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What to include in a Personal Statement
Personal Statement Tips
Hundreds of personal statement examples to help your application.
Browse by subject and from A to Z. For more help and inspiration, check out our advice pages for Personal Statements.
A-Z of Personal Statements
Learn from previous student personal statements here. We have collated over 700 personal statement examples to help you on your university journey and to help you with how to write a personal statement.
These personal statement examples will show you the kind of thing that universities are looking for from their applicants. See how to structure your personal statement, what kind of format your personal statement should be in, what to write in a personal statement and the key areas to touch on in your statement.
A personal statement is a chance to tell your university all about you - a good personal statement is one that showcases your passion for the subject, what inspired you to apply for the course you’re applying for and why you think you would be an asset to the university.
Our collection includes personal statement examples in Mathematics, Anthropology, Accounting, Computer Science, Zoology and more.
Writing a personal statement has never been easier with our vast collection of personal statement examples.
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Personal Statement Help
What is a personal statement.
A personal statement is an essay written by a student applying to either a college or university. A personal statement is written and then uploaded to UCAS and is then attached to any university applications that the student may then make.
If you need more information check out our personal statement advice articles .
How to write a personal statement
There isn't a clearly defined personal statement template for you to use as each person's statement is different.
When it comes to writing a personal statement for universities, your personal statement should touch on your passions, your interest in the course, why you're applying for the course and why you would be an asset to the university you're applying to.
Talk about the clubs and societies that you belong to, any work experience you may have and any awards you might have won.
If you're still looking for information check out our article on how to write a personal statement .
How to start a personal statement
When it comes to starting your personal statement, the best thing to do is to be succinct and to have enough tantalising information to keep the reader informed and eager for more.
Your introduction should touch on your personal qualities and why you are applying for the subject you're applying for. Keeping things short and sweet means that it also allows you to break your personal statement up, which makes it easier for the reader.
We have plenty of advice for students that are wondering about what to include in a personal statement .
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- Knowledge Base
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- How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples
How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples
Published on February 12, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 3, 2023.
A personal statement is a short essay of around 500–1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you’re applying.
To write a successful personal statement for a graduate school application , don’t just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to demonstrate three things:
- Your personality: what are your interests, values, and motivations?
- Your talents: what can you bring to the program?
- Your goals: what do you hope the program will do for you?
This article guides you through some winning strategies to build a strong, well-structured personal statement for a master’s or PhD application. You can download the full examples below.
Urban Planning Psychology History
Table of contents
Getting started with your personal statement, the introduction: start with an attention-grabbing opening, the main body: craft your narrative, the conclusion: look ahead, revising, editing, and proofreading your personal statement, frequently asked questions, other interesting articles.
Before you start writing, the first step is to understand exactly what’s expected of you. If the application gives you a question or prompt for your personal statement, the most important thing is to respond to it directly.
For example, you might be asked to focus on the development of your personal identity; challenges you have faced in your life; or your career motivations. This will shape your focus and emphasis—but you still need to find your own unique approach to answering it.
There’s no universal template for a personal statement; it’s your chance to be creative and let your own voice shine through. But there are strategies you can use to build a compelling, well-structured story.
The first paragraph of your personal statement should set the tone and lead smoothly into the story you want to tell.
Strategy 1: Open with a concrete scene
An effective way to catch the reader’s attention is to set up a scene that illustrates something about your character and interests. If you’re stuck, try thinking about:
- A personal experience that changed your perspective
- A story from your family’s history
- A memorable teacher or learning experience
- An unusual or unexpected encounter
To write an effective scene, try to go beyond straightforward description; start with an intriguing sentence that pulls the reader in, and give concrete details to create a convincing atmosphere.
Strategy 2: Open with your motivations
To emphasize your enthusiasm and commitment, you can start by explaining your interest in the subject you want to study or the career path you want to follow.
Just stating that it interests you isn’t enough: first, you need to figure out why you’re interested in this field:
- Is it a longstanding passion or a recent discovery?
- Does it come naturally or have you had to work hard at it?
- How does it fit into the rest of your life?
- What do you think it contributes to society?
Tips for the introduction
- Don’t start on a cliche: avoid phrases like “Ever since I was a child…” or “For as long as I can remember…”
- Do save the introduction for last. If you’re struggling to come up with a strong opening, leave it aside, and note down any interesting ideas that occur to you as you write the rest of the personal statement.
Once you’ve set up the main themes of your personal statement, you’ll delve into more detail about your experiences and motivations.
To structure the body of your personal statement, there are various strategies you can use.
Strategy 1: Describe your development over time
One of the simplest strategies is to give a chronological overview of key experiences that have led you to apply for graduate school.
- What first sparked your interest in the field?
- Which classes, assignments, classmates, internships, or other activities helped you develop your knowledge and skills?
- Where do you want to go next? How does this program fit into your future plans?
Don’t try to include absolutely everything you’ve done—pick out highlights that are relevant to your application. Aim to craft a compelling narrative that shows how you’ve changed and actively developed yourself.
My interest in psychology was first sparked early in my high school career. Though somewhat scientifically inclined, I found that what interested me most was not the equations we learned about in physics and chemistry, but the motivations and perceptions of my fellow students, and the subtle social dynamics that I observed inside and outside the classroom. I wanted to learn how our identities, beliefs, and behaviours are shaped through our interactions with others, so I decided to major in Social Psychology. My undergraduate studies deepened my understanding of, and fascination with, the interplay between an individual mind and its social context.During my studies, I acquired a solid foundation of knowledge about concepts like social influence and group dynamics, but I also took classes on various topics not strictly related to my major. I was particularly interested in how other fields intersect with psychology—the classes I took on media studies, biology, and literature all enhanced my understanding of psychological concepts by providing different lenses through which to look at the issues involved.
Strategy 2: Own your challenges and obstacles
If your path to graduate school hasn’t been easy or straightforward, you can turn this into a strength, and structure your personal statement as a story of overcoming obstacles.
- Is your social, cultural or economic background underrepresented in the field? Show how your experiences will contribute a unique perspective.
- Do you have gaps in your resume or lower-than-ideal grades? Explain the challenges you faced and how you dealt with them.
Don’t focus too heavily on negatives, but use them to highlight your positive qualities. Resilience, resourcefulness and perseverance make you a promising graduate school candidate.
Growing up working class, urban decay becomes depressingly familiar. The sight of a row of abandoned houses does not surprise me, but it continues to bother me. Since high school, I have been determined to pursue a career in urban planning. While people of my background experience the consequences of urban planning decisions first-hand, we are underrepresented in the field itself. Ironically, given my motivation, my economic background has made my studies challenging. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship for my undergraduate studies, but after graduation I took jobs in unrelated fields to help support my parents. In the three years since, I have not lost my ambition. Now I am keen to resume my studies, and I believe I can bring an invaluable perspective to the table: that of the people most impacted by the decisions of urban planners.
Strategy 3: Demonstrate your knowledge of the field
Especially if you’re applying for a PhD or another research-focused program, it’s a good idea to show your familiarity with the subject and the department. Your personal statement can focus on the area you want to specialize in and reflect on why it matters to you.
- Reflect on the topics or themes that you’ve focused on in your studies. What draws you to them?
- Discuss any academic achievements, influential teachers, or other highlights of your education.
- Talk about the questions you’d like to explore in your research and why you think they’re important.
The personal statement isn’t a research proposal , so don’t go overboard on detail—but it’s a great opportunity to show your enthusiasm for the field and your capacity for original thinking.
In applying for this research program, my intention is to build on the multidisciplinary approach I have taken in my studies so far, combining knowledge from disparate fields of study to better understand psychological concepts and issues. The Media Psychology program stands out to me as the perfect environment for this kind of research, given its researchers’ openness to collaboration across diverse fields. I am impressed by the department’s innovative interdisciplinary projects that focus on the shifting landscape of media and technology, and I hope that my own work can follow a similarly trailblazing approach. More specifically, I want to develop my understanding of the intersection of psychology and media studies, and explore how media psychology theories and methods might be applied to neurodivergent minds. I am interested not only in media psychology but also in psychological disorders, and how the two interact. This is something I touched on during my undergraduate studies and that I’m excited to delve into further.
Strategy 4: Discuss your professional ambitions
Especially if you’re applying for a more professionally-oriented program (such as an MBA), it’s a good idea to focus on concrete goals and how the program will help you achieve them.
- If your career is just getting started, show how your character is suited to the field, and explain how graduate school will help you develop your talents.
- If you have already worked in the profession, show what you’ve achieved so far, and explain how the program will allow you to take the next step.
- If you are planning a career change, explain what has driven this decision and how your existing experience will help you succeed.
Don’t just state the position you want to achieve. You should demonstrate that you’ve put plenty of thought into your career plans and show why you’re well-suited to this profession.
One thing that fascinated me about the field during my undergraduate studies was the sheer number of different elements whose interactions constitute a person’s experience of an urban environment. Any number of factors could transform the scene I described at the beginning: What if there were no bus route? Better community outreach in the neighborhood? Worse law enforcement? More or fewer jobs available in the area? Some of these factors are out of the hands of an urban planner, but without taking them all into consideration, the planner has an incomplete picture of their task. Through further study I hope to develop my understanding of how these disparate elements combine and interact to create the urban environment. I am interested in the social, psychological and political effects our surroundings have on our lives. My studies will allow me to work on projects directly affecting the kinds of working-class urban communities I know well. I believe I can bring my own experiences, as well as my education, to bear upon the problem of improving infrastructure and quality of life in these communities.
Tips for the main body
- Don’t rehash your resume by trying to summarize everything you’ve done so far; the personal statement isn’t about listing your academic or professional experience, but about reflecting, evaluating, and relating it to broader themes.
- Do make your statements into stories: Instead of saying you’re hard-working and self-motivated, write about your internship where you took the initiative to start a new project. Instead of saying you’ve always loved reading, reflect on a novel or poem that changed your perspective.
Your conclusion should bring the focus back to the program and what you hope to get out of it, whether that’s developing practical skills, exploring intellectual questions, or both.
Emphasize the fit with your specific interests, showing why this program would be the best way to achieve your aims.
Strategy 1: What do you want to know?
If you’re applying for a more academic or research-focused program, end on a note of curiosity: what do you hope to learn, and why do you think this is the best place to learn it?
If there are specific classes or faculty members that you’re excited to learn from, this is the place to express your enthusiasm.
Strategy 2: What do you want to do?
If you’re applying for a program that focuses more on professional training, your conclusion can look to your career aspirations: what role do you want to play in society, and why is this program the best choice to help you get there?
Tips for the conclusion
- Don’t summarize what you’ve already said. You have limited space in a personal statement, so use it wisely!
- Do think bigger than yourself: try to express how your individual aspirations relate to your local community, your academic field, or society more broadly. It’s not just about what you’ll get out of graduate school, but about what you’ll be able to give back.
You’ll be expected to do a lot of writing in graduate school, so make a good first impression: leave yourself plenty of time to revise and polish the text.
Your style doesn’t have to be as formal as other kinds of academic writing, but it should be clear, direct and coherent. Make sure that each paragraph flows smoothly from the last, using topic sentences and transitions to create clear connections between each part.
Don’t be afraid to rewrite and restructure as much as necessary. Since you have a lot of freedom in the structure of a personal statement, you can experiment and move information around to see what works best.
Finally, it’s essential to carefully proofread your personal statement and fix any language errors. Before you submit your application, consider investing in professional personal statement editing . For $150, you have the peace of mind that your personal statement is grammatically correct, strong in term of your arguments, and free of awkward mistakes.
A statement of purpose is usually more formal, focusing on your academic or professional goals. It shouldn’t include anything that isn’t directly relevant to the application.
A personal statement can often be more creative. It might tell a story that isn’t directly related to the application, but that shows something about your personality, values, and motivations.
However, both types of document have the same overall goal: to demonstrate your potential as a graduate student and s how why you’re a great match for the program.
The typical length of a personal statement for graduate school applications is between 500 and 1,000 words.
Different programs have different requirements, so always check if there’s a minimum or maximum length and stick to the guidelines. If there is no recommended word count, aim for no more than 1-2 pages.
If you’re applying to multiple graduate school programs, you should tailor your personal statement to each application.
Some applications provide a prompt or question. In this case, you might have to write a new personal statement from scratch: the most important task is to respond to what you have been asked.
If there’s no prompt or guidelines, you can re-use the same idea for your personal statement – but change the details wherever relevant, making sure to emphasize why you’re applying to this specific program.
If the application also includes other essays, such as a statement of purpose , you might have to revise your personal statement to avoid repeating the same information.
If you want to know more about college essays , academic writing , and AI tools , make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.
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Writing the Personal Statement
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This handout provides information about writing personal statements for academic and other positions.
The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories:
1. The general, comprehensive personal statement:
This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms.
2. The response to very specific questions:
Often, business and graduate school applications ask specific questions, and your statement should respond specifically to the question being asked. Some business school applications favor multiple essays, typically asking for responses to three or more questions.
Questions to ask yourself before you write:
- What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story?
- What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
- When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
- How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
- If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth?
- What are your career goals?
- Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre LSAT or GRE scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
- Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
- What personal characteristics (for example, integrity, compassion, and/or persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
- What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
- Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession or field than other applicants?
- What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?
Answer the questions that are asked
- If you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar.
- Don't be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It is important to answer each question being asked, and if slightly different answers are needed, you should write separate statements. In every case, be sure your answer fits the question being asked.
Tell a story
- Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is to bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourself memorable.
- Don't, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to become a lawyer, engineer, or whatever should be logical, the result of specific experience that is described in your statement. Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story.
Find an angle
- If you're like most people, your life story lacks drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle or a "hook" is vital.
Concentrate on your opening paragraph
- The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement.
Tell what you know
- The middle section of your essay might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as some of your knowledge of the field. Too many people graduate with little or no knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the profession or field they hope to enter. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information. Refer to experiences (work, research, etc.), classes, conversations with people in the field, books you've read, seminars you've attended, or any other source of specific information about the career you want and why you're suited to it. Since you will have to select what you include in your statement, the choices you make are often an indication of your judgment.
Don't include some subjects
- There are certain things best left out of personal statements. For example, references to experiences or accomplishments in high school or earlier are generally not a good idea. Don't mention potentially controversial subjects (for example, controversial religious or political issues).
Do some research, if needed
- If a school wants to know why you're applying to it rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention.
Write well and correctly
- Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits.
- A medical school applicant who writes that he is good at science and wants to help other people is not exactly expressing an original thought. Stay away from often-repeated or tired statements.
For more information on writing a personal statement, see the personal statement vidcast .
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10 Personal Statement Essay Examples That Worked
What’s covered:, what is a personal statement.
- Essay 1: Summer Program
- Essay 2: Being Bangladeshi-American
- Essay 3: Why Medicine
- Essay 4: Love of Writing
- Essay 5: Starting a Fire
- Essay 6: Dedicating a Track
- Essay 7: Body Image and Eating Disorders
- Essay 8: Becoming a Coach
- Essay 9: Eritrea
- Essay 10: Journaling
- Is Your Personal Statement Strong Enough?
Your personal statement is any essay that you must write for your main application, such as the Common App Essay , University of California Essays , or Coalition Application Essay . This type of essay focuses on your unique experiences, ideas, or beliefs that may not be discussed throughout the rest of your application. This essay should be an opportunity for the admissions officers to get to know you better and give them a glimpse into who you really are.
In this post, we will share 10 different personal statements that were all written by real students. We will also provide commentary on what each essay did well and where there is room for improvement, so you can make your personal statement as strong as possible!
Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized.
Personal Statement Examples
Essay example #1: exchange program.
The twisting roads, ornate mosaics, and fragrant scent of freshly ground spices had been so foreign at first. Now in my fifth week of the SNYI-L summer exchange program in Morocco, I felt more comfortable in the city. With a bag full of pastries from the market, I navigated to a bus stop, paid the fare, and began the trip back to my host family’s house. It was hard to believe that only a few years earlier my mom was worried about letting me travel around my home city on my own, let alone a place that I had only lived in for a few weeks. While I had been on a journey towards self-sufficiency and independence for a few years now, it was Morocco that pushed me to become the confident, self-reflective person that I am today.
As a child, my parents pressured me to achieve perfect grades, master my swim strokes, and discover interesting hobbies like playing the oboe and learning to pick locks. I felt compelled to live my life according to their wishes. Of course, this pressure was not a wholly negative factor in my life –– you might even call it support. However, the constant presence of my parents’ hopes for me overcame my own sense of desire and led me to become quite dependent on them. I pushed myself to get straight A’s, complied with years of oboe lessons, and dutifully attended hours of swim practice after school. Despite all these achievements, I felt like I had no sense of self beyond my drive for success. I had always been expected to succeed on the path they had defined. However, this path was interrupted seven years after my parents’ divorce when my dad moved across the country to Oregon.
I missed my dad’s close presence, but I loved my new sense of freedom. My parents’ separation allowed me the space to explore my own strengths and interests as each of them became individually busier. As early as middle school, I was riding the light rail train by myself, reading maps to get myself home, and applying to special academic programs without urging from my parents. Even as I took more initiatives on my own, my parents both continued to see me as somewhat immature. All of that changed three years ago, when I applied and was accepted to the SNYI-L summer exchange program in Morocco. I would be studying Arabic and learning my way around the city of Marrakesh. Although I think my parents were a little surprised when I told them my news, the addition of a fully-funded scholarship convinced them to let me go.
I lived with a host family in Marrakesh and learned that they, too, had high expectations for me. I didn’t know a word of Arabic, and although my host parents and one brother spoke good English, they knew I was there to learn. If I messed up, they patiently corrected me but refused to let me fall into the easy pattern of speaking English just as I did at home. Just as I had when I was younger, I felt pressured and stressed about meeting their expectations. However, one day, as I strolled through the bustling market square after successfully bargaining with one of the street vendors, I realized my mistake. My host family wasn’t being unfair by making me fumble through Arabic. I had applied for this trip, and I had committed to the intensive language study. My host family’s rules about speaking Arabic at home had not been to fulfill their expectations for me, but to help me fulfill my expectations for myself. Similarly, the pressure my parents had put on me as a child had come out of love and their hopes for me, not out of a desire to crush my individuality.
As my bus drove through the still-bustling market square and past the medieval Ben-Youssef madrasa, I realized that becoming independent was a process, not an event. I thought that my parents’ separation when I was ten had been the one experience that would transform me into a self-motivated and autonomous person. It did, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t still have room to grow. Now, although I am even more self-sufficient than I was three years ago, I try to approach every experience with the expectation that it will change me. It’s still difficult, but I understand that just because growth can be uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s not important.
What the Essay Did Well
This is a nice essay because it delves into particular character trait of the student and how it has been shaped and matured over time. Although it doesn’t focus the essay around a specific anecdote, the essay is still successful because it is centered around this student’s independence. This is a nice approach for a personal statement: highlight a particular trait of yours and explore how it has grown with you.
The ideas in this essay are universal to growing up—living up to parents’ expectations, yearning for freedom, and coming to terms with reality—but it feels unique to the student because of the inclusion of details specific to them. Including their oboe lessons, the experience of riding the light rail by themselves, and the negotiations with a street vendor helps show the reader what these common tropes of growing up looked like for them personally.
Another strength of the essay is the level of self-reflection included throughout the piece. Since there is no central anecdote tying everything together, an essay about a character trait is only successful when you deeply reflect on how you felt, where you made mistakes, and how that trait impacts your life. The author includes reflection in sentences like “ I felt like I had no sense of self beyond my drive for success, ” and “ I understand that just because growth can be uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s not important. ” These sentences help us see how the student was impacted and what their point of view is.
What Could Be Improved
The largest change this essay would benefit from is to show not tell. The platitude you have heard a million times no doubt, but for good reason. This essay heavily relies on telling the reader what occurred, making us less engaged as the entire reading experience feels more passive. If the student had shown us what happens though, it keeps the reader tied to the action and makes them feel like they are there with the student, making it much more enjoyable to read.
For example, they tell us about the pressure to succeed their parents placed on them: “ I pushed myself to get straight A’s, complied with years of oboe lessons, and dutifully attended hours of swim practice after school.” They could have shown us what that pressure looked like with a sentence like this: “ My stomach turned somersaults as my rattling knee thumped against the desk before every test, scared to get anything less than a 95. For five years the painful squawk of the oboe only reminded me of my parents’ claps and whistles at my concerts. I mastered the butterfly, backstroke, and freestyle, fighting against the anchor of their expectations threatening to pull me down.”
If the student had gone through their essay and applied this exercise of bringing more detail and colorful language to sentences that tell the reader what happened, the essay would be really great.
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Essay Example #2: Being Bangladeshi-American
Life before was good: verdant forests, sumptuous curries, and a devoted family.
Then, my family abandoned our comfortable life in Bangladesh for a chance at the American dream in Los Angeles. Within our first year, my father was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He lost his battle three weeks before my sixth birthday. Facing a new country without the steady presence of my father, we were vulnerable — prisoners of hardship in the land of the free. We resettled in the Bronx, in my uncle’s renovated basement. It was meant to be our refuge, but I felt more displaced than ever. Gone were the high-rise condos of West L.A.; instead, government projects towered over the neighborhood. Pedestrians no longer smiled and greeted me; the atmosphere was hostile, even toxic. Schoolkids were quick to pick on those they saw as weak or foreign, hurling harsh words I’d never heard before.
Meanwhile, my family began integrating into the local Bangladeshi community. I struggled to understand those who shared my heritage. Bangladeshi mothers stayed home while fathers drove cabs and sold fruit by the roadside — painful societal positions. Riding on crosstown buses or walking home from school, I began to internalize these disparities. During my fleeting encounters with affluent Upper East Siders, I saw kids my age with nannies, parents who wore suits to work, and luxurious apartments with spectacular views. Most took cabs to their destinations: cabs that Bangladeshis drove. I watched the mundane moments of their lives with longing, aching to plant myself in their shoes. Shame prickled down my spine. I distanced myself from my heritage, rejecting the traditional panjabis worn on Eid and refusing the torkari we ate for dinner every day.
As I grappled with my relationship with the Bangladeshi community, I turned my attention to helping my Bronx community by pursuing an internship with Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda. I handled desk work and took calls, spending the bulk of my time actively listening to the hardships constituents faced — everything from a veteran stripped of his benefits to a grandmother unable to support her bedridden grandchild.
I’d never exposed myself to stories like these, and now I was the first to hear them. As an intern, I could only assist in what felt like the small ways — pointing out local job offerings, printing information on free ESL classes, reaching out to non-profits. But to a community facing an onslaught of intense struggles, I realized that something as small as these actions could have vast impacts. Seeing the immediate consequences of my actions inspired me. Throughout that summer, I internalized my community’s daily challenges in a new light. I began to stop seeing the prevalent underemployment and cramped living quarters less as sources of shame. Instead, I saw them as realities that had to be acknowledged, but could ultimately be remedied. I also realized the benefits of the Bangladeshi culture I had been so ashamed of. My Bangla language skills were an asset to the office, and my understanding of Bangladeshi etiquette allowed for smooth communication between office staff and its constituents. As I helped my neighbors navigate city services, I saw my heritage with pride — a perspective I never expected to have.
I can now appreciate the value of my unique culture and background, and of living with less. This perspective offers room for progress, community integration, and a future worth fighting for. My time with Assemblyman Sepulveda’s office taught me that I can be a change agent in enabling this progression. Far from being ashamed of my community, I want to someday return to local politics in the Bronx to continue helping others access the American Dream. I hope to help my community appreciate the opportunity to make progress together. By embracing reality, I learned to live it. Along the way, I discovered one thing: life is good, but we can make it better.
This student’s passion for social justice and civic duty shines through in this essay because of how honest it is. Sharing their personal experience with immigrating, moving around, being an outsider, and finding a community allows us to see the hardships this student has faced and builds empathy towards their situation. However, what really makes it strong is that they go beyond describing the difficulties they faced and explain the mental impact it had on them as a child: Shame prickled down my spine. I distanced myself from my heritage, rejecting the traditional panjabis worn on Eid and refusing the torkari we ate for dinner every day.
The rejection of their culture presented at the beginning of the essay creates a nice juxtaposition with the student’s view in the latter half of the essay and helps demonstrate how they have matured. They use their experience interning as a way to delve into a change in their thought process about their culture and show how their passion for social justice began. Using this experience as a mechanism to explore their thoughts and feelings is an excellent example of how items that are included elsewhere on your application should be incorporated into your essay.
This essay prioritizes emotions and personal views over specific anecdotes. Although there are details and certain moments incorporated throughout to emphasize the author’s points, the main focus remains on the student and how they grapple with their culture and identity.
One area for improvement is the conclusion. Although the forward-looking approach is a nice way to end an essay focused on social justice, it would be nice to include more details and imagery in the conclusion. How does the student want to help their community? What government position do they see themselves holding one day?
A more impactful ending might look like the student walking into their office at the New York City Housing Authority in 15 years and looking at the plans to build a new development in the Bronx just blocks away from where the grew up that would provide quality housing to people in their Bangladeshi community. They would smile while thinking about how far they have come from that young kid who used to be ashamed of their culture.
