- How To Write Your Undergraduate Personal Statement
Applying to university
- Getting started
- Deferred entry
- When to apply to a conservatoire
- What to do if you don’t have copies of old exam certificates
- Fraud and similarity
- How to get a reference
- Admissions tests
- Coping with financial difficulty as a mature student
- Education is for life
- Mature student case studies
- Mature students – getting ready to start your course
- Mature students: five things to include in your personal statement
- Preparing for study as a mature student – choosing where to study
- Preparing for study as a mature student – student support
- Preparing for study as a mature student – your qualifications
- References for mature students
- Student finance for mature students
- The application process for mature students
- Writing a reference for a mature student
- Why study in the UK?
- Tips for international applications
- How to apply to study in the UK through the new Student route
- What finance options are available to me if I want to study in the UK?
- What level of English do I need to get into a UK university?
- Ten ways to choose a UK university
- The strength of a UK qualification to employers
- How to prepare for a uni interview
- What support is available at university
- How to look after your mental health while at uni
- How to open a UK bank account
- Five ways to save money at university
- Checklist for international students
- Six support organisations that help international students
- Disabled students: Preparing for open days and visits
- Speaking to the disability support team or mental health adviser
- Support for disabled students – frequently asked questions
- UCAS Undergraduate for mature students
- Student carers
- Students with parenting responsibilities
- UCAS Undergraduate: support for care leavers
- Applying to university as an estranged student
- Students from a UK Armed Forces background
- Support for students who have been bereaved as a child
- How to apply in Welsh
- The UCAS Undergraduate application process
- Clearing guide for parents
- Staying safe online
- Personal statement guides
- Criminal convictions – what you need to know
- How to write a personal statement that works for multiple courses
- Personal statement advice and example: computer science
- Personal statement advice: English
- Personal statement advice: Midwifery
- Personal statement advice: animal science
- Personal statement advice: biology
- Personal statement advice: business and management
- Personal statement advice: chemistry
- Personal statement advice: dance
- Personal statement advice: dentistry
- Personal statement advice: drama
- Personal statement advice: economics
- Personal statement advice: engineering
- Personal statement advice: geography
- Personal statement advice: history
- Personal statement advice: law
- Personal statement advice: maths
- Personal statement advice: media studies and journalism
- Personal statement advice: medicine
- Personal statement advice: modern languages
- Personal statement advice: music
- Personal statement advice: nursing
- Personal statement advice: pharmacy
- Personal statement advice: physiotherapy
- Personal statement advice: politics
- Personal statement advice: psychology
- Personal statement advice: social work
- Personal statement advice: sociology
- Personal statement advice: sports science
- Personal statement advice: statistics
- Personal statement advice: teacher training and education
- Personal statement advice: veterinary medicine
- Personal statement: finance and accounting
How to end your personal statement
- How to start a personal statement: The attention grabber
- Introducing the personal statement tool
- Personal statement dos and don'ts
- Using your personal statement beyond a university application
What to include in a personal statement
- Carers, estranged students, refugees, asylum seekers, and those with limited leave to remain
What's on this page?
What’s a personal statement, preparing to write your personal statement, how to open your personal statement, your personal skills and achievements, work experience and future plans.
An undergraduate personal statement is a chance to get noticed for the unique talents and experiences you have. It’s an important part of the application process as it’s an opportunity to talk about yourself and your passions, outside of your grades.
In this article, we’re going to talk you through how to write an undergraduate personal statement that stands out, without leaving you feeling overwhelmed.
Chloe Ng, HE Career Coach, Manchester Metropolitan University
You’ll have heard the saying preparation is key, and that’s no different when you’re tackling your personal statement. There are two things to think about when you’re planning. The practical and factual information you need to get across, and the more emotional, human parts of you that make you different to everyone else.
Before you start writing, take some time to think about the key things you’d want an admissions tutor to know about you, and get them down on paper. Don’t worry too much about making your notes perfect – this is more about making sure you know why you should be offered a place.
You can also look at the course description as this’ll help you with what to include and give you a good idea of what each uni is looking for.
Here are a few questions you can answer to help you get started:.
- Why have you chosen this course?
- What excites you about the subject?
- Is my previous or current study relevant to the course?
- Have you got any work experience that might help you?
- What life experiences have you had that you could talk about?
- What achievements are you proud of?
- What skills do you have that make you perfect for the course?
- What plans and ambitions do you have for your future career?
Admissions Tutors will be reading a lot of personal statements so it’s important to grab their attention right from the start.
Remember, it can only be 4,000 characters, which is about two sides of A4. So, you’ll need to use your words wisely to fit everything in.
