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1 The Personal Statement: Strategies for Supporting Students UC Counselor Conference 2005.

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Presentation on theme: "1 The Personal Statement: Strategies for Supporting Students UC Counselor Conference 2005."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 The Personal Statement: Strategies for Supporting Students UC Counselor Conference 2005

2 2 Overview Purpose of statement in UC admissions Purpose of statement in UC admissions Necessary information and skills for a strong personal statement Necessary information and skills for a strong personal statement Understanding the task Understanding the task Preparing students to write Preparing students to write Providing useful feedback Providing useful feedback

3 3 Purpose of the Personal Statement

4 4 Part of UC’s comprehensive review process Part of UC’s comprehensive review process Opportunity to provide information that supports and augments the review process Opportunity to provide information that supports and augments the review process Enables applicant to make the best case possible for admission Enables applicant to make the best case possible for admission

5 5 Adds clarity, depth and meaning to information collected in other parts of the UC application Adds clarity, depth and meaning to information collected in other parts of the UC application Completes the application for admission Completes the application for admission An admission decision will never be based on the content of a personal statement alone An admission decision will never be based on the content of a personal statement alone Purpose of the Personal Statement

6 6 A Message from UC Faculty While it is acceptable to receive feedback or helpful suggestions, applicants’ personal statements should reflect their own ideas and be written by them alone While it is acceptable to receive feedback or helpful suggestions, applicants’ personal statements should reflect their own ideas and be written by them alone

7 7 Understanding the Task

8 8 The Instructions Three rationale statements and questions (prompts) Three rationale statements and questions (prompts) Academic achievement Academic achievement Potential to contribute Potential to contribute Open-ended Open-ended Word limits Word limits Two 200-word responses Two 200-word responses One 600-word extended response One 600-word extended response Choice of extended response Choice of extended response

9 9 The Prompts Rationale statement: provides context for the response Rationale statement: provides context for the response Question: provides direction of the response Question: provides direction of the response

10 10 Focus on Academic Achievement (#1) Rationale: The University seeks to enroll students who take initiative in pursuing their education (for example, developing a special interest in science, language or the performing arts, or becoming involved in special programs such as EAOP, MESA, Puente, or COSMOS). This question seeks to understand a student’s motivation and dedication to learning. The University seeks to enroll students who take initiative in pursuing their education (for example, developing a special interest in science, language or the performing arts, or becoming involved in special programs such as EAOP, MESA, Puente, or COSMOS). This question seeks to understand a student’s motivation and dedication to learning.

11 11 Question: [Freshman Applicants] How have you taken advantage of the educational opportunities you have had to prepare for college? [Freshman Applicants] How have you taken advantage of the educational opportunities you have had to prepare for college? [Transfer Applicants] What is your intended major? Discuss how your interest in the field developed and describe any experience you have had in the field — such as volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities — and what you have gained from your involvement. [Transfer Applicants] What is your intended major? Discuss how your interest in the field developed and describe any experience you have had in the field — such as volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities — and what you have gained from your involvement. Focus on Academic Achievement (#1)

12 12 Potential to Contribute (#2) Rationale: The University welcomes the contributions each student brings to the campus learning community. This question seeks to determine an applicant’s academic or creative interests and potential to contribute to the vitality of the University. The University welcomes the contributions each student brings to the campus learning community. This question seeks to determine an applicant’s academic or creative interests and potential to contribute to the vitality of the University.

13 13 Potential to Contribute (#2) Question: Tell us about a talent, experience, contribution or personal quality you will bring to the University of California. Tell us about a talent, experience, contribution or personal quality you will bring to the University of California.

14 14 Open-Ended (#3) Rationale: This question seeks to give students the opportunity to share important aspects of their schooling or their lives — such as their personal circumstances, family experiences and opportunities that were or were not available at their school or college — which may not have been sufficiently addressed elsewhere in the application. This question seeks to give students the opportunity to share important aspects of their schooling or their lives — such as their personal circumstances, family experiences and opportunities that were or were not available at their school or college — which may not have been sufficiently addressed elsewhere in the application.

15 15 Open-Ended (#3) Question: Is there anything you would like us to know about you or your academic record that you have not had the opportunity to describe elsewhere in this application? Is there anything you would like us to know about you or your academic record that you have not had the opportunity to describe elsewhere in this application?

16 16 Preparing Students to Write

17 17 Necessary Skills Think critically: even though students will be writing about themselves, they need to step back and look at their experiences from the outside Think critically: even though students will be writing about themselves, they need to step back and look at their experiences from the outside Write analytically: writing analytically means answering “why?” Write analytically: writing analytically means answering “why?” Follow a writing process: brainstorming, drafting, feedback, revising, proofreading Follow a writing process: brainstorming, drafting, feedback, revising, proofreading

18 18 Important Strategies Think like an admissions reader Think like an admissions reader Choose the extended prompt strategically Choose the extended prompt strategically Know the difference between a short- answer response and an extended response Know the difference between a short- answer response and an extended response

19 19 You Can Help Students… Understand the role of the personal statement in the admissions process Understand the role of the personal statement in the admissions process Recognize the relationship between reader and writer Recognize the relationship between reader and writer Understand the reading and writing tasks of the personal statement Understand the reading and writing tasks of the personal statement Use a writing process Use a writing process Obtain appropriate feedback Obtain appropriate feedback

20 20 Before Writing, Students Should… Prepare a writing timeline Prepare a writing timeline Complete the UC application Complete the UC application Use the “Levels of Questions” strategy for the application Use the “Levels of Questions” strategy for the application Determine the extended-response question Determine the extended-response question

21 21 Why ask questions of the application? Why ask questions of the application? Important to think critically about the application’s content Important to think critically about the application’s content Helps students recognize personal and academic experiences as worthy of reflection and analysis Helps students recognize personal and academic experiences as worthy of reflection and analysis Connects the issues raised by the application to the responses provided in the personal statement Connects the issues raised by the application to the responses provided in the personal statement Helps students fulfill the reader/writer pact Helps students fulfill the reader/writer pact

22 22 The Reader-Writer Relationship When readers read critically (as admissions readers will do), they are asking questions, making observations and constructing interpretations of the information they are reading. A writer fulfills the pact with the reader by addressing these questions, observations and interpretations in the personal statement. Students can anticipate many of these questions, observations and interpretations by becoming critical readers of their own completed applications.

