'Don't plagiarise, be honest'

'Don't plagiarise, be honest'

THINK BEFORE YOU INK A personal statement must reflect a student’s writing ability, personal perspectives, intellectual curiosity and depth of thought. GETTY IMAGESHow much of a role does the personal statement play in deciding whether a student gets into his/her chosen programme at Stanford?

The personal statement is a considerable factor in the review process as it reflects both the student’s writing ability and personal perspectives. It is, however, just one of many components that we do evaluate in our process, which is both holistic and comprehensive.

In a personal statement, what does the admissions committee look for?
We look for a number of attributes in the personal statement.  Some of these include — but are not limited to — writing ability, elements of intellectual curiosity, and depth of thought in the composition of the essay.

What does the statement reveal about a student’s personality, characteristics and focus?
The personal statement provides an admission officer with a range of information.  It can demonstrate everything from an ability to be a strong academic writer on complex intellectual theories and concepts or conversely, showing creative writing skills that paint colourful and vivid stories about their personal lives. We understand this is not an easy task, but, often times, the personal statement ultimately serves as the voice of the applicant and is a glimpse of the perspective they would bring to the campus community, both in and outside of the classroom.

Have there been instances of students fabricating information to make their essays look better?

Thankfully there have been remote instances when students misrepresented themselves in their writing.  Given that we are a staff that read thousands of applications and read by region, we are able to identify certain trends and/or nuances in their writing that may prevent us from reviewing their application favourably.  Stanford University also has a very strict honour code that emphasises the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity, which also applies to our prospective applicants. Therefore, any student who lies, provides fraudulent information, or is found guilty of plagiarism, is subject to having his or her offer of admission revoked.

What are the most common mistakes students make while writing their statements?

Sometimes students make the mistake of writing in a voice that does not accurately represent themselves.  It is essential that students represent themselves accurately and acknowledge their accomplishments, experiences and opportunities both factually and with sincerity.

Finally, what tips would you give students about writing such essays?

Do not use terminology or vocabulary you would not use in everyday writing. Read your essay aloud and to several different people so they can provide feedback. When you write about a university, make sure it is not commentary that is generic and can be applied to any institution of higher learning. Be mindful of your essay length — be concise yet substantive in your writing. Two or three pages for a personal statement is more than sufficient. Never submit supplementary materials unless they are requested.

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