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smile1's avatar

How should I start writing my personal statement?

Asked by smile1 (493points) November 7th, 2010

This statement is for college admissions.

First, perhaps a little about myself. I was born and raised in taiwan until 6 yearsold, where I moved to the us. My mom (taiwanese) is handicapped with post-polio. My dad (american), stays at home, and doesn’t work. My mom despite her handicap, and lack of english skills, went to college when we moved to the us and got her BS, and now is our main source of income. I go to a pretty good high school, take rigorous courses. i am involved with robotics club, play the violin in school.

I cant think of a good topic. i can think about how my mom being handicapped has made me who I am, but I have no idea how to start…!

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13 Answers

BarnacleBill's avatar

Perhaps you could find a quote or a literary passage that relates to something about your your mother, and relate your family and life to that.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I can see that you have been inspired by your mother, and that is a fine thing. Congratulations to her for having raised such a devoted child, and congratulations to you for being that child. So I can see that you would want to include a few words about her in your essay / statement, and that is to your credit.

But the statement should be about you, so that’s the topic to lead off with. Personally, I see a lot of interest to start with in the marriage of “I play the violin” and “I’m involved with the robotics club”. Anyone in college admissions is going to see that roundedness in you, and you should emphasize that, I think—along with your good grades, your high SAT scores… and your inspiration for it all.

You don’t want to lead off with any information about your mother’s handicap or challenge for several reasons. First, it detracts from the main topic: you! Second, it could seem that you are playing a ‘sympathy card’, which could backfire. And even if that worked, your mother would not be as proud that her difficulties helped pave your way, as she would be knowing that you arrived where you wanted to get on your own merits.

And really work on your English. We see a lot of kids come here day after day whose spelling, syntax and grammar are atrocious, and who respond with “why should i care cuz fluther dont mean nothing”, no matter how gently they’re encouraged to try harder to make a good impression. Don’t be one of them. Work extra hard on your writing. I think the rest of your presentation will take care of itself.

roundsquare's avatar

We can’t tell you what to write. What do you love? What do you hate? What do you want to do in college? Whats happened in your life? Whats made you who you are?

Writing this should be fun. Express something you want to express.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I am writing my personal statement for a PhD program right now and there are a couple of helpful tips:
1. Sit down and start writing…even if it feels and reads wrong, let it all come out like a vomiting session…
2. Leave it alone, come back to it (if possible) some weeks later, look at it w/fresh eyes and begin the editing process (it’s the most important part)
3. See if when you read it, you keep thinking about something else but you feel it’s just inappropriate to put in a personal statement – put that in.
4. Keep editing, have 5 people read it and make suggestions.

smile1's avatar

@CyanoticWasp: thanks for the great insight! I agree…perhaps writing about my mother will make it seem like Im trying to get sympathy…

Im contemplating on the experience of my parents constantly trying to obtain a better education. How in taiwan it was too restrictive, and how here its more open, but less challenging, and how I have managed to find a balance in between. Also, how my family’s struggle for better education has made me appreciate and understand the value education…I have a paragraph done… but dont know where to go from here…

smile1's avatar

For example, I explained how my family moved to the us purely for a better education system, and how we didnt find that until I got into high school, after several moves.

stardust's avatar

I agree with @CyanoticWasp
This is about you.
Why do you want to take the course you’re applying for? Are you passionate about it? Let it flow from there.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Are you attempting to write a personal statement or a biography? If it is the former, it seems better to start with your vision….where you want to be at the end of your life. Then support it with what you are doing or are planning to accomplish it. Personal stories that support the reasons for this motivation can always be added in.

Jeruba's avatar

I agree with @Pied_Pfeffer: look forward, not back, and tell what you want to accomplish and how you hope to get there.

Choose the parts of your biography that show what helped shape your goals and provided you with the inner resources to achieve then.

josie's avatar

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

smile1's avatar

I’m trying for a personal statement…

Here is the prompt, that I have to go by:

Discuss how your family’s experience or cultural history enriched you or presented you with opportunities or challenges in pursuing your educational goals.

- OR -
Tell us a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.

roundsquare's avatar

@smile1 Ahh… that changes things. In that case, your mother’s history can be very relevant, but still make sure its about you. Everything you say about your mother should speak about who you are…

Also, as a side note, once you know what you want to say, experiment with different styles. My best college essay had a slightly unique format… it was the 7th or 8th edition of that essay and I sat down to write it one day and it just came out. Give yourself time for that to happen.

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