Seven Mistakes to Avoid on Your Personal Statement

Seven Mistakes to Avoid on Your Personal Statement

Writing the personal statement for your college applications is a daunting task, but choosing a topic is even more challenging. It can be tricky to determine where you want to focus, especially if you don’t know what your readers might be looking for. You’re a complex, unique human being — How on Earth are you supposed to smash your entire being into a few hundred words? Unfortunately, we can’t write your personal statement for you, but we *can* help you avoid some mistakes that students make when deciding their topic!  


1. Spending too much time on various achievements. Remember: This is an essay, not just a second resume. I’m sure you’ve got a lot of impressive achievements, but this is not the place to talk through them all. Your best bet is to choose one topic and dive deep.

2. Choosing a topic that’s too big. All told, you really don’t have that much space. Make sure the story you’re telling is the right size, and not too big (or too small) to adequately cover in the space allotted. Get to the point quickly and stay on topic!

3. Telling a generic story. Stay away from topics that are too common and not unique to you. At worst, it’s plagiarism, and at best, it’s boring. Ask yourself questions like, “What experiences have I had that speak to who I am?” “What essay can I write that no one else could write?” “If I don’t feel strongly about this, why should my reader?”

4. Crossing a line. If you’re choosing a controversial topic, think critically about the subject at hand. Standing out is great, but make sure you don’t cross the line from edgy to offensive, rude, or indignant. Be smart when discussing issues such as race, religion, class, politics, etc.

5. Not being a particularly likable character in your story. Beware of complaining or coming off overly negative, or, on the opposite side, too arrogant. Your reader needs to be impressed by your writing, but they also need to like you. There’s a happy medium in there that will serve you well.

6. Making your reader uncomfortable. Some vulnerability can be powerful, but try to avoid oversharing. We understand the temptation to pour your heart out, but you need to be sure that all of the emotion you’re using is justified. You don’t know the people who will read this and you don’t want to make them uncomfortable for any reason. 

7. Silly mistakes. This shouldn’t even be here on this list, but please please make sure everything is thoroughly edited. Please.


Hopefully, these tips can help you zero in on your perfect topic!

One last piece of advice: If nothing else, think about what makes you, you! Good luck!

Your Ultimate Organic Chemistry Survival Guide

Your Ultimate Organic Chemistry Survival Guide

Whether you’ve just begun your Organic Chemistry journey or you’re looking to improve your current study habits, here are some useful tips for being successful in your Organic Chemistry course.


First and Foremost: Keep Your Cool!

Organic Chemistry is one of those subjects that somehow automatically elicits a series of fearful groans whenever mentioned. College students have vilified the course for decades, passing down horror stories like old folktales of a mystical, unconquerable beast. But just like folktales, these stories are often exaggerated and, at times, completely false. Organic Chemistry is not an impossible course. If you approach it with confidence and open-mindedness, you may realize that it can be quite interesting and even, dare I say, fun!

But even though Organic Chemistry may not be as intolerable as your peers make it out to be, it is still a very challenging course. Therefore, it is useful to be strategic in your approach.


Second: Forego the Flashcards

Up until this point, you may have been able to survive off the good old “memorize and regurgitate” method of studying for science tests. You find yourself waiting until the last minute to cram an entire semester’s worth of information into one night. Though this can be a fast and simple way to cut out hours of studying, this method will not work for Organic Chemistry.

Organic Chemistry is fundamentally more conceptual than most other science courses. Therefore, it is imperative that you have a firm grasp on not just what is happening but why it is happening. This takes time and practice, and it cannot be mastered in just one or even two nights of studying.

Make sure that you are setting yourself up for success by building a strong foundational and conceptual understanding of the principles of Organic Chemistry early on. This will help you when you move on to more complex concepts like mechanisms, especially in the second-semester Organic Chemistry course.


Third: Take Really Good Notes

Unlike the General Chemistry and Physics courses you may have taken in the past, Organic Chemistry is primarily concerned with the physical nature of molecules. This means that, rather than using formulas and functions, Organic Chemistry uses molecular structure and 3-dimensional shape to explain scientific concepts. A good way of orienting yourself to this change is to take notes that will supply you with a rich visual understanding of the concepts that you are learning. In this way, you may find it useful to take color-coded notes or use a whiteboard when studying for tests. You can also watch instructional videos online that provide visual aids.

Bonus Tip: If you are finding it difficult to draw out molecules or if you’re interested in having a more tangible representation of reactions, you should consider buying a molecular modeling kit. These can be easily purchased online and allow for you to build out molecules as a visual aid.


Fourth: Practice Makes Perfect

It doesn’t matter how much you’ve read or how perfectly drawn out your notes are. If you do not practice, your chances of being successful in Organic Chemistry are very slim. The more practice that you can get, the more prepared you will be when it comes to exam time. This means completing your assigned homework, textbook problems, and practice tests when available. In total, the time you spend studying outside of class should equal to approximately twice the time you’ve spent in lecture. So if you’re taking a 3 credit hour class, you should be spending about six or more hours a week studying.


Finally: Ask for Help!

If you are having a hard time grasping Organic Chemistry concepts on your own, don’t be afraid to reach out to your classmates, TAs, or professors for extra help. Often, an alternative explanation or demonstration can clear up any confusion or misunderstanding.

Additionally, you may find it useful to find a tutor who can guide you through the ins and outs of Organic Chemistry, providing additional support when needed. Check out the tutors we have available through Smart Alec! Our top-of-the-line tutors provide in-home and video tutoring services in a wide variety of subjects, including Organic Chemistry.

Unfortunately, there is not a simple plug and chug formula for getting an A in Organic Chemistry. Just give it your best and don’t give up! If you’re ever feeling stuck, remember these tips and don’t forget to ask for help. Good luck out there!