Should I include my family history? The Honesty award I got in fifth grade? What about my club memberships? The dog walking job I had for three years? My family income? Whether you’re applying to university in the next few months, or the next few years, you’re going to have a lot of the same strange but honest questions. Michelle Carvalho, Associate Director, University Counsellor from Upper Canada College, helped GEMgirls out with personal statement writing at the first GEM Coffee Chat of the year.

Michelle had a lot of helpful tips and suggestions to get GEM girls on their way to applying to their colleges and universities of choice.

Tips and Advice

  • Talk about yourself: Michelle emphasized throughout the session how important it is to be able to talk about yourself. You have to be able to do it on your résumé, during interviews, and on your college application.
  • Create your own voice: A lot of people may think that the fancier the words, the more impressed a person will be, but that’s not true at all. Schools are looking for students with creativity, and value. Put the thesaurus away, and be clear about what you are writing. Deliver your perspective in an authentic way, and no matter how typical the question or topic, stray away from the stereotypical answers and phrases.
  • Research: You want to know who your audience is and what the school strives for. Search their mission statements, and read their mottos.
  • In or Out: No, not the restaurant. I’m talking about information you’re not sure whether to include or not. Michelle advised that unless they specifically asked for the information don’t provide it; it’ll most likely get thrown out.
  • Accomplishments and Experience: When it comes to job experiences, and accomplishments, it is important to keep tracks of the date. Include it if it happened in the last 4-5 years, because the truth is schools don’t care about the honesty award you got in fifth grade, but when it comes to your tenth grade job, or the scholarship you just won, they’re all ears.

Special thanks to Michelle Carvalho for coming out to help out the GEM girls. The coffee chat was very informative, and Michelle also left us her personal card for any questions regarding personal statement writing and more.

Tabassum Lakhi currently attends Marc Garneau C.I. and is a Creative Writing Intern at GEM.