You can find a full guide on How to start a personal statement: the attention grabber , but here are the main things to think about .
- Don’t overthink the opening. Just start by showing your enthusiasm for the subject, showcasing your knowledge and understanding, and sharing your ambitions of what you want to achieve.
- Avoid cliches! Remember, this opening part is simply about introducing yourself, so let the admissions tutor reading your personal statement get to know you.
- Keep it relevant and simple. You’re limited on how much you can include so avoid long-winded explanations. Why use 20 words when 10 can make your point?
Annabell Price, L’Oréal degree apprentice (Professional Products Division)
Next, you’ll need to write about your personal skills and achievements. Universities like to know the abilities you have that’ll help you on the course, or generally with life at university.
Don’t forget to include evidence to back up why you’re so excited about the course(s) you’ve chosen.
- Be bold and talk about the achievements you’re proud of.
- Include positions of responsibility you hold, or have held, both in and out of school.
- What are the things that make you interesting, special, or unique?
Your work experience and future plans are important to include. You should share details of jobs, placements, work experience, or voluntary work, particularly if it's relevant to your course.
- Try to link any experience to skills or qualities that’ll make you successful.
- If you know what you’d like to do after as a career, explain how you plan to use the knowledge and experience that you’ll gain to launch your career.
It’s always good to connect the beginning of your statement to the end and a great way to reinforce what you said at the start.
You want to see the ending as your chance to finish in a way that’ll make the admissions tutor remember you.
This final part of your personal statement should emphasise the great points you’ve already made and answer the question of why you should be offered a place on the course.
Read our full guide on How to finish your statement the right way.
Want to read more?
Check out our full list of Personal Statement Dos and Don’ts
See how you can use a personal statement beyond a university application
Now you’ve written your undergraduate personal statement, you’ll need to do a couple of final things before you submit it.
- Have you proofread it?
Don’t just rely on spellcheckers. We’d recommend reading it out loud as that’s a great way to spot any errors as well as checking it sounds like you.
- Have you asked for feedback?
Ask friends, family or a careers advisor to have a read through your personal statement and take their feedback on board.
Want more advice on your personal statement? Use the links below.
Use the UCAS’ personal statement tool alongside this guide to help you structure your ideas. Are you interested in how you can turn you Personal Statement into your CV? Read our advice here
UCAS scans all personal statements with the Copycatch system, to compare them with previous statements.
Any similarity greater than 30% will be flagged and action could be taken against you.
Find out more
Start your search now
Get your UCAS Hub
Your place to discover your options and research your future.
Was this page helpful?
Share this page
Sponsored articles, employability focused business degrees, study at a city campus by the sea, three reasons you should attend a ucas exhibition.
12 Personal Statement Examples + Analysis
If you’re applying to college, you’ll most likely need to write a personal statement as part of your college application.
But before diving into analyzing some great personal statement examples, it helps to get some context on what a personal statement actually is, and what writers should plan to include when writing their own personal statement.
What is a personal statement?
It’s the main essay required by the Common Application as well as most other application systems. They basically require you to answer some version of the question “Who are you, and what do you value?” And in recent years, the main Common Application essay has become more and more important in colleges’ decision making process, especially as many colleges are relying less and less on standardized test scores.
Why read personal statement examples?
In our work with students, we often encourage students to review examples of personal statements to get a sense of what a great essay might look like and to just generally share a wide range of topics, structures, and writing styles so that they can see what’s possible when writing this essay. In this spirit, we’re sharing 12 of our favorite examples from the past few years. We’ve also included analysis for what makes them outstanding to (hopefully) help you uplevel your own essay.
What should a personal statement include?
The personal statement should demonstrate the qualities, skills, and values that you’ve cultivated over your life and how those skills have prepared you for attending college. I (Ethan) have spent the last 15 years answering this question, which you can learn more about in my free 1-hour guide .
In our opinion, a great personal statement example has 4 qualities . After reading the essay, you can identify whether your essay or topic show each of the four qualities by asking yourself the questions below:
Values : Can you name at least 4-5 of the author’s core values? Do you detect a variety of values, or do the values repeat?
Vulnerability : Does the essay sound like it’s mostly analytical or like it’s coming from a deeper, more vulnerable place? Does it sound like the author wrote it using mostly his or her head (intellect) or his or her heart and gut? After reading the essay, do you know more about the author AND feel closer to him or her?
Insight : Can you identify at least 3-5 “so what” moments of insight in the essay? Are these moments kind of predictable, or are they truly illuminating?
Craft : Do the ideas in the essay connect in a way that is logical, but not too obvious (aka boring)? Can you tell that the essay represents a series of carefully considered choices and that the author spent a lot of time revising the essay over the course of several drafts?
