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Whether you’re applying for an undergraduate school or trying to get into graduate programs, many applications require a letter of intent or personal statement. Personal statements are one of the most important parts of the application and sometimes the deciding factor for admission.
Personal statements give a better understanding of who you are, beyond the rigid constraints of the “fill-in-the-blank” application.
Like many around this time of the year, I am finishing my graduate school applications. Looking for advice and guidance, I decided to compare different schools’ personal statement requirements and ask admissions offices for advice. Here’s what I found:
1. Be yourself
The Columbia Graduate School for Journalism encourages students to write about family, education, talents or passions. They want to hear about significant places or events in your life; about books you have read, people you have met or work you’ve done that has shaped the person you have become.
Schools want to know about you so don’t portray someone else in the essay. It’s almost like going on a first date. You want to display your best qualities but be yourself at the same time. You want the other person to like you, not someone you’re pretending to be.
2. Show diversity
Rayna Reid, a personal statement guru, received her undergraduate degree at Cornell, Masters at the University of Pennsylvania and is currently pursuing a Law degree at Columbia. Reid says a personal statement is really just a way to make the college fall in love with you.
“The essay is where you really get a chance to differentiate yourself from the other applicants,” she said. “Explain why they should accept you. What will you contribute?”
Sean Carpenter, University of Southern California Student Services Associate and undergraduate student, reiterates the importance of differentiating yourself from other applicants.
He works in the Annenberg School for Communication admissions office and deals with prospective students daily. Carpenter says USC or any major school want to see diversity.
“They want to see how you’re different from all other applicants, especially through diversity. What makes you unique out of all the other applicants?” Carpenter said, “Tell things that has helped you grow as a person and built your character.”
3. Do research and tailor each essay accordingly
Every college is different, so each personal statement should be different. Many students try to get away with having a universal essay but admissions departments will notice.
“Do research to give concrete reasons why you’re interested in particular program,” Carpenter said. “Speak with a faculty member that you’re interested in working with or doing research for and mention that in your statement. It would also be beneficial to say what classes you’ve taken that were relevant to the field of study.”
4. Be concise and follow directions
Make sure you read the directions carefully. One of the biggest red flags for an admissions office are students who don’t adhere to word limitations. Don’t give them a reason to throw out your application.
Believe it or not, there is a way to say everything you want in a page or less. If you need some help, ask several faculty members to read over your essay and give you feedback.
5. Go beyond your resume, GPA and test scores
Many students worry about how their GPA and test scores will affect the admissions process. The personal statement is an opportunity to explain any strengths or weaknesses in your application — such as changes in major, low GPA or lack of experience.
For instance, Reid was worried about not having a 4.0 GPA. Since Reid didn’t have the perfect GPA, she explained what she did with her time to make up for that fact. Being on the Varsity rowing team and a Teach for America Corp member are great examples of how devoting her time to other things made an impact on her GPA.
6. Tell a story
“Nothing makes someone fall in love like a good story. It does not have to be the next Pulitzer winner,” Reid said. “For college, one essay I wrote was about how I have often felt like my life was a movie and how Dirty Dancing (yes, the movie) changed my life. My sister who currently goes to Princeton even wrote about killing a fly!”
One of the worst things you can do is bore the admission officer. Make yourself memorable by telling a story about something distinctive from a creative or different angle.
With this advice, your personal statement will be the highlight of your application. Good luck!
Alexis Morgan is currently a senior at Penn State University. She has extensive experience in public relations, broadcast journalism, print journalism and production. Alexis truly believes if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. Follow Alexis’s career on her website.
Alexis Morgan, Columbia University, Cornell University, grad school, Penn State University, the application, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, COLLEGE CHOICE, VOICES FROM CAMPUS
Camp Counselor Cover Letter and Resume Examples
Camp counselor have a job that's a lot of fun (we've all seen the movies, right?) but also bears a weighty amount of responsibility. Counselors oversee large groups of children actively engaged in sports, crafts, and more, ensuring that all of the kids' needs - emotional and physical - are met.
