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Dos and Don'ts
following are lists of dos and don’ts to consider when writing personal
statement. These lists are based on suggestions which I consider
sensible and which are common to those providing guidance.
Make sure that
the Letter of Recommendation does not conflict with or duplicate the
rest of the application (Personal Statement, Transcripts, Resume,
qualifications for comparing the applicant to other applicants.
"I have been teaching for twenty years and have advised
approximately 450 students on independent research projects over the
last five years. "
"I have personally supervised ten interns every summer for the last
five years plus worked with over two hundred college graduates in my
capacity as trainer for Company X "
well you know the applicant.
"I was able to get to know Mr. Doe because he made it a point to
attend two of my sections every week when only one was required. "
Choose two or
three (or more) qualities that you observed in the applicant.
"The combination of tenacity, analytical abilities, and good
communications skills found in Mr. Doe is truly unique."
statements with specific examples in which the applicant has
demonstrated those attributes. Be as concrete and detailed as possible
"He is the only student I ever had who came to all my office hours
as part of a relentless, and ultimately successful, drive to master
financial theory. He was one of just ten percent in the class to
receive an A. "
quantify the student's strengths or rank him or her vis a vis other
applicants that you have observed.
"He was in the top 10% of his class."
"She has the best analytical skills of any person her age that I have
ever supervised. "
describe the student in terms that reflect that student's distinctive
or individual strengths. Whatever strengths strike you as particularly
salient, be prepared to back up your judgment with concrete examples -
papers, exams, class presentations, or performance in a laboratory.
mild criticism, typically the flip-side of a strength.
"The only fault I have encountered in him is his retiring nature.
His modesty sometimes hides a young man of remarkable strength and
"Occasionally, her fortitude and persistence can turn into
stubbornness, but usually her good nature and level-headedness
applicant's potential in his or her chosen field it may give the
student the edge over other applicants, since most committees look not
only for what the student has already done but what he or she has the
potential to accomplish..
"I enthusiastically recommend Mr. Doe to your business school. This
well-rounded student will be a fine businessperson."
"With her exceptional leadership, writing, and quantitative skills,
Ms. Smith will be an outstanding strategic consultant and a credit to
the business school she attends."
rights. You have the legal right to read the stuff colleges have in
their files about you. Virtually all recommendation forms include a
little box where you can waive this right by signing your name. By all
means, waive the right. Colleges won't pay attention to your
recommendations if they think the people who wrote them were worried
that you would be reading them. Sign the waiver before you give the
forms to your teachers.
Use generalities and platitudes.
Reference characteristics that can be the basis of
discrimination, such as race, color, nationality, gender, religion,
age, appearance, any handicapping condition, marital or parental
status, or political point of view.
Use the misconception that the more
superlatives that you use, the stronger the letter. Heavy use of stock
phrases or clichés in general is unhelpful. Your letter can only be
effective if it contains substantive information about the student's
empty, vague, overly-used words like meaningful, beautiful,
challenging, rewarding, etc.
Say "I hope", instead say "I am
confident..." or "I am sure..."