Want a more thorough guide on how to write a personal statement? We’ve got you covered.
Let’s read some essays.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Example #1 - The Tally on My Uniform Example #2 - Quattro Lingue Example #3 - 12 Example #4 - Flying Example #5 - Arab Spring in Bahrain Example #6 - Poop, Animals and the Environment Example #7 - Entoptic Phenomena Example #8 - The Builder & Problem Solver Example #10 - The Little Porch and a Dog (With Spanish Translation) Example #10 - Life As an Undocumented Student Example #11 - Umbra Example #12 - Angry brown girl, feminist, singer, meme lover
Personal Statement Example #1 The Tally on My Uniform
Day 19: I am using my school uniform as a slate to tally the days. As the ink slowly seeps through the fabric of my shirt, I begin to understand that being a conscious Arab comes with a cost.
Day 7: I come across a live stream on social media, 1,200 Palestinian political prisoners are on their seventh day of a hunger strike against the Israeli occupation. It is the first I have heard of its occurrence. I allow myself to follow the news daily through social media while regional mainstream media and our local news channels refrain from reporting any news of the strike.
Day 13: I am engulfed by the cry for justice. I feel helplessly overwhelmed, not wanting to confront reality, but I force myself to anyway; actively searching, refreshing my phone to tune into live streams from protests, plugging in “Palestinian hunger strike” on the search engine to stay connected to the cause.
Day 18: No one else seems to know anything about what is going on. I am compelled to find a way to embody the struggle. In my first period class, I see a marker beside the whiteboard. I pick it up, not sure what I’m going to do, but then hear myself asking my classmates to each draw a vertical line on my shirt. It seems funny at first--they laugh, confused. But each time the marker touches the fabric it tells a story. It is a story of occupied countries, a story in which resisting apartheid becomes synonymous with criminality, a story we refuse to address because we have grown too apathetic to value life beyond our borders. As my classmates draw the tally, together we tell the story of the hunger strike and mourn the distance human beings have created between each other.
Day 20: My uniform has become a subject of question. Each pair of eyes that fix their gaze on the ink, I share the story of our Palestinian compatriots. The initial responses are the same: disbelief, followed by productive conversation on our moral responsibility to educate ourselves on the conflict.
Day 28: Each day the strike continues, I have asked my classmates to draw another line on the tally. While it still comes across as unsettling, it seems to no longer represent the reality of the hunger strike. My classmates are no longer interested in what it means. I am supposed to move on already. I am called in to the principal’s office. After being instructed to get a new shirt, I choose to challenge the order. As long as the hunger strike lasts, I will continue to voice the reality of the hundreds of prisoners, in hopes of recreating the sense of responsibility I originally sensed in my peers.
Day 41: A compromise deal is offered to the political prisoners and they suspend their hunger strike. I walk out of school with a clean uniform and feel whole again, but unnaturally so. I was left feeling an unspoken kind of weakness where I broke under the realisation that not all sorrows could resonate with people enough for me to expect them to lead movements.
I would need to be the one to lead, to recreate the energy that the tally once inspired. I decided to found a political streetwear brand, Silla, where fashion choices transcend superficial aesthetics by spreading a substantial message of equality and donating the profits to NGOs that advocate for social change. Through Silla, I am able to stay in touch with my generation, keeping them engaged with issues because of how they can now spend their money Silla has mobilized people to voice their opinions that align with equity and equality. Because of my adherence to justice, I was elected student government president and I use it as a platform to be vigilant in reminding my peers of their potential, inspiring them to take action and be outspoken about their beliefs. When the ink seeped through the fabric of my uniform it also stained my moral fibres, and will forever remind me that I am an agent of change.
Why This Essay Worked:
Uncommon topic and uncommon connections. Overall, this is just a stand out piece. The unique story of how the author had lines drawn on her shirt pulls the reader in. But while this story is not something you’d typically find in other people’s applications, don’t feel intimidated. Having an uncommon topic makes writing a strong essay a bit easier, but by itself is not enough for a great essay. What really elevates this piece is the connections and observations that the author makes about her classmates and the school’s collective response to distant but important political conflict. The student does a great job evoking the emotional response of her peers and beautifully articulates her own indignation with the apathy that emerges. When you write your essay, consider how you can use uncommon connections to take your reader to places they may not have expected to go.
Experimental structure. One of the many cool things about this essay is its structure, which demonstrates the quality of craft . The author uses a montage structure that emphasizes numbers and chronology, two ideas that are central to the content of the piece itself. By playing with the idea of time and distance, the applicant emphasizes some of the critical ideas in her essay and shows that she’s unafraid to think outside the box. Remember, admissions officers read tons of personal statements; an uncommon structure can go a long way in setting you apart from the crowd.
