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#selfie, Old School Style


Posted by David Lazo on Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Even though the age of the #selfie encourages self-promotion, I believe it is still very difficult for most people to write about themselves. When I have the opportunity to share my observations about reading personal statements in Vanderbilt information sessions, I always make time to ask the audience how many of them keep a written log of their internal thoughts. Few do. Unfortunately, I find that many applicants to college wait until the last minute to compose an essay that can be important in a holistic process like ours.

If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, we should be able to write an essay as easily as we take a selfie. In fact, mastering the ability to advocate for oneself through the written form remains difficult, although it is a critical life skill. I believe that the personal statement serves as one of many ‘firsts’ as you enter the adult world. For example, when applying for jobs, I always slave over my cover letter. Word placement. Tone. Brevity. It all matters.

Certainly the stakes surrounding your personal statement may seem high now, but this exercise is just the beginning of many statements to come. It may start with describing your distinctive fit for a college community, but next you’ll find yourself writing a statement for an internship or your first job after college graduation. Or perhaps you’ll decide to pursue graduate school, and, speaking from personal experience, it is just as important for that process. Composing a distinctive personal statement may always be difficult, but with practice, you can get much better at it.

If you are a high school senior, you have many drafts ahead of you. Your summer months should be used to give yourself the time and flexibility to allow your personal statement to evolve. The first draft of your personal statement SHOULD NOT be the one we see. Much like a seedling, personal statements must sprout and grow. With ample watering (read: editing and revisions), your statement will be one that I remember. And if you happen to be in the midst of college searches but still have some time before you compose an official application for admission, just start writing. About anything. Ultimately, it is not just what you say that will impress any admissions officer, but also how you say it that will distinguish you.

A selfie is unique because it is a one-of-a-kind visual of who you are (or would like to be). However, before the selfie there was the good old-fashioned personal statement. You owe it to yourself to stand out in a competitive process like ours. Here is my challenge to you: Put down the cameraphone and pick up a pen this summer – it’s time for a selfie, old-school style.


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