#2: Now That You've Picked a Prompt & Created Your Claim, Now It's Time To PROVE Your Claim!
A great personal statement essay is made up of one or more “little stories” that prove your claim. Most often, your claim is something like:
“This experience illustrates that I have
intellect, perseverance, and resilience even
in the face of disappointment or failure."
Ultimately, the claim needs to prove that you would be a good fit for the college or university to which you are applying.
Often times, students have trouble figuring out how much of the story to tell. The story or example cannot be the only thing in the personal statement essay. You also need a good introduction and a conclusion, and some people include more than one story.
FIRST, YOU NEED TO DECIDE WHAT ARE THE KEY LESSONS THE STORY IMPARTS?
Let's imagine that your story is about finding out that your debate team had been practicing for the wrong set of questions the whole time, which caused you to stay up all night before the competition reworking your arguments. In the end you did not win the debate, but you made a respectable showing, and you learned some things.
So the first question is, what did this experience teach you?
Answer: I learned that when you pull together with a team on a clear goal you can achieve almost anything.
OK. NOW THAT YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT THE STORY TEACHES, YOU CAN SKETCH OUT THE EVENTS THAT LED TO THE LEARNING OF THE LESSON.
I suggest three events representing a beginning, a middle, and an end of the story.
Here's what this student’s debate story sketch might look like.
· Beginning: Our team received the document with the issues to study for the upcoming debate. We spent a lot of time preparing intricate plans to do the best we could, and we were hoping to win.
· Middle: About 48 hours before the debate we received an email from the organization referencing the issues and they were totally different than the ones we’d been practicing. We realized we had read the document wrong.
· End: We got together and pulled an “all nighter,” reworking our opening statements and arguments, and we completed it just as the sun was coming up.
THE NEXT STEP WOULD BE TO ADD “FEELING WORDS” TO EACH OF THE PARTS OF THE STORY. FOR INSTANCE, HOW DID THE WRITER FEEL AFTER THE BEGINNING EVENTS?
Answer: She probably felt confident, excited, prepared, and hopeful.
THEN YOU SHOULD BRAINSTORM SOME SENSORY WORDS, AND FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE LIKE A SIMILES AND METAPHORS.
Sensory words are words that speak to the five senses: hearing, taste, touch, sight, and smell. For instance, “The musty library and dusty stacks held all the research we needed.”
Or maybe the debate document fresh from the printer “felt warm and inviting on their hands.”
Similes and metaphors are comparisons of two unlike things. For instance, “the disappointment stung like a bee.”
Or maybe upon the receiving the email with the issues to study for the upcoming debate, “they felt like a lottery winners.”
YOU SHOULD DO THIS FOR EACH OF THE THREE PARTS OF YOUR STORY. THE POINT HERE IS TO DEVELOP A BANK OF MATERIAL TO CHOOSE FROM BEFORE YOU ASSEMBLE THE PERSONAL STATEMENT ESSAY.
This is pre-writing and brainstorming, and it is like making clay pottery. It is much easier to whittle down a lot of clay into a small piece like an ashtray, than to take a small amount of clay and try to turn it into a large item like a tall vase.
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