the personal statement strategies for supporting students
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UC Counselor Conference 2010. The Personal Statement: Strategies for Supporting Students. Overview. Purpose of statement in UC admissions Necessary information and skills for a strong personal statement Understanding the task Preparing students to write Providing useful feedback.

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Presentation Transcript
  • Purpose of statement in UC admissions
  • Necessary information and skills for a strong personal statement
  • Understanding the task
  • Preparing students to write
  • Providing useful feedback
purpose of the personal statement4
Purpose of the Personal Statement
  • Part of UC’s comprehensive review process
  • Opportunity to provide information that supports and augments the review process
  • Enables applicant to make the best case possible for admission
purpose of the personal statement5
Purpose of the Personal Statement
  • Adds clarity, depth and meaning to information collected in other parts of the UC application
  • Completes the application for admission
  • An admission decision will never be based on the content of a personal statement alone
a message from uc faculty
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
the instructions
The Instructions
  • Three rationale statements and questions (prompts)
    • Your World
    • Potential to contribute
  • Word limits
    • Two Responses: 1000 word maximum
    • Recommended minimum of 350 words
the prompts
The Prompts
  • Rationale statement: provides context for the response
  • Question: provides direction of the response
  • (Rationale statement available only for Prompt #2
prompt 1

[Freshman Applicants] Describe the world you come from – for example, your family, community or school – and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

Prompt #1
potential to contribute 2
Potential to Contribute (#2)


  • The University welcomes the contributions and experience 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.
potential to contribute 212

Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?

Potential to Contribute (#2)
necessary skills
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
  • Write analytically: writing analytically means answering “why?”
  • Follow a writing process: brainstorming, drafting, feedback, revising, proofreading
important strategies
Important Strategies
  • Think like an admissions reader
  • Choose the extended prompt strategically
  • Know the difference between a short-answer response and an extended response
you can help students
You Can Help Students…
  • Understand the role of the personal statement in the admissions process
  • Recognize the relationship between reader and writer
  • Understand the reading and writing tasks of the personal statement
  • Use a writing process
  • Obtain appropriate feedback
before writing students should
Before Writing, Students Should…
  • Prepare a writing timeline
  • Complete the UC application
  • Use the “Levels of Questions” strategy for the application
  • Determine the extended-response question
why ask questions of the application
Why ask questions of the application?
  • Important to think critically about the application’s content
  • 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
  • Helps students fulfill the reader/writer pact
the reader writer relationship
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.
levels of questions strategy
Level one: What does it say?

Level two: What does it mean?

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

Levels of Questions Strategy
from prompt to topic to thesis
From Prompt to Topic to Thesis
  • Understand the key terms in the rationale statement and question
  • 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
  • Draft a thesis — a point of view on the topic that addresses “why”
question topic thesis example
Question/Topic/Thesis Example

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

determine response topics
Determine Response Topics
  • What topic will each response focus on?
    • One topic per 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.
readers want
Readers Want…
  • Responses that get right to the point
  • Specific, concrete examples and language
  • Adherence to word restrictions
  • Responses that complete the application
tips for short answer reponses
Avoid irrelevant background information

Understand meaning of key words

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

Tips for Short-Answer Reponses
readers want28
Readers Want…
  • 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
thesis statements
Concession (optional)




The “but” to the “yes”


The argument


The synthesis of supporting points


The “so what” of the argument; implications

As a result…

Thesis Statements
sample thesis prompt 2 extended
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.

writing process
Writing Process
  • Brainstorm using levels of questions
  • Draft
  • Get feedback — give readers at least a week to respond
  • Revise for organization, clarity and meaning
  • Proofread
how to give feedback to students
How to Give Feedback to Students
  • 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
  • Comment on ideas and the level of persuasiveness, not grammar
  • Help students find readers who resemble their target audience
additional resources for students
Additional Resources for Students
  • Online UC Personal Statement Tutorial for Students at
    • Six lessons that guide students through brainstorming, drafting, getting feedback and revising
    • Activities to help students start early and stay on task
    • Developed by EAOP admissions preparation specialists