Essay Example #3: Why Medicine
I took my first trip to China to visit my cousin Anna in July of 2014. Distance had kept us apart, but when we were together, we fell into all of our old inside jokes and caught up on each other’s lives. Her sparkling personality and optimistic attitude always brought a smile to my face. This time, however, my heart broke when I saw the effects of her brain cancer; she had suffered from a stroke that paralyzed her left side. She was still herself in many ways, but I could see that the damage to her brain made things difficult for her. I stayed by her every day, providing the support she needed, whether assisting her with eating and drinking, reading to her, or just watching “Friends.” During my flight back home, sorrow and helplessness overwhelmed me. Would I ever see Anna again? Could I have done more to make Anna comfortable? I wished I could stay in China longer to care for her. As I deplaned, I wondered if I could transform my grief to help other children and teenagers in the US who suffered as Anna did.
The day after I got home, as jet lag dragged me awake a few minutes after midnight, I remembered hearing about the Family Reach Foundation (FRF) and its work with children going through treatments at the local hospital and their families. I began volunteering in the FRF’s Children’s Activity Room, where I play with children battling cancer. Volunteering has both made me appreciate my own health and also cherish the new relationships I build with the children and families. We play sports, make figures out of playdoh, and dress up. When they take on the roles of firefighters or fairies, we all get caught up in the game; for that time, they forget the sanitized, stark, impersonal walls of the pediatric oncology ward. Building close relationships with them and seeing them giggle and laugh is so rewarding — I love watching them grow and get better throughout their course of treatment.
Hearing from the parents about their children’s condition and seeing the children recover inspired me to consider medical research. To get started, I enrolled in a summer collegelevel course in Abnormal Psychology. There I worked with Catelyn, a rising college senior, on a data analysis project regarding Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Together, we examined the neurological etiology of DID by studying four fMRI and PET cases. I fell in love with gathering data and analyzing the results and was amazed by our final product: several stunning brain images showcasing the areas of hyper and hypoactivity in brains affected by DID. Desire quickly followed my amazement — I want to continue this project and study more brains. Their complexity, delicacy, and importance to every aspect of life fascinate me. Successfully completing this research project gave me a sense of hope; I know I am capable of participating in a large scale research project and potentially making a difference in someone else’s life through my research.
Anna’s diagnosis inspired me to begin volunteering at FRF; from there, I discovered my desire to help people further by contributing to medical research. As my research interest blossomed, I realized that it’s no coincidence that I want to study brains—after all, Anna suffered from brain cancer. Reflecting on these experiences this past year and a half, I see that everything I’ve done is connected. Sadly, a few months after I returned from China, Anna passed away. I am still sad, but as I run a toy truck across the floor and watch one of the little patients’ eyes light up, I imagine that she would be proud of my commitment to pursue medicine and study the brain.
This essay has a very strong emotional core that tugs at the heart strings and makes the reader feel invested. Writing about sickness can be difficult and doesn’t always belong in a personal statement, but in this case it works well because the focus is on how this student cared for her cousin and dealt with the grief and emotions surrounding her condition. Writing about the compassion she showed and the doubts and concerns that filled her mind keeps the focus on the author and her personality.
This continues when she again discusses the activities she did with the kids at FRF and the personal reflection this experience allowed her to have. For example, she writes: Volunteering has both made me appreciate my own health and also cherish the new relationships I build with the children and families. We play sports, make figures out of playdoh, and dress up.
Concluding the essay with the sad story of her cousin’s passing brings the essay full circle and returns to the emotional heart of the piece to once again build a connection with the reader. However, it finishes on a hopeful note and demonstrates how this student has been able to turn a tragic experience into a source of lifelong inspiration.
One thing this essay should be cognizant of is that personal statements should not read as summaries of your extracurricular resume. Although this essay doesn’t fully fall into that trap, it does describe two key extracurriculars the student participated in. However, the inclusion of such a strong emotional core running throughout the essay helps keep the focus on the student and her thoughts and feelings during these activities.
To avoid making this mistake, make sure you have a common thread running through your essay and the extracurriculars provide support to the story you are trying to tell, rather than crafting a story around your activities. And, as this essay does, make sure there is lots of personal reflection and feelings weaved throughout to focus attention to you rather than your extracurriculars.
Essay Example #4: Love of Writing
“I want to be a writer.” This had been my answer to every youthful discussion with the adults in my life about what I would do when I grew up. As early as elementary school, I remember reading my writing pieces aloud to an audience at “Author of the Month” ceremonies. Bearing this goal in mind, and hoping to gain some valuable experience, I signed up for a journalism class during my freshman year. Despite my love for writing, I initially found myself uninterested in the subject and I struggled to enjoy the class. When I thought of writing, I imagined lyrical prose, profound poetry, and thrilling plot lines. Journalism required a laconic style and orderly structure, and I found my teacher’s assignments formulaic and dull. That class shook my confidence as a writer. I was uncertain if I should continue in it for the rest of my high school career.
Despite my misgivings, I decided that I couldn’t make a final decision on whether to quit journalism until I had some experience working for a paper outside of the classroom. The following year, I applied to be a staff reporter on our school newspaper. I hoped this would help me become more self-driven and creative, rather than merely writing articles that my teacher assigned. To my surprise, my time on staff was worlds away from what I experienced in the journalism class. Although I was unaccustomed to working in a fast-paced environment and initially found it burdensome to research and complete high-quality stories in a relatively short amount of time, I also found it exciting. I enjoyed learning more about topics and events on campus that I did not know much about; some of my stories that I covered in my first semester concerned a chess tournament, a food drive, and a Spanish immersion party. I relished in the freedom I had to explore and learn, and to write more independently than I could in a classroom.
Although I enjoyed many aspects of working for the paper immediately, reporting also pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I am a shy person, and speaking with people I did not know intimidated me. During my first interview, I met with the basketball coach to prepare for a story about the team’s winning streak. As I approached his office, I felt everything from my toes to my tongue freeze into a solid block, and I could hardly get out my opening questions. Fortunately, the coach was very kind and helped me through the conversation. Encouraged, I prepared for my next interview with more confidence. After a few weeks of practice, I even started to look forward to interviewing people on campus. That first journalism class may have bored me, but even if journalism in practice was challenging, it was anything but tedious.
Over the course of that year, I grew to love writing for our school newspaper. Reporting made me aware of my surroundings, and made me want to know more about current events on campus and in the town where I grew up. By interacting with people all over campus, I came to understand the breadth of individuals and communities that make up my high school. I felt far more connected to diverse parts of my school through my work as a journalist, and I realized that journalism gave me a window into seeing beyond my own experiences. The style of news writing may be different from what I used to think “writing” meant, but I learned that I can still derive exciting plots from events that may have gone unnoticed if not for my stories. I no longer struggle to approach others, and truly enjoy getting to know people and recognizing their accomplishments through my writing. Becoming a writer may be a difficult path, but it is as rewarding as I hoped when I was young.
This essay is clearly structured in a manner that makes it flow very nicely and contributes to its success. It starts with a quote to draw in the reader and show this student’s life-long passion for writing. Then it addresses the challenges of facing new, unfamiliar territory and how this student overcame it. Finally, it concludes by reflecting on this eye-opening experience and a nod to their younger self from the introduction. Having a well-thought out and sequential structure with clear transitions makes it extremely easy for the reader to follow along and take away the main idea.
Another positive aspect of the essay is the use of strong and expressive language. Sentences like “ When I thought of writing, I imagined lyrical prose, profound poetry, and thrilling plot lines ” stand out because of the intentional use of words like “lyrical”, “profound”, and “thrilling” to convey the student’s love of writing. The author also uses an active voice to capture the readers’ attention and keep us engaged. They rely on their language and diction to reveal details to the reader, for instance saying “ I felt everything from my toes to my tongue freeze into a solid block ” to describe feeling nervous.
This essay is already very strong, so there isn’t much that needs to be changed. One thing that could take the essay from great to outstanding would be to throw in more quotes, internal dialogue, and sensory descriptors.
It would be nice to see the nerves they felt interviewing the coach by including dialogue like “ Um…I want to interview you about…uh…”. They could have shown their original distaste for journalism by narrating the thoughts running through their head. The fast-paced environment of their newspaper could have come to life with descriptions about the clacking of keyboards and the whirl of people running around laying out articles.
Essay Example #5: Starting a Fire
Was I no longer the beloved daughter of nature, whisperer of trees? Knee-high rubber boots, camouflage, bug spray—I wore the garb and perfume of a proud wild woman, yet there I was, hunched over the pathetic pile of stubborn sticks, utterly stumped, on the verge of tears. As a child, I had considered myself a kind of rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes, who was serenaded by mourning doves and chickadees, who could glide through tick-infested meadows and emerge Lyme-free. I knew the cracks of the earth like the scars on my own rough palms. Yet here I was, ten years later, incapable of performing the most fundamental outdoor task: I could not, for the life of me, start a fire.
Furiously I rubbed the twigs together—rubbed and rubbed until shreds of skin flaked from my fingers. No smoke. The twigs were too young, too sticky-green; I tossed them away with a shower of curses, and began tearing through the underbrush in search of a more flammable collection. My efforts were fruitless. Livid, I bit a rejected twig, determined to prove that the forest had spurned me, offering only young, wet bones that would never burn. But the wood cracked like carrots between my teeth—old, brittle, and bitter. Roaring and nursing my aching palms, I retreated to the tent, where I sulked and awaited the jeers of my family.
Rattling their empty worm cans and reeking of fat fish, my brother and cousins swaggered into the campsite. Immediately, they noticed the minor stick massacre by the fire pit and called to me, their deep voices already sharp with contempt.
“Where’s the fire, Princess Clara?” they taunted. “Having some trouble?” They prodded me with the ends of the chewed branches and, with a few effortless scrapes of wood on rock, sparked a red and roaring flame. My face burned long after I left the fire pit. The camp stank of salmon and shame.
In the tent, I pondered my failure. Was I so dainty? Was I that incapable? I thought of my hands, how calloused and capable they had been, how tender and smooth they had become. It had been years since I’d kneaded mud between my fingers; instead of scaling a white pine, I’d practiced scales on my piano, my hands softening into those of a musician—fleshy and sensitive. And I’d gotten glasses, having grown horrifically nearsighted; long nights of dim lighting and thick books had done this. I couldn’t remember the last time I had lain down on a hill, barefaced, and seen the stars without having to squint. Crawling along the edge of the tent, a spider confirmed my transformation—he disgusted me, and I felt an overwhelming urge to squash him.
Yet, I realized I hadn’t really changed—I had only shifted perspective. I still eagerly explored new worlds, but through poems and prose rather than pastures and puddles. I’d grown to prefer the boom of a bass over that of a bullfrog, learned to coax a different kind of fire from wood, having developed a burn for writing rhymes and scrawling hypotheses.
That night, I stayed up late with my journal and wrote about the spider I had decided not to kill. I had tolerated him just barely, only shrieking when he jumped—it helped to watch him decorate the corners of the tent with his delicate webs, knowing that he couldn’t start fires, either. When the night grew cold and the embers died, my words still smoked—my hands burned from all that scrawling—and even when I fell asleep, the ideas kept sparking—I was on fire, always on fire.
This student is an excellent writer, which allows a simple story to be outstandingly compelling. The author articulates her points beautifully and creatively through her immense use of details and figurative language. Lines like “a rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes, who was serenaded by mourning doves and chickadees,” and “rubbed and rubbed until shreds of skin flaked from my fingers,” create vivid images that draw the reader in.
The flowery and descriptive prose also contributes to the nice juxtaposition between the old Clara and the new Clara. The latter half of the essay contrasts elements of nature with music and writing to demonstrate how natural these interests are for her now. This sentence perfectly encapsulates the contrast she is trying to build: “It had been years since I’d kneaded mud between my fingers; instead of scaling a white pine, I’d practiced scales on my piano, my hands softening into those of a musician—fleshy and sensitive.”
In addition to being well-written, this essay is thematically cohesive. It begins with the simple introduction “Fire!” and ends with the following image: “When the night grew cold and the embers died, my words still smoked—my hands burned from all that scrawling—and even when I fell asleep, the ideas kept sparking—I was on fire, always on fire.” This full-circle approach leaves readers satisfied and impressed.
There is very little this essay should change, however one thing to be cautious about is having an essay that is overly-descriptive. We know from the essay that this student likes to read and write, and depending on other elements of her application, it might make total sense to have such a flowery and ornate writing style. However, your personal statement needs to reflect your voice as well as your personality. If you would never use language like this in conversation or your writing, don’t put it in your personal statement. Make sure there is a balance between eloquence and your personal voice.
Essay Example #6: Dedicating a Track
“Getting beat is one thing – it’s part of competing – but I want no part in losing.” Coach Rob Stark’s motto never fails to remind me of his encouragement on early-morning bus rides to track meets around the state. I’ve always appreciated the phrase, but an experience last June helped me understand its more profound, universal meaning.
Stark, as we affectionately call him, has coached track at my high school for 25 years. His care, dedication, and emphasis on developing good character has left an enduring impact on me and hundreds of other students. Not only did he help me discover my talent and love for running, but he also taught me the importance of commitment and discipline and to approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running. When I learned a neighboring high school had dedicated their track to a longtime coach, I felt that Stark deserved similar honors.
Our school district’s board of education indicated they would only dedicate our track to Stark if I could demonstrate that he was extraordinary. I took charge and mobilized my teammates to distribute petitions, reach out to alumni, and compile statistics on the many team and individual champions Stark had coached over the years. We received astounding support, collecting almost 3,000 signatures and pages of endorsements from across the community. With help from my teammates, I presented this evidence to the board.
They didn’t bite.
Most members argued that dedicating the track was a low priority. Knowing that we had to act quickly to convince them of its importance, I called a team meeting where we drafted a rebuttal for the next board meeting. To my surprise, they chose me to deliver it. I was far from the best public speaker in the group, and I felt nervous about going before the unsympathetic board again. However, at that second meeting, I discovered that I enjoy articulating and arguing for something that I’m passionate about.
Public speaking resembles a cross country race. Walking to the starting line, you have to trust your training and quell your last minute doubts. When the gun fires, you can’t think too hard about anything; your performance has to be instinctual, natural, even relaxed. At the next board meeting, the podium was my starting line. As I walked up to it, familiar butterflies fluttered in my stomach. Instead of the track stretching out in front of me, I faced the vast audience of teachers, board members, and my teammates. I felt my adrenaline build, and reassured myself: I’ve put in the work, my argument is powerful and sound. As the board president told me to introduce myself, I heard, “runners set” in the back of my mind. She finished speaking, and Bang! The brief silence was the gunshot for me to begin.
The next few minutes blurred together, but when the dust settled, I knew from the board members’ expressions and the audience’s thunderous approval that I had run quite a race. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough; the board voted down our proposal. I was disappointed, but proud of myself, my team, and our collaboration off the track. We stood up for a cause we believed in, and I overcame my worries about being a leader. Although I discovered that changing the status quo through an elected body can be a painstakingly difficult process and requires perseverance, I learned that I enjoy the challenges this effort offers. Last month, one of the school board members joked that I had become a “regular” – I now often show up to meetings to advocate for a variety of causes, including better environmental practices in cafeterias and safer equipment for athletes.
Just as Stark taught me, I worked passionately to achieve my goal. I may have been beaten when I appealed to the board, but I certainly didn’t lose, and that would have made Stark proud.
This essay effectively conveys this student’s compassion for others, initiative, and determination—all great qualities to exemplify in a personal statement!
Although they rely on telling us a lot of what happened up until the board meeting, the use of running a race (their passion) as a metaphor for public speaking provides a lot of insight into the fear that this student overcame to work towards something bigger than themself. Comparing a podium to the starting line, the audience to the track, and silence to the gunshot is a nice way of demonstrating this student’s passion for cross country running without making that the focus of the story.
The essay does a nice job of coming full circle at the end by explaining what the quote from the beginning meant to them after this experience. Without explicitly saying “ I now know that what Stark actually meant is…” they rely on the strength of their argument above to make it obvious to the reader what it means to get beat but not lose.
One of the biggest areas of improvement in the intro, however, is how the essay tells us Stark’s impact rather than showing us: His care, dedication, and emphasis on developing good character has left an enduring impact on me and hundreds of other students. Not only did he help me discover my talent and love for running, but he also taught me the importance of commitment and discipline and to approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running.
The writer could’ve helped us feel a stronger emotional connection to Stark if they had included examples of Stark’s qualities, rather than explicitly stating them. For example, they could’ve written something like: Stark was the kind of person who would give you gas money if you told him your parents couldn’t afford to pick you up from practice. And he actually did that—several times. At track meets, alumni regularly would come talk to him and tell him how he’d changed their lives. Before Stark, I was ambivalent about running and was on the JV team, but his encouragement motivated me to run longer and harder and eventually make varsity. Because of him, I approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running.
Essay Example #7: Body Image and Eating Disorders
I press the “discover” button on my Instagram app, hoping to find enticing pictures to satisfy my boredom. Scrolling through, I see funny videos and mouth-watering pictures of food. However, one image stops me immediately. A fit teenage girl with a “perfect body” relaxes in a bikini on a beach. Beneath it, I see a slew of flattering comments. I shake with disapproval over the image’s unrealistic quality. However, part of me still wants to have a body like hers so that others will make similar comments to me.
I would like to resolve a silent issue that harms many teenagers and adults: negative self image and low self-esteem in a world where social media shapes how people view each other. When people see the façades others wear to create an “ideal” image, they can develop poor thought patterns rooted in negative self-talk. The constant comparisons to “perfect” others make people feel small. In this new digital age, it is hard to distinguish authentic from artificial representations.
When I was 11, I developed anorexia nervosa. Though I was already thin, I wanted to be skinny like the models that I saw on the magazine covers on the grocery store stands. Little did I know that those models probably also suffered from disorders, and that photoshop erased their flaws. I preferred being underweight to being healthy. No matter how little I ate or how thin I was, I always thought that I was too fat. I became obsessed with the number on the scale and would try to eat the least that I could without my parents urging me to take more. Fortunately, I stopped engaging in anorexic behaviors before middle school. However, my underlying mental habits did not change. The images that had provoked my disorder in the first place were still a constant presence in my life.
By age 15, I was in recovery from anorexia, but suffered from depression. While I used to only compare myself to models, the growth of social media meant I also compared myself to my friends and acquaintances. I felt left out when I saw my friends’ excitement about lake trips they had taken without me. As I scrolled past endless photos of my flawless, thin classmates with hundreds of likes and affirming comments, I felt my jealousy spiral. I wanted to be admired and loved by other people too. However, I felt that I could never be enough. I began to hate the way that I looked, and felt nothing in my life was good enough. I wanted to be called “perfect” and “body goals,” so I tried to only post at certain times of day to maximize my “likes.” When that didn’t work, I started to feel too anxious to post anything at all.
Body image insecurities and social media comparisons affect thousands of people – men, women, children, and adults – every day. I am lucky – after a few months of my destructive social media habits, I came across a video that pointed out the illusory nature of social media; many Instagram posts only show off good things while people hide their flaws. I began going to therapy, and recovered from my depression. To address the problem of self-image and social media, we can all focus on what matters on the inside and not what is on the surface. As an effort to become healthy internally, I started a club at my school to promote clean eating and radiating beauty from within. It has helped me grow in my confidence, and today I’m not afraid to show others my struggles by sharing my experience with eating disorders. Someday, I hope to make this club a national organization to help teenagers and adults across the country. I support the idea of body positivity and embracing difference, not “perfection.” After all, how can we be ourselves if we all look the same?
This essay covers the difficult topics of eating disorders and mental health. If you’re thinking about covering similar topics in your essay, we recommend reading our post Should You Talk About Mental Health in College Essays?
The short answer is that, yes, you can talk about mental health, but it can be risky. If you do go that route, it’s important to focus on what you learned from the experience.
The strength of this essay is the student’s vulnerability, in excerpts such as this: I wanted to be admired and loved by other people too. However, I felt that I could never be enough. I began to hate the way that I looked, and felt nothing in my life was good enough. I wanted to be called “perfect” and “body goals,” so I tried to only post at certain times of day to maximize my “likes.”
The student goes on to share how they recovered from their depression through an eye-opening video and therapy sessions, and they’re now helping others find their self-worth as well. It’s great that this essay looks towards the future and shares the writer’s goals of making their club a national organization; we can see their ambition and compassion.
The main weakness of this essay is that it doesn’t focus enough on their recovery process, which is arguably the most important part. They could’ve told us more about the video they watched or the process of starting their club and the interactions they’ve had with other members. Especially when sharing such a vulnerable topic, there should be vulnerability in the recovery process too. That way, the reader can fully appreciate all that this student has overcome.
Essay Example #8: Becoming a Coach
”Advanced females ages 13 to 14 please proceed to staging with your coaches at this time.” Skittering around the room, eyes wide and pleading, I frantically explained my situation to nearby coaches. The seconds ticked away in my head; every polite refusal increased my desperation.
Despair weighed me down. I sank to my knees as a stream of competitors, coaches, and officials flowed around me. My dojang had no coach, and the tournament rules prohibited me from competing without one.
Although I wanted to remain strong, doubts began to cloud my mind. I could not help wondering: what was the point of perfecting my skills if I would never even compete? The other members of my team, who had found coaches minutes earlier, attempted to comfort me, but I barely heard their words. They couldn’t understand my despair at being left on the outside, and I never wanted them to understand.
Since my first lesson 12 years ago, the members of my dojang have become family. I have watched them grow up, finding my own happiness in theirs. Together, we have honed our kicks, blocks, and strikes. We have pushed one another to aim higher and become better martial artists. Although my dojang had searched for a reliable coach for years, we had not found one. When we attended competitions in the past, my teammates and I had always gotten lucky and found a sympathetic coach. Now, I knew this practice was unsustainable. It would devastate me to see the other members of my dojang in my situation, unable to compete and losing hope as a result. My dojang needed a coach, and I decided it was up to me to find one.
I first approached the adults in the dojang – both instructors and members’ parents. However, these attempts only reacquainted me with polite refusals. Everyone I asked told me they couldn’t devote multiple weekends per year to competitions. I soon realized that I would have become the coach myself.
At first, the inner workings of tournaments were a mystery to me. To prepare myself for success as a coach, I spent the next year as an official and took coaching classes on the side. I learned everything from motivational strategies to technical, behind-the-scenes components of Taekwondo competitions. Though I emerged with new knowledge and confidence in my capabilities, others did not share this faith.
Parents threw me disbelieving looks when they learned that their children’s coach was only a child herself. My self-confidence was my armor, deflecting their surly glances. Every armor is penetrable, however, and as the relentless barrage of doubts pounded my resilience, it began to wear down. I grew unsure of my own abilities.
Despite the attack, I refused to give up. When I saw the shining eyes of the youngest students preparing for their first competition, I knew I couldn’t let them down. To quit would be to set them up to be barred from competing like I was. The knowledge that I could solve my dojang’s longtime problem motivated me to overcome my apprehension.
Now that my dojang flourishes at competitions, the attacks on me have weakened, but not ended. I may never win the approval of every parent; at times, I am still tormented by doubts, but I find solace in the fact that members of my dojang now only worry about competing to the best of their abilities.
Now, as I arrive at a tournament with my students, I close my eyes and remember the past. I visualize the frantic search for a coach and the chaos amongst my teammates as we competed with one another to find coaches before the staging calls for our respective divisions. I open my eyes to the exact opposite scene. Lacking a coach hurt my ability to compete, but I am proud to know that no member of my dojang will have to face that problem again.
This essay begins with an in-the-moment narrative that really illustrates the chaos of looking for a coach last-minute. We feel the writer’s emotions, particularly her dejectedness, at not being able to compete. Starting an essay in media res is a great way to capture the attention of your readers and build anticipation for what comes next.
Through this essay, we can see how gutsy and determined the student is in deciding to become a coach themselves. She shows us these characteristics through their actions, rather than explicitly telling us: To prepare myself for success as a coach, I spent the next year as an official and took coaching classes on the side. Also, by discussing the opposition she faced and how it affected her, the student is open and vulnerable about the reality of the situation.
The essay comes full circle as the author recalls the frantic situations in seeking out a coach, but this is no longer a concern for them and their team. Overall, this essay is extremely effective in painting this student as mature, bold, and compassionate.
The biggest thing this essay needs to work on is showing not telling. Throughout the essay, the student tells us that she “emerged with new knowledge and confidence,” she “grew unsure of her own abilities,” and she “refused to give up”. What we really want to know is what this looks like.
Instead of saying she “emerged with new knowledge and confidence” she should have shared how she taught a new move to a fellow team-member without hesitation. Rather than telling us she “grew unsure of her own abilities” she should have shown what that looked like by including her internal dialogue and rhetorical questions that ran through her mind. She could have demonstrated what “refusing to give up” looks like by explaining how she kept learning coaching techniques on her own, turned to a mentor for advice, or devised a plan to win over the trust of parents.
Essay Example #9: Eritrea
No one knows where Eritrea is.
On the first day of school, for the past nine years, I would pensively stand in front of a class, a teacher, a stranger waiting for the inevitable question: Where are you from?
