Do you remember the fall of your senior year of high school? It was a stressful year and your time was in high demand. You had sports practices, club meetings, tough new classes, instrument lessons, theater rehearsals, hours of homework, and of course social events to attend. Then, just to eat up what little extra time you had, there were those dreaded college applications. [essay]
Perhaps the most stressful and time-consuming part of the college application process is the essay, or “personal statement,” as many universities, including MSU, are choosing to call it. In the past, this personal statement was an optional part of Michigan State’s application. However, students applying for the 2005-2006 school year are the first applicants required to submit the personal statement.
According to item number 21 of the MSU Undergraduate Application for Admission, the request for the personal statement reads, “We are interested in learning more about your background, talents, and experiences and how you plan to apply them to your MSU education and future.”
Suggested topics include your experience as an active citizen in your school or community and the ways in which you expect to contribute to the MSU community; obstacles that you have encountered and how you have overcome them; your experience promoting global understanding and/or the value of diversity in society, to name a few.
Jim Cotter, senior associate director of admissions, said the Office of Admissions has been discussing the idea of making the personal statement mandatory for a few years now. The decision was made because, “It’s an opportunity for us to learn more about the students in general,” Cotter said. “We really tried to avoid the term ‘essay’ because we’re not evaluating grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc,” Cotter said. “We are looking for what the root of the individual is; we want to know what this student can bring to the table.”
Even though the personal statement was optional last year, 80 percent of all applicants wrote one. Katie Rabidoux, an astrophysics freshman, wrote the personal statement last year because she thought it might be helpful for getting into the Honors College or for receiving scholarships. “It could be helpful for getting a hard-working, borderline student in but admissions should not be based totally on the essay,” Rabidoux said.
Cotter said that the bulk of the decision made by how the student performed academically but that in fringe decisions or in consideration for scholarships the personal statement might be very important.
The question still remains as to whether or not the mandatory personal statement will affect this year’s applicant pool. Andrew Mikolajczak, a senior at Athens High School in Troy said having to write the mandatory essay did not affect his decision to apply to MSU at all.
But while it did not affect his decision to apply, he does not feel that a mandatory personal statement will make or break many applicants’ admissions decisions. “I think a personal statement is good to take into consideration when an applicant is borderline, but if you’re talking about someone with a 4.0 G.P.A. and a 34 on his ACTs, a personal statement is not really necessary,” Mikolajczak said.

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