By ELIE GOLDMAN | Reflection on Post by LORI SOLOVEY
In 2012, I applied to college from Sidwell Friends, a prominent independent school in Washington, DC. Based on answers to a set of clear questions, my college advisor asked me, “What is my content? What are my test scores? What’s my GPA? How many extracurriculars do I do?” Less than my peers on all accounts, I would jest (though not untrue).
Today, college counselors and admissions officers ask students a set of questions with less clear answers; “What is your context? Who are you? What are your stories? How do those stories show your values, skills, and interests? How will your background experiences create value for this college and community? What is your potential?”
The handoff from content to context was catalyzed by a global pandemic in which test-optional admissions policies soared and record levels of applications reached top colleges and universities. With inboxes full of applications from similarly scored (or non-scored) students, admission officers sharpened their focus on differentiators like personal statements and essays. Among these written materials, admissions offices search for what all students have but few feel comfortable using – their voice.
Who are you?
Why do you matter?
For students, knowing, and then showing yourself in an essay is a new challenge. High school tests and college entrance exams present students with a predetermined set of content (questions and correct answers). On the other hand, a personal statement challenges students to craft a 650-word or less response to one of seven prompts. Instead of consuming and responding to created content, in a personal statement students must create the content; content based on their own unique context.
A personal statement invites you to strengthen human skills like communication, critical thinking, and self awareness. These skills empower you to practice self-reflection for self-direction; using knowledge of yourself to more intentionally set goals and pursue passions aligned to your experiences, values, and interests. This empowers you to know your context and show your conscience.
Our voices let us authentically convey who we are. They allow us to translate our context into content for others to consider. In the face of a shifting college admissions environment, lean into its empowering challenge.
Who do you see when you look in the mirror?
How will you voice that to our world?