I smile politely, my dimples accentuating my ambiguous features. “Eritrea,” I answer promptly and proudly. But I am always prepared. Before their expression can deepen into confusion, ready to ask “where is that,” I elaborate, perhaps with a fleeting hint of exasperation, “East Africa, near Ethiopia.”
Sometimes, I single out the key-shaped hermit nation on a map, stunning teachers who have “never had a student from there!” Grinning, I resist the urge to remark, “You didn’t even know it existed until two minutes ago!”
Eritrea is to the East of Ethiopia, its arid coastline clutches the lucrative Red Sea. Battle scars litter the ancient streets – the colonial Italian architecture lathered with bullet holes, the mosques mangled with mortar shells. Originally part of the world’s first Christian kingdom, Eritrea passed through the hands of colonial Italy, Britain, and Ethiopia for over a century, until a bloody thirty year war of Independence liberated us.
But these are facts that anyone can know with a quick Google search. These are facts that I have memorised and compounded, first from my Grandmother and now from pristine books borrowed from the library.
No historical narrative, however, can adequately capture what Eritrea is. No one knows the aroma of bushels of potatoes, tomatoes, and garlic – still covered in dirt – that leads you to the open-air market. No one knows the poignant scent of spices, arranged in orange piles reminiscent of compacted dunes. No one knows how to haggle stubborn herders for sheep and roosters for Christmas celebrations as deliberately as my mother. No one can replicate the perfect balance of spices in dorho and tsebhi as well as my grandmother, her gnarly hands stirring the pot with ancient precision (chastising my clumsy knife work with the potatoes). It’s impossible to learn when the injera is ready – the exact moment you have to lift the lid of the mogogo. Do it too early (or too late) and the flatbread becomes mangled and gross. It is a sixth sense passed through matriarchal lineages.
There are no sources that catalogue the scent of incense that wafts through the sunlit porch on St. Michael’s; no films that can capture the luminescence of hundreds of flaming bonfires that fluoresce the sidewalks on Kudus Yohannes, as excited children chant Ge’ez proverbs whose origin has been lost to time. You cannot learn the familiarity of walking beneath the towering Gothic figure of the Enda Mariam Cathedral, the crowds undulating to the ringing of the archaic bells. I have memorized the sound of the rains hounding the metal roof during kiremti , the heat of the sun pounding against the Toyota’s window as we sped down towards Ghinda , the opulent brilliance of the stars twinkling in a sky untainted by light pollution, the scent of warm rolls of bani wafting through the streets at precisely 6 o’clock each day…
I fill my flimsy sketchbook with pictures from my memory. My hand remembers the shapes of the hibiscus drifting in the wind, the outline of my grandmother (affectionately nicknamed a’abaye ) leaning over the garden, the bizarre architecture of the Fiat Tagliero . I dice the vegetables with movements handed down from generations. My nose remembers the scent of frying garlic, the sourness of the warm tayta , the sharpness of the mit’mt’a …
This knowledge is intrinsic. “I am Eritrean,” I repeat. “I am proud.” Within me is an encyclopedia of history, culture, and idealism.
Eritrea is the coffee made from scratch, the spices drying in the sun, the priests and nuns. Eritrea is wise, filled with ambition, and unseen potential. Eritrea isn’t a place, it’s an identity.
This is an exceptional essay that provides a window into this student’s culture that really makes their love for their country and heritage leap off the page. The sheer level of details and sensory descriptors this student is able to fit in this space makes the essay stand out. From the smells, to the traditions, sounds, and sights, the author encapsulates all the glory of Eritrea for the reader.
The vivid images this student is able to create for the reader, whether it is having the tedious conversation with every teacher or cooking in their grandmother’s kitchen, transports us into the story and makes us feel like we are there in the moment with the student. This is a prime example of an essay that shows , not tells.
Besides the amazing imagery, the use of shorter paragraphs also contributes to how engaging this essay is. Employing this tactic helps break up the text to make it more readable and it isolates ideas so they stick out more than if they were enveloped in a large paragraph.
Overall, this is a really strong essay that brings to life this student’s heritage through its use of vivid imagery. This essay exemplifies what it means to show not tell in your writing, and it is a great example of how you can write an intimate personal statement without making yourself the primary focus of your essay.
There is very little this essay should improve upon, but one thing the student might consider would be to inject more personal reflection into their response. Although we can clearly take away their deep love and passion for their homeland and culture, the essay would be a bit more personal if they included the emotions and feelings they associate with the various aspects of Eritrea. For example, the way their heart swells with pride when their grandmother praises their ability to cook a flatbread or the feeling of serenity when they hear the bells ring out from the cathedral. Including personal details as well as sensory ones would create a wonderful balance of imagery and reflection.
Essay Example #10: Journaling
Flipping past dozens of colorful entries in my journal, I arrive at the final blank sheet. I press my pen lightly to the page, barely scratching its surface to create a series of loops stringing together into sentences. Emotions spill out, and with their release, I feel lightness in my chest. The stream of thoughts slows as I reach the bottom of the page, and I gently close the cover of the worn book: another journal finished.
I add the journal to the stack of eleven books on my nightstand. Struck by the bittersweet sensation of closing a chapter of my life, I grab the notebook at the bottom of the pile to reminisce.
“I want to make a flying mushen to fly in space and your in it” – October 2008
Pulling back the cover of my first Tinkerbell-themed diary, the prompt “My Hopes and Dreams” captures my attention. Though “machine” is misspelled in my scribbled response, I see the beginnings of my past obsession with outer space. At the age of five, I tore through novels about the solar system, experimented with rockets built from plastic straws, and rented Space Shuttle films from Blockbuster to satisfy my curiosities. While I chased down answers to questions as limitless as the universe, I fell in love with learning. Eight journals later, the same relentless curiosity brought me to an airplane descending on San Francisco Bay.
“I wish I had infinite sunsets” – July 2019
I reach for the charcoal notepad near the top of the pile and open to the first page: my flight to the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes. While I was excited to explore bioengineering, anxiety twisted in my stomach as I imagined my destination, unsure of whether I could overcome my shyness and connect with others.
With each new conversation, the sweat on my palms became less noticeable, and I met students from 23 different countries. Many of the moments where I challenged myself socially revolved around the third story deck of the Jerry house. A strange medley of English, Arabic, and Mandarin filled the summer air as my friends and I gathered there every evening, and dialogues at sunset soon became moments of bliss. In our conversations about cultural differences, the possibility of an afterlife, and the plausibility of far-fetched conspiracy theories, I learned to voice my opinion. As I was introduced to different viewpoints, these moments challenged my understanding of the world around me. In my final entries from California, I find excitement to learn from others and increased confidence, a tool that would later allow me to impact my community.
“The beauty in a tower of cans” – June 2020
Returning my gaze to the stack of journals, I stretch to take the floral-patterned book sitting on top. I flip through, eventually finding the beginnings of the organization I created during the outbreak of COVID-19. Since then, Door-to-Door Deliveries has woven its way through my entries and into reality, allowing me to aid high-risk populations through free grocery delivery.
With the confidence I gained the summer before, I took action when seeing others in need rather than letting my shyness hold me back. I reached out to local churches and senior centers to spread word of our services and interacted with customers through our website and social media pages. To further expand our impact, we held two food drives, and I mustered the courage to ask for donations door-to-door. In a tower of canned donations, I saw the value of reaching out to help others and realized my own potential to impact the world around me.
I delicately close the journal in my hands, smiling softly as the memories reappear, one after another. Reaching under my bed, I pull out a fresh notebook and open to its first sheet. I lightly press my pen to the page, “And so begins the next chapter…”
The structuring of this essay makes it easy and enjoyable to read. The student effectively organizes their various life experiences around their tower of journals, which centers the reader and makes the different stories easy to follow. Additionally, the student engages quotes from their journals—and unique formatting of the quotes—to signal that they are moving in time and show us which memory we should follow them to.
Thematically, the student uses the idea of shyness to connect the different memories they draw out of their journals. As the student describes their experiences overcoming shyness at the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes and Door-to-Door Deliveries, this essay can be read as an Overcoming Obstacles essay.
At the end of this essay, readers are fully convinced that this student is dedicated (they have committed to journaling every day), thoughtful (journaling is a thoughtful process and, in the essay, the student reflects thoughtfully on the past), and motivated (they flew across the country for a summer program and started a business). These are definitely qualities admissions officers are looking for in applicants!
Although this essay is already exceptionally strong as it’s written, the first journal entry feels out of place compared to the other two entries that discuss the author’s shyness and determination. It works well for the essay to have an entry from when the student was younger to add some humor (with misspelled words) and nostalgia, but if the student had either connected the quote they chose to the idea of overcoming a fear present in the other two anecdotes or if they had picked a different quote all together related to their shyness, it would have made the entire essay feel more cohesive.
Where to Get Your Personal Statement Edited
Do you want feedback on your personal statement? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.
If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!
Next Step: Supplemental Essays
Essay Guides for Each School
How to Write a Stellar Extracurricular Activity College Essay
4 Tips for Writing a Diversity College Essay
How to Write the “Why This College” Essay
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How to Write a Strong Personal Statement
- Ruth Gotian
- Ushma S. Neill
A few adjustments can get your application noticed.
Whether applying for a summer internship, a professional development opportunity, such as a Fulbright, an executive MBA program, or a senior leadership development course, a personal statement threads the ideas of your CV, and is longer and has a different tone and purpose than a traditional cover letter. A few adjustments to your personal statement can get your application noticed by the reviewer.
- Make sure you’re writing what they want to hear. Most organizations that offer a fellowship or internship are using the experience as a pipeline: It’s smart to spend 10 weeks and $15,000 on someone before committing five years and $300,000. Rarely are the organizations being charitable or altruistic, so align your stated goals with theirs
- Know when to bury the lead, and when to get to the point. It’s hard to paint a picture and explain your motivations in 200 words, but if you have two pages, give the reader a story arc or ease into your point by setting the scene.
- Recognize that the reviewer will be reading your statement subjectively, meaning you’re being assessed on unknowable criteria. Most people on evaluation committees are reading for whether or not you’re interesting. Stated differently, do they want to go out to dinner with you to hear more? Write it so that the person reading it wants to hear more.
- Address the elephant in the room (if there is one). Maybe your grades weren’t great in core courses, or perhaps you’ve never worked in the field you’re applying to. Make sure to address the deficiency rather than hoping the reader ignores it because they won’t. A few sentences suffice. Deficiencies do not need to be the cornerstone of the application.
At multiple points in your life, you will need to take action to transition from where you are to where you want to be. This process is layered and time-consuming, and getting yourself to stand out among the masses is an arduous but not impossible task. Having a polished resume that explains what you’ve done is the common first step. But, when an application asks for it, a personal statement can add color and depth to your list of accomplishments. It moves you from a one-dimensional indistinguishable candidate to someone with drive, interest, and nuance.
Whether applying for a summer internship, a professional development opportunity, such as a Fulbright, an executive MBA program, or a senior leadership development course, a personal statement threads the ideas of your CV, and is longer and has a different tone and purpose than a traditional cover letter.
We’ve led prominent professional programs for over two decades and sat on prestigious awards committees. Between us, we have read thousands of personal statements. While a few stand out, most are lackluster and miss the mark. A few adjustments to your personal statement can get your application noticed by the reviewer.
Write what they want to hear.
Most organizations that offer a fellowship or internship are using the experience as a pipeline: It’s smart to spend 10 weeks and $15,000 on someone before committing five years and $300,000. Rarely are the organizations being charitable or altruistic, so align your stated goals with theirs. For example, if you’re applying for a Fulbright — whose goal is to foster cross-cultural dialogue — your defined goals should specifically mention international ambitions rather than a desire to go into the domestic financial sector.
Too often, we read statements that wax lyrical about building a career as a physician when applying to a summer program sponsored by an engineering PhD program. The same goes for charitable foundations: Are they looking for global leaders? Those who hold a connection to the disease they’re funding? Position yourself as holding the same values and goals as the organization sponsoring the opportunity.
Know when to bury the lead and when to get to the point.
Be aware of creative writing strategies that you can employ depending on the length of the essay. It’s hard to paint a picture and explain your motivations in 200 words, but if you have two pages, give the reader a story arc or ease into your point by setting the scene. Take the example of a junior analyst at a bank applying for an executive MBA program. If they’re given the opportunity to write a longer piece, an opening describing how a meaningful volunteer experience shaped their worldview can give the reader insight into their multiple facets and diverse interests.
In a brief essay, on the other hand, you should get right to the point. That same junior analyst, when applying for a company-sponsored leadership development bootcamp, should focus a brief statement on projects they’ve contributed to, leadership skills they’ve so far displayed, and how the course would be used to support further (internal) growth.
Recognize that the evaluator is subjective.
Qualifications, transcripts, and in some cases, tests all form objective measures that determine worthiness for consideration for an opportunity. The personal statement is subjective, meaning you’re also being assessed on unknowable criteria. Most of us on evaluation committees are reading for whether or not you’re interesting. Stated differently, do we want to go out to dinner with you to hear more?
While writing your statement, realize that reader’s opinions might not be based on what you’ve done, but rather on how you position yourself. What did you do with the opportunities and challenges you were given, or how did you create opportunities? Write it so that the person reading it wants to hear more and can’t wait to mentor or equip you with this additional opportunity.
Address the elephant in the room.
So maybe your grades weren’t great in core courses, or perhaps you’ve never worked in the field you’re applying to. Make sure to address the deficiency rather than hope the reader ignores it — because they won’t. A few sentences suffice. Deficiencies do not need to be the cornerstone of the application.
To wit, it’s preferable to read, “You will no doubt see I received a C in organic chemistry and you may wonder why a program in chemistry would consider a candidate with a low grade in such a core topic. I wish I could explain my need to balance a part-time job in the glass-washing facility with schoolwork, and I wish I could explain how much I underestimated how different I would find organic chemistry after sailing through freshman chemistry.”
As opposed to “My high school teacher told me I was good at science and I aced freshman chemistry, so I figured organic chemistry would be easy too. It was taught very unimaginatively in a really big auditorium. I don’t really want to go that direction anyways, but I really want to be in your internship because so far the only lab experience I have is as a glorified dishwasher in the glassware core.”
One example shows grit and perseverance, the other shows a person who would not make an effective team member.
Ultimately, what you have accomplished is important, but it can be dismissed if packaged incorrectly. A bespoke personal statement is a critical component of your application package. The goal is to intrigue the reader with the depth of your character and answer the “how” and “why” questions that your truncated resume is unable to accomplish.
- Ruth Gotian is the chief learning officer and assistant professor of education in anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City and the author of The Success Factor . She was named the world’s #1 emerging management thinker by Thinkers50. You can access her free list of conversation starters . RuthGotian
- Ushma S. Neill is the Vice President, Scientific Education & Training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She runs several summer internships and is involved with the NYC Marshall Scholar Selection Committee. ushmaneill
A guide to writing the best personal statement for your college application (with template and examples!)
Why is boasting about a best friend SO much easier than writing about yourself? Unfortunately, writing about yourself is exactly what a personal statement essay requires you to do–whether it’s for your college admissions application, or for a scholarship application to pay for college . Here’s our guide, to ensure you’re well-equipped to write a killer personal statement!
First off, what’s the purpose of a personal statement?
What topics can i write about, how do i decide what to focus on, in my college essay, okay, i’ve got my personal statement topic. but now i have to actually write it. 😱what do i do .
- Do you have personal statement examples?
Now it’s your turn.
Your personal statement should share something about who you are, something that can’t be found in your resume or transcript.
- It should paint a picture for colleges to understand who we are and what we bring to the table. This is why it’s often better to tell a story, or give examples, rather than just list accomplishments.
- It should complement the other parts of your application. Consider your college application as a whole. Your personal statement, application short answers, and supporting documentation should together tell a story about who you are. This also means not being super repetitive with your personal statement and your short essays. (For instance, if you have to answer 3 questions AND submit a personal statement, maybe they shouldn’t ALL focus on music.)
For scholarship applications:
- It should indicate why you’re deserving of the scholarship. This often means making sure your essay relates to the scholarship provider’s goals. (Get more help on writing a killer scholarship essay here , and then make sure you’re applying as efficiently as possible. )
- It should showcase your strengths. This doesn’t mean it can’t acknowledge any weaknesses, but it surely shouldn’t only focus on negative aspects!
It can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. First, figure out what your choices are. Some colleges may have very specific college essay prompts. That said, many students apply using the Common App, which this year offers these 7 topics to choose from :
- Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
- The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? ( Psst – If you choose this topic, you can sign up for Going Merry and apply for a scholarship bundle : one essay, multiple scholarships! )
- Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
- Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
- Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
- Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
You’ll notice that #7 is a catch-all that allows you to submit any personal statement about anything at all .
So maybe that doesn’t help you narrow it down.
Here’s a 3-step solution:
STEP 1. Brainstorm about your life
Dedicate 5-10 minutes each to brainstorming about these 4 sets of questions.
You can do this by yourself (writing down your thoughts), or do this exercise out loud with a friend or family member, and then jot down notes as you’re talking. If you “think out loud” better than you do on paper, brainstorming with someone else may be the way to go!
(A) What were defining moments in your life?
How did these moments in your life changed you, what did you learn from it, and how has it shaped your future plans? Some topics might include:
- An accident or injury
- A best friend you made (or lost)
- A defining talk with a peer
- Something new you tried for the first time
- Revealing a sexual or gender identity, to friends or family
- Discovering something about your family ( e.g., see Jesus’s story )
- Moving to a new city
- Traveling somewhere, or learning about a new culture ( e.g., see Gabby’s story )
- Your first pet (new responsibilities as a fur mom or dad)
(B) What have you chosen to spend time on?
Remember to focus not just on the what , but also the why – What were your motivations? How did you feel? What have you learned? Some topics on this might include:
- The moment you joined band, color guard, or the soccer team.
- A time you struggled with that activity – e.g., Maybe you got passed over for captain of the soccer? Or maybe you got an injury and had to sit out on the sidelines?
- Maybe a moment you really fell in love with that activity – e.g. Maybe the first time you investigated a story for the school newspaper and realized journalism was your calling?
(C) Whom or what are you inspired by?
How did you find out about this person or thing? Why are you inspired? In what ways are you inspired? Is there anything that inspiration has made you do (e.g. join a club, do an activity or internship on the topic)? Some topics on this might include:
- Technology – Maybe a specific App made you inspired to learn to code?
- Person in your life – Maybe meeting someone (or knowing someone in your family) has affected you?
- A show, movie, book, or podcast that inspired you to look at life differently
- A dance or song that has made you interested in performing arts
(D) What are you proud of?
Make a list of all the things you’re proud of. These can be milestones, hobbies, qualities, or quirks that are what make you, you. Topics to consider might be:
- Times you saved the day – like that epic left-handed catch you made on the field
- Personal qualities – Maybe you’re really funny, or amazingly calm under pressure. What are some examples of times when you showed those qualities?
- Random life things you’re amazing at – Baking a mean chocolate brownie. Guessing how many gumballs are in a jar. Tell a story when that amazing talent was handy!
Don’t worry if some of your ideas repeat between sections. This is just a way to get ideas flowing!
STEP 2. Shortlist your ideas
Identify your strongest ideas out of the bunch. This should probably be very few (2-4).
STEP 3. Freewrite about your possible essay topics.
Once you’ve brainstormed some ideas and identified 2-4 winners, we agree with Find the Right College – just start freewriting! Start by writing a few sentences or paragraphs about any of your shortlisted topics, and let the words flow. Write for about 15 minutes, on each shortlisted topic. Don’t worry about structure or organization – this is just an exercise so you feel comfortable getting the thoughts out of your head and onto paper.
It will also allow you to see which of the topics seems to have the most “legs” — often, you’ll notice that your best topic will:
- Be the easiest to write about (those 15 minutes flew by!)
- Lead you to tell at least one interesting story
- Feel like it genuinely reveals something important about who you are
- Not be captured easily by other parts of your application (you’ll need a full 500 words to really be able to tackle this meaty topic)
Well, let’s start here: What makes a personal statement good or even great ?
Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Get personal.
Remember the “personal” in personal statement. We all have a story to tell, and we all have a different journey that led us to where we are today. We might think “someone already wrote about this” or we might think our story isn’t unique, but IT IS.
2. Speak like you.
Write your personal statement in a genuine tone that reflects who you are . There’s no right or wrong tone – just make sure your tone represents YOU. This means, in particular, not using big words just to show off. Often, this just seems like you’re trying to hard. (Or, even worse, you accidentally use the word incorrectly!)
3. Think about your audience.
Who will you be writing your personal statement for? What message do you want to convey? If it’s for to the college admissions committee, how do you show you’ll align well with the culture of the school? If it’s for a scholarship provider, how do you show you support their mission?
4. Hit the big three: Story, Implication, Connection to college/major.
Most successful college essays do at least 3 things:
- Mention at least one anecdote or story. (“Show, don’t tell.”)
- Explain why that anecdote or story is important to who you are.
- End (or begin) by connecting this information, to why you are applying to this specific college. This may include information about the major (why you think their department/program is great), or more general information about what attracts you to the school (e.g., location, sports, extracurricular activities, Greek life). Get specific so the school knows you’re really interested in them! This is the one piece of your personal statement that probably shouldn’t be cut & paste.
Here’s an example of how to use that personal essay template:
- Story: When I was 11, my family traveled to Italy and visited museums — one specific painting made me fall in love with art. ( 1-2 paragraphs )
- Why important: After that trip, I did lots of art and studied lots of art. Mention specific extracurriculars. ( 3 paragraphs )
- Why this college: I want to apply to X college because of its excellent art program, which I can also complement by joining Y and Z clubs. Since it’s in New York, it’ll also offer my the opportunity to visit the countless art museums like MOMA. ( 1 paragraph )
5. Hit the length.
Make sure you keep within the required length. Normally if you aim for 500 words, you’re golden. Some college or scholarship applications will allow you to write up to 600 or 650 words.
6. Edit your work.
Once you’ve written your personal statement, step away from it. There was a time when we used to rely on pencil and paper to write down all of our ideas and information (including first-draft college essays). Now, we mainly rely on screens, so our eyes grow tired, causing us to miss typos and grammar mistakes.
So save that document in an easy-to-find folder on your computer. Then stepping away from your computer and taking a break helps relax your mind and body and then refocus when you come back to edit the document.
( Psst – If you’re applying for scholarships with Going Merry, we’ve got built-in spellcheck, and we allow you to save essays in your documents folder, so no work will get lost! )
We can’t stress this one enough: Don’t submit your personal statement without checking your spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, etc.! All the grammar things! Your personal statement reflects who you are, from the topic you choose to the style you write it in, so impress colleges (or scholarship providers) with excellent structure and great grammar!
7. Then, ask someone else to edit it too.
We recommend asking a friend, counselor, or parent to read your personal statement before you submit the document. One more set of eyes will really help you get a second opinion on the tone, writing quality, and overall representation of who you are in your personal statement.
8. Be brave, and hit that “submit” button on your personal statement!
Finally, when everything is completed, click submit! Don’t hold back!
9. Remember, personal statements for your college app, can also be reused as scholarship essays.
Get double-use out of your personal statement. Going Merry is your home for all things scholarships–fill out a profile, get matched to eligible scholarships, and apply. You can even save essays so that you can easily upload the same one for multiple scholarship applications. (We were inspired by the Common App to make applying for scholarships easier.)
Register for an account here , get the full lowdown on how it works , or just sign up for the newsletter below (to get 20 scholarship opportunities delivered to our inbox each each week!).
Do you have personal statement examples ?
Oh yes we do. First, here are some excerpts of personal statements from members of our very own Going Merry team!
Charlie Maynard, Going Merry CEO – wrote about what matters most to him and why, for his grad school application.
- The open paragraph read: “Being open to new ideas and able to take advantage of opportunities is what is most important to me. The most extraordinary times in my life have come as a result of moments when I’ve seized opportunities. This has been evident in my educational life, my travels around the world and my professional career.”
- This anchored the main topic of his essay. He then went on to explain examples.
Charlotte Lau, Going Merry Head of Growth – wrote for her college Common App personal statement:
“As a child, I was never close with my father, though we were always on good terms. He made me laugh and taught me all the things that made me into a young tomboy: what an RBI is, how to correctly hook a fish when I feel it biting, what to bring on a camping trip. But whenever I was upset, he wouldn’t know how to comfort me. He is a man of jokes and words, not of comforting motions.
But as I grew older and I too became infatuated with words—albeit in written form—our topics of conversation became more diverse and often more profound. We continued to watch sports games together, but during commercials, we’d have epistemological and ethical discussions more fitting for a philosophy class than a chat during a Knicks’ time-out. During these talks, my father would insert stories about his youth. They’d always be transitory or anecdotal, told as if they were beside the point. Still, I’d eagerly commit them to memory, and, over time, I began to get a sense of who my father was—and, in turn, who I am.”
Now, here are some excerpts from other sample personal statements:
These 3 are college essays about personal characteristics:
Essay 1: Humorous essay about getting a D and learning a lesson
“Getting a D probably isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s not something anyone wants to see, let alone put, on a college application. It came back to me, scrawled in red, on the first big history test of the year. The one the teacher had assured us was a third of our grade. I could already see my chances of a four-year college going up in smoke and my school year hadn’t even started yet.
