Help with College & Grad School Applications/Personal Statements


Good Evening!

I am a high school student currently working on a rough draft of my personal statement for college. The prompt states: "Describe the world you come from-for example, your family, community or school-and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations." I've completed the body and concluding paragraphs, but I am having a difficulty with writing my introduction paragraph. I do not know how to start it and I do not want to start with the generic "Hi my name is...and I'd like to attend your college because..." Do you have any tips on what to include in the introduction? What would be a great way to start?

Start your paragraph with something like "I have always been fascinated with building a legacy. Growing up in XYZ, I was keenly aware of the many significant contributions previous residents had made to my community through the numerous companies, monuments, parks and schools that dotted my town.  These inspired individuals, having recognized a need, determinedly pursued..."

You get the idea. This gives you an opportunity to explain what inspires and motivates you.  The admissions committee (depending on the school) wants to know what is important to you and how an investment in you will be an investment in their school and humanity.  Don't be vague.  Give some precise examples of how certain community leaders created jobs by creating a particular business or made the community safer or happier through their efforts.

This is just one approach, but remember NOT to be vague.  Paint a picture in their mind.  Does your description evoke emotion, images?  Can the reader see, taste, hear, feel, imagine what you are writing?  "Officer Jenkins, as a personal project, obtained a major grant to install audio cross-walks thus allowing our population of blind residents to not be isolated by their disability."  Imagine how frightening it would be to be blind, not able to drive and dependent on walking.  You get the idea.  

Best of luck with you application. -Karen

Help with College & Grad School Applications

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Karen Dechman


As a Harvard graduate with almost 20 years of experience, I can accurately answer questions on how to be competitive in the admissions and scholarship process. I can also answer questions on achieving academic excellence in high school/college and how to obtain excellent internships for future employment success. You will need to visit the websites of the schools of your interest to learn the answers on specific questions, such as expected SAT scores or deadlines. I will not advise on athletic scholarships.


Since 1997, I have been helping students to reach their professional goals by helping them to understand how to successfully operate within high school and college environments. These environments have seen a dramatic change over the past twenty years, making them far more competitive. In turn, I have helped students learn how to shop their professors, create internships and identify extra-curricular activities that will distinguish them in both admissions and scholarship situations. I also work with military academy and graduate school applicants.

Harvard Club of DC, Board of Directors Harvard Club of Virginia, President US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Director of Research John Tyler Community College, Department Head, Student & Community Activities White House, Volunteer

East Carolina University, 1992 Harvard University, 1998

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