SPP – 7 February

by rachel

Last Saturday was the first session of the scholarship preparation programme workshop that I attended. As I missed the previous week, I had to attend a short make-up session prior to the start of saturday’s workshop. Coming to the workshop, we were asked to bring our profiles from the strengths finder test we took earlier. I was (pleasantly) surprised to find out that each person’s strength finder profile was actually personalised! I thought that as long as we had the same trait, the strength finder would say the same thing about us. Knowing that it was actually unique, and reading other profiles of those with strengths similar to mine really made me wonder about how distinct each of us were.

Furthermore, I think it also served as a reminder to really use the traits that are unique to yourself to your advantage. For example, my top strength, which I felt was very applicable to myself was “Learner” and this was my description:

Because of your strengths, you occasionally center your efforts on making improvements you decide are intriguing or relevant to your life. Maybe you need to feel passionate about these opportunities. Why? You might want to devote time and energy to acquiring the knowledge and/or skills you sense you lack. To some degree, this explains why you periodically force yourself to address specific shortcomings. By nature, you may prefer to read, write, and ponder philosophies, theories, or concepts that interest you. You might prefer to be alone with your thoughts rather than engage people in small talk at a social event. Instinctively, you usually equate education — formal and informal — with understanding more about something today than you understood about it yesterday. It’s very likely that you may enjoy reflecting on what you already know or want to know. At times, your concentration leads you to major or minor discoveries. Maybe you need ample quiet time to examine new information, theories, concepts, or philosophies. Perhaps your mind cannot rest regardless of where you go or what you do. To some extent, you ponder what you have observed. Occasionally you pose never-before-asked questions. Perhaps thinking deeply about certain things is a necessity for you. It might not be a luxury. It might not be an option. Chances are good that you sometimes devote yourself to gaining knowledge or acquiring skills. You may be happy with life when you have ample time to make discoveries. How? You might read, solve problems, write, rehearse, or practice.

In general, I felt like the entire passage was very applicable to me but especially so for the lines that I bolded in the above quote. These aren’t things that I’m not aware of about myself. However, I do feel like this was a reminder to really take time for myself to wind down and reflect amidst the bustle of school because ultimately I do feel that is how I am able to push myself further. While it was perhaps an eye-opener to have a test describe the kind of person I am to me, I do think that ultimately, it’s about self awareness and whether you know these things about yourself – after all, it is you yourself who provides the test with the knowledge to come to these conclusions.

Therefore, I feel like perhaps when we are sharing with our fellow peers, though we might not be able to get them all to do the test, we could do an activity asking them to consider what they feel are their greatest strengths, when they feel they are pushed the most etc. We could perhaps aid their discovery by sharing with them a list of the traits used by Gallup and perhaps even an example of a possible profile. This could help them to maximise the positive aspects of themselves.

Moving into the core of today’s session, it was really about writing a personal statement. A week or so ago, we were asked to write first drafts of our personal statement, which we would then send in to the team for evaluation. Mine happened to be the personal statement that the trainer Mr. Chew used as an example to discuss with the class and I think I’m glad that he liked it but I do think that there’s still improvement to be made on it. For example, he mentioned that from reading it he would have thought I wrote it with the intention of applying for the SPH scholarship and perhaps it would have to be tweaked a little bit if I intended to utilise it to apply to liberal arts colleges/ universities in America. Ultimately, I found that with personal statement we all disagreed a little bit about what a “good” personal statement is. At the end of the day , I think that it’s really about how genuinely the personal statement is able to communicate who the applicant is. Use of anecdotal stories, writing in a very academic way etc, could all be ways of approaching the personal statement, I feel, as long as it resonates with and reflects who you are as a person. At the end of the day I personally think what’s key is being true to yourself. Of course, you want to communicate this in as succinct and clear way as possible but I don’t think one should ever be compelled to write in a style distinctly different from your own in order to “fit” the model of a personal statement. The challenge ultimately is to be able to write in a style that is distinctly yours but yet effective.

And that concludes my thoughts on last Saturday’s session!