What happened? I’m not a D student. I’ll get the occasional C as well as the occasional A. D’s are out of character for me, and enough of a stomach punch to really get my attention. The short version is, I didn’t study, and I don’t remember precisely why. There is always a reason not to study, isn’t there? I didn’t study and I went into a test woefully unprepared and got beaten up.
I had two options here. I could accept that I was in fact a D student despite what I had thought. Or I could study hard for the next test and try to bring my grade up by the force of the average.”
Essay 2: Why a talent (in this case, one at football) is also a responsibility
“Talent is not remarkable. It’s usually the first thing anyone compliments. “You’re so talented.” It doesn’t mean what they think it means. It doesn’t mean I worked hard. It means I was lucky, or blessed, or anything else you want to call it.
I have talent. I’ve known since I was old enough to hold a football. The game just makes intuitive sense to me. The pathways of the players, both my team and the others, where the ball has to go, and what I’m doing. In the silence before a snap, I’m already playing out what is going to happen, watching the holes in my lines, tracing the route of my receivers. […]
It is far too easy to view talent as an excuse. For me, it is a motivator. For my talent, I will accept nothing less than a dream that only a tiny percentage of people ever get to experience. To get there, I’m willing to work hard and wring every last accomplishment from myself.
Talent is a responsibility. Because you had nothing to do with acquiring it, you are compelled to achieve every last bit you can with it. While I had grown used to thinking varsity would be it, that was not the case. Now, I can focus on the goal while I accomplish the steps.”
Essay 3: On living with depression
“Before I was diagnosed, I had been told it was a normal part of growing up. I was told that teens are moody. I would grow out of it. I couldn’t imagine anyone growing out of what I was feeling. I couldn’t imagine anyone surviving.
Diagnosis and medication have saved my life, allowing me to see the world as people without my brain chemistry would. […] what I found was a place of tiny kindnesses.
It might sound bad—as though kindness can only exist in the smallest forms. This is not what I mean. There are extraordinary people out there who devote their lives to doing very large, very important things for others. I’m not talking about them, partially because they are extraordinary. They are not the norm.
What is normal are the tiny kindnesses. These do not cost a person much of anything. A slice of time, a moment of openness, and little else. They are a smile when you’re feeling down, a comforting hand on the shoulder, a moment to talk.”
And here are 3 college personal statements, about what drove their interest in their intended major:
Essay 4: On why this applicant wants to study music
“My great-great-uncle Giacomo Ferrari was born in 1912 in Neverland, NY, the youngest of four sons. His parents had emigrated from Italy with his two eldest brothers in the early 1900s in search of a better life in America. Their struggles as immigrants are in themselves inspiring, but the challenges they faced are undoubtedly similar to those that many other immigrant families had to overcome; because of this, the actions that my relatives embarked upon are that much more extraordinary. Giacomo’s oldest brother Antonio, my great-grandfather, decided to take a correspondence course in violin, and to teach his youngest brother Giacomo how to play as well. Giacomo Ferrari eventually became an accomplished violinist and started a free “Lunchtime Strings” program for all the elementary schools in the Neverland area, giving free violin lessons and monthly concerts.
As a native English speaker who has had the privilege of studying viola and violin with trained, private teachers, I can only imagine the perseverance it took for my great-grandfather and great-great uncle to learn an instrument like the violin out of booklets and lessons that were not even written in their native language. Their passion and dedication to learning something new, something not part of their lives as blue-collar, immigrant workers, and their desire to share it with others, has inspired me as a musician and a person. It is this spirit that has motivated me to pursue an MA at Composition at the University of XXX.”
Essay 5: On why this applicant wants to be an allergy specialist
“Suddenly I started scratching my neck, feeling the hives that had started to form. I rushed to the restroom to throw up because my throat was itchy and I felt a weight on my chest. I was experiencing anaphylactic shock, which prevented me from taking anything but shallow breaths. I was fighting the one thing that is meant to protect me and keep me alive – my own body.
[…] After that incident, I began to fear. I became scared of death, eating, and even my own body. As I grew older, I became paranoid about checking food labels and I avoided eating if I didn’t know what was in the food. I knew what could happen if I ate one wrong thing, and I wasn’t willing to risk it for a snack. Ultimately, that fear turned into resentment; I resented my body for making me an outsider.
In the years that followed, this experience and my regular visits to my allergy specialist inspired me to become an allergy specialist. Even though I was probably only ten at the time, I wanted to find a way to help kids like me. I wanted to find a solution so that nobody would have to feel the way I did; nobody deserved to feel that pain, fear, and resentment. As I learned more about the medical world, I became more fascinated with the body’s immune responses, specifically, how a body reacts to allergens.”
Essay 6 : On why this applicant wants to study medicine
“My passion for teaching others and sharing knowledge emanates from my curiosity and love for learning. My shadowing experiences in particular have stimulated my curiosity and desire to learn more about the world around me. How does platelet rich plasma stimulate tissue growth? How does diabetes affect the proximal convoluted tubule? My questions never stopped. I wanted to know everything and it felt very satisfying to apply my knowledge to clinical problems. distinct concepts together to form a coherent picture truly attracts me to medicine.
It is hard to separate science from medicine; in fact, medicine is science. However, medicine is also about people—their feelings, struggles and concerns. Humans are not pre-programmed robots that all face the same problems. Humans deserve sensitive and understanding physicians. Humans deserve doctors who are infinitely curious, constantly questioning new advents in medicine. They deserve someone who loves the challenge of problem solving and coming up with innovative individualized solutions. I want to be that physician. I want to be able to approach each case as a unique entity and incorporate my strengths into providing personalized care for my patients. Until that time, I may be found Friday mornings in the operating room, peering over shoulders, dreaming about the day I get to hold the drill.”
You made it this far. Now, it’s time to write your personal statement!
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How to Write a Personal Statement – 5 Personal Statement Examples
How to write a personal statement? – Introduction
The personal statement is one of the most important parts of the college application process. For this reason, it’s often also one of the most anxiety-inducing. If you’ve been searching for personal statement examples because writing your personal statement has you worried (or excited), then you’re in the right place.
In this article, we’ll present five personal statement examples and teach you how to write a personal statement that highlights who you are and demonstrates your full potential to colleges. We’re going to outline what a personal statement is, how colleges use them in the application process, and which topics tend to work best for college applicants. Then, we’ll offer some advice and tools to help you draft, edit, and finalize your own personal statement. Finally, we’ll walk you through five personal essay examples, breaking them down individually, so you can see just what makes them work.
Writing a personal statement may seem like a daunting task, especially if you aren’t clear on just exactly what a personal statement for college is. After you see your first personal statement example, things may seem clearer. But first, let’s demystify the term “personal statement.”
What is a personal statement?
Learning how to write a personal statement starts with understanding the term . I’m sure throughout the college application process you’ve heard your counselors, teachers, and classmates talking about the importance of a personal statement. While you may know that the personal statement for a university is extremely important, you still might not be clear on just what it is. You may have never even seen a personal statement example. So, before you attempt to start writing , let’s answer the questions: what is a personal statement for college? And just how do universities use them to evaluate students?
A personal statement for college is your chance to set yourself apart from other students and show admissions who you are. A strong personal statement for a university will describe your unique experiences and background in a first-person narrative. And when done well, it’s your opportunity to catch the right attention of an admission officer.
No pressure, right? Don’t stress quite yet. The process of writing a personal statement can be fun! It’s an opportunity to write about something you’re passionate about. You’ll be able to see a personal statement example later on (five, actually!), and you’ll notice that it’s not about the perfect topic , but rather, how you tell your story.
Personal statement basics
Now, let’s talk about personal essay specifics. Generally speaking, a personal statement will be between 400-700 words, depending on the specific university guidelines or application portal. The Common App essay must be 250-650 words. The Coalition App , by contrast, suggests that students write 500-650 words. Try to aim for the higher end of those ranges, as you’ll be hard pressed to write a compelling personal statement without enticing descriptions.
Apart from the word count, what’s the personal statement format? The personal statement for a university should be written in a first-person conventional prose format. You may be a wonderful poet or fiction writer but refrain from using those styles in your personal statement. While using those styles in a personal essay could occasionally be a hit with admissions, it’s best to showcase that style of writing elsewhere. If you choose to add your creative writing style to your application, you should do so by submitting a writing portfolio. Generally speaking, the strongest personal statement will be written in first-person prose language.
General or prompted
When it comes to a personal statement for college, it will generally fall into one of two categories : general, comprehensive personal statement, or a response to a very specific personal essay prompt. In the open-ended option, you’ll want to share a story about something important related to your life. This could be about family, experiences, academics, or extracurriculars . Just be careful not to repeat your entire resume. That’s certainly not the goal of a personal essay.
Remember, it’s a personal statement. So, share something that you haven’t elsewhere. If given a prompt, it will likely be open-ended so that you can flex your creativity and show off your writing style. You’ll be able to write a story that genuinely matters to you, ideally sharing something that has made you who you are.
You may also need a personal statement when applying to certain programs, such as business or STEM programs. The basic idea is the same, but you’ll want to connect your experiences to the specific program. Check out the details of writing a personal statement for a specific field .
That extra push
The college application process can seem rigid at times; the personal statement for college is your chance to show off in a way that has nothing to do with GPA or transcripts. The personal statement is an opportunity for colleges to meet students on their own terms. It’s essentially your written interview .
At top universities, many students will have similar grades and test scores. A strong personal statement gives students the chance to stand out and show that they’re more than just numbers on a transcript. What’s the extra push that an admissions officer may need to admit a qualified student? A well-written, compelling personal statement can help you gain admittance to competitive schools .
Having a support system throughout the college admissions process is important. Keep your parents in the loop with this personal statement webinar that offers details about the common app essay and the personal essay for college.
You are probably wondering the same things as other students about the college application essay or college essay tips. Read an admissions officer’s response to some FAQs and get some useful college essay tips.
The CommonApp Essay vs. The Personal Statement
So, we’ve discussed what a personal statement is and why it matters. Now, let’s discuss one common type of personal statement: the Common App essay. While each school may have their own personal statement topics, the Common App essay section has general prompts that will serve as your personal statement. The Common App essay will respond to one of seven prompts.
Common App Essay Questions for 2022-2023:
- Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
- The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
- Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
- Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
- Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
- Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
- Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
For the most up-to-date information on the Common App essay, you can check their website .
The Common App essay personal statement prompts are intentionally open-ended. They are meant to give you the chance to tell your unique story . However, one requirement is that your Common App essay must be between 250-650 words.
You can choose to respond to any one of the seven prompts. Remember to choose the best prompt for you. It may seem obvious, but the personal statement for college is your opportunity to share your personal story. You’ll want to choose a topic you can write well about that will show how you’ve grown or changed. It’s also your opportunity to show off your writing style. So, pick a topic you enjoy writing about!
Check out some tips on how to tackle each prompt from the Common App essay blog. You may also want to read this Common App essay overview for juniors . We’ll get into more specific details later on how to write the Common App essay– and other personal statement topics in general– later in this article.
How important is a Personal Statement?
As we’ve mentioned, the personal statement is your chance to stand out in a pool of applicants. It’s an extremely important part of any college application. A personal statement for college will be a requirement of nearly every application you complete. Admissions will use your personal statement to get a sense of who you are beyond your grades and scores. So, if you want to show colleges what makes you unique, your personal statement is the place to do it. Figuring out how to write a personal statement is key to a successful application.
Seeing what works when it comes to your personal statement for university can be a helpful first step. U.S. News breaks down the process of writing a personal statement and gives some successful personal essay examples. Reading another student’s successful personal statement example will give you an idea of what impresses admissions. It may even get you excited about writing your own personal statement for college!
While every school will likely require some sort of personal statement, it may actually be used differently in the admissions process. How your personal statement is judged during the admissions process will depend on a school’s size, ranking, acceptance rate , and various other factors. Larger state schools will likely put the most importance on an applicant’s grades and scores while spending little time reviewing a student’s personal statement.
Especially important at top tier schools
However, at Ivy League schools and other elite institutions, many students have the same impressive grades, scores, and extracurriculars. The personal statement allows these schools to distinguish between high-achieving students. If you’re looking at these types of institutions, then a lot of importance should be placed on writing a personal statement that is unforgettable and impresses admissions.
So, we know that learning how to write a personal statement is key to many successful applications, but you may be thinking: what’s the difference between a personal statement and supplemental essays? Every school you apply to via the Common App will receive an identical copy of your Common App essay. The Common App essay serves as your personal statement.
However, each school will have their own supplemental requirements, which may include additional supplemental essays . For schools with many supplemental college essay prompts, your personal essay may not have as much of an impact on your overall application. Admissions officers will see your writing style, and likely your personality, in all of the college essay prompts you submit.
Additional personal statements
Still, you should always treat your personal essay with the utmost care. It can make a huge difference in the admissions process. You may also need to write other personal statements when applying to scholarships or specific programs . It’s good to get used to the process and the personal statement format during college application season.
When should I start writing my Personal Statement?
When it comes to all things in the college application process, including any college application essay, it’s best to start early . Don’t leave your personal statement for a university until the last moment. Writing a personal statement will take time. The sooner you start your personal statement for college, the more likely you are to succeed.
This doesn’t mean that you should start writing your personal statement for university the summer before your sophomore year. High school is a time for development, and colleges want to get to know you at your most mature. It’s just good practice to start thinking about how to write a personal statement early on.
Review personal statement examples
Think about personal statement format, personal statement topics, and personal statement ideas. Look at other students’ personal statement examples. You can start jotting down potential ideas for your personal essay for college at any time, which may be useful down the line. But, you don’t need to actually start writing your personal statement until the summer before your senior year .
Be open-minded to changing your personal statement topic as you grow and discover new things about yourself. Check out this personal statement webinar on how one student switched her personal essay for college at the last moment. Just like there is no set personal statement format, there are no rules against mixing up your topic as you see fit. But, at least try to allow yourself some time to revise and edit your personal essay for college to perfection.
What do I write in a personal statement?
There’s no one-size-fits-all outline when it comes to how to write a personal statement. Your personal statement for university will depend on your own background, interests, and character. Overall, it’s not the personal statement topics that will catch the eye of admissions officers– it’s how you write your story that will. You need to know how to write a personal statement that not only checks the boxes but is also powerful .
Important things to keep in mind when writing your personal statement:
Choose a topic you’re passionate about
What would you be excited to write about? Chase the personal statement topics that seem fun to write, think about, and talk about. If you’re passionate about your personal statement, your audience will feel it and be engaged.
Really be you
Authenticity is key when it comes to writing a personal statement. After all, it’s your chance to tell your story and really show admissions who you are. Whatever you write about, make sure it is true, honest, and authentic to your experiences.
Give it some flair
Ok, we don’t mean do something too unconventional like a personal statement haiku. But, you should show off your writing style in your personal statement for college. Admissions officers want to get to know you and your writing.
Knowing how to start a personal statement or how to start a college essay, in general, is often the most difficult part of the process. You’ll want to brainstorm some personal statement topics to get your creative juices flowing. CollegeAdvisor.com offers a masterclass on brainstorming personal statement topics for the Common App essay in case you need some help with how to start a college essay or a personal statement.
Still have doubts? Read more on how to write a personal statement and get some college essay tips from CollegeAdvisor.com’s admissions experts. It will also be helpful to look at some successful personal essay examples and understand why they worked . Good personal statement examples can inspire you to tackle writing your own personal essay for college.
Exploring Personal Statement Topics
It seems logical that when exploring the process of how to write a personal statement, you should start thinking about personal statement ideas. What are the best topics to write about in a personal statement? If you look at various successful personal statement examples, you’ll likely realize the topic isn’t necessarily the most important part. You don’t need to write about something that no one else has ever written about. You just need your personal statement to have its own unique spin. Lean into brainstorming personal statement ideas that show who you are. It’s helpful to read some personal statement examples for inspiration.
While there is no exact formula for “how to write a personal statement”, there are some basic guidelines that students should follow. The personal statement should be written in first-person nonfiction prose form. Often, a personal statement introduction will include a story or an anecdote and then expand to reveal the impact of that experience on the writer.
You may be specifically wondering how to start a personal statement. Well, it could be with a moment, a place, or a conversation that spurred some sort of change or growth within you. While this isn’t necessarily a “personal statement format,” it’s a very general format that works.
Things to avoid
We now know that the personal statement format is fluid, but there are some things to avoid when thinking about how to write a personal statement:
- Profanity, explicit content, or crude language.
- Lying or misinterpreting events. Keep it authentic.
- Sharing overly personal descriptions of troubling life experiences. Remember that applying to college requires professional boundaries.
- Writing a narrative that revolves around others. The personal statement is all about you and your experiences.
If you want to know what a bad personal statement example would look like, imagine one that includes any of the formerly listed items. You don’t want to catch an admissions officer’s attention for the wrong reasons. Good personal statement examples will be engaging, but inoffensive. Check out some more do’s and don’ts when it comes to how to write a personal statement.
When pondering “how to write a personal statement,” it’s good to know that you don’t need to follow conventional essay guidelines. The best personal statement examples will exude passion and professionalism, while a bad personal statement example will lack soul. If you’re excited about a topic, then that’s a great place to start! Now, let’s get into the actual writing.
How do you write a good Personal Statement?
To review, in the first part of this series of three articles on how to write a personal statement we answered the question “What is a personal statement?” We also explained how schools use a student’s personal statement for college to evaluate them. We described the Common App essay as an example of a personal statement for a university. Next, let’s dig into how to write a personal statement, including how to start a personal statement, the best tips for writing a personal statement, and some good personal statement examples and personal essay examples to inspire you.
First, you have probably wondered how to write a personal statement that stands out from the rest. It all comes down to one thing: authenticity. The best personal statement examples and personal essay examples show schools what makes the writer unique, and they are written in an authentic voice. When giving advice about how to write a personal statement, admissions officers say that the best personal statement examples tell them who the student is beyond their coursework and grades. They are personal, and they tell a unique and interesting story.
Considering Personal Statement topics
So, as you think about how to write a personal statement, you may also wonder what the best personal statement topics are. When writing a personal statement, including the Common App essay, you don’t have to share an exciting story about the time you wrestled a wild bear or how you discovered a cure for cancer. For example, in their advice on how to write a personal statement, Wellesley College advises , “Tragedy is not a requirement, reflection and depth are.”
Some of the best personal statement topics focus on insights about common experiences. Begin your brainstorming process by reviewing the list of Common App essay prompts as you think about writing a personal statement, and choose a story that genuinely matters to you. Then, get excited about telling it! Think about writing a personal statement, including the Common App essay and every other personal essay for college, as an opportunity to lean into your quirkiness or to share your unique insights.
What’s more, a good personal statement for a university should be well-written. Consider the advice offered by Purdue Online Writing Lab : “Be specific, write well and correctly, and avoid cliches.” This will take time—writing a good personal statement for a university or a good Common App essay doesn’t happen overnight. The process of writing a personal statement will include multiple sessions between the first phase of brainstorming and the final phase of editing. Be prepared to write and rewrite, and never hesitate to ask for help from an advisor, counselor, parent, or trusted adult. However, remember that your work should always be your own.
Now, let’s discuss how to start a personal statement.
How do you start a personal statement?
So, now you have the basic information on how to write a personal statement, including your Common App essay. Next, you’re probably asking, “But how do you start one?” In this section, we’ll break down the process of exploring personal statement ideas and how to start a personal statement. This information also applies to thinking about how to start a college essay. Then, we’ll discuss how to write a personal statement opening.
Brainstorming is usually the first phase of any writing project to generate personal statement ideas. You may want to read a personal statement example like those here or here for inspiration to help get your personal statement ideas flowing. Next, ask yourself some idea-generating questions : Who have your intellectual influences been? Which careers are you considering and why? What personal goals do you have? As you think about the answers to these typical college essay prompts, jot down personal statement ideas that occur to you. If you’re still feeling stuck, ask a close friend or family member , “What do you think differentiates me?,” or “What are my quirks?”
Pick a topic that excites you
Then, once you have a few good topics for your personal statement, choose one that you feel most excited to write about. Write a draft of your personal statement introduction and see what other ideas occur to you for later parts of your essay. Choose another topic and do the same thing. Don’t feel like these initial drafts need to be perfect—words on the page are always a great start! The goal right now is to decide which personal statement topics you feel most inspired to write about. Which ideas reflect something interesting about you ?
Once you have selected which topic you will focus on for your personal statement, Common App essay, or personal essay for college, think about crafting a strong hook. The opening line (or lines) of the best personal statement examples include a “hook” for the reader, grabbing their attention and making them want to keep reading. For example, you could start with a question, an unusual or surprising statement, or an anecdote that will leave readers wondering what comes next. Whichever approach you select when considering how to start a college essay, make sure to use engaging language and vivid imagery.
Remember, start early and write several drafts .
The personal statement is an opportunity to write about a topic that is important to you and that also reflects your personality . Now, let’s discuss the personal statement format.
How do you format a personal statement?
Different applications may require different approaches to your personal statement format. In some cases, you may copy and paste your personal statement into an application and it will format itself automatically. In other situations, you will need to set up your personal statement format yourself. If this is the case, Times New Roman font, 12-point, with conventional margins and double spacing is a safe personal statement format.
When you are submitting your personal statement or Common App essay through the Common App, you may notice that the Common Application text box only allows formatting for bold, italics, and underlining. Therefore, it’s best to write your personal statement in Google Docs or Word and to write your paragraphs with block formatting (not indented). In addition, using Google Docs or Word will also allow you to easily check spelling and word counts before pasting your personal statement into the Common App.
Editing your Personal Statement
Many students wonder what the editing process for their personal statement for college, including the Common App essay and other personal essays for college, should look like. This varies by student and by essay. But, the best personal statements for a university go through at least several rounds of edits.
Firstly, once you have written the first draft of your personal statement for a university or personal essay for college, take a step back for a few hours or even for a day. Then, return with fresh eyes. Is your narrative well organized? Are there sections that seem unclear, ideas that don’t support your main point, or awkward sentences? You may want to reorder your paragraphs or sentences or delete and rework other elements. Revisit a personal statement example and consider how it is organized for comparison.
Making the cut
In short, don’t be afraid to cut sentences that don’t directly relate to the main focus of the essay or convey some important detail of the story. This will help clarify your narrative. Also, make sure that you have centered your writing around your own experiences—the story should reflect your perspective and insights.
Next, once you are confident that your personal statement is well organized and your main ideas are clear, do another round of detailed editing. Eliminate any typos or repetitive language; make sure you have proper grammar and spelling throughout.
Finally, ask a trusted adult to read your personal statement and provide feedback. Something that you thought was clear may not be to them. Also, ask them how engaging your personal statement is, and if there are sections that seem dry or unimportant. Ask whether your hook is effective, and review tips on how to start a personal statement if necessary. Sometimes feedback can be difficult to hear, but it helps to remember that even professional writers seek input from others. The goal is to create the best personal statement possible!
For more detailed advice on revising your personal statement, check out this CollegeAdvisor personal statement webinar, “ Revising the Personal Statement .”
How do I know when my personal statement is done?
There’s no definitive way to know when your personal statement for a university is done—you can keep editing most writing forever. However, as you revise and edit, you’ll notice that you have fewer things to fix with every new draft. Once you feel like there’s nothing major left to change, get feedback from someone you trust.
Your College Advisor expert can also provide valuable feedback and guidance at this point. If the notes and suggestions from others are also limited, you may be nearly ready to finalize your personal statement for college and press “submit.”
6 Tips for Writing a Great Personal Statement
1. be authentic.
Remember, admissions officers want to know about you —your personality, your interests, your goals. A great personal statement is personal . Your personal statement for a university needs to express your unique ideas and insights in your own voice. Nobody can tell your story better than you. So, choose a topic that interests you and let your energy and ideas shine through.
Being personal also means that you should share sensory details and your internal dialogue. What did you see or hear at a critical moment? What were you thinking or feeling during that pivotal conversation? The more personal details you share, the more interesting your personal statement will be.
2. Start early
This is one of the most important tips on how to write a personal statement. You can start brainstorming topics for your personal statement at any time during high school. Some students keep a notebook where they write down personal statement topics and ideas as they occur to them over time. They also begin reading other good personal statement examples and Common App essays for inspiration.
Regardless, a good plan is to solidify a draft of your personal statement for college the summer before your senior year. This will give you time to work on supplemental essays and other parts of your applications during the fall of your senior year.
3. Brainstorm before you write
Take some time to think and reflect deeply before you begin writing. Don’t feel like you need to jump into a full essay draft as soon as you complete your junior year. Do some writing exercises and brainstorming activities first, including reading other personal statement examples.
In each personal statement example you read, pay close attention to the personal statement introduction, the narrative arc, and the conclusion. Did the writer incorporate an effective technique for how to start a college essay? Why is the essay interesting? What does it tell you about the writer?
4. Tell a story
Keep in mind that well-told stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They also engage the reader and arrive at a clear message or point by the end. In short, the best personal statement examples follow a narrative arc.
Start with an interesting hook and use it as an introduction to a story from your life that addresses the given college essay prompt. Then, use the latter half of your personal statement or Common App essay to show why this story matters and how it reveals a key part of your identity. And always remember: show, don’t tell.