Answers the question “so what?” The thing that really brings this essay home is the last paragraph. Although the story of the uniform being marked by lines for each day of the hunger strike is fascinating, we’re not totally sure of its relevance to the life of the author until she gets to that last bit. In it, she tells us about her politically-aware fashion line and her appointment as school president. This answers the question of “so what” because it shows us that she took the lessons she learned during the strike and applied it to her life outlook/practices more broadly. After you’ve written your first draft, go back through it and make sure you’ve clearly shown what you’ve done to act upon your reflections or values .
Personal Statement Example #2 Quattro Lingue
Day 1: “Labbayka Allāhumma Labbayk. Labbayk Lā Sharīka Laka Labbayk,” we chant, sweat dripping onto the wispy sand in brutal Arabian heat, as millions of us prepare to march from the rocky desert hills of Mount Arafat to the cool, flat valleys of Muzdalifa. As we make our way into the Haram, my heart shakes. Tears rolling down my cheeks, we circumvent the Ka’ba one last time before embarking on Hajj, the compulsory pilgrimage of Islam. It became the spiritual, visceral, and linguistic journey of a lifetime.
“Ureed an Aśhtareę Hijab.”
“Al-harir aw al-Qathan?”
“La. Khizth sab’een.”
“Show me hijabs.”
“Silk or cotton?”
“How much do these cost?”
“No. Take 70.”
“Fine. Thanks Hajjah.”
In Makkah, I quickly learn shopkeepers rip off foreigners, so exchanges like this, where I only have to say a few Arabic words, make me appear local. It also connects me with real locals: the Saudi Arabian pharmacist who sells me cough syrup, the Egyptian grandmother seeking directions to the restroom, the Moroccan family who educates me on the Algerian conflict. As the sounds of Arabic swirl around me like the fluttering sands (Jamal, Naqah, Ibl, Ba’eer…), I’m reconnecting with an old friend: we’d first met when I decided to add a third language to English and Bengali.
Day 6: The tents of Mina. Temperature blazing. Humidity high. I sleep next to an old woman who just embarked on her twentieth Hajj. When I discover she’s Pakistani, I speak to her in Urdu. Her ninety-year old energy--grounded, spiritual, and non-materialistic--inspires me. So far, every day has been a new discovery of my courage, spirit, and faith, and I see myself going on this journey many more times in my life. My new friend is curious where I, a Bengali, learned Urdu. I explain that as a Muslim living in America’s divided political climate, I wanted to understand my religion better by reading an ancient account of the life of Prophet Muhammad, but Seerat-un-Nabi is only in Urdu, so I learned to read it. I was delighted to discover the resonances: Qi-yaa-mah in Arabic becomes Qi-ya-mat in Urdu, Dh-a-lim becomes Zaa-lim… Urdu, which I had previously only understood academically, was the key to developing a personal connection with a generation different from mine.
Day 8: “Fix your hair. You look silly,” my mom says in Bengali. When my parents want to speak privately, they speak our native tongue. Phrases like, “Can you grab some guava juice?” draw us closer together. My parents taught me to look out for myself from a young age, so Hajj is one of the only times we experienced something formative together. Our “secret” language made me see Bengali, which I’ve spoken all my life, as beautiful. It also made me aware of how important shared traditions are.
As I think back to those sweltering, eclectic days, the stories and spiritual connections linger. No matter what languages we spoke, we are all Muslims in a Muslim country, the first time I’d ever experienced that. I came out of my American bubble and discovered I was someone to be looked up to. Having studied Islam my whole life, I knew the ins and outs of Hajj. This, along with my love for language, made me, the youngest, the sage of our group. Whether at the Al-Baik store in our camp or the Jamarat where Satan is stoned, people asked me about standards for wearing hijab or to read the Quran out loud. I left the journey feeling fearless. Throughout my life, I’ll continue to seek opportunities where I’m respected, proud to be Muslim, and strong enough to stand up for others. The next time I go to Hajj, I want to speak two more languages: donc je peux parler à plus de gens and quiero escuchar más historias.
It’s visceral and evocative. Details about the specific resonance of Urdu words and the conversations this author shared with the people they met on their Hajj brings this essay to life. Nearly every line is full of vivid imagery and textured language . Those details make this piece fun to read and truly bring us into the world of the author. Whenever you’re writing, think about how you can engage all five senses to show, not simply tell, how you experienced something.