23 23 Levels of Questions Strategy Level one: What does it say? Level one: What does it say? Level two: What does it mean? Level two: What does it mean? Level three: Why/how does it matter? Level three: Why/how does it matter? Answers to L1 questions provide details in paragraphs Answers to L2 questions are topic sentences of paragraphs Answers to L3 questions are thesis statements of essays

24 24 From Prompt to Topic to Thesis Understand the key terms in the rationale statement and question Understand the key terms in the rationale statement and question Students should know their own questions and possible questions readers may raise Students should know their own questions and possible questions readers may raise Develop a topic — the subject area — that will be discussed in the response Develop a topic — the subject area — that will be discussed in the response Draft a thesis — a point of view on the topic that addresses “why” Draft a thesis — a point of view on the topic that addresses “why”

25 25 Our question: How have you taken advantage of the educational opportunities you have had to prepare for college? Your topic: The role of Pre-College Academy in academic preparation Your thesis: Asserts why and how PCA was a significant preparation experience Question/Topic/Thesis Example

26 26 Determine Response Topics What topic will each response focus on? What topic will each response focus on? One topic per prompt! One topic per prompt! Is this topic the most persuasive? Does it answer the most pressing questions related to this prompt? Is this topic the most persuasive? Does it answer the most pressing questions related to this prompt? The prompt with the most questions associated with it should be the extended response. The prompt with the most questions associated with it should be the extended response.

27 27 Short-Answer Strategies

28 28 Readers Want… Responses that get right to the point Responses that get right to the point Specific, concrete examples and language Specific, concrete examples and language Adherence to word restrictions Adherence to word restrictions Responses that complete the application Responses that complete the application

29 29 Tips for Short-Answer Reponses Avoid irrelevant background information Avoid irrelevant background information Understand meaning of key words Understand meaning of key words Ensure that response addresses what the prompt asks for Ensure that response addresses what the prompt asks for Make sure each sentence advances the argument Avoid a collection of facts or examples Use concrete details and make them clear, rich and meaningful

30 30 Extended-Response Strategies

31 31 Readers Want… Organization and clarity, provided by a persuasive thesis, analytical topic sentences, well-chosen examples Organization and clarity, provided by a persuasive thesis, analytical topic sentences, well-chosen examples A response that supports and completes — by clarifying and contextualizing — the information in the application A response that supports and completes — by clarifying and contextualizing — the information in the application

32 32 Thesis Statements Concession (optional) Concession (optional) Assertion Assertion Reasons Reasons Significance Significance The “but” to the “yes” Although… The argument This… The synthesis of supporting points Because… The “so what” of the argument; implications As a result…

33 33 Sample Thesis — Prompt 1 (Extended) Although my school does not offer Advanced Placement Spanish, I wanted to master Spanish so that I could enrich my understanding of the literature of Latin America and prepare for my eventual career goal of becoming a diplomat. I prepared on my own for the Advanced Placement Spanish exam, and as a result have become a more disciplined and engaged student in all of my classes.

34 34 Sample Thesis — Prompt 2 (Extended) Although I do not plan to major in veterinary science, my experiences raising and caring for animals have helped me understand how important animals are to human well-being. Because I have seen the result of human disregard for other forms of life, I am better able to appreciate the importance of ethical treatment for all. As a result, I will be able to contribute my knowledge of animal preservation and my skill as an organizer to the campus environment.

35 35 Sample Thesis — Prompt 3 (Extended) Although my parents are now both employed, my family has had to struggle in order to survive. I am the oldest of six and, because our family income does not support us adequately, I work part-time to provide food and shelter for us. Working has taught me to stay disciplined and to use my time appropriately. As a result, I have been able to maintain high academic achievement while supporting my family.

36 36 Writing Process Brainstorm using levels of questions Brainstorm using levels of questions Draft Draft Get feedback — give readers at least a week to respond Get feedback — give readers at least a week to respond Revise for organization, clarity and meaning Revise for organization, clarity and meaning Proofread Proofread

37 37 How to Give Feedback to Students Request the application and the personal statement, not just the statement Request the application and the personal statement, not just the statement Ask students to provide you with a list of questions they would like you to answer Ask students to provide you with a list of questions they would like you to answer Comment on ideas and the level of persuasiveness, not grammar Comment on ideas and the level of persuasiveness, not grammar Help students find readers who resemble their target audience Help students find readers who resemble their target audience

38 38 Additional Resources for Students Online UC Personal Statement Tutorial for Students at Online UC Personal Statement Tutorial for Students at Six lessons that guide students through brainstorming, drafting, getting feedback and revising Six lessons that guide students through brainstorming, drafting, getting feedback and revising Activities to help students start early and stay on task Activities to help students start early and stay on task Developed by EAOP admissions preparation specialists Developed by EAOP admissions preparation specialists


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