5. Avoid common mistakes
Steer clear of cliches in your writing—they do not help you stand out or demonstrate strong writing skills. Also, do not use your personal statement or Common App essay as an opportunity to rehash your activities or achievements. Remember, these are included in other parts of your application.
The best personal statement examples show admission officers something about the writer that is not reflected in other parts of the application. They describe first-hand experiences and provide specific examples to illustrate ideas.
6. Edit carefully
Once you’ve written your personal statement for college, look for anything that doesn’t feel right. Eliminate awkward phrasing, delete or replace repeated words and phrases, and work to streamline your language. You might delete entire drafts, and that’s okay! It’s a process, and all the work you do gets you closer to your best work. Also, make sure to ask a few others whom you trust to read your essay and provide suggestions for edits.
Bonus tip: Ask for help
A second set of eyes can make a huge difference. Ask an advisor (like our team at CollegeAdvisor.com), counselor, or parent to look over your work. Don’t let anyone write your sentences for you—instead, use their input to help your voice shine through.
For more great college essay tips on how to write a personal statement and college essays, check out this advice from college admission experts.
Personal Statement- Frequently Asked Questions
Where can i find a good personal statement example.
There are a variety of websites that offer good personal essay examples as models you can use to inspire you. A good place to begin is here , and there are also examples of personal statements in the next article of this series. As you read these examples, take note of the personal statement introduction, as well as how the writer focuses the essay on a specific topic or idea that reflects their personality.
Is it ever too late to change my personal statement?
While it is much better to begin writing your personal statement early, sometimes students decide later in the writing process that they want to rethink the personal statement topic they have chosen. If you find yourself in this position, you will find some helpful advice in this CommonApplicant.com personal statement webinar .
My parents didn’t go to college. How do I explain personal statements and how to write a personal statement to them?
CollegeAdvisor.com has created a special personal statement webinar just for parents. In this webinar, we describe personal statements, the specifics of how to write a great college essay, and other college admissions terms.
I’m a high school junior. What should I be doing now to prepare to write my personal statement and college essays?
First, congratulations on thinking ahead! You can begin by reading “ Common App Essay Overview for Juniors .” Then, your CollegeAdvisor admissions expert can help you begin brainstorming and planning for your college application essays. They can provide you with examples of common college essay prompts, as well as helpful college essay tips. Also, they can provide suggestions on how to start a personal statement and share other resources on how to write a great college essay.
How will college admission officers evaluate my personal statement and college application essay?
Admission officers are looking for personal stories that are well told. How closely each of your college application essays is read will vary depending both on the school and the other components of your application. However, as more schools become test-optional, admission officers say that college essays are becoming even more important in the admissions process. So, as you plan your essays keep in mind that admission officers want to learn about you —your experiences, thoughts, and goals. They also want to see that you have solid writing skills, so make sure that you closely edit your essays before you submit them.
If you would like to hear directly from an admission officer and learn more about how to write a great college essay, including specific advice on how to start a college essay, check out this “ 39 Essay Tips ” article.
How is the personal statement for a university different from the Common App essay and personal essay for college?
The Common App essay asks students to write a personal statement in response to one of seven provided prompts. All types of personal essays for college provide students with an opportunity to introduce themselves to college admission officers on their own terms. For a more detailed description of each of these types of essays, check out the first article in this series, “How to Write a Personal Statement.”
For answers to more frequently asked questions about personal statements for college and college essays, click here .
In the first part of this series discussing how to write a personal statement, we answered the questions “What is a personal statement?” and “How important is the personal statement?” In this second article of the series, we have covered the specifics of how to write a personal statement, including descriptions of the writing phases of the personal statement and personal essay for the college writing process. In the next article, we will examine personal statement examples and highlight key elements of each personal statement example.
Introducing 5 Personal Statement Examples
By this point, you’ve gone from asking, “What is a personal statement?” to knowing how to write a personal statement. Now, let’s look at some personal statement examples. Reading personal statement examples is great preparation for writing your own personal statement for college.
However, keep in mind that reading about how to write a personal statement is one thing–writing a personal statement is entirely different. By reading these personal statement examples and why they worked, you’ll have a better grasp of how to write a personal statement.
Each of these personal statement examples shows something that isn’t clear in the rest of the application. Top schools accepted all the writers of these personal statement examples. Our guide will walk you through each of these personal essay examples and discuss what makes them work. We hope by reading these, you can learn more about how to write a personal statement.
Personal Statement Example #1: Choosing a Great Topic
The first of our personal statement examples was written by a student who was accepted to Yale, Princeton, and other top schools. Their personal statement discusses the legacy of antisemitic violence in their family. While political and religious topics can be difficult, this student writes a fantastic college application essay about their topic.
Across the ocean, there is war. Children mistaking rockets for fireworks, parents too protective—too careful—to correct them. Back home, there are phone calls. To family, to friends. In English, in Hebrew. “Are you safe?” I pray they live far from Jerusalem. Right here, in my room, there is turmoil. Furiously swiping through Instagram, I wonder who will betray me next. I wonder which friend will decide that their loosely related, offensive commentary belongs on their profile. Once the deed is done, I am quick to unfollow. To cut off perpetrators of what Jewish journalists call “the Social Media Pogrom”: when targeting the Jewish people online turns to real antisemitic violence (and a powerful reason to unfollow my friends). So I flee from my friends’ Instagram accounts. But only because my family fled from much worse. My grandfather found himself wearing a yellow star, living in a ghetto, and losing everything to the Nazis. One day, he ripped off the star and ran. Even though it meant never seeing his family again. He did not flee for a better life; he fled for any life. His son came to marry another refugee: my mother. Her story is a familiar one, shared by many in my hometown: escaping yet another antisemitic regime whose existence threatened her own, my mother fled Revolutionary Iran in 1979. Fortunately, she was reunited years later with all eight of her siblings, who had escaped in various other creative, illegal ways—“on camelback” being a personal favorite. To this day, she bears a scar on her eyelid from antisemitic violence back home. My family tree’s roots are settled in the soil of persecution. Swastikas have sawed away at its structure, and Revolutionary Guards have bent its branches. I know too well which winds will threaten the leaves: words wishing my people death, implicitly or explicitly. Calling on my cousins to evacuate their homes, for they are on the Jewish side of the land dispute. Denying the reality that no one deserves to be displaced. When I hear these words, see them on a screen, I sense a chillingly familiar breeze. Sometimes, the breeze blows away a few leaves: a rabbi is stabbed, a synagogue vandalized. Suddenly my friends, teetering on the edge of antisemitism with waves of painful posts, are no longer my friends. They are my enemies. But then I hear a little voice: “David, what on Earth are you doing?” And I remember that they are not. They are not Nazis or Revolutionary Guards. I should not shun them or cease to show them love. I cannot wallow in my rage or simply “unfollow”—not on Instagram, not in life. I soon return those beloved friends to my circle. I “follow” them once again. Because dialogue is my lifestyle. I ought to be recruiting my friends to Model Congress or engaging them in class. Welcoming the people around me to a world of positive, exciting, and purposeful discourse is the best I can do. It’s also who I am. My family passed down a sensitive radar for harmful rhetoric, but also gifted me with a powerful belief—a Jewish belief—in informed discussion and coexistence. Holding no hate in their hearts, my ancestors wore lenses of love that did not belong to their oppressors. Today, I wear those same lenses with pride. Once infuriating Instagram posts no longer cloud my vision. I’ve instead fallen in love with the precious diversity of thought that surrounds me and find myself most at home when I am immersed in political dialogue. I will face many “enemy” opinions, but I will not shut my eyes and cover my ears, give up a dear human connection, and miss out on a meaningful experience. I will approach individuals with humanity rather than animosity, acceptance rather than judgement, and love rather than hate. I will live by the lessons of my ancestors.
What did this Common App essay do well? Firstly, it covers a great topic. This student writes about their family’s experience with antisemitic violence and its legacy in their life today. When writing a personal statement for college, such sensitive personal statement topics can be challenging. In this case, the writer successfully centers their experiences and thoughts rather than on controversial events.
Moreover, they cut through political tension with a core reality rooted in empathy: “No one deserves to be displaced.” This is a great strategy if you’re wondering how to write a personal statement on a sensitive topic. All personal statement topics have an angle that makes them universally relatable. If your personal essay for college is missing something, try an empathetic approach.
Ask for help revising
Don’t forget to ask other people to revise your personal statement for university. What makes sense to you may not read well to others. Especially with sensitive topics, share your work with someone you can trust to give you feedback. If possible, also include a non-family member like a teacher or guidance counselor who knows how to write a personal statement.
This student connects their family’s troubles with their own worldview. Good personal statement examples offer a look at the author as a person. A strong topic lets you reflect on how your experiences have impacted your engagement with the world and other people. And as shown above, the writer chose a great topic –not necessarily a great college essay prompt. College essay prompts are wide-ranging , and good personal statement ideas can come from any of them. Indeed, whatever your prompt is, personal essay examples are ultimately about you .
Evocative language and imagery
With this in mind, look at how the writer’s attitude changes throughout their Common App essay. Good personal statement examples contain precise, evocative language and imagery. When you’re writing a personal statement, find the right words—not necessarily the longest ones—and sentence structures you need. This personal statement begins in a panic; the writer “furiously swiping” in the “turmoil” of their room, keenly attuned to betrayal from friends. These words and the short paragraphs bring each thought into sharp focus.
The writer’s passion for their subject shows through their language. Using structural repetition in “Wishing…. Calling…. Denying…” establishes a serious tone and keeps the personal statement fresh. In the latter half, words like “beloved,” “lenses of love,” and “precious diversity” signify a shift to a gentle, loving attitude. The best personal essay examples choose their words precisely. By choosing words carefully in combination with poetic and rhetorical devices, you can write a stellar personal statement for university.
Certainly, family histories can be great personal statement topics. Even so, suffering doesn’t automatically make a strong personal statement for university. If you know how to write a personal statement, even at first mundane personal statement ideas can become good personal statement examples.
Personal Statement Example #2: Finding a Great Hook
The second of our personal statement examples is by a student who was accepted to UC San Diego, Johns Hopkins, the University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, and more. In their personal statement for college, this student uses their interest in Rubik’s cubes to frame other parts of their life.
My life is as simple as a Rubik’s Cube: a child’s toy that can be solved in 20 moves or less IF and only if enough knowledge is gained. I received one on my 9th birthday and over the following months, I became obsessed with it. I rotated the rows aimlessly, hoping that eventually the cube would solve itself. I was naive about the complexity of the cube which led me to apply some research. I began looking up tutorials on YouTube about solving the toy and was in awe over the amount of work that had to be done. I forced myself to go step by step until I could arrange a single face, and my progress pushed me forward until I could solve 4 of the 6 faces of the cube. Every night for an hour I would randomize the colors again and work my way back to ⅔ of the cube being complete. Until this point, I lacked the confidence in my everyday life and had never aimed for a difficult goal, especially one without external motivation. However, what I love about solving the cube is that you can follow the steps perfectly and still run into a stalemate based on the arrangement of the squares. This forces you to randomize the cube again and start from step 1. All the hard work and time put into this object can be useless, but it is unavoidable no matter what you do. Multiple times I faced this dilemma of running into a wall, but instead of giving up, my will pushed me forward. I shed many tears over my failures to solve a child’s toy. I needed to push through these failures until I could learn how to arrange the last faces of the cube. And just like that, it was complete! The Rubik’s Cube was arranged correctly. However, I wanted to get faster. I was inspired by the greatest, the individuals who could solve cubes within 5 seconds, and mix up the cube once more. I tried over and over until the point of obsession where I could get the cube arranged in under a minute. Sometimes it is necessary to disarrange a completed face of the cube in order to achieve the end goal of every face being complete. The colors of a cube can be compared to my academics, my athletics, my art, my leadership, my hobbies, and my family life. Though it is a struggle to juggle all these tasks, it is the desire to expand in all these subjects that pushes me forward. I want to learn more and master subjects within my academics, improve my form and get faster within my athletics, grow my skills of digital design within art, become a stronger role model as a leader, volunteer more within my hobbies, and get closer to supporting my family. This mindset will continue to push me to expand my present knowledge and learn new concepts in order to complete my goals. 43,252,003,274,489,856,000: That is how many combinations there are for a single 3×3 Rubik’s cube, and there are probably even more combinations ahead of me in my journey through college and beyond. I have to struggle to learn how to solve my cube and put in the hard work in order to succeed at this game of life. Once I finish school and solve my cube for the first time, the game is not over. The next steps are to refine my work and ethics until I can get the process of solving my own cube down to 20 moves or less. My life goal is to carve a name for myself among the best and the brightest in the surgical field, yet there is always more knowledge to obtain which will drive me to continue growing.
Take a look at that hook! The classic personal statement format begins with a hook to draw the reader into a story, and this is no different. This personal statement introduction, “My life is as simple as a Rubik’s cube”, is bold, even seemingly contradictory, until you read the rest of the sentence. Either way, it makes you want to keep reading this personal statement example.
The worst thing a personal statement for a university can be is boring. A good hook starts your reader off on the right foot. While many personal statement examples begin in the middle of a story, making a bold claim is also common. If you’re wondering how to start a personal statement, start thinking about what opening sentence would grab your attention.
Like the first essay’s writer, this student also uses descriptive language to bring their Common App essay to life. They didn’t simply try the Rubik’s cube, but they “rotated the rows aimlessly”. Rather than saying they kept working on the cube, the writer shows us how they scrambled and resolved it every night. When writing a personal statement, do your own experiences justice with the right descriptive language .
Thinking about tone
You may notice the tone of this personal essay example is very different from the first– intensity isn’t everything! In fact, it’s a reflection of the different subject matter of these personal essay examples. When writing your personal statement, your tone should match what you are trying to say. In the same way that one word can make a sentence, another can totally break it.
From a vivid description of their childhood, the writer expands the scope of their Common App essay to other areas of their life. Good personal statement examples explore subjects that other parts of your application don’t. In this case, this student uses the Rubik’s cube to represent their varied activities and their aspirations for each. They also reflect on life lessons and personal traits: perseverance, ambition, and curiosity.
In other words, the writer creates parallels between their interest in Rubik’s cubes and their personal journey. In the same way that they obsess over speed-solving, the writer works to excel in other subjects. Furthermore, the writer shows us this instead of directly telling — a maneuver fundamental to all good personal statement examples. The writer makes a compelling case as not only an applicant but also as a future member of the campus community.
Notice the chronological structure this student uses for their Common App essay. Specifically, see how it follows the writer’s life from their first Rubik’s cube to the present day. This is a simple way to craft a strong Common App essay. Personal essay examples like this make it easy to reflect on your growth, which is crucial for any personal statement for college. Lastly, by ending with the 20 moves needed to solve a cube, the writer neatly ties up this personal statement example.
Personal Statement Example #3: The Value of a Great Ending
The third of our personal statement examples is by a student who got into the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Southern California. The writer talks about how being on the swim team helped them cultivate confidence.
When I joined the high school swim team, I never expected to go to school dressed as Shrek. Yet as Freshman Friday approached, I learned it was team tradition for upperclassmen swimmers to dress freshmen teammates in ridiculous costumes. Against my will, my teammates splotched green paint on my face, styled my hair into pigtails covered in green paper, and stuffed a pillow under my sweatshirt. Attending my classes was mortifying. With every stare, I buried my head further into my textbook and shifted my hand to cover my green and now bright red face; with every chuckle, I sank deeper into my seat, attempting to hide my massive pillow stomach. The frown on my face felt like a permanent fixture, and after dealing with the humiliation for a class period, I was done. I yanked the pillow out of my sweatshirt and ripped the paper from my hair. The only hint of swamp ogre that remained was the green face paint. When confronted about my lack of Shrek-ness at the end of the day, I claimed I was overheating and that the paper had fallen apart. I lied. I was just embarrassed. I always knew I was shy — the “too-timid-to-signal-the-waiter” type of shy — but until Freshman Friday, I hadn’t realized the extent to which it affected the social and academic aspects of my life. Ever since I was young, my jaw would clench at the thought of humiliating myself by deviating from the norm and bringing attention to myself. I often closed myself off from friends by diverting conversations to trivial topics like gym class when they probed me about deeper subjects like my mental health. I even avoided participating in class by scouring Google for hours for physics help to circumvent admitting to my classmates that I was confused by asking questions. By hiding in the shadows to avoid embarrassment, I hindered my ability to cherish the humor in being Shrek, and, more broadly, my comfort in freely expressing myself. However, I loved swimming and wanted to make my high school team’s environment as wonderful for me as my love for the sport. I slowly started creeping out of my shell, meeting the team, and participating in more voluntary dress-up days. Freshman year, I wore a dragon onesie on pajama day; sophomore year, I wore a Hawaiian shirt, a lei, and sunscreen for tacky tourist day. Junior year, I wore my swimsuit over leggings, goggles, medals, pigtails with award ribbons, and a towel cape, finally surpassing the ridiculousness of the Shrek costume. For the first time, I finally felt confident enough to prance around the school, laughing about my costume with my classmates. I felt like a true part of my team, joking with teammates, taking pictures, and letting the whole school know that I swam. With each year and its dress-up days, I gradually felt more of the sense of community, team spirit, and fun that I had craved. Dressing up unleashed my confidence. This, in turn, made me happier and more involved in my school community. Most surprisingly, though, was how dressing up eventually better prepared me to enter engineering. Hispanic women are severely underrepresented in engineering, so I used to fear that I would be incapable of establishing a strong enough presence and earning my peers’ respect for my ideas. However, with every group discussion I initiated, every question I asked, and every club meeting I hosted, I saw myself making a place for my input and noticed that my teachers and peers actually valued it. I realized that I had found my voice and even enjoyed sharing my opinions. I’m now ready to take on the challenge of expressing my thoughts in a male-dominated field. In the meantime, I’m just looking forward to my swim team’s next dress-up day.
Like our last essay, this personal statement has an awesome hook. In fact, the writer drops us right into the action. This technique, known as in media res , is great for a Common App essay. You can immediately set the scene for your reader, then build context from there. Not only does the writer bring us right in, but they also expertly use language for tone. “Ridiculous,” “against my will,” and “splotched” all illustrate the writer’s opposition to what’s about to happen. This is an effective technique in personal statement examples.
Following the anecdote, the writer reflects on their intense shyness. They show self-awareness by recounting specific instances where fear got the better of them. Yet again, we can see the importance of showing rather than telling in a personal statement. Each sentence provides an example of how the writer’s shyness had a negative impact on their social and academic success. Thus, we see the true conflict in this personal statement isn’t the costume, but the writer overcoming their lifelong shyness.
Personal growth and development
Ask anyone how to write a personal statement and they’ll tell you about growth. When writing a personal statement for university, demonstrating personal growth and an ability to reflect on it is key. Across college essay prompts, you should explore how your experiences have shaped or changed you. Being able to indicate specific causes and effects is part of all good personal statement examples.
From there, the writer clearly illustrates their journey from insecurity to confidence. They show us the ways that their shyness manifested before. Then, the writer shows us the increasingly ridiculous costumes they wore. Of course, the language changes, too—the writer goes from “creeping” to “prancing”! Yet another example of how small changes to wording can have a huge impact on your personal statement for college.
Finally, the writer provides a sound conclusion. They mention the numerous benefits of their newfound confidence and, more importantly, look forward. In the final paragraph, the writer takes the lessons they’ve learned and discusses how they will use them to accomplish their goals. Like both of the personal essay examples we’ve already seen, the writer closes by talking about the doors they want to open.
Circling back to your hook
We saw the effectiveness of linking the hook and closing paragraph in previous personal statement examples. Similarly, this personal statement example ends with the idea of dress-up day once again. This kind of personal statement format helps bring everything full circle. In learning about how to write a personal statement, the conclusion is one of the most important parts. Especially in chronologically structured personal statements, closing the loop in this way makes your personal statement feel complete .
The best personal statement examples have a well-written conclusion. Taking your personal statement ideas and addressing them neatly in the conclusion is important. Whether you explain particular future goals or simply affirm your personal values, you should have a future-facing closer. Colleges want to know not only how you’ve grown, but also how you will bring that growth to campus.
Personal Statement Example #4: Why This Essay Worked
Fourth on our list of personal statement examples is by a writer who applied to performing arts programs. This student wrote about their love for the performing arts and their heritage. They were accepted to schools like NYU Tisch, Point Park, and Roosevelt University. Look for the college essay tips we already mentioned in the personal statement below.
At six years old, most kids I know get excited to help Blue find clues or recite Elmo’s songs on Sesame Street. So you can imagine my family’s surprise when they saw me ignoring the other kids to go belt alongside my grandfather’s mariachi trio in the backyard. Growing up, I had always loved performing for people. But my passion for performing in front of a packed house never compared to performing for my favorite audience: my great grandmother. From age seven to twelve, my dad would take our family on a three-hour road trip to visit my great grandmother’s nursing home every single weekend. I remember the clean, antiseptic smell, and the beeping of her oxygen concentrator as I perched myself next to her bed and sang all types of songs from romantic boleros to earwormy Disney tunes. Even as she began failing to recognize her loved ones due to her worsening Alzheimer’s, she would always remember me, her “palomita blanca,” or white dove. But as I got older, singing what once were innocent songs, like “Edelweiss” or “Almost There,” started to make me feel like an imposter. I knew I belonged on stage, but I never saw any Mexican representation in any of my favorite musicals and animated cartoons. By seventh grade, I was plucking away at my full eyebrows for community theatre the night before auditions because I was told it would give me a better chance at landing a lead role. When my great grandmother passed away, I had lost the person who constantly reminded me how powerful staying true to your identity is. Without her, I questioned whether I had a chance at pursuing the thing that lights my soul aflame. But I stuck through the late nights, sprained ankles, and endless sweating under stage lights, because I loved theatre more than anything else in the world. In my freshman year, I joined the Conservatory of the Arts program for dance and drama at my high school. After my first show, I remember feeling so comforted by the fact that I finally felt that I belonged in the theatre kid community. In sophomore year, I finally got my first lead role as Gertrude in my high school’s production of Seussical. At last! All of my hard work had paid off and I was going to be a lead after six years of ensembles. I was so excited to get the chance to show myself and the world that my identity was my power. I didn’t want to be any old Gertrude. I’d stay up until 2 a.m. on weekends coming up with ways to make her more memorable. Inspired by Juan Gabriel’s emotional ballads, I added vocal cry to Gertrude’s solos to better portray her insecurities. Instead of sticking to just belting in “All For You,” I sang runs similar to the high energy mariachi songs I grew up with to show off my character’s passion and newfound confidence. But in March 2020, the world stopped, and the show couldn’t go on. Distanced learning made the performing arts programs nowhere near as fun or educational as they used to be. Still though, as president of the drama program in 2021, I am determined to rebuild a community that was torn apart by a worldwide pandemic. I want to be the mentor I never had. My confidence in my identity has been an important tool in teaching others that practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes progress. I work hard encouraging others not to be afraid to show the world what they have. Musical theatre is an art that thrives with innovation, so I’d like to bring the creative spice which my culture has enriched me with to the world’s stage. Maybe someday I can be that actress on stage or TV that’ll get a little Latina girl enthralled by the arts.
In this personal essay example, the writer uses vivid storytelling to show how they became the person they are today. Firstly, the hook tells us how the writer values both performance and her family. This light, fun personal statement introduction quickly goes for the heartstrings by introducing the writer’s great-grandmother. Personal statement examples sometimes avoid talking about family, because it’s easy to lose focus on the writer. But this writer never loses sight of their own memories, emotions, and experiences.
Equally important, those experiences are well-illustrated with rich imagery that clearly conveys the writer’s passion for their topic. Details like the smell and sound of the nursing home bring us into the moment. The writer also provides some examples of what they endured in theatre: “late nights” and “sprained ankles.” Use concrete images to get your personal statement ideas across with impact .
Also, the writer makes a point to explore the intersections of their Hispanic heritage and their passion for theatre. Particularly, the writer discusses their difficulty in putting them together, as shown by plucking their eyebrows. By establishing this conflict in the middle of her personal statement, the writer indicates their awareness of the wider world and their place in it. Many good personal statement examples will create context like this, showing the author thinking beyond themselves.
Show commitment to your topic
Broadly, the writer discusses their twin passions with powerful language and imagery. Exhibiting genuine enthusiasm for your personal statement topics is key. This personal statement shows that the writer has always been moved by their family and by the arts. Their triumph in combining the two feels huge precisely because we understand how much each of these things mean to them. Even if your personal statement topics aren’t as deep-seeded as this writer’s, you should show commitment to what you’re writing about.
If you’re reading this, COVID probably disrupted your school life at some point, as it did for this student. However, be careful not to linger on it more than necessary. This writer doesn’t completely gloss over the pandemic, but they keep their own journey at the center of the personal statement. The writer’s experience with distanced learning propelled them forward. Ideally, your personal statement for the university should keep a tight focus on you. The narrative personal statement format should show not only your experiences but also what you’ve learned from them.
Personal Statement Example #5: Pulling It All Together
The fifth and last of our personal statement examples is by another student who got into several top schools. They write about their participation and leadership at a club event. Keep an eye out for all the tips we’ve mentioned, from a good hook to showing-not-telling.