Uses images to convey a sense of time, place, and self. Notice how this author’s use of images and details give this personal statement a dream-like quality, hopping between spaces, people, languages, and thoughts. As a result, the author is able to talk about so many different aspects of their culture. The way the details are conveyed also speaks to the aesthetic sensibilities of the author, providing another window into who they are as a person. When you’re writing, think about how you can use imagistic language to show the reader what you care about.
Uses dialogue effectively. Dialogue isn’t always the best strategy, as it can take up a good chunk of your word count without explicitly saying anything about who you are. In this piece, however, the author does a great job of using their conversations with people they meet along their journey to convey their values and interests. Not only does the dialogue emphasize their fascination with language and cultural exchange, but it breaks up what would have been dense paragraphs into nice manageable chunks that are easier to read.
Learn how to write your personal statement here
Personal statement example #3 12.
12 is the number of my idol, Tom Brady. It’s the sum of all the letters in my name. It’s also how old I was when I started high school.
In short, I skipped two grades: first and sixth. Between kindergarten and eighth grade, I attended five schools, including two different styles of homeschooling (three years at a co-op and one in my kitchen). Before skipping, I was perennially bored.
But when I began homeschooling, everything changed. Free to move as fast as I wanted, I devoured tomes from Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison to London, Kipling, and Twain. I wrote 10-page papers on subjects from Ancient Sparta and military history to the founding of the United States and the resounding impact of slavery. I discovered more than I ever had, kindling a lifelong joy for learning.
While high school offered welcome academic opportunities--studying two languages and taking early science APs chief among them--the social environment was a different beast. Many classmates considered me more a little brother than a true friend, and my age and laser focus on academics initially made me socially inept. I joined sports teams in spring and built better relationships, but my lack of size (5’1”) and strength relegated me to the end of the bench. Oftentimes, I secretly wished I was normal age.
That secret desire manifested itself in different ways. While I’ve loved football since I was a little kid, I soon became obsessed with personal success on the gridiron--the key, I figured, to social acceptance and the solution to my age problem. I had grown up obsessively tracking my New England Patriots. Now, instead of armchair quarterbacking, I poured hours into throwing mechanics and studying film after my homework each night. Itching to grow, I adopted Brady’s diet, cutting dairy, white flour, and processed sugar. But in the rush to change, my attitude towards academics shifted; I came to regard learning as more a job than a joy. No matter what talents I possessed, I viewed myself as a failure because I couldn’t play.
That view held sway until a conversation with my friend Alex, the fastest receiver on the team. As I told him I wished we could switch places so I could succeed on the gridiron, he stared incredulously. “Dude,” he exclaimed, “I wish I was you!” Hearing my friends voice their confidence in my abilities prompted me to reflect: I quickly realized I was discounting my academic talents to fit a social construct. Instead of pushing myself to be something I wasn’t, I needed to meld my talents and my passions. Instead of playing sports, I recognized, I should coach them.
My goal to coach professionally has already helped me embrace the academic side of the game--my side--rather than sidelining it. I have devoured scouting tomes, analyzed NFL game film, spoken with pros like Dante Scarnecchia, and even joined the American Football Coaches Association. Translating that coach’s mentality into practice, I began explaining the concepts behind different plays to my teammates, helping them see the subtleties of strategy (despite Coach Whitcher’s complaints that I was trying to steal his job). And I discovered that my intellectual understanding of the game is far more important in determining my success than my athletic tools: with the discipline, adaptability, and drive I had already developed, I’ve become a better player, student, and friend.
Physically and mentally, I’ve changed a lot since freshman year, growing 11 inches and gaining newfound confidence in myself and my abilities. Instead of fighting for social acceptance, I’m free to focus on the things I love. Academically, that change re-inspired me. Able to express my full personality without social pressure, I rededicated myself in the classroom and my community. I still secretly wish to be Tom Brady. But now, I’m happy to settle for Bill Belichick.
There’s a wonderful hook. The first line is great. It’s funny, intriguing, and doesn’t give too much away. In just the first bit we already know that the author is a football enthusiast, detail-oriented, and academically gifted. Not only does it tell us a lot about him, but it allows him to transition into the meat of his story about how his unconventional educational trajectory influenced the person he is today. Think about how you can use the first sentence or two of your personal statement to effectively introduce readers to your narrative voice and rope them into reading more.
It has a great “Aha!” moment. Great personal statements often convey growth. In this example, the author struggles to find a place for himself in high school after skipping two grades and being homeschooled for a significant portion of his life. It isn’t until his friend on the football team affirms his value that he starts to see all of the ways in which his unique skills benefit the people around him. If you think of your essay like a movie reel of your life, this moment is sort of like the climax. It’s when the mindset of the main character changes and allows him to embrace what he’s got. The anticipation and release of this “aha moment” keeps readers engaged in the piece and demonstrates your ability, as the applicant, to be self-reflective and adaptable to change.
