Nontraditional Students Applying for Transfer Part 2: The Personal Statement


We often think that talking about ourselves would come easily but then we are faced with the task of writing an essay or statement about ourselves, maybe for a bio on  a webpage or for a scholarship application. Whatever it is, we find out really fast that writing these personal statements can be a bit…awkward? Should I be really positive, really depressing, in the middle? Should I talk about myself directly or indirectly? Where do I start? There are so many questions, right?! Well, not in every instance but in many you will need to write some type of personal statement when you apply to transfer to a university. I would like to tell you that there is one formula, but I can’t because I think it depends on the college and what that college is looking for. I know that the personal statement is something many students stress over including moms in college.

I spoke with a few administrators to get some input on this topic!

Heidi Lockhart, the director of Career and Transfer services at Mt. San Antonio College has a few helpful tips for us! Here they are:

1. There is no formula for application essays, but there are some things that are important such as including examples and specifics to back up what you write about and not being vague!

2. Talk about YOU! One of the biggest mistakes I see students do is to not actually talk about themselves…….they try to be too humble or are afraid to air their dirty laundry so to speak.  But our “dirty laundry” is what has made us into who we are today so if given the opportunity, I encourage students to write about their pasts…..but focus on what they have learned from it and how it has made them into who they are today!

3. Consider relevance. Relevance depends on the campus and the major the student is applying to.  Of course academics—taking the right courses, earning a strong GPA—is always the foundation, but the essay provides context and for those campuses that do a holistic application review such as Berkeley, LA, Irvine, and many privates, this essay is the student’s chance to show their personal side.  It is like an interview on paper!

I think Heidi is spot-on!

Another educator gave me this advice to share with you:

“The essay is one of the most critical elements of the application process.  This is where the student displays that unique sense of voice that separates her/him from the barrel full of high-GPA, high-achieving students.  Sure, good grades are important, but the application gives a chance for the student to articulate her/his values, how the student has been able to synthesis life experiences so far, and what the potential is for this person to make a distinct contribution.  Remember, at least two of the things schools are looking to find out are 1) will this student be a valuable consumer of our resources; and 2) when this person graduates, will she/he be a positive and influential ambassador for our college–will he/she  reflect our high standards?  Make others want to come here?”

In terms of the essay itself this same educator remarks, Also, many students don’t think ahead when they write–they don’t talk about what they’re going to do at Harvard or what they want to do after Harvard.  It’s these types of details that give a response depth and also give you a chance to articulate depth.  Even if the prompt doesn’t ask that, it should be added, even in a few sentences.  The essay should have a clear tone–positive, intelligent (but don’t EVER use vocabulary words that you don’t normally use; that sticks out like Rudolf’s nose and will appear nothing other than pretentious.)  The important thing, like in an audition–be yourself. but in order to do that, you have to know at least a little bit about who you are, and you have to have at least a steady grasp on what makes you special.”


In saying this all, I want to encourage you to use your story and your situation to make you stand out on paper. I know you do stand out simply because you are a mom in college…but the people on the other end might not understand that! If you still feel unsure about what to say or how to say it I encourage you to consult with one of your English professors, one that knows you from a previous class and can guide you through the writing process. It may seem like a stressful piece to write, but you can do it! 


If you are a Mt. SAC student please be sure to check out the transfer center both on campus and online here

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