Advice from the Whisperer: Writing the Personal Statement for College – Part 3


Hello again, lets continue with those college applications shall we!

Last time we were talking about how to write an outstanding personal statement for your college applications. We decided to break it down into three steps, the first being asking one of your teachers to help you edit the paper. So now we shall move on with the next one.

Topic 2 Highlighting Experiences to Show How Unique You Are

When looking on college admissions websites, you will find included under the personal statement section the prompts and other information that will tell you what colleges want you to write about. Mainly they ask you to write two essays with a certain word limit for each. The two prompts that colleges will most likely ask you to write about are:

1. Describe one of your passions or an experience dear to you.

2. Talk about something you have not addressed in the application, such as a challenge in your life that you know you have overcome.

You will notice that universities want to hear about you and the effort you put into analyzing why these experiences have helped you grow as an individual. These prompts are essentially the area in which you can shine in your college application as you get to talk about your favorite person in the whole wide world…YOURSELF!… Well, at least you should consider yourself to be your own favorite person, not to sound too egotistic!

Here you can write about anything in under one page. Yes it’s quite short but in the end college admissions representatives want to see that you can at least think about your own life and how you have changed. You can include anything from a favorite hobby, sport or activity you have or are still involved in. College representatives will take note of this section to see how well you can express your thoughts in print as you re-examine some aspect of your life that is important to you.

Hobbies Dance

For my essay I wrote about my love for dancing. No, it did not in any way remotely relate to Biological Sciences at the time (before I switched majors and graduated with my BA in Comparative Literature!) but Yes it’s one of my hobbies and I can write a ton about it as its one of my passions! I wrote about how I enjoyed dancing from the time I was little when I took ballet, tap and jazz lessons to improve my balance and coordination to when I danced all four years in my high school’s dance program. If it’s something you truly love, admissions staff will see that. Just think that this essay could in fact be the deciding factor for an admissions officer to select you over someone else. And don’t we all want that lovely envelope telling us we have been accepted at the college we wanted to get into? Everyone wins.

Hobbies Volunteer

Some of the best ideas to draw from are your home life as well as the ways in which you have reached out to other people in your community such as volunteer work (so yes all of those hours spent cleaning up at the beach, going to convalescent homes and helping students choose books at your local library were not all in vain!). In fact they made you a better person because you helped others. College Admissions want the kind of people that will turn into the leaders of tomorrow who are more caring, sympathetic and conscientious of the world around them.

To find out more information, look on your college admissions website as they provide much needed guidance in how to write your personal statement.

Next week will be the conclusion of writing an A for Awesome Personal Statement, so don’t miss out!


13th Annual Education Fair and Academic Competition

Areteem Institute was proud to work with the World Journal LA and the Alhambra High School to attend the 13th Annual Education Fair. Areteem Institute held a rigorous math and essay writing competition which drew over 50 students to compete for over $3,000 in scholarships. We would like to congratulate all of the competitors for taking the initiative to take part in such a competitive event; as participation demonstrates to future colleges your dedication and passion. We would also like to give recognition to the top winners, listed below. (In no particular order.)
Jason Chen, Christopher Wang, Jasmine Xu, Zheyue Zhao, Kimberly Yu, Margeret Yu, Kevin Chu, Yu ma, Mingen Lu, Yang Lu, Isaac Castillo, Kevin Pan, Jason Chen, Benjamin Chao, Bethany Chen, Johnny Wen.

These students exemplified a command and understanding of the materials they were challenged with, and showed courage and initiative in their participation of their event.
Areteem Institute has helped it’s math students win considerable math competitions and enter their first college of choice. Feel free to request more information today.

Repost Monday: Creative Ways to Foster Creativity


Original Article Here

The world needs creativity to cope with and to solve a myriad of problems. Yet, studies show that as American children grow from toddlers to adolescents, they exhibit less creativity.areteem students are creative

“We set up these nice problems and tell children there is always a right answer. We don’t let them find the problems. As a consequence, as adults they don’t know how to identify the issues and problems facing society, let alone how to come up with new ideas for solving them,” says Janet Sawyers, professor of family and child development at Virginia Tech.

This does not have to happen, she says. Schools, parents, and society can nurture children’s creativity.

How do you measure creativity? in a four year old?

“You concentrate on the child’s ability to generate lots of ideas.”

The researchers give three tests:

  • Name as many things as you can think of that are blue. “Cold hands,” is an imaginative response.
  • Name all the things that an object (an L-shaped, chair-shaped object) could be. Adults, for example, often say, “the letter L.” One child said, “Snoopy lying on his back” and another said “a monster coming out of the water.”
  • Name uses for a box, and for paper.

“The most creative people give the most unusual responses at the end of the response series,” Sawyers explains. Statistical infrequency is a measure of originality.

The idea test has turned out to be the best single measure predicting real-world accomplishment. Design students in college who tested high on creativity were the students whose design projects were judged the most outstanding.

The researchers tested a group of children when they were four, again at five to seven, and again at 10 and 11, and will test them again in high school. They found that children who measured high in creativity at early ages continue to be high. The scores are more stable than IQ tests, Sawyers says.

