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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
Founded in 1789, Georgetown is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit institute of higher learning in the United States. A private research university, it is located in the historic Georgetown neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Georgetown offers Bachelor’s programs in Georgetown College, the School of Nursing and Health Studies, the Robert Emmett McDonough School of Business, the School of Continuing Studies, and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. Across these schools, undergraduates thrive in diverse majors such as business, government, international relations, foreign languages, linguistics, philosophy, theology, and science and engineering.
Georgetown College offers a joint-degree program with the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University, in a science and engineering program in which students receive both an A.B. degree from Georgetown and B.S. degree from Columbia in five years.
Georgetown College also boasts a number of new majors and minors, including Major in African American Studies, Major in Justice and Peace, Minor in Korean, Minor in Philosophy and Bioethics, Minor in Business Administration, and Minor in Education, Inquiry, and Justice.
The college is also home to the prestigious Bakers Program, founded by George F. Baker in 1973 to cultivate young business leaders. Students may apply to the program in their sophomore years.
Applying to Georgetown
Undergraduate admission at Georgetown is highly competitive, with an acceptance rate of 16.5% for the class of 2020. 2,188 students were placed on the waitlist, and 141 were offered admission from this pool.
Unlike many of the top-tier colleges, Georgetown has a unique application and does not accept the Common Application. The first step involves filling out and submitting the Georgetown Application, which consists of your basic information, including name, address, parent information, etc. Next, you will create a profile to work on the rest of your application. Be sure to use your full legal name here. Through this profile, you will complete the Georgetown Request for Secondary School Report, Teacher’s Report, and Mid Year School Report. You are required to send one letter of recommendation each from your guidance counselor and a teacher. Once you fill out these requests using their full names and email addresses, Georgetown will email them to complete the recommendation documents on your behalf.
Through your profile, you will also complete the Application Supplement. Because Georgetown does not accept the Common Application, these are the only writing samples the admissions committee will see, so, as with your other admissions essays, plan them thoroughly and carefully.
All applicants must answer the first two prompts:
Brieﬂy (approximately one-half page) discuss the signiﬁcance to you of the school or summer activity in which you have been most involved.
In this prompt, you should elaborate on one of your most important or influential extracurricular activities. While you will have the opportunity to discuss the full range of your activities in your application, this is a chance to highlight one that is particularly meaningful to you.
All Applicants: As Georgetown is a diverse community, the Admissions Committee would like to know more about you in your own words. Please submit a brief essay, either personal or creative, which you feel best describes you.
This is a chance to talk about you. Georgetown wants to know who you are. What defines you? What makes you unique? For more tips on how to respond to this prompt, check our Georgetown essay breakdown.
The third prompt is school specific, so only respond to the one for the school to which you are applying:
Applicants to the McDonough School of Business: Discuss the factors that have inﬂuenced your interest in studying business.
Applicants to the School of Nursing and Health Studies: Describe the factors that have inﬂuenced your interest in studying health care. Please speciﬁcally address your intended major (Health Care Management & Policy, Human Science, International Health, or Nursing).
Applicants to Georgetown College: Please relate your interest in studying at Georgetown University to your goals. How do these thoughts relate to your chosen course of study? (If you are applying to major in the FLL or in a Science, please speciﬁcally address those interests.)
Applicants to the Walsh School of Foreign Service: Brieﬂy discuss a current global issue, indicating why you consider it important and what you suggest should be done to deal with it.
The prompts for students applying to the School of Business, the School of Nursing, and Georgetown College essentially concern why you plan to pursue your chosen program or major. The prompt for students applying to the School of Foreign Service is a bit different. For this one, you will need to do a little research and come across as well-informed. You will need to provide a clear and persuasive argument.
Georgetown offers a non-binding Early Action program, meaning students who are accepted under this program are not required to matriculate at Georgetown. However, if you apply Early Action, you may not apply to another school under a binding Early Decision or a restrictive, or single-choice Early Action program. You may still apply to other schools under non-binding Early Action programs, and have until May 1st to make your final choice. Georgetown does not deny admission to Early Action applicants; instead, if you are not accepted, your admissions decision will be deferred to the Regular Decision pool.
Application materials, including recommendations, transcripts, and supplements, are due November 1st for Early Action candidates and January 10th for Regular Decision Candidates. Your financial aid forms are due February 1st. The mid-year transcript and report, which your guidance counselor should submit on your behalf, is due February 10th for both Early Action and Regular Decision candidates.
Early Action applicants will receive their admissions decisions December 15th, and Regular Decision applicants will receive their decisions April 1st.
Tuition and Financial Aid
Tuition costs $49,968 per year, and $69,770 including room, board, and other expenses, for students in Georgetown College, the School of Business, and the School of Foreign Service. For the School of Nursing, tuition costs $49,968 per year and around $70,150 including other expenses. For students enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies at the School of Continuing Studies, tuition costs $23,616, with a total cost of $46,750 annually.
Georgetown admissions are need-blind, meaning the university admits and enrolls students without regard to their financial circumstances. Students may receive need-based aid, as well as merit scholarships.
All applicants are required to have an interview with an alum through Georgetown Alumni Admissions Program (AAP). Once the admissions office receives your application, you will be provided with contact information for an interviewer in your area. You are responsible for making the interview arrangements. These interviews are available in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and many foreign countries. If an interview is not available in your area, you will not be penalized for your inability to interview. Interview assignments begin in September, so send in your application as soon as possible so as to secure an interview assignment as soon as possible. You will typically be assigned an interview two to four weeks after the admissions office receives your application. Remember that this is a great opportunity not only for the interviewer to learn more about you and your talents, but for you to find out more about Georgetown.
You are required to submit either the SAT(code 5244) or the ACT (code 0668). Although SAT Subject Tests are not required as part of the Georgetown admissions process, you are strongly encouraged to submit scores from three subject tests as well.
For some programs, Georgetown suggests or requires that you have taken certain high school courses:
Math or Science Concentration: four years of mathematics and at least three years of science.
Nursing Program: at least three years of mathematics and one year each of biology and chemistry. Physics also is recommended.
Business Program: a minimum of three years of math, through advanced algebra and trigonometry, as calculus is required of all students in the program. Two years of natural science are recommended. Because computers are used extensively in the curriculum, a course in computer science is highly recommended.
Language or Foreign Service Program: recommended to have a background in a modern foreign language or Latin.
You are welcome to submit supporting materials to showcase special talents in music, theater, dance, or visual art. Visit the Performing Arts website for instructions on submitting additional materials in music, theater, or dance.
To submit a visual art portfolio, Georgetown offers the following instructions:
All art portfolios/supplements must be submitted electronically on a CD with up to 20 images. Images must be in simple JPEG format (72 dpi and no larger than 400k bytes), not in PowerPoint presentations. Other forms of art portfolios, such as photographs of artwork or original artwork, will not be accepted if not produced on a CD. The CD should be submitted in a protective case to the Admissions Office with a label indicating the student’s name.
Good luck with your Georgetown application!
Need help applying to Georgetown and other colleges on your list? Meet with one of our personal admissions specialists today.
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in publishing. She also writes, dreams of owning a dog, and routinely brags about the health of her orchid.