Onward and Upward|Personal Statement SOS

For students aiming to enter university in the fall of 2024, December is often the last month they have to work on their personal statements.

I’ve helped many students navigate the tricky business of personal statement writing. Among the most common pitfalls I’ve seen is a violation of the principle all how-to-write-better books talk about: show, not tell. Obviously, mere awareness of this rule isn’t enough to instil in one the ability to craft words and phrases that come together in striking harmony. Still, with the right prompting, some imagination and lots of willpower, even the most wooden text can get the makeover it needs.

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Below is a paragraph from a personal statement I found online. Further below is my rewrite of it . The author of the statement is telling; I am showing.

The original text was written in response to this question:

What international/cross-cultural experiences will you bring to Brandeis International Business School and how will this contribute to the classroom?

Original version

As a result of my excellent academic performance, I was selected to study as an exchange student at Tokyo International Business College from October 2010 to March 2011. Despite of the language barrier, I adapted to the life and study there shortly because I tried my best to communicate with Japanese classmates and made friends with them. With this tip, I am confident that I can get familiar with my classmates in Brandeis International Business School in a short time.

My rewrite

Over the course of my six-month exchange program in Japan – I had won this privilege on the basis of my straight A report card – I was often reminded of the fact that Eskimos have dozens of words for snow, for at times, it did seem the Japanese had just as many words for ‘no.” ううん (Uun) is a “no” that can only be used among intimates,  大丈夫です (daijoubu desu) is a formal way of rejecting someone, while 結構です (kekkou desu) is a casual, almost rude way of denying requests.

As I struggled to read the minds of my Japanese classmates, I felt like Alice in Wonderland overwhelmed by strange mores and coded behaviour. I soldered on, however, and was duly rewarded. By the time I left the country, I had earned not only straight As, but Japanese drinking buddies, a stint as a mochi maker at a school fair, and enough facility in Japanese to occasionally pass myself off as a local when I ordered at restaurants.

Michelle Ng

聯絡方式: michelleng.coach@proton.me
個人網站: https://michellengwritings.com
逢周日英國時間晚上8時 / 周一香港時間凌晨4時刊出

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