Another study pointed up a stereotype about creative children. The researchers had fifth graders rate themselves on whether they were creative, then had their teachers rate them. “The students were more accurate than their teachers,” reports Sawyers. “The problem is people equate IQ with creativity, and there is not a correlation. Average people can be creative, high IQ people not creative, and all other combinations.”

Teachers should be cautious in assuming that precocious children are necessarily creatively gifted, especially at the expense of failing to encourage the creative child who may not stand out as a young scholar. Creative children are often not included in programs for the gifted and talented because the measures used for identification don’t reflect creativity.

The researchers decided it was critical to teach the teachers. “It is in early childhood that the critical orientation to the process of problem solving emerges,” former graduate student Deborah W. Tegano, and faculty members James D. Moran III and Sawyers wrote in a text for teachers of young children on how to identify creativity in their pupils, and how to foster it.*

“Exploration and play … are the basis for creative problem solving and lifelong learning. Creative thinking is fostered in classrooms where children are given opportunities to explore new materials and ideas, play with these materials or ideas, and construct new knowledge and skills,” the text explains. For example, if the teacher tells the student how to build a truck with Legos, and the Lego kit includes wheels so even that problem is solved, there is little room for creativity.

“The process of exploration and play is not confined to preschool and kindergarten classrooms; it also exists in the journals kept by third graders or students in college literature and biology classes,” the researchers write.

“Creativity not only appears in music, art, or literature,” says Sawyers, “but throughout the sciences and social studies fields. There are times in school and in society when we must conform, but there are also times when we need to know how to look at things differently from everyone else.

“If we don’t let young children know that having new and different ideas is okay, then we’ll end up with adults who don’t have new and different ideas. That is what science is finding the problems as well as their solutions. That’s what invention is discovering what needs to be done, as well as devising a way to do it.”

*(Creativity in Early Childhood Classroom, NEA Early Childhood Education Series, by Deborah W. Tegano, James D. Moran III, Janet K. Sawyers. Washington, D.C.: National Education Association of the United States, September 1991)

This material may be reprinted so long as Virginia Tech and the researchers are credited. The illustrations are copyrighted and may not be used separately from the text. Address questions about “Science at Virginia Tech” to Susan Trulove (, 540-231-5646.

Writing for Fun! Essential Elements of a Story

online jr high school

~Byron H., the Writing Whisperer

Welcome back to our series on how to write a short story! Perhaps by now some of the Whisperer’s followers have thought about some ideas, maybe jotted down a few notes about a story they had in mind. And for those who have just joined us at this stage, come along for the ride!

As I stated in the last blog, we are now going to delve into how a story is put together by learning about some essential elements – the backbone of a story. There are many topics to cover and so I will only mention a few and the rest you can research for yourselves in more depth!

When learning to write a story you as an author should be aware, or have at least some idea, how your story will unfold. The story will write itself when the ideas are flowing. To assist, you need to create a general mental, if not written, outline to keep track of all the action that will take place in your story. A way to do this is by identifying the separate parts of the story.

Each one usually has the following key elements: a plot, a setting and characters. All of these create the general mood, or tone, of the story.

talented kids

The plot is the sequence of events that take place in the story that lead the characters (the main and supplementary participants ranging from people, animals to inanimate objects who either tell the story are involved in it) through challenges and interactions with other characters in order for them to realize their full potential or gain some knowledge about the world around them.

The setting informs readers of the time and place of your story. Are we in a real world setting like a city or an imaginary world in outer space, Wonderland or Hogwarts? Are we in the ocean, a desert, a forest, an island, a hospital, a prison or in someone‘s house? And what time period are we in, the past, the present or the future?

Just based on location and time readers will know if people speak a different dialect or language, what clothes they are wearing and what outside events are happening that could influence the plot of the story or just be on the periphery of the action (e.g. wars, new inventions, a mysterious disappearance). These will help readers understand what different beliefs, rituals and practices are part of the environment the characters are living in as they all will influence the way of thinking and motivations behind what the characters do in the plot of the story.

The tone is determined by all of the previously mentioned factors of the plot, setting and characters which then creates the mood, the readers’ perception of what the author thinks or feels about his or her story. To illustrate, you could write about something light and positive describing a warm, sunny, clear blue sky day in a meadow full of flowers (this is a happy image for most people!). Or conversely, depending on how you want your characters to be feeling that day, could reveal a cynical point of view (the way the character or narrator (who tells the story) views life around them) dredging through a blazing inferno of empty skies with no end, the grass cutting through their legs like knaves and flowers that are seem superficially “perfect” but are in fact rotting away inside. (Yes tone can be quite intense!)

jr. high school

It is very revealing and can be either in-your-face or otherwise subtle and seemingly undetected. This will set up the way the author wants you to view the story. For example, you could paint a nostalgic picture of small town Americana with all of its nosy neighbors and annual rituals but under the surface there may lie secrets, dark and sinister, that will be explored in the book by the main characters. (This relates to an element known as foreshadowing when events are merely hinted at but will later reveal themselves in the plot of a story for good or ill will but I am getting ahead of myself!).

