along with the rest of your material) when applying to a college or university. Here's a statement from one such reader (No, I didn't write it).
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"The key fact to know about your audience (and yes, you are writing for a specific audience and it doesn’t include Grandmother) is that they are bored. Tired. Jaded.

You are locked in your office from approximately November to March every year. You read applications day and night, and we're not exaggerating.You work ... trying to find the students that will be a good fit for your school, and vice versa. You respect every applicant, and you know how much time it takes to put an application together. You've read hundreds and hundreds of applications this year alone. They really start to blend together. 

Now, imagine that you're that same admission officer and that you've come across one really rad college essay. It's like the smell of fresh-baked cookies, making you sit up in your chair and smile (and reach for milk). The applicant took the time to make sure there were no spelling
mistakes. The applicant really thought about what she wanted to say. She wrote from the heart and conveyed a sense of personality. She told a compelling story."
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OK, that was the quote. However, let's consider a few things.  It could be that not all applicant readers like the smell of fresh-baked cookies (or milk for that matter). The spelling part is easy. But don't rely on spell check. It might not recognize that you wrote "where" instead of "were" since they're both spelled correctly.  A person can "write from the heart" but suppose your heart is really in traveling to Australia to work in the outback?
 
What about a "sense of personality"?  Hmmm....it could be that your personality feels different from day to day, so don't write in your "personal voice" if you just went through a difficult time.
 
Now, compelling stories can be...compelling!  However, what's compelling to one person may not be to another. Definitely get some feedback from several people to see whether they feel your story is both compelling and compelling in a way that would be of interest to the reader.  Winning a hot dog eating contest probably won't count. Another frequent mistake is that you tailor your essay for one particular college, and use it for 10 colleges. Also, some variables to consider that you probably have no control over are the following:
 
1. The time of day your essay is read: is it the fourth or fifth essay or the 150th?
2. How much of a stickler for proper, standard writing conventions is the reader?  Is he or she a grammar snob, and reads the following:  "My two brothers or my sister are good examples of role models." Sounds correct, right?  It's not. Want to know why? Look it up.
3. You decide to write a creative statement. That's fine. But some readers may truly enjoy creativity and others may not.
 
So, it's probably best just to be yourself and write in your own voice, but make sure you get feedback from people you trust.
 
Or as one comedian once said about acting: "If you want to be a great actor, you need to be sincere. And if you can fake that, you have it made."

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