It covers a broad time frame, but still fits in tons of nice details. This essay essentially talks about the author’s life from 5th grade to present day. He’s not focusing on one specific moment. This is absolutely something you can do as well if you want to demonstrate how you’ve grown over a longer period of time. However, notice that the author here doesn’t sacrifice depth for breadth. Even though he’s covering a pretty significant chunk of time, he still touches on great details about his favorite classes and authors, football role models, and conversations with friends. These are what make the essay great and specific to his life. If you’re going to talk about more than just one event or moment, don’t forget to highlight important details along the way.
Personal Statement Example #4 Flying
As a young child, I was obsessed with flying. I spent hours watching birds fly, noting how the angle of their wings affected the trajectory of their flight. I would then waste tons of fresh printer paper, much to the dismay of my parents, to test out various wing types by constructing paper airplanes.
One day, this obsession reached its fever pitch.
I decided to fly.
I built a plane out of a wooden clothes rack and blankets, with trash bags as precautionary parachutes. As you can imagine, the maiden flight didn’t go so well. After being in the air for a solid second, the world came crashing around me as I slammed onto the bed, sending shards of wood flying everywhere.
Yet, even as a five-year-old, my first thoughts weren’t about the bleeding scratches that covered my body. Why didn’t the wings function like a bird’s wings? Why did hitting something soft break my frame? Why hadn’t the parachutes deployed correctly? Above all, why didn’t I fly?
As I grew older, my intrinsic drive to discover why stimulated a desire to solve problems, allowing my singular passion of flying to evolve into a deep-seated love of engineering.
I began to challenge myself academically, taking the hardest STEM classes offered . Not only did this allow me to complete all possible science and math courses by the end of my junior year, but it also surrounded me with the smartest kids of the grades above me, allowing me access to the advanced research they were working on. As such, I developed an innate understanding of topics such as protein function in the brain and differential equation modeling early in high school, helping me develop a strong science and math foundation to supplement my passion for engineering.
I also elected to participate in my school’s engineering pathway . As a team leader, I was able to develop my leadership skills as I identified and utilized each member’s strength to produce the best product. I sought to make design collaborative, not limited to the ideas of one person. In major group projects, such as building a hovercraft, I served as both president and devil’s advocate, constantly questioning if each design decision was the best option, ultimately resulting in a more efficient model that performed significantly better than our initial prototype.
Most of all, I sought to solve problems that impact the real world . Inspired by the water crisis in India, I developed a water purification system that combines carbon nanotube filters with shock electrodialysis to both desalinate and purify water more efficiently and cost-effectively than conventional plants. The following year, I ventured into disease detection, designing a piezoresistive microcantilever that detected the concentration of beta-amyloid protein to medically diagnose a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, a use for cantilevers that hadn’t yet been discovered. The project received 1st Honors at the Georgia Science Fair.
Working on these two projects, I saw the raw power of engineering – an abstract idea gradually becoming reality . I was spending most of my days understanding the why behind things, while also discovering solutions to prevalent issues. In a world that increasingly prioritizes a singular solution, I am captivated by engineering’s ability to continuously offer better answers to each problem.
Thirteen years have passed since that maiden flight, and I have yet to crack physical human flight . My five-year-old self would have seen this as a colossal failure. But the intense curiosity that I found in myself that day is still with me. It has continued to push me, forcing me to challenge myself to tackle ever more complex problems, engrossed by the promise and applicability of engineering.
I may never achieve human flight . However, now I see what once seemed like a crash landing as a runway, the platform off of which my love of engineering first took flight.
The author isn’t afraid to ask questions. This writer is clearly a curious and intellectual person. The questions they ask in the first part of the essay (“Why didn’t the wings function like a bird’s wings? Why did hitting something soft break my frame? Why hadn’t the parachutes deployed correctly? Above all, why didn’t I fly?”) highlight that. In your essay, don’t shy away from asking tough questions. In the end, the author still hasn’t achieved human flight, but you can clearly see how his interest in the whys of life has propelled him to take on new engineering problems. Sometimes, you don’t need to answer the questions you pose for them to serve a purpose in your essay.
It returns back to where it started. There’s something satisfying about returning to your intro in your conclusion. In this case, the author comes back to his first flying experience and re-evaluates what the experience means to him now as well as how his thinking has evolved. Think of your essay as a circle (or maybe a blob depending on what you’re writing about). Your end should loop back to where you started after your narrative arc is mostly complete.
