Not all students have as accurate a view on essays as Marc does, so I’m especially lucky that he volunteered to take on the topic yesterday. There’s not much more I can add. I’ve always thought that the question/prompt for the first essay (personal statement) is pretty clear. To refresh your memory, we ask:
Essay 1: Personal Statement (600-800 words, single-spaced, Times New Roman 12 point font)
Fletcher’s Committee on Admissions seeks to ensure that there is a good match between each admitted student and the School.
Please tell us your goals for graduate study at Fletcher and for your career. Why is The Fletcher School the right place to pursue your academic objectives and to prepare you to meet your professional goals? Why have you selected the degree program to which you are applying?
If you are planning to pursue a joint degree, please be sure to address this interest in your personal statement.
Given the tips built into the question, applicants who follow Marc’s advice and ensure they answer the question should be in good shape. Note that we also like to know the motivations behind your goals, and your preparation to achieve them — just be careful where you start. It’s rarely a good idea to go back to when you were six. On the other hand, it’s often the applicant’s experiences that make a personal statement interesting, so go ahead and include some key points from your back-story.
The other place to present interesting information from your personal history is the second essay. We want you to view the second essay as a chance to round out the picture of you that we’ve developed from the rest of the materials in your application. It can be nice when your second essay links in some way (however tangentially) to your interests, but it doesn’t need to. We have certainly read some poor essay choices over the years, but we don’t have a preferred essay topic.
One last tip is that you should not waste space in either of the essays to explain a problem in another part of the application. Use the “Additional Information” section to tell us that your study abroad grades are included on your university transcript, that your GRE scores aren’t what you hoped they would be, or that your maiden name is different from the name you’re using now. You don’t have much “space” in the personal statement (600-800 words) or second essay (500 words maximum) and you don’t want to throw them away on routine business.
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