The Personal Statement

This workshop provides a guide for writing the personal statement, an under-appreciated and delicate genre of writing that takes on a daunting level of importance in students’ college application process. For many, the prospect of writing about themselves feels embarrassing or unnatural, and even for the most confident, the personal essay poses a puzzling challenge: how do I best encapsulate my personality and potential in the 650-word space of the Common Application?


With the right approach, however, the personal statement is a valuable opportunity for the kind of self-reflection that students caught up in the whirlwind of applications desperately need. It’s a chance for kids to think through what parts of their identity they would like to carry forward into college, and to acknowledge the ways they have grown and imagine the direction they could grow in next. 


While there are different types of personal statements that can achieve these goals, in most cases it boils down to telling a story; mining these reflections for the specific narratives that express a student’s strengths and hopes without becoming overly didactic or trite. The cardinal rule, itself a cliche, holds true: show, don’t tell! With this in mind, the workshop will focus on a mixture of writing exercises aimed at prompting reflection and experimentation with a number of different story options, review of successful essays, and technical work on structure and sentence-level grammar as needed. Group lessons and activities are balanced with individual work, as each student develops and revises an essay he or she can be proud of by the end of the week.

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The Personal Statement
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