Sound like the right job for you? If you are applying to be a camp counselor, review recommendations for the skills, talents, and experience to emphasize in your resume, as well as reading through the sample resume and cover letter below.
What to Highlight in Your Cover Letter and Resume
Highlight any experience with children on your resume - whether as a counselor, or in another role such as tutor, babysitter, or teacher - as well as any work history that demonstrates that you are responsible and can control and motivate large groups of kids.
Strong communication skills are also important: counselors need to clearly tell kids about rules and explain activities, and also need to be able to share important details with other staffers, the camp director, or even a child's parents.
Many camps require certain classes or certifications; you may, for instance, need to be certified to do CPR. List any relevant certifications clearly in your resume.
The following are examples of a resume and cover letter for a camp counselor. Review them for inspiration before writing your own job application documents.
Camp Counselor Cover Letter Example
Dear Barbra Chandler,
Please accept my enthusiastic application for the position of summer camp counselor. I would love the opportunity to be an enthusiastic, energetic counselor for Sunny Days Summer Camp. I believe that my experience with children and leadership skills would make me an excellent camp counselor for your summer program.
I am comfortable working with children of all ages. As a lifeguard for three summers, I led swimming lessons for children ranging from six to ten years old, and learned to cater my lessons to each age group. For example, I played instructive water games with my youngest students, and ran organized drills with my older clients. As a volunteer for the Special Olympics, I have experience working with children of different physical and mental capabilities. I am therefore confident that I can provide a fun but safe environment for campers of all ages and abilities.
I also have extensive leadership experience, which you state is necessary for any applicant. As captain of my high school football team for two years, I learned to be confident in giving direction to others while still remaining a friendly presence. I have gained further leadership as a tutor; once a week, I am in charge of leading a group of five students in a literary discussion. These experiences will help me be an excellent leader at your summer camp.
I am confident that my experience with children and my leadership abilities are the qualities you are looking for at Sunny Days Summer Camp. I have enclosed my resume, and will call within the next week to see if we might arrange a time to speak together. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.
121 Blaine Street
Hartford, CT 06115
Home: 434-334-1122 Cell: 999-909-0012
Camp Counselor Resume Example
Home: XXX-XXX-XXXX Cell: XXX-XXX-XXXX
121 Blaine Street
Hartford, CT 06115
Bachelor of Arts, Easton University, Hartford, CT May 20XX
Minor: Latin American Studies
Overall GPA 3.4
Somerville High School, May 20XX
Overall GPA 3.6
Dean’s List every semester
Tutor, Tutoring Tots Program, Hartford, CT
Sept. 20XX - Present
- Read, discuss, and analyze short works of fiction with five fourth-grade students weekly
- Create worksheets and activities to stimulate interest in each reading, and present brief PowerPoint presentations to provide historical and cultural context
Lifeguard, Somerville Town Pool, Somerville, MA
Summer 20XX – Summer 20XX
- Led group swimming lessons for children ages 6-10, providing instruction and support for beginning and intermediate swimmers
- Upheld the town pool’s safety standards, preventing swimming accidents through vigilant supervision
- Provided first aid care for on-site injuries
Volunteer, Special Olympics Training, Somerville, MA
Jan. 20XX - May 20XX
- Created swimming drills to improve diving skills of Special Olympics athletes of different abilities
- Coordinated annual volunteer banquet for 100 volunteers and athletes; booked venue, ordered food, and decorated venue each year
- Captain, Sommerville High School Football Team, Somerville, MA, 20XX-20XX
- Vice President, Sommerville High School Literary Magazine, Somerville, MA, 20XX-20XX
- First Aid Certification, Fall 20XX
- CPR/AED Certification, Fall 20XX
- American Red Cross Lifeguard Training, Summer 20XX