At the end of last month I compared certain personal statements and application essays to my grandson’s efforts at expression and identified 5 fatal flaws in your essays:
- Lack of substance – nothing demonstrating the qualities claimed.
- Failure to answer the question.
- Muddled thinking.
Let’s explore them over the next several days one by one, starting with Lack of Substance.
Writing about nothing tends to bore, like a trite sitcom or movie with no plot . They lack substance and so will your essay if it isn’t based on:
- Substantive self-reflection.
- Use of specifics, examples, and anecdotes.
- Willingness to reveal your thought processes and feelings.
So start your writing process with self-knowledge. You don’t have to search the internet or a large library. Start with your experiences and your dreams. Search your head and your heart. That is where the substance of a good personal statement is stored.
Then use anecdotes, specifics, and examples to reveal what’s in your heart and show that your dreams are grounded in experience. Good examples can bring your essays to life and engage the reader.
At the same time, recognize that essays with only examples and anecdotes don’t reveal your thought processes and consequently are also superficial. Make sure you balance your stories with insight and analysis.
Avoid Fatal Flaw #1. Let your essays live with self reflection and astute use of examples balanced by analysis.