One hundred and fifty bagels, all completely frozen. I couldn’t believe it. My school’s Model UN Conference was to start in thirty minutes, and breakfast for the delegates was nowhere near ready. I looked with dismay at my friends’ concerned faces peering out from behind piles of frozen bagels. As Secretary-General, it was my job to ensure that this conference went smoothly. However, it seemed that was not going to be the case. I took a moment to weigh my options before instructing Hannah, our “logistics coordinator,” to heat up the frozen circles of doom in the home-ec room. I knew Hannah enjoyed baking, so I trusted her to find a way into the locked room and thaw the assortment of bagels. Cold bagels were not the only thing weighing heavily on my mind that morning. As I walked from classroom to classroom helping set up committees, I couldn’t help but feel nervous. Our conference wasn’t going to be like those of the private schools- there were no engraved pens or stylish water bottles. Instead, people got post-it notes and whatever pens we could steal from the supply closet. Forcing myself to stop worrying, I chose instead to think of why we made that choice. Since most of the food was donated, and all of the supplies had been “borrowed” from the supply closet, we could afford to charge only a nominal fee to everyone attending. Making Model UN accessible was one of my top priorities as Secretary-General; the same desire motivated me to begin including middle school students in the club. I hurried back down to the cafeteria, and was relieved to see that all the bagels looked warm and ready to eat. The bagels would not be the sole crisis that day. As debates were about to start, one of the Chairs sent me a panic stricken text: “We only have 5 people in our committee! We can’t reenact the creation of the Treaty of Versailles!” I hurried to where his debate was taking place, and sure enough, only five people were there. I quickly considered my options- cancel the committee? Convince some delegates to switch into this debate through bagel bribery? Or maybe, come up with a completely new topic? I settled on idea number three. But what topic could a committee of only five people spend a day discussing? I mulled it over until an idea began to form. I explained to the room, “Each one of you will represent one of the five major Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. The chair will guide you as you tweet, make campaign videos, and debate the most important political issues.” I spent a few minutes figuring out how to go about moderating such an unconventional committee, before heading off to check in on the other debates. As I walked from committee to committee, fixing problems and helping move debates along, I felt a sense of pride. I had spent months working on this conference, along with the other members of my team. At times, I worried I could never pull it off. A part of me had wished our faculty advisor would just organize the whole thing for us. After all, I’m just a high schooler, how could I put together such a big event? But as the day went by, I realized that with the help of my peers, I had done it. All the little crises that cropped up weren’t because I was doing a bad job; they were inevitable. The fact that I could find solutions to such a wide variety of problems was a testament to my leadership skills, and my level-headedness. I didn’t just feel like a leader—I felt like an adult. As I look towards my future in college and later the workforce, I know that I can succeed, even if my obstacles seem as insurmountable as a mountain of frozen bagels.
This writer has a great example of how to start a college essay. Their strong hook makes us curious – why are there so many? What’s going on, and can the writer fix it? The essay’s tone is clear from the outset, and we’re drawn in by the conflict. Moreover, the writer establishes themselves as a leader and problem-solver.
Like a short story character, this writer encounters various obstacles. Throughout this personal statement, the writer shows off their resourcefulness, leadership skills, and quick thinking. While other people are in this personal statement example, the focus never wavers from the writer’s thoughts and actions. Additionally, the writer details the thought process behind each of their solutions.
As we’ve mentioned, a good personal statement for a university shows information, rather than telling it. This writer walks through various aspects of the conference in the second paragraph, then explains their reasoning. Instead of just saying they wanted to make the conference accessible, the writer shows us how they made it possible by organizing food donations and only charging a small fee. This Common App essay shows us what the writer is like through actions as well as words.
A narrative of learning and growth
As with our other personal statement examples, the writer wraps up with a strong conclusion that recalls the hook. They recount their personal growth throughout this process. In addition, the writer elaborates on the lessons they have taken from this experience. As shown above, introspection on personal growth and values is part of any good personal essay for college. This Common App essay makes a solid case for its writer as a future student and community member.
In sum, this writer takes a seemingly insignificant anecdote and uses it to reveal something critical about their experiences. By highlighting particular, telling moments, the writer shows us their personality and capability. What’s more, by using engaging language and a clear structure, the writer makes a lasting impact on the reader. For these reasons, this is a superb example of a personal statement for college.
CollegeAdvisor Resources on Writing a Great Personal Statement
By now, you’ve seen several personal statement examples and confidently say you know how to write a personal statement. But maybe you feel you need a little more information. A good personal statement for college starts with early preparation. Getting a head start on writing your personal essay for college is a great idea.
We at CollegeAdvisor have no shortage of guides on how to write a personal statement. We’ve got quick college essay tips from our admissions experts . If you have some more time, here are some frequently asked questions answered by an Admissions Officer. If you’re more of a watcher than a reader, check out a personal statement webinar from CollegeAdvisor.
How to Write a Personal Statement: Final Thoughts
You made it to the end! Now you know how to write a great college essay. Let’s briefly recap what we covered in this “How to Write a Personal Statement” guide.
Firstly, we answered the question, “What is a personal statement?” We outlined the expected length, personal statement format, and how important they are in the application process. Then, we explored some of the most common and effective personal statement topics.
Next, we looked at how to write a personal statement. We gave advice and tips on drafting, editing, and finalizing your personal essay for college. Specifically, we talked about the value of strong hooks, your unique voice, and editing.
Finally, we reviewed five personal statement examples and discussed what made them work. Each of our personal essay examples had effective language, structure, and other techniques that may inspire your writing.
Still a little stuck on how to write a personal statement for college? Aside from college essay tips and personal statement webinars, CollegeAdvisor also offers one-on-one support. We have hundreds of Admissions Experts and former Admissions Officers available to support you. Our Admissions Experts can work with you to help you craft a college application essay that highlights your potential.
This guide was written by Sarah Kaminski , Lori Dunlap , and Gina Goosby . No matter what stage you are at in your college search, CollegeAdvisor.com is here to help. We’ve created a wide range of guides, to help you navigate the college admissions process from building your school list all the way to packing for your freshman fall. For more specialized guidance on writing a personal statement, click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.
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How to Write a Personal Statement
A personal statement can be a key part of your college application, and you can really make yours shine by following a few tips.
When you're applying to college—either to an undergraduate or graduate program—you may be asked to submit a personal statement. It's an essay that gives you the chance to share more about who you are and why you'd like to attend the university you're applying to.
The information you provide in your personal statement can help build on your other application materials, like your transcripts and letters of recommendation, and build a more cohesive picture to help the admissions committee understand your goals.
In this article, we'll go over more about personal statements, including why they're important, what to include in one, and tips for strengthening yours.
What is a personal statement?
A personal statement—sometimes known as a college essay —is a brief written essay you submit along with other materials when you're applying to college or university. Personal statements tend to be most common for undergraduate applications, and they're a great opportunity for an admissions committee to hear your voice directly.
Many colleges and universities in the US, especially those using Common App , provide prompts for you to use. For example, "Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea" or "Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time" [ 1 ]. If the school you're interested in attending doesn't require prompts, you will likely want to craft a response that touches on your story, your values, and your goals if possible.
In grad school, personal statements are sometimes known as letters of intent , and go into more detail about your academic and professional background, while expressing interest in attending the particular program you're applying to.
Why is a personal statement important?
Personal statements are important for a number of reasons. Whereas other materials you submit in an application can address your academic abilities (like your transcripts) or how you perform as a student (like your letters of recommendation), a personal statement is a chance to do exactly that: get more personal.
Personal statements typically:
Permit you to share things that don't fit on your resume, such as personal stories, motivations, and values
Offer schools a chance to see why you're interested in a particular field of study and what you hope to accomplish after you graduate
Provide an opportunity for you to talk about past employment, volunteer experiences, or skills you have that complement your studies
Allow colleges to evaluate your writing skills
Bring life to a college application package otherwise filled with facts and figures
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How to write a personal statement
As we mentioned earlier, you may have to respond to a prompt when drafting your personal statement—or a college or university may invite you to respond however you'd like. In either case, use the steps below to begin building your response.
Create a solid hook .
To capture the attention of an admissions committee member, start your personal statement with a hook that relates to the topic of your essay. A hook tends to be a colorful sentence or two at the very beginning that compels the reader to continue reading.
To create a captivating hook, try one of these methods:
Pose a rhetorical question.
Provide an interesting statistic.
Insert a quote from a well-known person.
Challenge the reader with a common misconception.
Use an anecdote, which is a short story that can be true or imaginary.
Credibility is crucial when writing a personal statement as part of your college application process. If you choose a statistic, quote, or misconception for your hook, make sure it comes from a reliable source.
Follow a narrative.
The best personal statements typically read like a story: they have a common theme, as well as a beginning, middle, and end. This type of format also helps keep your thoughts organized and improves the flow of your essay.
Common themes to consider for your personal statement include:
Special role models from your past
Life-altering events you've experienced
Unusual challenges you've faced
Accomplishments you're especially proud of
Service to others and why you enjoy it
What you've learned from traveling to a particular place
Unique ways you stand out from other candidates
Admissions committees read thousands of personal statements every year, which is why being specific on yours is important. Back up your statements with examples or anecdotes.
For instance, avoid vague assertions like, "I'm interested in your school counseling program because I care about children." Instead, point out experiences you've had with children that emphasize how much you care. For instance, you might mention your summer job as a day camp counselor or your volunteer experience mentoring younger children.
Don't forget to include detail and vibrancy to keep your statement interesting. The use of detail shows how your unique voice and experiences can add value to the college or university you're applying to.
Stay on topic.
It's natural to want to impress the members of the admissions committee that will read your personal statement. The best way to do this is to lead your readers through a cohesive, informative, and descriptive essay.
If you feel you might be going astray, check to make sure each paragraph in the body of your essay supports your introduction. Here are a few more strategies that can help keep you on track:
Know what you want to say and do research if needed.
Create an outline listing the key points you want to share.
Read your outline aloud to confirm it makes logical sense before proceeding.
Read your essay aloud while you're writing to confirm you're staying on topic.
Ask a trusted friend or family member to read your essay and make suggestions.
Be true to your own voice
Because of the importance of your personal statement, you could be tempted to be very formal with structure and language. However, it's better to use a more relaxed tone than you would for a classroom writing assignment.
Remember: admissions committees really want to hear from you . Writing in your own voice will help accomplish this. To ensure your tone isn't too relaxed, write your statement as if you were speaking to an older relative or trusted teacher. This way, you'll come across as respectful, confident, and honest.
Tips for drafting an effective personal statement
Now that you've learned a little about personal statements and how to craft them, here are a few more tips you can follow to strengthen your essay:
1. Customize your statement.
You don't have to completely rewrite your personal statement every time you apply to a new college, but you do want to make sure that you tailor it as much as possible. For instance, if you talk about wanting to take a certain class or study a certain subject, make sure you adjust any specifics for each application.
2. Avoid cliches.
Admissions committees are ultimately looking for students who will fit the school, and who the school can help guide toward their larger goals. In that case, cliches can get in the way of a reviewer understanding what it is you want from a college education. Watch out for cliches like "making a difference," "broadening my horizons," or "the best thing that ever happened to me."
3. Stay focused.
Try to avoid getting off-track or including tangents in your personal statement. Stay focused by writing a first draft and then re-reading what you've written. Does every paragraph flow from one point to the next? Are the ideas you're presenting cohesive?
4. Stick to topics that aren't controversial
It's best not to talk about political beliefs or inappropriate topics in your personal essay. These can be controversial, and ideally you want to share something goals-driven or values-driven with an admissions committee.
Polish your writing skills on Coursera
A stellar personal statement starts with stellar writing skills. Enhance your writing ability with a writing course from a top university, like Good with Words: Writing and Editing from the University of Michigan or Writing a Personal Essay from Wesleyan University. Get started for free to level up your writing.
1. Common App. " 2022-2023 Common App Essay Prompts , https://www.commonapp.org/blog/2022-2023-common-app-essay-prompts." Accessed June 9, 2023.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.
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10 Best Personal Statement Examples (How to Write)
Personal statements refer to an account of your talents, achievements, goals, and interests included in a job or school application. Personal statements are also included in resumes. Whether it is being written for a job or university application, personal statements have the same content. The only difference between them is university personal statements are slightly longer and detailed than job personal statements. When you include them in resumes and job applications, personal statements are generally one paragraph. It is important to note that every company or learning institution has its requirements for personal statements. Therefore, when writing to yours, make sure that you follow these guidelines strictly.
Importance of Personal Statement for Applications and Interviews
Personal statements form an integral part of any job or university application. If you are seeking a scholarship or study program, you need to write an excellent personal statement. Personal statements can either make or break your chances of getting a job, receiving a scholarship, or getting an offer. A good personal statement should contain detailed information about your academic qualifications and achievements and related job experience. To make your personal statement more appealing, you can also talk about your career or academic aspirations. This will be a significant boost, especially if you are applying for a scholarship. Given the high number of applicants in the most job and scholarship opportunities, a personal statement can play a vital role in determining whether or not you receive an interview call.
Types of Personal Statement
There are different types of personal statements. They are categorized according to the purpose they serve. For example, a personal statement might be included in your CV. Like a summary section or an in-person pitch, personal statements written in resumes highlight an individual’s abilities and objectives. Given the fact that resumes can be as long as several pages, you should take advantage and showcase must-see details that boost your candidature. In a CV, however, you shouldn’t write a lengthy personal statement but instead, keep it short and straightforward.
Some companies ask applicants to include their personal statements in the job application. By doing so, the companies will be able to sort out the candidates according to the position they are applying for. For example, if there are several job openings, it can be challenging to tell which application is for which position — this is where personal statements come in handy.
How to Write a Personal Statement
Start by sharing details about yourself: Answer the question “who are you?”. You can mention positive things about yourself like “highly experienced Digital Marketer” or “I recently graduated with a Masters in Foreign Diplomacy.”
Mention your most relevant attributes and what the company can benefit from hiring you: Mention what you will do when hired. For example, “a highly experienced Digital Marketer with skills in data management and analysis,” or “in my 12 years as a Chief Editor, I have never let a detail slip: I won the best employee five-time for my efforts in the company. I meet my targets on time and work well with other employees.”
Say something about your career goals: No employer wants to hire an individual without ambitions. It is, therefore, important to say something about your career goals. You can say, “I am looking for a digital marketing position” or “I am looking forward to working in a midsized company as a Chief Editor” to further develop my skills in Journalism. I would also like to put my production and management skills to the test.”
Proofreading and Editing a Personal Statement
Once you have completed writing your personal statement, it is essential to proofread and edit it. The best technique in doing so is reading it out loud to hear how your writing sounds. This will help you find areas of improvement such as:
- Spelling and grammar
- Passive voice
- Simple and clear phrasing
- Easy to understand the language
You should review the personal statement on your own to find these areas. If possible, get a friend or colleague to read it out for you. Ask them what they think about the statement and if there are areas, you should improve.
Tips for Writing a Strong Personal Statement
Below are tips for writing a convincing personal statement:.
- Use a positive tone: Use language that shows your enthusiasm for the opportunity. You should also show gratitude for the reader’s consideration.
- Always use the active voice: By active voice, I mean using powerful verbs that directly engage the reader and compel them to consider your qualifications. This will significantly boost the strength of your personal statement.
- Be unique: The personal statement should be unique to you. Therefore, you should discuss what makes you different from other candidates.
Personal Statement Templates
When creating a personal statement, it is important to take time and research on the do’s and don’ts. Creating a personal statement can be challenging. And that is why we have created easy-to-use personal statement templates. Simply download them and customize them!
What is the most essential part of personal statement?
The content, good sentence structure, and ending of a personal statement are crucial. Ensure everything you write is relevant.
Should I talk about what I do after university?
Yes, but this should be only when you have an idea about what you want to do.
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Personal Statement Examples
Browse our UCAS personal statement examples for university in the UK by subject, from A to Z. Please do not plagiarise phrases, sentences or whole paragraphs, as UCAS can detect this and will penalise your application.
Accounting and Finance
These two subjects lie at the heart of any business, and a degree in at least one of these will equip you with essential skills for life.
View 47 Accounting and Finance Personal Statements
To become a successful actuary you will need to use both mathematical and business skills to solve problems concerning financial risk and uncertainty.
View 14 Actuarial Science Personal Statements
Learn more about American culture, society, history and politics with this specialised degree
View 5 American Studies Personal Statements
Study the evolution and history of humanity around the world.
View 25 Anthropology Personal Statements
Dig into the history of human activity.
View 23 Archaeology Personal Statements
Understand the processes involved in the planning, designing and constructing of buildings and other structures.
View 35 Architecture Personal Statements
Art and Design
Pursue painting, pottery, textiles, sculpture and any other discipline that interests you in the world of art.
View 56 Art and Design Personal Statements
Investigate biological processes at the molecular level.
View 19 Biochemistry Personal Statements
Use traditional engineering techniques and apply them to real-world problems.
View 6 Bioengineering Personal Statements
Study a wide range of biological topics, and choose to specialise in microbiology, ecology, zoology, anatomy or any number of other areas.
View 84 Biology Personal Statements
Study and explore medically related subjects such as genetics, physiology, pharmacology and neuroscience.
View 66 Biomedical Science Personal Statements
Learn how to apply biological organisms, processes and systems to industrial tasks.
View 7 Biotechnology Personal Statements
Learn about economics, accounting, management and more.
View 85 Business Management Personal Statements
Learn all the skills you need to be successful in the world of business.
View 112 Business Personal Statements
Gain a solid theoretical foundation and practical training in this fascinating arm of science.
View 35 Chemistry Personal Statements
Delve into the literature, history, philosophy and archaeology of the Greeks and Romans.
View 9 Classics Personal Statements
Combine analytical knowledge and technical skills to ready yourself for an in-demand career.
View 108 Computer Science Personal Statements
Computing and IT
Get ahead in IT by becoming an accomplished programmer, learning how computers work and expanding your Mathematics skills.
View 120 Computing and IT Personal Statements
Study the science behind criminal behaviour, laws and justice.
View 40 Criminology Personal Statements
Explore the practice of dance and develop your performance, choreography and teaching skills
View 2 Dance Personal Statements
Study the latest approaches in dentistry, combined with practical clinical experience that will prepare you for your career.
View 17 Dentistry Personal Statements
Apply your artistic skills in a commercial environment.
View 25 Design Personal Statements
Qualify as a dietician in the UK with this degree that explores the science of nutrition and how to communicate it to the wider world.
View 5 Dietetics Personal Statements
Combine theatre theory and practice to help you on your way to centre stage.
View 20 Drama Personal Statements
Learning the fundamentals of this subject will pave the way to many career options, including a data analyst, stockbroker, forensic accountant and external auditor.
View 157 Economics Personal Statements
Explore how people develop and learn in their social and cultural contexts.
View 25 Education Personal Statements
Browse our engineering personal statement examples to help you write your own, unique statement.
View 183 Engineering Personal Statements
Improve your reading, creative writing and critical thinking with an English degree.
View 157 English Personal Statements
Explore different habitats, climates, formations and societies and how we can reduce the human impact on nature.
View 10 Environment Personal Statements
Learn more about the science of the environment through collaborative research, expeditions and teaching partnerships.
View 12 Environmental Science Personal Statements
This varied and exciting field will prepare you for a number of careers, including a hotel manager, charity fundraiser and a tourism officer.
View 4 Event Management Personal Statements
Find out more about the fundamentals of fashion and find out more about how to research, design and develop clothing.
View 16 Fashion Personal Statements
Discover the core skills required to become a screenwriter, director or critic.
View 23 Film Personal Statements
Equip yourself with the basic skills and techniques needed for a successful financial career.
View 58 Finance Personal Statements
Food Science and Catering
Discover more about travel, tourism, event management and food science in this exciting subject.
View 5 Food Science and Catering Personal Statements
Study a wide range of subjects from chemistry and biology, to criminalistics and toxicology.
View 10 Forensic Science Personal Statements
Personal statements written by students taking a year out before university.
View 6 Gap Year Personal Statements
Study the earth’s physical structures and scientific processes to prepare yourself for a career in urban planning, environmental consultancy, conservation and many more.
View 63 Geography Personal Statements
Understand the evolution of the earth, how our planet works and what the future holds for us through both laboratory and field work.
View 14 Geology Personal Statements
This subject provides a broad base of scientific knowledge and skills applicable to many occupations and potential career opportunities.
View 21 Health Sciences Personal Statements
History of Art
Increase your understanding of ancient and modern society and culture.
View 5 History of Art Personal Statements
Study the events and people from the past to better understand what our future could be like.
View 143 History Personal Statements
Give yourself a solid foundation for many different career options in this exciting and thriving sector.
View 6 Hotel Management Personal Statements
Understand how politics, history, geography, economics and law all require international co-operation to resolve global problems.
View 97 International Relations Personal Statements
Read personal statement examples written by international students.
View 23 International Student Personal Statements
A subject that is applicable to a wide range of professions in the private and public sectors, including international agencies and government bodies.
View 10 International Studies Personal Statements
Study the foundation and development of Islamic knowledge from a broad and multidisciplinary perspective.
View 4 Islamic Studies Personal Statements
Explore Japan’s society, culture and language, with some universities offering the opportunity to spend a year abroad.
View 12 Japanese Studies Personal Statements
Develop the full set of skills required for a career in journalism.
View 14 Journalism Personal Statements
This multi-disciplinary social science course focuses on the study of economics, business and law and their relationship to the environment around us.
View 1 Land Economy Personal Statement
Set yourself on the path to an international career with a languages degree.
View 87 Language Personal Statements
Develop a critical awareness of the common law legal tradition and apply problem-solving skills to a range of legal and non-legal settings.
View 166 Law Personal Statements
Learn the science behind languages, and how to understand and interpret language on a global scale.
View 20 Linguistics Personal Statements
Gain a broad foundation in topics relating to business, finance, economics and marketing.
View 45 Management Personal Statements
Give yourself the knowledge and skills you need to excel as a professional marketer.
View 24 Marketing Personal Statements
Take your understanding of the theories and concepts of mathematics to a higher level.
View 105 Mathematics Personal Statements
Read personal statement examples written by mature UCAS students.
View 16 Mature Student Personal Statements
This degree is ideal if you want to pursue a career in PR, journalism, film, advertising or broadcasting.
View 45 Media Personal Statements
Browse our collection of medicine personal statement examples to help you write your own.
View 102 Medicine Perso Personal Statements
Gain the necessary skills and clinical experience to become a qualified midwife.
View 9 Midwifery Personal Statements
Develop your ability to create new music by studying topics such as composition, performance and music theory.
View 25 Music Personal Statements
Prepare yourself for a career in the music and audio industry.
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How To Write A Bad Personal Statement
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Personal Statement Mistakes To Avoid
What is a personal statement?
The UCAS personal statement is an important piece of writing you need to put together for your UCAS application .
It is where students should sell themselves in order to try and secure a place at their chosen universities . This includes your strengths, achievements, interests and ambitions, and you need to convey why the university should choose you over other candidates.
How do I write a personal statement?
We recommend you start by making some notes about what you want to study at university and why, as well as a list of skills and interests, and your gap year plans (if you have any).
We then suggest reading some example personal statements for inspiration, and to see how previous students have successfully applied for courses at university.
This should give you an idea of how to put your own statement together, starting with an attention-grabbing opening that explains what aspects of your subject you enjoy and why.
The next few paragraphs need to cover your relevant work experience and activities outside of school, as well as your interests or hobbies, and anything else you’ve done related to your subject that isn’t already on your UCAS form.
The final paragraph should round off your statement succinctly and talk about your future plans after university, and how a degree can help you achieve these.
Our personal statement template can help you structure your statement correctly.
Remember that the language you use and the way it is laid out will be judged too, so it’s important to get all aspects of your statement right.
Once you’ve written your personal statement, ask family, friends and tutors to read it and give you some feedback. Look through their comments and amend your statement accordingly (if you feel they improve it).
Try to ask for several rounds of feedback to make sure it's as good as it can be before sending it off.
For more advice, please see our in-depth personal statement writing guide .
How do I start a personal statement?
The first rule with opening your personal statement is to avoid using any cliches or over-used phrases or sentences that the admissions tutors have seen a million times before.
These include: "ever since I was young/a child", "I have always wanted to be..." and "for as long as I can remember".
If you want the reader to go to sleep or immediately put your UCAS form in the rejection pile, then this is a sure way to go about it.
Instead, try to put together an eye opening sentence or two that will grab their attention and make them want to read on.
Our example personal statements above will help you with this, by showing you how students have constructed successful statements in the past.
Many students choose to start their statement by talking about a specific aspect of the subject they enjoy most and why they are interested in it. Others choose to relate a life experience (avoiding cliches) from their younger days, while some decide to begin their statement in another way.
There's no right or wrong answer - just make sure it doesn't read like hundreds of other statements the tutors have already seen before!
How do I end a personal statement?
You should conclude your personal statement with a concise summary of why you are an ideal candidate for this course, your career plans, and any other ambitions you have for the future.
Try to keep it to no more than three or four lines, but make sure the content sells you as a person and has a positive tone that will encourage admissions tutors to offer you a place.