Uses specific jargon (but not too much). We might not know what a “piezoresistive microcantilever” is or how it relates to “beta-amyloid proteins,” but that’s not really the point of including it in this essay. By using these terms the author signals to us that he knows what he’s talking about and has a degree of expertise in engineering. On the flip side, you don’t want to use so much jargon that your reader has no idea what you’re saying. Including a little bit of field-specific language can go a long way, so you don’t want to overdo it. If you’re not sure what specific details or language to include, check out our 21 Details Exercise and see if that helps you brainstorm some ideas.
Personal Statement Example #5 Arab Spring in Bahrain
February 2011– My brothers and I were showing off our soccer dribbling skills in my grandfather’s yard when we heard gunshots and screaming in the distance. We paused and listened, confused by sounds we had only ever heard on the news or in movies. My mother rushed out of the house and ordered us inside. The Arab Spring had come to Bahrain.
I learned to be alert to the rancid smell of tear gas. Its stench would waft through the air before it invaded my eyes, urging me inside before they started to sting. Newspaper front pages constantly showed images of bloodied clashes, made worse by Molotov cocktails. Martial Law was implemented; roaming tanks became a common sight. On my way to school, I nervously passed burning tires and angry protesters shouting “Yaskut Hamad! “ [“Down with King Hamad!”]. Bahrain, known for its palm trees and pearls, was waking up from a slumber. The only home I had known was now a place where I learned to fear.
September 2013– Two and a half years after the uprisings, the events were still not a distant memory. I decided the answer to fear was understanding. I began to analyze the events and actions that led to the upheaval of the Arab Springs. In my country, religious and political tensions were brought to light as Shias, who felt underrepresented and neglected within the government, challenged the Sunnis, who were thought to be favored for positions of power. I wanted equality and social justice; I did not want the violence to escalate any further and for my country to descend into the nightmare that is Libya and Syria.
September 2014– Pursuing understanding helped allay my fears, but I also wanted to contribute to Bahrain in a positive way. I participated in student government as a student representative and later as President, became a member of Model United Nations (MUN), and was elected President of the Heritage Club, a charity-focused club supporting refugees and the poor.
As an MUN delegate, I saw global problems from perspectives other than my own and used my insight to push for compromise. I debated human rights violations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from an Israeli perspective, argued whether Syrian refugees should be allowed entry into neighboring European countries, and then created resolutions for each problem. In the Heritage Club, I raised funds and ran food drives so that my team could provide support for less fortunate Bahrainis. We regularly distributed boxed lunches to migrant workers, bags of rice to refugees and air conditioners to the poor.
April 2016 – The Crown Prince International Scholarship Program (CPISP) is an intensive leadership training program where participants are chosen on merit, not political ideologies. Both Shia and Sunni candidates are selected, helping to diversify the future leadership of my country. I was shortlisted to attend the training during that summer.
July 2016 – The CPISP reaffirmed for me the importance of cooperation. At first, building chairs out of balloons and skyscrapers out of sticks didn’t seem meaningful. But as I learned to apply different types of leadership styles to real-life situations and honed my communication skills to lead my team, I began to see what my country was missing: harmony based on trust. Bringing people together from different backgrounds and successfully completing goals—any goal—builds trust. And trust is the first step to lasting peace.
October 2016 – I have only begun to understand my people and my history, but I no longer live in fear. Instead, I have found purpose. I plan to study political science and economics to find answers for the issues that remain unresolved in my country. Bahrain can be known for something more than pearl diving, palm trees, and the Arab Spring; it can be known for the understanding of its people, including me.
Orients the reader in time. As you’ve seen in several other example essays already, date and time can be used very effectively to structure a piece. This author talks about an intensely political topic, which changed drastically over the course of a specific timeframe. Because of that, the use of timestamps elevates the piece and makes it easier for readers to follow the chronology of the story. If your essay topic is something that has changed significantly over time or has developed in a chronological way, this might be a great blueprint for you. Check out our Feelings and Needs Exercise to brainstorm for this kind of essay where you learn something along a narrative arc from Point A to Point B.
Gives us the right amount of context. When you’re talking about political or cultural issues or events, don’t assume that your reader has a base level of knowledge. Although you don’t want to spend too much time on the nitty gritty details of policy reform or history, you should offer your reader some sense of when something was taking place and why. The author of this piece does that very succinctly and accessibly in his “September 2013” entry.
