I love how open the word “world” is. But it’s not open in an impossible, abstract way. It conjures images, colors and differences. And it actually affirms that students come from a “world” that is different from other students’ worlds–something that many students don’t consider until they begin to write for this prompt. Then it invites the writer to describe those differences. Not explain or itemize, but describe. What a simple, beautiful request: describe your world.

The second part invites students to not only describe their dreams and aspirations, but to make connections between how who they’ve been will inform who they will become. Granted, many students don’t at 17 years old know what career they want to pursue or (like me) will change their major in college, perhaps more than once. “Dreams and aspirations” is open enough to allow for a variety of answers.

And here’s my favorite thing about it: by asking the student to make connections, to search for causes and effects, the prompt invites a meaning-making process that can at its best be therapeutic.

Can writing provide therapeutic benefits? Absolutely. Can personal statement writing? You tell me. Try writing this prompt for yourself, whether you’re a student, parent or not. See what happens.