USAFA Candidate Writing Sample (and other personal statements)

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by TheAspiringWon, Sep 4, 2016.

  1. TheAspiringWon

    TheAspiringWon Member

    Oct 13, 2015
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    Hello everyone,

    I just have this quick question regarding candidate writing samples and personal statements. Do the people who review candidates' personal statements frown upon brief personal narratives? Like, for the questions that ask, "Describe a time when... blah... blah.." will it be okay for me to open my response with an anecdote and eventually steer my response towards a direct answer? And for the questions that ask, "List leadership qualities... blah... blah..." should I just stick with listing a semi-long list of qualities I possess, or can I elaborate upon using mini stories?

    To iterate, I guess ultimately the thing I am unsure about is whether it will be okay to write my responses using personal anecdotes or not. My question stems from the UC school system's recent change regarding applicant essays (they got rid of their fluffy narrative essays and instead adapted the more straightforward "personal insight questions".)

    Hope what I am asking is a valid question and thank you for in advance!

    *Edit* Oops, I forgot to specify that I am asking this question for USAFA, USMA, USNA, and the other nomination sources. Thanks!!
  2. KLCman

    KLCman Member

    Dec 5, 2016
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    You can write your essays either way, depending on what you personally feel is more appropriate. Personally, I believe that is you give anecdotes, it gives more insight into your character.
  3. wildblueyonder

    wildblueyonder USAFA '19

    Jan 31, 2015
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    I would agree with KLCman that including personal anecdotes can help shed more light on your character. Personally, if I were an admissions representative (which I admit I am not), I would be much more impressed if a candidate included specific examples of how he/she was working to uphold the Core Values in his/her life, than if the same candidate presented me only with a vague discussion about his or her interpretation of the theory behind the Core Values. Personalized answers tend to earn big points.

    I would also add another suggestion: don't be afraid to make your essays unique. They shouldn't be outrageous or go off on tangents, obviously, but thinking outside the box is not necessarily a bad thing. Making your essay "stick out" in the mind of the person reading it is a good way to earn some extra attention for your application, provided, of course, that the uniqueness complements the essay as it pertains to the prompt.
    LongRange99 likes this.
  4. Starchaser21

    Starchaser21 Member

    Feb 10, 2017
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    First of all, I realize my reply to your post is way too late to be useful to you - but you asked a great question and hopefully my experience will help some anxious lurker hoping to find inspiration (like I was at the essays stage of my application.)

    Short answer: Yes! I strongly recommend including some kind of personal anecdote. A personal statement that reads like an encyclopedia entry on leadership/core values/etc. is a good recipe for a bored selection panel. Bored selection panel = no appointment = BAD. (I’m simplifying things here, obviously, but you see my point. ;))

    Longer answer: Rather than monotonously enumerating a “semi-long list of qualities”, use anecdotes and mini-stories to explain how you have demonstrated these qualities in real-life situations. After all, a list of your best qualities has no credibility unless you prove it with actual examples.

    Case and point: In my personal statement for USAFA, I opened by talking about…cupcakes. o_O

    Yes, I know how bizarre that sounds. Let me explain.

    I am a math tutor at the college where I take dual enrollment courses, and a few months prior to writing my essay I was working with a student who was really struggling to understand a particular concept. After about two weeks, I finally made a breakthrough with him using an analogy that involved – you guessed it – cupcakes. I used this anecdote in my personal statement to demonstrate how I have used creativity in a leadership situation.

    I’ll be honest, there were a couple of times after I submitted my application when I questioned the wisdom of talking about cupcakes in a personal statement to an SA. However, the USAFA selection panel apparently understood the point I was trying to make, because I received an appointment on Feb 9! :D

    Takeaway: It can be really hard to showcase yourself in a single essay, and using unique personal stories to back up what you’re saying can help make your essay stand out. Just don’t get too crazy! Common sense is a beautiful thing. :)

    Good luck!
    KLCman and lifelearner like this.

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