Friday, October 02, 2009

Getting Personal

Next week is PA Week. I won't actually be at work October 6th through 12th, but I'm showing my spirit. As a touch of advocacy, a little public awareness, and also to give back to the pre-PA n00bs (whose ranks I only just left), I'm doing a little somethin-somethin I said I'd do, oh, over three years ago.

Some background: there's a discussion out on Teh Boardz about personal statements. This is the time of year when the not-really-very-early birds are submitting to CASPA. Long-time readers will remember when I was stressing about distilling my whole life down to 2970 characters, with spaces. A cursory search seems to show that it's now 500 words, so ha! to the new ones; mine was 518. I guess I just like small words.

Anyway, I contributed to a recent PA Forum discussion with some advice, and thought it fits the overall theme here. Especially if I finally post my own long-ago essay, like I once said I would. That seems like the kind of thing I can easily tease out into a few posts.

First, here's the wisdom I dropped on today's youth:

I believe that good personal statements won't tip the balance and turn a mediocre application into an interview, but bad ones can help admissions people weed out apps that are on the fence. Mine was awesome, but only because it told the story of who I was and how I came to be an applicant. That's really the goal, no more, no less. And it's amazing how many people mess it up.

On the other hand, get 1400 on the GRE and all the essay has to do is be written in English, and make some manner of sense.

(I then gave some specific advice about the essay which started off the thread, and brought it back around to the generalities.)

...I know what you're saying, but (and this advice is for everyone) you need to write for someone who has been looking at essays non-stop for two hours. Give that person a break, and stop trying to impress them. For this essay, you show facility by creating clarity. To quote Metallica, Nothing Else Matters.

Yeah, I brought Metallica into it. I'm insouciant online. That's a GRE word.

THIS WEEK: My essay, and the various forms of butt kicked by it

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