Notice how the subject of this essay weaves an extracurricular, a challenge, and personality traits into one supplement. A good way to see if your chosen activity would make for an effective essay is to see if it illustrates many facets of yourself.
It is also important to choose something that you have not discussed in detail yet. If your common application essay was about debate and you already have it listed in your activities and awards section, it would be a good idea to discuss something that the admissions team can’t simply look up elsewhere on your application. Hobbies, for example, would make for interesting and unique essays.
If you choose to write about a job or an internship, the same guidelines for the extracurricular apply. It would also be beneficial if the skills you gained in your work experience apply to the major or profession you would want to pursue at Penn State.
For instance, if you are applying as an education major and you worked at a restaurant during the school year, you could discuss how working with people taught you how to be patient, how communication was a key part of customer service, and how you frequently had to juggle multiple tasks at one time. Even though a career in education and a job at a restaurant are not exactly the same, the skills you’ve acquired will make you more successful in the career of your choice.
If you write about a challenge or obstacle, it is important to be wary of the sob story. Sob stories are a common college application mistake, in which the writer discusses a tragedy or hardship that is meant to make the reader feel bad, but does not effectively demonstrate how the hardship affected the writer and changed him/her, or how the writer overcame it.
Instead, focus on how you faced the challenge and how it changed you, but do not let it define your high school career. This would also be a good place to subtly explain any irregularities in your academic record. For example, if your grades in junior year were much lower than usual because your mother fell ill, you could write about how you gained a newfound appreciation for your mother after you were tasked with taking care of your younger siblings in her absence.
Notice how this example still discusses a tragic event, but it better demonstrates the writer’s maturity as a result of the event. Even though it is not explicitly mentioned that the mother’s illness contributed to the drop in grades, the admissions team will gain a new insight into the experiences that have shaped who you are and affected the parts they can see, like your academic record. Make sure to then highlight how this newfound maturity and evolution of character impacted you and would continue to impact you in college and beyond.
Writing about a characteristic or personality trait is a little more difficult, but would also make for a unique and standout essay. You can do this by exposing your traits through your work in an extracurricular, job, or experience, or you can delve into a memory in your essay that solely focuses on the trait.
For example, if you think that you would be a good fit for Penn State because you thrive in community-oriented environments and you love the community-focused atmosphere at Penn State, you could write about a time where you held a “Friendsgiving” and how cooking with your friends was a way of bonding and connecting.
Submit an application
The fall 2018 application opened on August 15, 2017. Prospective freshman students should submit an online application as soon as possible in their senior year of high school and by November 1 for maximum scholarship consideration. If you prefer, MSU also has an application available on the Coalition Application.
Start your application now.
As part of the undergraduate application for admission, each applicant is required to submit a 200-word personal statement on each of the two designated topics. The statements may be considered as a positive factor to enhance admissibility as well as for scholarship consideration. These are the personal statement topics on the 2018 application for admission:
- Describe a difficult or challenging situation you have faced. Briefly state the situation, how you responded and why, would you have done anything differently, did you turn to anyone for help, and if so for advice, consultation, assistance, and/or encouragement?
- Briefly describe a situation where you or someone close to you was not treated fairly. What did you do at the time and why, would you do anything differently, has it impacted or changed who you are today?
Send your test scores
All freshman applicants must submit testing scores from either ACT or SAT. The writing portion is recommended, but not required. Test scores must be sent directly to MSU from the testing agency. The ACT code is 2032; the SAT code is 1465.
Michigan State considers the highest total SAT or composite ACT score on file. There is no disadvantage in sending multiple test scores to the Office of Admissions since the lower test scores are disregarded. MSU does not combine subscores from different sittings of the SAT or ACT to make a "best" total or composite score.
Send your transcripts
Have your official high school transcript(s) sent electronically to MSU by your high school through an electronic delivery service such as Docufide, Naviance or E Scrip-Safe. Schools that do not have access to these services may send official paper documents via U.S. mail to the Office of Admissions.
Once you’re ready to apply, this is where it all begins.
Online applicants create a password and are issued an applicant ID. This enables you to save your application and submit it when you are ready. The $65 application fee (or application fee waiver if you are eligible) is required to officially submit your application for admission.