Take a look at your initial notes to help you - remember, it doesn't have to be perfect at this point, as you will have time to redraft it later.
Again, our example personal statements above will provide you with some inspiration for this part of your personal statement (but please don't copy any of them, or UCAS will penalise your application!).
How do I structure my personal statement?
Your personal statement should have a clear beginning , middle and end.
Structure is important if your statement is to be a coherent creative piece of writing, so all the paragraphs should flow nicely together.
At Studential, we recommend the following approach as a guideline:
- Paragraph 1: Introduction to your subject, the aspects you’re interested in and why
- Paragraph 2: What you have done related to the subject that isn’t already on your UCAS form
- Paragraphs 3 and 4: Work experience placements and relevant extracurricular activities at school
- Paragraph 5: Your interests and hobbies outside of school, particularly those that show you are a responsible and reliable person
- Paragraph 6: Your goal of attending university and a memorable closing comment.
Of course, you may wish to structure yours differently and it's entirely up to you at the end of the day - just remember to make sure it's coherent and flows together well.
For additional help on piecing it together, use our personal statement template , which will give you an idea of how a successful statement should look.
What makes a great personal statement?
Tell the reader why you're applying to this particular course and university – include your ambitions, as well as what interests you about the subject, the course provider, and higher education.
Think about what makes you suitable – this could be relevant experience, skills, or achievements you've gained from education, work, or other activities.
You need to show the admissions tutors why you make a perfect candidate for your chosen course, and what value you can bring to their department.
What should you not write in a personal statement?
Avoid these common mistakes if you want your personal statement to be successful:
- Listing your skills, experience etc. Use full sentences and examples to back everything up.
- Any form of negativity - be positive!
- Omitting any relevant skills or achievements
- Embellishing the truth or lying outright
- Not checking for spelling and grammar issues - this sort of sloppiness just tells the admissions tutors you don't care very much
- Not asking for feedback from friends, family and teachers - this is a great way of receiving objective advice
- Stating the obvious or repeating what is already mentioned on your UCAS form elsewhere
- Including over-used words, phrases and sentences, such as "ever since I was a child..." and "I have always wanted to be...".
- Using jokes or humour - this isn't the time or place, and the admissions tutors probably won't appreciate it!
How long should my personal statement be?
For undergraduate courses, UCAS allows students up to 4,000 characters for their personal statement.
This isn't a huge amount of space, so you need to make sure every word counts and you sell yourself in the best possible light at all times!
Once you have put together an initial draft, you can check if it's too long or short with our personal statement length checker .
When should I start writing my personal statement?
We recommend you begin writing some notes during the school summer holidays, and maybe even have your first draft written before going back in September (especially if you're applying to Oxbridge ).
The sooner you start writing, the sooner you can get your final draft in place ready for your UCAS form. This also helps to take the pressure off, and means you won't be rushing to get it done at the last minute.
Use our handy UCAS personal statement template to help you structure your statement, and make sure you have included everything you need to.
Personal statement tips
For a successful personal statement, we recommend following these top tips:
- This is your opportunity to sell yourself - so use it! Talk about your strengths, abilities, achievements, personal traits, hobbies, extracurricular activities and anything else relevant that makes you an amazing candidate for this course.
- Start writing your personal statement early - ideally over the summer holidays, which give you plenty of time to get a perfect statement in place by the autumn (this advice especially applies if you are applying to Oxbridge , or for medicine , veterinary science , or dentistry ).
- Make sure you back up everything you say with solid examples, using your initial notes to help you.
- Talk about your motivations for choosing this particular course, and showcase all strengths using your own voice.
- Don’t embellish the truth or lie outright (you’ll get caught out at the interview!), and don’t use humour or tell jokes (this isn’t the time or place).
- Use positive language and let your enthusiasm shine through - tutors only want students on their course that are passionate about their subject!
- Don't get someone else to write your statement for you, or buy/plagiarise a statement online. UCAS check statements for similarity, and your chances of being offered a place at university could be affected if they find you have cheated on your statement.
- Ask those you know and trust to provide you with feedback, and incorporate their comments and suggestions accordingly.
- Go through at least several rounds of feedback before polishing your statement into a final draft.
- Don't just rely on a Spellchecker to check your statement for errors - read it through carefully three or four times to make sure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes.
- Use an reputable personal statement editing service if you're struggling with your final draft, or just want to try and give it some extra shine!
These tips and advice apply to all personal statements, whether you’re applying for an undergraduate or postgraduate course. If you follow them, you will have a better chance of securing a place at your chosen universities.
Best of luck with your UCAS application!
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- What To Do If You Miss The 15th January UCAS Deadline.
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University personal statement resources
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How to write a great personal statement
Student Admissions & Access
Your personal statement is your opportunity to tell us more about yourself and why you are interested in studying your chosen subject. In this article, we offer you some tips and advice on how to start building your personal statement and make the best impression with your application.
Where to start
Don’t let the blank page put you off. Just start writing and try not to overthink it - you can always change and refine your statement later.
You might want to begin by thinking about the following questions to help you make a list of what to include:
- What do I know about the course and its modules?
- Why do I want to study the subject?
- What do I like about the subject?
- What do I already know?
- What have I read, watched or attended that is relevant to the subject?
- What excites me about the subject?
- What are my academic strengths?
- What makes me a good fit for studying this course?
Start turning your list into sentences. Think about how each thing in your list relates to your subject, and start to form concise sentences. Aim to organise the sentences into paragraphs and form a logical structure to make a case for your suitability for the course.
Aim for one idea per sentence, and one major theme per paragraph. If you can, try to tie it all together with common themes and ideas. For example, you may have learned a topic during your A Levels, then read a book about it and independently researched more about the theory, which sparked some ideas and questions of your own. You may have read a number of books on a similar theme - think about any parallels or contrasts between them.
Draft, draft, draft
Get everything down on paper first. Then go back to draft and start to rework it. Don’t let your personal statement become a long list of ideas – that was your starting point. Think about the most important points you’ve made, and work on developing those. Remember that sometimes, less is more. At this point, you may have to delete whole sections, so don’t become too attached to what you have written.
When working on your draft, try to be clear and concise – remember, you only have limited space.
The beginning at the end
Often it’s easier to write the main body of your statement first, and come back to the opening later. The first sentence should really show your enthusiasm for the course, so talk about something that excites you.
Don’t forget your conclusion. Try to tie everything together at the end, and finish on a positive note that leaves the admissions tutor with a positive impression. If you approach your personal statement as a short academic essay about yourself and your motivations, we should be left with a clear sense of where your passion lies and your suitability for the course.
Check before you submit
Before you submit your application, it’s a good idea to carefully proof your personal statement and to share it with someone else – that could be a family member, friend or teacher. You don’t always have to follow their advice, it’s personal after all, but you may find that they have some good ideas and they might spot mistakes you’ve missed.
- Show your passion, don’t just tell us.
- Be yourself and sound like yourself – you don’t have to use the thesaurus for every word!
- Make sure you can talk about everything in your personal statement in detail, as you’ll be asked about it at your interview.
- Link any extra-curricular activities to your study – maybe your part time job taught you time management or communication skills.
- Make sure it relates to the course you have applied for.
- Check your spelling and grammar, and use clear, plain English.
- Avoid sweeping, general statements, make every word count.
Watch this video from UCAS for some more great tips to get you started:
If you choose to apply to cambridge, we can’t wait to find out all about you.
The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing. Last reviewed July 2023. For more information about applying to the University of Cambridge, visit our website .
How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement [With Examples]
What are the big challenges students should be aware of before writing their UCAS Personal Statement?
- The essential ingredients for writing a great Personal Statement
- How to write the UCAS Personal Statement [with examples]
Final hints & tips to help your students
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The UCAS Personal Statement can sometimes be a student’s only chance to impress a UK university. Read our in-depth guide to helping your students plan & write a winning application.
There are hundreds of articles out there on how to write a UCAS Personal Statement that will grab the attention of a UK university admissions officer.
But if you’re working with students to help them perfect their Personal Statement in time for the relevant UCAS deadlines , we can sum up the secret to success in three words.
Planning, structure and story.
The UCAS Personal Statement is a student’s chance to talk about why they want to study for a particular degree, course or subject discipline at a UK university.
As they set about writing a personal statement, students need to demonstrate the drive, ambition, relevant skills and notable achievements that make them a suitable candidate for the universities they have chosen to apply to .
But the UCAS Personal Statement requires students to write a lot about themselves in a relatively short space of time. That’s why lots of planning, a tight structure and a compelling story are essential if a student’s Personal Statement is to truly excel.
As important deadlines for UK university applications grow closer, we at BridgeU have put together a guide, outlining some of the strategies and techniques to help your students to write a personal statement which is both engaging and truly individual.
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As they begin to plan their Personal Statement, students may feel intimidated. It’s not easy to summarise your academic interests and personal ambitions, especially when you’re competing for a place on a course which is popular or has demanding entry requirements. In particular, students will likely come up against the following challenges.
Unfortunately, the Personal Statement (and other aspects of university preparation) comes during the busiest year of the student’s academic life so far.
Students, and indeed teachers and counsellors, must undertake the planning and writing of the personal statement whilst juggling other commitments, classes and deadlines, not to mention revision and open day visits!
Because there is already a lot of academic pressure on students in their final year of secondary school, finding the time and headspace for the personal statement can be hard, and can mean it gets pushed to the last minute. The risks of leaving it to the last minute are fairly obvious – the application will seem rushed and the necessary thought and planning won’t go into making the personal statement the best it can be .
Sticking closely to the Personal Statement format
The character limit which UCAS sets for the personal statement is very strict – up to 4,000 characters of text. This means that students have to express themselves in a clear and concise way; it’s also important that they don’t feel the need to fill the available space needlessly. Planning and redrafting of a personal statement is essential .
Making it stand out
This is arguably the greatest challenge facing students – making sure that their statement sets them apart from everyone else who is competing for a place on any given course; in 2022 alone, UCAS received applications from 683,650 applicants (+1.6k on 2021) students. In addition, UCAS uses its own dedicated team and purpose built software to check every application for plagiarism, so it’s crucial that students craft a truly original personal statement which is entirely their own work .
The essential ingredients for writing a great UCAS Personal Statement
We’ve already mentioned our three watch words for writing a high quality Personal Statement.
Planning. Structure. Story.
Let’s dig deeper into these three essential components in more detail.
Watch: How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement with University of Essex
Planning a ucas personal statement.
It might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s vital that students plan their Personal Statement before they start writing it. Specifically, the planning phase could include:
- Students thoroughly researching the UK university courses they plan on applying to.
- Deciding on what relevant material to include in their Personal Statement (we’ll cover this in more detail later on).
- Writing an unedited first draft where they just get their thoughts and ideas down on paper.
Structuring a UCAS Personal Statement
As we’ve discussed, the UCAS Personal Statement requires students to be extremely disciplined – they will be required to condense a lot of information into a relatively short written statement. This means that, after they’ve written a rough first draft, they need to think carefully about how they structure the final statement.
A stand out Personal Statement will need a tight structure, with an introduction and a conclusion that make an impact and really help to tell a story about who your student is, and why they are drawn to studying this particular degree.
This brings us nicely to our third and final ingredient…
Telling a story with a Personal Statement
The UCAS Personal Statement is a student’s opportunity to show a university who they are and how their life experiences have shaped their academic interests and goals.
So a good Personal Statement needs to offer a compelling narrative, and that means making sure that a student’s writing is well-structured, and that every sentence and paragraph is serving the statement’s ultimate purpose – to convince a university that your student deserves a place on their subject of choice.
How to help your students start their UCAS Personal Statement
In order to ensure that a personal statement is delivered on time and to an appropriate standard, it’s essential to plan thoroughly before writing it. Here are some questions you can ask your students before they start writing:
How can you demonstrate a formative interest in your subject?
It may sound obvious but, in order for any UCAS personal statement to have the necessary structure and clarity, students need to think hard about why they want to study their chosen subject. Ask them to think about their responses to the following questions:
What inspired you to study your chosen subject?
Example answer: My desire to understand the nature of reality has inspired me to apply for Physics and Philosophy
Was there a formative moment when your perspective on this subject changed, or when you decided you wanted to study this subject in more detail?
Example answer: My interest in philosophy was awakened when I questioned my childhood religious beliefs; reading Blackburn’s “Think”, convinced me to scrutinise my assumptions about the world, and to ensure I could justify my beliefs.
Can you point to any role models, leading thinkers, or notable literature which has in turn affected your thinking and/or inspired you?
Example answer : The search for a theory of everything currently being conducted by physicists is of particular interest to me and in “The Grand Design” Hawking proposes a collection of string theories, dubbed M-theory, as the explanation of why the universe is the way it is.
Asking your students to think about the “why” behind their chosen subject discipline is a useful first step in helping them to organise their overall statement. Next, they need to be able to demonstrate evidence of their suitability for a course or degree.
How have you demonstrated the skills and aptitudes necessary for your chosen course?
Encourage students to think about times where they have demonstrated the necessary skills to really stand out. It’s helpful to think about times when they have utilised these skills both inside and outside the classroom. Ask students to consider their responses to the following questions.
Can you demonstrate critical and independent thinking around your chosen subject discipline?
Example answer : Currently I am studying Maths and Economics in addition to Geography. Economics has been a valuable tool, providing the nuts and bolts to economic processes, and my geography has provided a spatial and temporal element.
Are you able to demonstrate skills and competencies which will be necessary for university study?
These include qualities such as teamwork, time management and the ability to organise workload responsibly.
Example answer: This year I was selected to be captain of the 1st XV rugby team and Captain of Swimming which will allow me to further develop my leadership, teamwork and organisational skills.
How have your extracurricular activities helped prepare you for university?
Students may believe that their interests outside the classroom aren’t relevant to their university application. So encourage them to think about how their other interests can demonstrate the subject-related skills that universities are looking for in an application. Ask students to think about any of the following activities, and how they might be related back to the subject they are applying for.
- Clubs/societies, or volunteering work which they can use to illustrate attributes such as teamwork, an interest in community service and the ability to manage their time proactively.
- Have they been elected/nominated as a team captain, or the head of a particular club or society, which highlights leadership skills and an ability to project manage?
- Can they point to any awards or prizes they may have won, whether it’s taking up a musical instrument, playing a sport, or participating in theatre/performing arts?
- Have they achieved grades or qualifications as part of their extracurricular activities? These can only help to demonstrate aptitude and hard work.
How to write the UCAS Personal Statement [with examples]
If sufficient planning has gone into the personal statement, then your students should be ready to go!
In this next section, we’ll break down the individual components of the UCAS Personal Statement and share some useful examples.
These examples come from a Personal Statement in support of an application to study Environmental Science at a UK university.
Watch: King’s College London explain what they’re looking for in a UCAS Personal Statement
This is the chance for an applying student to really grab an admission tutor’s attention. Students need to demonstrate both a personal passion for their subject, and explain why they have an aptitude for it . This section is where students should begin to discuss any major influences or inspirations that have led them to this subject choice.
Example : My passion for the environment has perhaps come from the fact that I have lived in five different countries: France, England, Spain, Sweden and Costa Rica. Moving at the age of 15 from Sweden, a calm and organized country, to Costa Rica, a more diverse and slightly chaotic country, was a shock for me at first and took me out of my comfort zone […] Also, living in Costa Rica, one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, definitely helped me realize how vulnerable the world is and how we need to take care of it in a sustainable manner.
This opening paragraph immediately grabs the reader’s attention by giving the reader an insight into this student’s background and links their academic interests with something specific from the student’s personal backstory.
Discussing Academic Achievements
The next paragraph in this Personal Statement discusses the student’s academic achievements. Because this student has had an international education, they frame their academic achievements in the context of their personal background. They also cite useful examples of other curricula they have studied and the grades they have achieved.
Throughout my academic life I have shown myself to be a responsible student as well as a hard working one, despite the fact that I have had to move around a lot. I have achieved several other accomplishments such as a high A (286/300) in AS Spanish at age 15, and also completed a Spanish course of secondary studies for ‘MEP’(Ministerio de Educacion Publica), which is a system from Costa Rica.
You’ll notice that this student doesn’t just list their achievements – their strong academic performance is always linked back to a wider discussion of their personal experiences.
Showcasing Extracurricular Activities
As well as discussing academic achievements, a good Personal Statement should also discuss the student’s extracurricular activities, and how they relate back to the student’s overall university aspirations.
By the third/fourth paragraph of the Personal Statement, students should think about incorporating their extracurricular experiences,
Another valuable experience was when my class spent a week at a beach called ‘Pacuare’ in order to help prevent the eggs of the endangered leatherback turtle from being stolen by poachers who go on to sell them like chicken eggs. We all gained teamwork experience, which was needed in order to hide the eggs silently without scaring the mother turtles, as well as making it more difficult for the poachers to find them.
When the poachers set fire to one of the sustainable huts where we were staying, not only did I gain self-awareness about the critical situation of the world and its ecosystems, I also matured and became even more motivated to study environmental sciences at university.
This is a particularly striking example of using extracurricular activities to showcase a student’s wider passion for the degree subject they want to study.
Not only does this Personal Statement have a story about volunteering to save an endangered species, it also illustrates this applicants’ wider worldview, and helps to explain their motivation for wanting to study Environmental Science.
Concluding the UCAS Personal Statement
The conclusion to a UCAS Personal Statement will have to be concise, and will need to tie all of a student’s academic and extracurricular achievements. After all, a compelling story will need a great ending.
Remember that students need to be mindful of the character limit of a Personal Statement, so a conclusion need only be the length of a small paragraph, or even a couple of sentences.
“ After having many varied experiences, I truly think I can contribute to university in a positive way, and would love to study in England where I believe I would gain more skills and education doing a first degree than in any other country. “
A good Personal Statement conclusion will end with an affirmation of how the student thinks they can contribute to university life, and why they believe the institution in question should accept them. Because the student in this example has a such a rich and varied international background, they also discuss the appeal of studying at university in England.
It’s worth taking a quick look at a few other examples of how other students have chosen to conclude their Personal Statement.
Medicine (Imperial College, London)
Interest in Medicine aside, other enthusiasms of mine include languages, philosophy, and mythology. It is curiously fitting that in ancient Greek lore, healing was but one of the many arts Apollo presided over, alongside archery and music. I firmly believe that a doctor should explore the world outside the field of Medicine, and it is with such experiences that I hope to better empathise and connect with the patients I will care for in my medical career.
You’ll notice that this example very specifically ties the students’ academic and extracurricular activities together, and ties the Personal Statement back to their values and beliefs.
Economic History with Economics (London School of Economics)
The highlight of my extra-curricular activities has been my visit to Shanghai with the Lord Mayor’s trade delegation in September 2012. I was selected to give a speech at this world trade conference due to my interest in economic and social history. […] I particularly enjoyed the seminar format, and look forward to experiencing more of this at university. My keen interest and desire to further my knowledge of history and economics, I believe, would make the course ideal for me.
By contrast, this conclusion ties a memorable experience back to the specifics of how the student will be taught at the London School of Economics – specifically, the appeal of learning in seminar format!
There’s no magic formula for concluding a Personal Statement. But you’ll see that what all of these examples have in common is that they tie a student’s personal and academic experiences together – and tell a university something about their aspirations for the future.
Watch: Bournemouth University explain how to structure a UCAS Personal Statement
Know the audience
It can be easy for students to forget that the person reading a personal statement is invariably an expert in their field. This is why an ability to convey passion and think critically about their chosen subject is essential for a personal statement to stand out. Admissions tutors will also look for students who can structure their writing (more on this below).
Students should be themselves
Remember that many students are competing for places on a university degree against fierce competition. And don’t forget that UCAS has the means to spot plagiarism. So students need to create a truly honest and individual account of who they are, what they have achieved and, perhaps most importantly, why they are driven to study this particular subject.
Proof-read (then proof-read again!)
Time pressures mean that students can easily make mistakes with their Personal Statements. As the deadline grows closer, it’s vital that they are constantly checking and rechecking their writing and to ensure that shows them in the best possible light.
Meanwhile, when it comes to giving feedback to students writing their Personal Statements, make sure you’re as honest and positive as possible in the days and weeks leading up to submission day.
And make sure they remember the three key ingredients of writing a successful Personal Statement.
Planning, structure and story!
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Personal Statement Examples: How to Make Yours Stand Out
A personal statement is an opportunity for you to showcase who you are and what you can bring to the table. It is a chance for you to stand out from the crowd and make a lasting impression. However, writing a personal statement can be a daunting task, especially if you don’t know where to start.
In this article, we will explore some of the best personal statement examples available online. We will examine what makes these examples effective and how you can use them to create your own winning personal statement. Whether you’re a high school student applying to college or a recent graduate looking for a job, this article will provide you with the tools you need to write a personal statement that will get you noticed.
Personal Statement Examples that Will Make You Stand Out!
Understanding Personal Statement
A personal statement is a document that highlights your strengths, achievements, and goals. It is a way for you to showcase your personality and convince the admissions committee that you are a good fit for their program.
A personal statement should be well-written, concise, and focused. It should also be tailored to the specific program you are applying for. This means that you should research the program and understand what they are looking for in a candidate. You should then use this information to craft a personal statement that highlights your strengths and aligns with the program’s goals.
When writing a personal statement, it is important to keep in mind that the admissions committee will be looking for specific qualities in a candidate. These qualities may include:
- Strong academic record
- Relevant work experience
- Leadership skills
- Communication skills
- Passion for the field
Your personal statement should demonstrate that you possess these qualities and that you are a good fit for the program.
To write a strong personal statement, you should start by brainstorming ideas. Think about your strengths, achievements, and goals. Then, organize your ideas into a clear and concise outline. This will help you stay focused and ensure that you cover all the important points.
Once you have an outline, you can begin drafting your personal statement. Be sure to use clear and concise language, and avoid using jargon or technical terms that may be unfamiliar to the admissions committee. You should also proofread your personal statement carefully to ensure that it is free of errors and typos.
Purpose of Personal Statement
The purpose of a personal statement is to provide the reader with an insight into who you are, what you have accomplished, and what your goals are. It is an opportunity for you to showcase your personality, skills, and experiences that make you a unique candidate.
Your personal statement should highlight your strengths and address any weaknesses. It should demonstrate your passion for the subject or field you are applying for and show that you are a good fit for the program or position. A well-written personal statement can set you apart from other candidates and increase your chances of being accepted.
To write an effective personal statement, you need to understand the requirements of the program or position you are applying for. You should research the organization or institution and tailor your statement to their values and goals. Your personal statement should demonstrate that you have a clear understanding of their mission and that you are committed to contributing to their success.
Personal statement for college applications.
If you’re applying to college, you’ll most likely need to write a personal statement as part of your college application. This is an opportunity for you to showcase your personality, achievements, and goals to the admissions committee. Writing a strong personal statement can increase your chances of getting accepted into your dream school.
How to Begin
Before you start writing your personal statement, take some time to brainstorm and reflect on your experiences, interests, and goals. You can start by answering these questions:
- What makes you unique?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What are your long-term goals?
- What experiences have shaped you?
Once you have a clear understanding of your personal story, you can start outlining your personal statement.
What to Include
Your personal statement should be a well-written, concise, and engaging essay that highlights your strengths and achievements. Here are some tips on what to include:
- Start with a strong opening sentence that grabs the reader’s attention.
- Use specific examples to illustrate your points.
- Show your passion and enthusiasm for your chosen field of study.
- Explain how your experiences have prepared you for college.
- Be honest and authentic.
- Proofread your essay carefully for grammar and spelling errors.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Here are some common mistakes to avoid when writing your personal statement:
- Don’t use clichés or generic statements.
- Don’t exaggerate or make false claims.
- Don’t use overly technical language or jargon .
- Don’t focus too much on your grades or test scores.
- Don’t use your personal statement as a place to complain or make excuses.
By following these tips and avoiding common mistakes, you can write a strong personal statement that will impress the admissions committee and help you get accepted into your dream school.
Personal Statement for Job Applications
When applying for a job, a personal statement can be the key to making a great first impression. It is an opportunity to showcase your skills, achievements, and qualifications that make you the best candidate for the job. In this section, we will discuss the essential elements of a personal statement for job applications.
One of the most critical aspects of a personal statement for job applications is highlighting your achievements. This is the opportunity to showcase your accomplishments and demonstrate why you are the best candidate for the job. When highlighting your achievements, make sure to use specific examples that demonstrate your skills and abilities. Use metrics and data to quantify your achievements and show the impact you have made in your previous roles.
Another essential element of a personal statement for job applications is showcasing your skills. This is the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise in the field and show how you can bring value to the organization. When showcasing your skills, make sure to match them with the job requirements and use specific examples that demonstrate how you have used these skills in the past.
One common mistake that job applicants make in their personal statements is using redundant language. Avoid using clichés and overused phrases that do not add value to your application. Instead, focus on using clear and concise language that showcases your unique skills and experiences.
