I write this knowing this is what I’ve urged students to do in their essays or letters. I write knowing how difficult that is. I’ve struggled in the last few months to find focus as we’ve moved house and country. I’m struggling now as I try to write with nigh constant interruptions. So how do you find that sense of focus?

For students writing their UK Personal statements, the focus is the WHY are you interested in your chosen course and WHAT skills are you demonstrating to prove you’re likely to be successful. Just because you say so, doesn’t prove to me to you are. The analogy I use to make the point is that merely saying I’m a six-foot-tall super-model doesn’t prove I am. I’m only a little over 160 cm (a lot less than six foot) and anyone who’s ever met me will acknowledge that great height is not one of my attributes. As I’ve reviewed students work the last few months, the WHY needs a reminder to keep that sense of focus. As for the WHAT, well that’s needed some work. Given that students are applying to an academic course, their reason, the WHY of study, has often needed to be teased out. Those that spend the majority of time about their interests in sports when the course has nothing to do with sports make me wonder about the motivation for study. The focus is missing. Focusing back on the WHY and WHAT is essential.

And what about for the US and the ‘tell me about me’ essays? Or how about the ‘Why college x’? Both of those still need a great sense of focus and purpose. I had two stand-out sessions at the NACAC Conference in Salt Lake City, one on admissions testing, the other on college essays by Ethan Sawyer. His focus and purpose in his mission to demystify the process of writing the ‘college essay’ was intense. A packed-audience hung on his every word. Each exercise he had us complete was to bring that sense of focus closer. To make it real. To be vulnerable.

I’m finally perched at my own desk again, boxes all around. I long to have the tradespeople finished so I can unpack and find my books. My focus is constantly interrupted. But I’ve set my computer up with pen and paper beside me writing lists of MUST-Dos – my checkpoints to finding focus. I’ve yet to find a present given to me last Christmas – a painted sign that is all about focus = keep it simple