Your story may include overarching themes (the most common we all know: good vs. evil, parent and child relationships, growing up, life and death, etc.) that help enhance the story. You may even include allusions (references from other stories, books, TV shows, movies or even history) that will allow readers to make sense of the action in the story by relating it to people, events and objects (real and imaginary) they may know already. For example, characters’ names might refer to ideas and themes (e.g. Mr. Summers, Mr. Graves) or other literary or historical figures (like Alice in Wonderland or the outspoken Puritan Anne Hutchinson).

Even the characters themselves might make a reference to something they have read or seen from our world (e.g. In science fiction and fantasy writer Ray Bradbury’s story “The Halloween Tree”, a group of trick or treaters on Halloween night approach a creepy, “haunted-looking” house and think that the large doorknocker is similar to the one that Ebenezer Scrooge had in Charles Dickens‘ “A Christmas Carol” as its in the shape of a large ghostly head).

There is plenty more to discuss but I will leave you all, my dear readers, to that!

challenging talented mindsAnd now since you have a better idea of what goes into creating a story you can apply your newfound knowledge by reading a very well-known and chilling short story called “The Lottery” by famed author Shirley Jackson (known for writing “The Haunting of Hill House” which was made into the 1963 cult classic “The Haunting” as well as the 1999 remake. These films are not to be confused with “House on Haunted Hill” film starring Vincent Price or its remake!).

Here is a link to the story. You can also use the discussion questions included on the last page to get you thinking about the story as it relates to elements we were just talking about!

Let me know what you think by sending a message! I remember reading this in my freshman English honors class in high school and its stuck with me since then.

You can also check out this appropriate blog that reveals more information on plot, setting and character.

Happy Writings!

Tune in next time for some ideas on how to develop your story…


Advice from the Whisperer: Writing the Personal Statement for College – Part 2

physics competition

~by Byron H., the Writing Whisper

In a couple of blogs ago I introduced the issue of writing the college application essay. Now lets look at each tip one by one…

Topic 1 – Asking a Teacher to Edit Your Paper

As times have changed from the paper-writing days of our parents when they went off to college, we also need to seek help from our high school teachers who are more “in the know” about college applications. Today’s educators have to keep up-to-date as they are the ones responsible for providing us with the education we need in order to obtain higher goals in life, such as going to college and eventually working a full-time job or career. So take some time aside and scout out one of your favorite teachers, who you know will give you good feedback, in helping you to write and edit your personal statement for college.

Yes we are all busy and have a life outside of high school but most teachers that you know well will be more than happy to help. They too had to do the same thing and its better to have a couple of people look at your paper than just one.

essay competition

The obvious teacher choice would be your English or History teachers as they know what to look for when writing an analytical paper. That does not mean you cannot ask your Science or Math teacher as well, just as long as it’s a teacher you have (or had if its been a couple of years) good rapport with. I chose my English honors teacher from my freshman year not only because he helped me to write well but because we had a good relationship with each other that I kept up throughout all of the four years of high school. Not sounding parental (the Whisperer can tend to do that at times!) but it is nice to kept up contact with teachers who you liked and who enjoyed your company when you were in their class. You only have them for such a short time in high school and who knows, they might be the ones that you can go to for a good recommendation letter as well as helping you to look over your paper.

Before approaching a teacher you need to go online first and look up information about the personal statement for the university you applying to. There will be a section that describes the personal statement with given topics and prompts to write about. Try to address these topics by writing some notes about what experience or subject you think will relate to the prompt. After you have compiled your notes, seek out the teacher who you have in mind to help you. They may turn you down at first because they might have other students they are also helping to look over their essays (depends on how popular the teacher is!). But most of the time your first choice will be delighted you asked them for help. Your teacher will give you guidelines to make sure you are sticking to the prompt and the rest will write itself.

It will take some time for both you and your teacher to begin the editing process and that is where patience and managing your time comes in handy. You will have to visit your teacher during their break periods, your lunch time or even before or after school. Its a lot of extra time but it will be worth it in the end. Beyond your regular daily homework you will have to work on your college essay and keep up correspondence with the teacher who is helping you. You should set deadlines for each other to complete the paper but give some leeway as things do come up and you need to prepare for anything.

Once you and your teacher have completed the final drafts of your essay (or two depending on the prompts), leave them alone. You have been working on them for quite some time, potentially between two to four weeks, and your mind needs a break. Give it a few days and then come back to reading the paper again and bringing it in to your teacher for last minute grammatical corrections and clarity.

prestigious school

Then after the ordeal is over do not forget to thank your teacher for their help! A hand-written note, email or even a batch of cookies and chocolate is an added bonus that anyone wouldn’t pass up! And let them know if you got into the college of your choice as they played a part in your success! :)

Next time, we will look at Topic 2: Experiences to Write About in the College Paper

Come check out our Advanced English Literature and Writing courses online at our Areteem Institute departments page as they will provide a wealth of knowledge to help you write better! You can also contact our office in Irvine, CA for more details as well at:

Also to help you further help in improving your academic writing skills, check out the “Teens Writing for Teens” blog for some different options as well as many others.