Personal Statement for Graduate School
When applying to graduate school, one of the most crucial components of your application is your personal statement. This is your opportunity to showcase your personality, experiences, and research interests to the admissions committee. Here are some key things to keep in mind when crafting your personal statement:
Understanding the Prompts
Many graduate programs will provide a prompt or set of prompts for you to respond to in your personal statement. It is important to read and understand these prompts carefully, as they will give you a sense of what the admissions committee is looking for in a successful applicant. Make sure to address all aspects of the prompt in your statement, and use specific examples from your experiences to illustrate your points.
Structuring the Statement
A well-structured personal statement can make a big difference in how it is received by the admissions committee. Consider starting with an attention-grabbing introduction that hooks the reader and sets the tone for the rest of your statement. From there, you may want to include sections that discuss your background, experiences, research interests, and future goals. Be sure to use transitions between sections to make your statement flow smoothly.
Emphasizing Research Interests
For many graduate programs, research experience and interests are key factors in the admissions decision. Make sure to highlight any research experience you have, including specific projects you have worked on and any publications or presentations you have given. Additionally, be sure to discuss your research interests and how they align with the program you are applying to. This can help demonstrate your passion for the field and your potential as a researcher.
Personal Statement for Scholarships
When applying for scholarships, a personal statement is often required. This is your opportunity to showcase your strengths, achievements, and goals to the scholarship committee. To make your personal statement stand out, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Discussing Financial Needs
One important aspect of your personal statement for scholarships is discussing your financial needs. This should be done in a respectful and honest manner. Be sure to explain your current financial situation and how the scholarship will help you achieve your educational goals. You can also mention any other sources of funding you are receiving, such as financial aid or loans.
Highlighting Academic Achievements
Another key component of your personal statement should be highlighting your academic achievements. This can include any honors, awards, or recognition you have received for your academic work. You can also discuss any research projects or publications you have been involved in. Be sure to explain how these achievements have prepared you for your future academic and career goals.
Describing Community Service
Finally, it is important to discuss your community service in your personal statement. This can include any volunteer work you have done, as well as any leadership roles you have held in community organizations. Be sure to explain how your community service has impacted your personal and professional growth, and how it has prepared you for your future goals.
Personal Statement for Internships
When applying for an internship, a personal statement can be a powerful tool to help you stand out from other candidates. Your personal statement should highlight your relevant experiences, skills, and goals, and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the internship opportunity.
Linking Coursework to Internship
One effective way to make your personal statement stand out is to link your coursework to the specific internship you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a marketing internship, you could highlight relevant courses you have taken, such as marketing research or consumer behavior. This shows the employer that you have a strong academic foundation in the field and are passionate about pursuing a career in it.
Discussing Career Goals
Another important aspect of a personal statement for internships is discussing your career goals. This shows the employer that you are motivated and have a clear sense of direction. When discussing your goals, be specific and tie them back to the internship opportunity. For example, if you are applying for a finance internship, you could say that your long-term goal is to become a financial analyst and that you believe this internship will provide you with the skills and experience necessary to achieve that goal.
Finally, it is important to convey your enthusiasm for the internship opportunity in your personal statement. This can be done by highlighting specific aspects of the internship that excite you, such as the opportunity to work with a particular team or gain experience in a specific area. You could also mention any previous experiences or skills that make you particularly well-suited for the internship.
Personal Statement for Residency Programs
When applying for a residency program, your personal statement is an essential component of your application. It provides you with the opportunity to showcase your unique qualities and experiences that make you a strong candidate for the program. In this section, we will discuss some key elements to include in your personal statement for residency programs.
Discussing Clinical Experiences
One of the most important aspects of your personal statement is discussing your clinical experiences. This includes any hands-on experience you have had in the field, such as shadowing, research, or volunteer work. Be specific about what you learned from each experience and how it has prepared you for a residency program. Use concrete examples to illustrate your points and demonstrate your passion for the field.
Expressing Interest in Specialty
It is also important to express your interest in the specialty you are applying for. This shows the program directors that you have a clear understanding of the field and are committed to pursuing a career in it. Discuss what draws you to the specialty and how you plan to contribute to the field in the future. This can include any relevant research or projects you have worked on, as well as any mentors or role models who have inspired you.
Describing Long-Term Goals
Finally, your personal statement should include a discussion of your long-term goals. This can include both personal and professional goals, such as wanting to improve patient outcomes or becoming a leader in the field. Be specific about what you hope to achieve and how the residency program will help you get there. This demonstrates your commitment to the field and your willingness to work hard to achieve your goals.
In conclusion, your personal statement for residency programs should showcase your unique qualities and experiences that make you a strong candidate for the program. Be specific, use concrete examples, and demonstrate your passion for the field to impress program directors and stand out from other applicants.
Personal Statement Examples by Field
If you are struggling to write a personal statement, it can be helpful to see examples from others in your field. Here are a few personal statement examples by field to help you get started.
Example for Medicine
A personal statement for medical school should demonstrate your passion for the field, as well as your commitment to helping others. Here is an example:
“As a child, I was fascinated by the human body and how it works. This fascination only grew as I got older, and I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in medicine. Through volunteering at my local hospital and shadowing physicians, I have seen firsthand the impact that healthcare professionals can have on their patients’ lives. I am committed to using my skills and knowledge to make a difference in the world.”
Example for Law
A personal statement for law school should demonstrate your critical thinking skills and your ability to analyze complex issues. Here is an example:
“As an undergraduate, I studied political science and became interested in the legal system. I am passionate about social justice and believe that the law can be a powerful tool for change. Through internships at law firms and nonprofit organizations, I have gained experience in legal research and writing. I am excited to continue my education and use my skills to make a positive impact on society.”
Example for Business
A personal statement for business school should demonstrate your leadership skills and your ability to think strategically. Here is an example:
“As a business professional with several years of experience, I am excited to pursue an MBA to further my career. Throughout my career, I have demonstrated strong leadership skills and a talent for strategic thinking. I am passionate about driving growth and innovation within organizations and am excited to learn from and collaborate with other business professionals.”
Example for Engineering
A personal statement for engineering school should demonstrate your problem-solving skills and your ability to think creatively. Here is an example:
“As an engineer, I am passionate about solving complex problems and creating innovative solutions. Throughout my academic and professional career, I have demonstrated a strong aptitude for math and science, as well as a talent for creative thinking. I am excited to continue my education and use my skills to make a positive impact on society.”
Example for Social Sciences
A personal statement for social sciences should demonstrate your passion for understanding human behavior and your commitment to making a difference in the world. Here is an example:
“As a social scientist, I am passionate about understanding human behavior and the factors that shape our society. Through my research and work with nonprofit organizations, I have gained a deep understanding of the challenges facing our world today. I am committed to using my skills and knowledge to make a positive impact on society and create a more just and equitable world.”
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some effective ways to start a personal statement?
Starting a personal statement can be a daunting task, but there are several effective ways to begin. One strategy is to open with a concrete scene that illustrates something about your character and interests. You can also start with a personal experience that changed your perspective, a story from your family’s history, or a memorable teacher or learning experience. Another approach is to ask a thought-provoking question or make a bold statement that captures the reader’s attention.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when writing a personal statement?
When writing a personal statement, it’s important to avoid common mistakes that can undermine your credibility and effectiveness. Some common pitfalls include using cliches or platitudes, focusing too much on achievements rather than personal growth, failing to explain why you are interested in the field or program, and being too vague or general in your language. It’s also important to proofread carefully and avoid errors in grammar, spelling, or punctuation.
What are some tips for writing a personal statement for graduate school?
Writing a personal statement for graduate school requires a different approach than writing for other purposes. One key tip is to focus on your academic and professional goals, and how the program you are applying to will help you achieve them. It’s also important to demonstrate your knowledge of the field and your passion for it, and to be specific and concrete in your language. Finally, make sure to tailor your statement to each program you are applying to, highlighting the unique aspects of each one.
What are some key elements to include in a personal statement for an internship?
When writing a personal statement for an internship, it’s important to emphasize your relevant skills and experiences, as well as your enthusiasm for the field and the organization you are applying to. You should also explain why you are interested in the internship and what you hope to gain from it, and provide specific examples of how you have demonstrated your commitment and work ethic in the past. Finally, make sure to proofread carefully and follow any specific guidelines or requirements provided by the organization.
What are some examples of successful personal statements for law school?
Successful personal statements for law school vary widely in content and style, but they all share certain key elements. These include a clear and compelling narrative that explains why you are interested in law and what you hope to achieve with your degree, as well as specific examples of your academic and professional achievements. It’s also important to demonstrate your knowledge of the field and your commitment to social justice and public service, and to avoid cliches or platitudes.
How can I make my personal statement stand out to potential employers or admissions committees?
To make your personal statement stand out, it’s important to be specific, concrete, and authentic in your language and content. You should focus on your unique strengths and experiences, and explain how they make you a good fit for the program or organization you are applying to. It’s also important to proofread carefully and avoid errors in grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Finally, make sure to tailor your statement to each specific opportunity, highlighting the ways in which you are uniquely qualified and passionate about the position.
Last Updated on August 29, 2023
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ChatGPT, Law School Application Personal Statements, and the LSAT Writing Sample
By Troy Lowry
Worries about ChatGPT being used to write law school personal statements are growing. This generative AI program can easily craft high-quality personal statements, leading some schools to be concerned. Should they be?
Law school applicants have often sought help with their personal statements, and an industry has even grown from this need, with some consultants charging thousands of dollars per applicant. Some argue that ChatGPT and other generative AIs might simply level the playing field, aiding those who can’t afford these high-priced consultants.
In the end, efforts to stop applicants from using ChatGPT might prove futile. The same difficulties that make preventing applicants from using consultants nearly impossible — such as the challenge of determining if the writing is truly original — will likely make it extremely tough for schools to stop the use of AI like ChatGPT.
What Does “Using ChatGPT” Mean Anyway?
The question of how to define ChatGPT usage is riddled with complexity and ambiguity. Having ChatGPT write an entire personal statement, including fabricating facts, is clearly unethical. Yet a survey by Best Colleges revealed that 20% of respondents don’t believe that “using AI tools to complete assignments and exams constitutes cheating or plagiarism.”
Are one-in-five students sincerely convinced that submitting work generated by ChatGPT is permissible? Does this statistic suggest that one-in-five prospective lawyers are so unscrupulous as to claim someone else’s work as their own?
I believe that the issue is more nuanced, and the question itself is too broad.
ChatGPT’s functionality is vast. It can not only draft an entire personal statement but also:
- Generate a range of ideas suitable for your personal statement
- Evaluate a list of ideas you’ve created, highlighting the strongest ones
- Analyze your personal statement and suggest improvements
- Identify logical inconsistencies in the personal statement
- Proofread the personal statement, correcting punctuation and grammar errors
While preparing this blog post, I inquired of ChatGPT how it might assist me, aside from writing my personal statement. The AI suggested it could aid applicants in understanding their own motivations for pursuing legal studies and identifying long-term goals, forming a robust foundation for the personal statement. Anything that helps people understand their own motivations, even a computer program, counts as a benefit in my book.
To many, these uses of ChatGPT seem entirely reasonable. If friends can review your personal statement and provide feedback, why not employ ChatGPT? While a (hopefully extremely small) segment of the applicant population is unethical, the majority of the one-in-five respondents who disagreed with the statement about ChatGPT and cheating likely have a more nuanced understanding of the tool. They recognize legitimate uses that most would not consider dishonest.
However, what if a law school decided to ban all use of ChatGPT for personal statements? Would they be able to tell who used ChatGPT?
Can ChatGPT-Generated Content Be Detected?
Many products in today’s competitive market profess the ability to detect whether text was written by ChatGPT. My personal exploration of these tools has yielded results that are unreliable.
On the positive side, they were quite proficient at identifying texts generated by ChatGPT without alterations, marking them with a high rate of accuracy.
Curiosity led me to task ChatGPT with mimicking particular styles, such as those of Maya Angelou, Ernest Hemingway, and Yosemite Sam. Surprisingly, most of the detection products maintained a high rate of accuracy.
However, a comprehensive test should not only flag texts authored by ChatGPT but also accurately identify those that were NOT. I found myself scandalized when one tool repeatedly and erroneously identified my own work as likely written by ChatGPT. While I admit my writing may not be flawless, I like to believe it’s far from robotic! (Of course, the ultimate judgment lies with you, the reader.)
Taking the experiment further, I used a process known as fine-tuning , in which I trained ChatGPT with 100 paragraphs of my writing style. After running it through the training, I instructed ChatGPT to “write like Troy” for a law school personal statement. The result? A well-crafted statement that evaded all ChatGPT detectors. This process required significant expertise, work, and some expense, so it’s unlikely the average applicant would endure such an ordeal. But tools are already appearing on the web to do similar training at less cost and with no expertise in generative AI needed.
This experiment revealed a crucial insight: the development of AI tools is accelerating at a pace that outstrips the advancement of detection tools.
Ultimately, I halted my testing prior to completing the entire planned examination. While the majority of results were correct, the inconsistency was alarming. I grew concerned that even one false positive could lead to unwarranted consequences.
I pondered ways to render this technology useful for law school decision-making. LSAC prides itself on being the “gold standard” and only delivering to schools products used to evaluate applicants that we can verify are of the highest quality. While they have their uses, these detection tools did not appear to meet that high standard.
Then I came across an article detailing how OpenAI had discontinued their product designed to detect AI-written text, citing “low accuracy.” If even the experts behind ChatGPT can’t reliably discern what was written by their creation, then the possibility that anyone else can seems a distant hope. It seems to me that the implications of this realization extend beyond mere curiosity, touching on broader questions about the evolving relationship between technology and authenticity.
LSAC’s Writing Sample: A Proctored Way to See How the Applicant Writes
All is not lost in this quest for authenticity, however! As part of the LSAT, every applicant is required to complete the LSAT Writing sample. This unscored essay, given under timed, proctored conditions, presents an ideal opportunity to assess an applicant’s writing ability.
Recognizing the inherent value of the LSAT Writing sample in assessing an applicant’s writing skill, I became intrigued at how AI might further contribute to this assessment. Could the power of artificial intelligence be harnessed to compare and contrast different writing samples? This sparked an experiment using ChatGPT’s ability to evaluate the authenticity of authorship between two different pieces of writing.
ChatGPT can take two pieces of writing, compare them, and give a confidence level as to whether they were written by the same author. As an interesting bit of research, I used this method to compare personal statements and writing samples from the same author and from different authors to see if AI could accurately tell the ones written by the same author.
The results? Not so hot. One major issue is that these are written under very different conditions. The LSAT Writing sample demands quick thinking within a 35-minute timeframe, requiring the applicant to read a prompt and then rapidly organize and articulate their thoughts. Conversely, the personal statement is typically crafted over weeks or even months and often undergoes numerous revisions.
Moreover, the tone between these two pieces is strikingly different, with the personal statement being intimate and reflective, while the writing sample is a more detached and analytical argument.
Despite these challenges, the AI managed to predict correctly better than two-thirds of the time whether the author was the same or not and provided reasons to support its predictions.
However, while impressive, this is not good enough when evaluating applicants. Both law schools and applicants depend on our products to be extremely precise. Mere “impressive” falls short when stakes as high as admissions are in play. Consequently, while this was an enlightening experiment and the insights may contribute to the development of future products, the technology is not yet accurate enough to be integrated into LSAC’s current offerings. This experience serves as a sobering reminder that even the most advanced AI tools must be approached with caution and clear understanding of their limitations.
Conclusion: Might the Carrot Work Better Than the Stick?
As we’ve seen, ChatGPT can be utilized in various ways, some more controversial than others. The reliability of detecting items penned by ChatGPT, without mistakenly identifying an applicant’s work as machine-generated, remains dubious. Even a detection system that is 100% accurate today could soon be rendered obsolete by the rapid advancements in AI, making it unreliable.
In short, a complete ban of ChatGPT would be challenging to enforce and justify.
Might schools find more success with a different approach instead of attempting to ban ChatGPT? They could state that while applicants are free to use ChatGPT or other generative AI, personal statements written without such assistance tend to feel more authentic, and this authenticity could influence admissions decisions.
Applicants, always eager for an edge, would then have a compelling reason to use their own voice. This approach not only offers a practical solution but also has the advantage of being true.
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Troy Lowry is senior vice president of technology products, chief information officer, and chief information security officer at the Law School Admission Council. He earned his BA from Northeastern University and his MBA from New York University.
August 31, 2023
VA Personal Statement: 5 Best Things to Include
I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.
If you want to learn how to implement these strategies to get the VA benefits you deserve, click here to speak with a VA claim expert for free.
Writing a VA personal statement can help show an unquestionable link between your military service and disability.
While it’s not required, we highly recommend writing a VA personal statement to help strengthen your VA disability claim.
This post will look at the 5 Best Things to Include in Your VA Personal Statement .
We’ll also explain why a personal statement is important and what you shouldn’t say in your VA personal statement.
To wrap up, we have a VA personal statement example to help get you started.
Let’s dive in!
What is a VA Personal Statement?
What should i include in my va personal statement, things to avoid saying in your va personal statement, why is a va personal statement important, va disability personal statement examples, what is a va lay witness statement, how to submit a va personal statement form, need more assistance.
You DESERVE a HIGHER VA rating. WE CAN HELP.
Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call with an experienced Team Member. Learn what you’ve been missing so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation you’ve earned for your service.
A VA personal statement allows you to tell the VA how your condition affects your daily life and your ability to function.
Writing a VA personal statement gives you the opportunity to advocate for yourself and ensure your condition is accurately evaluated.
Personal statements aren’t lengthy, only a few paragraphs, but they can be critical to receiving a positive response about your claim.
If you’ve ever wished to talk about things “in your own words,” a VA personal statement is your opportunity!
While a VA disability personal statement isn’t a guarantee of a winning claim, it gives the VA an “insider’s look” at the severity of your condition and how it’s connected to your service.
Finally, your VA personal statement can help capture any unseen impacts your disability caused that may not be fully captured in your medical records alone.
5 Best Things to Include in Your VA Personal Statement:
- The name of the VA disability you’re claiming
- When you first experienced symptoms of your condition
- Precise, concise details about the circumstances around your incident, accident, or illness
- Current medical treatment you receive for your condition
- How your condition negatively impacts your life, work, and social functioning
Don’t worry about having exact dates if you can’t remember them; even mentioning the year of the incident or accident can help.
For example, “ While serving in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, I developed severe PTSD that has negatively affected my daily life.”
Your VA personal statement should be specific, detailing the circumstances around your condition and how it affects your quality of life.
Use your VA personal statement as a way to paint a picture of the impact of your condition.
Keeping your statement with the most essential details will help the VA rater when sifting through your claim.
What Should I Avoid in My VA Personal Statement?
- Unsubstantiated medical claims, including self-diagnoses or speculative medical claims
- Unprofessional language, including jargon, slang, and offensive language
- Complaints about the VA process, even if you are frustrated about the situation
- Irrelevant personal history not applicable to the current disability claim
- Graphic or inappropriate details
- Irrelevant accomplishments or achievements that aren’t relevant to the claim
- Political or controversial opinions that take the focus away from your condition
It’s also best to avoid blaming or finger-pointing for the cause of your condition and instead focus on your experience and the effects of your disability.
PRO TIP: When writing a VA personal statement, avoid being vague and never lie about your condition.
For example, Instead of saying, “ I have anxiety ,” write about how it affects your daily life. “ My anxiety prevents me from attending social situations with many people, and I’ve seen a negative impact on my social functioning ” gives a clearer picture of your condition’s impact.
In addition, you don’t want to embellish your situation because the VA will find out if you are lying, which runs the risk of perjury.
You also want to avoid any filler that takes away from the heart of your VA personal statement and isn’t relevant to the disability you want compensation for.
While detail is important, too much detail may make it hard for the VA rater to fully grasp the severity of your condition.
A VA personal statement is essential because it helps paint a picture of your illness, injury, or disability and allows the VA an inside look at its effect on your daily life.
When you write a VA personal statement, you are detailing your condition or disability, frequency, and severity, which helps paint a clear picture.
A VA personal statement can also help foster a sense of human connection between you and the VA’s evaluators.
Your VA personal statement may also clear any discrepancies in your medical records, especially if something isn’t well-documented or fully explained in your records.
In addition, a VA personal statement can help complete your Fully Developed Claim , speeding up the claims process and your odds of winning your claim.
You can also bring a copy of your personal statement to your Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam for reference.
While you can’t submit additional evidence at your C&P, you CAN bring copies of documents you’ve previously submitted.
Note: Each claim requires its own personal statement, and you should submit one for every condition.
We’ve got you covered if you’re looking for VA personal statement examples.
We understand and respect that it can be challenging to write about the condition you experience and the potential trauma behind it.
However, detailing the impact of your condition can significantly impact the outcome of your claim.
Here’s a VA personal statement example:
“During my service in [branch of service] from [start date] to [end date], I was exposed to traumatic events that left a lasting impact on my mental and emotional well-being. I was subjected to [briefly describe the traumatic events or experience you were exposed to]. These experiences led to PTSD, significantly affecting my ability to reintegrate into civilian life and maintain a sense of normalcy.
The symptoms of PTSD, including persistent anxiety, intrusive memories, hyper-vigilance, nightmares, and avoidance behavior, have made it incredibly difficult for me to engage in day-to-day activities and establish stable relationships. The trauma’s aftermath has led to sleep disruptions, difficulty concentrating, and heightened stress responses in certain situations.
These symptoms have interfered with my capacity to hold steady employment, contribute meaningfully to my family and community, and experience a sense of safety and well-being.
I have actively sought help for my PTSD through therapists, medical professionals, and support groups. I enclosed my medical records to confirm my ongoing efforts to address and manage my condition.
Despite my best efforts, my PTSD symptoms continue to profoundly impact my life, including relationships, daily life, and my ability to work or engage in social activities. My goal in seeking VA disability compensation is to ease the financial strain caused by these challenges and to access the resources and assistance I need to regain a resemblance of normalcy and functionality.”
A VA lay witness is a different perspective from a VA personal statement.
A VA lay witness statement, or buddy statement is a written statement from someone familiar with your disease, sickness, or condition.
The person filling out your VA lay witness statement should have firsthand knowledge of your condition’s effects and its impact on your life.
You can obtain a VA lay witness statement from:
- Family members
- Friends and fellow service members
- Coworkers and employers
- A teacher, pastor, or mentor
It’s helpful if the person filling out the form uses concrete examples and specific ways your condition interferes with your life instead of giving a vague description.
Note : You can submit more than one buddy statement if it will be valuable to your claim. In addition, you can submit a VA personal statement and buddy statement with your claim, although you can only include one personal statement with each claim.
To submit a VA personal statement, complete VA Form 21-4138 , Statement in Support of Claim.
If you are submitting a VA lay witness or buddy statement, you’ll need to submit VA Form 21-10210 .
The VA personal statement Form 21-4138 asks for basic information like name, social security number, date of birth, telephone number, and address.
In the “remarks” section, you can add information or evidence to support your claim and anything you find beneficial for the VA to know about your condition.
Remember not to leave anything off your form because it could delay your claim.
Finally, you can submit Form 21-4138 online , at a VA regional office , or by mail to:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Evidence Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
Filing claim forms can get confusing, but you must complete them correctly to ensure you receive what you deserve. Most veterans are underrated for their disabilities and, therefore, not getting their due compensation. At VA Claims Insider, we help you understand and take control of the claims process, so you can get the rating and compensation you’re owed by law.
Our process takes the guesswork out of filing a VA disability claim and supports you every step of the way in building a fully-developed claim (FDC)—so you can increase your rating FAST! If you’ve filed your VA disability claim and have been denied or have received a low rating—or you’re unsure how to get started—reach out to us! Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call . Learn what you’ve been missing—so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation YOU DESERVE!
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Dear Veteran, Here’s the brutal truth about VA disability claims:
According to our data, 8/10 ( 80% ) of veterans reading this message right now are underrated by the VA…
This means you do NOT currently have the VA disability rating and compensation YOU deserve, and you could be missing out on thousands of dollars of tax-free compensation and benefits each month.
As a fellow disabled Veteran this is shameful and I’m on a mission to change it.
Brian Reese here, Air Force service-disabled Veteran and Founder @ VA Claims Insider.
Since 2016, VA Claims Insider has helped thousands of Veterans just like you get the VA rating and compensation they deserve in less time.
If accepted into our ELITE membership program, you’ll get free up-front access and permission to use $13,119 worth of proprietary VA claim resources, including access to our network of independent medical professionals for medical examinations, disability evaluations, and credible Medical Nexus Letters, which could help you get a HIGHER VA rating in LESS time.
It’s FREE to get started, so click “Go Elite Now” below to complete our 3-step intake process.
- Complete Basic Information
- Sign Members Agreement
- Join the Mastermind Group
If you’re stuck, frustrated, underrated, and currently rated between 0%-90%, VA Claims Insider Elite is for you!
Click “Go Elite Now” below to get started today and a member of our team will be in touch within minutes.
Go Elite Now!
Why Choose VA Claims Insider
You’ve exhausted your free resources.
You're not alone. Thousands of other Veterans in our Community are here for you.
You’re ready to get the rating you deserve
We know the pain of feeling stuck, frustrated, and alone, and we want to make this process as easy and painless as possible for you.
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We win ONLY when YOU win
Hear from fellow Veterans just like you, with many of our Veteran Ambassadors having gone through our programs.
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