Emphasizes the author’s role and contributions. With political topics, it’s easy to get carried away talking about the issue itself. However, remember that this is ultimately a personal statement, not a political statement. You want to make sure you talk about yourself in the essay. So, even though the author is discussing a huge event, he focuses on his participation in Model UN, CRISP, and Heritage Club. When possible, think about how big issues manifest in your day to day life as well as what you specifically are doing to take action.
READY TO START WRITING? How To Start a College Essay: 9 Surefire Techniques
Personal statement example #6 poop, animals and the environment.
I have been pooped on many times. I mean this in the most literal sense possible. I have been pooped on by pigeons and possums, house finches and hawks, egrets and eastern grays.
I don’t mind it, either. For that matter, I also don’t mind being pecked at, hissed at, scratched and bitten—and believe me, I have experienced them all.
I don’t mind having to skin dead mice, feeding the remaining red embryonic mass to baby owls. (Actually, that I do mind a little.)
I don’t mind all this because when I’m working with animals , I know that even though they probably hate me as I patch them up, their health and welfare is completely in my hands. Their chances of going back to the wild, going back to their homes, rely on my attention to their needs and behaviors.
My enduring interest in animals and habitat loss led me to intern at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley over the summer , and it was there that I was lucky enough to meet those opossum joeys that defecated on my shoes whenever I picked them up (forcing me to designate my favorite pair of shoes as animal hospital shoes, never to be worn elsewhere again). It was there that a juvenile squirrel decided my finger looked fit to suckle, and that many an angry pigeon tried to peck off my hands.
And yet, when the internship ended, I found myself hesitant to leave . That hesitation didn’t simply stem from my inherent love of animals. It was from the sense of responsibility that I developed while working with orphaned and injured wildlife. After all, most of the animals are there because of us—the baby opossums and squirrels are there because we hit their mothers with our cars, raptors and coyotes end up there due to secondary rodenticide poisoning and illegal traps. We are responsible for the damage, so I believe we are responsible for doing what we can to help. And of course, there is empathy—empathy for the animals who lost their mothers, their homes, their sight and smell, their ability to fly or swim. I couldn’t just abandon them.
I couldn’t just abandon them the same way I couldn’t let big oil companies completely devastate the Arctic, earth’s air conditioner . The same way I couldn’t ignore the oceans, where destructive fishing practices have been wiping out ocean life.
These are not jobs that can be avoided or left half-finished. For some, the Arctic is simply too far away, and the oceans will always teem with life, while for others these problems seem too great to ever conquer. And while I have had these same feelings many times over, I organized letter-writing campaigns, protested, and petitioned the oil companies to withdraw. I campaigned in local parks to educate people on sustaining the seas. I hold on to the hope that persistent efforts will prevent further damage.
I sometimes wonder if my preoccupation with social and environmental causes just makes me feel less guilty. Maybe I do it just to ease my own conscience, so I can tell people “At least I did something.” I hope that it’s not just that. I hope it’s because my mother always told me to treat others as I want to be treated, even if I sometimes took this to its logical extreme, moving roadkill to the bushes along the side of the road because “Ma, if I was hit by a car I would want someone to move me off the road, too.”
The upshot is that I simply cannot walk away from injustice, however uncomfortable it is to confront it . I choose to act, taking a stand and exposing the truth in the most effective manner that I think is possible. And while I’m sure I will be dumped on many times, both literally and metaphorically, I won’t do the same to others.
Another great hook. Much like the football essay, this one starts off with a bang. After hearing about all the pecking, hissing, pooping, and clawing that the author endured, chances are you want to read more. And notice how the initial pooping hook comes back in the last line of the essay.
The scope gets wider as the piece progresses. The author starts with specific details about an internship opportunity then gradually works her way to broader topics about social justice and environmental activism. Every part of the piece emphasizes her values, but they are more explicitly stated towards the end. This trajectory is nice because it allows the reader to ease themselves into the world of the author and then see how specific opportunities or interests connect to broader goals or ambitions. When you’re revising your essay, take a look at each paragraph and see if each one brings something new to the table or moves the narrative forward in some way.
It’s funny . This author does a great job of using humor as a tool to endear her to readers, but not as a crutch to lean on when she has nothing else to say. Not only is she cracking jokes about poop, but also deeply interrogating her own motivations for being interested in social and environmental activism. The balance of humor and genuine reflection is fun to read while also saying a lot about the author and her values/interests.
Personal Statement Example #7 Entoptic Phenomena
I subscribe to what the New York Times dubs “the most welcomed piece of daily e-mail in cyberspace.” Cat pictures? Kardashian updates? Nope: A Word A Day.
Out of the collection of diverse words I received, one word stuck out to me in particular.
Entoptic : relating to images that originate within the eye (as opposed to from light entering the eye). Examples of entoptic phenomena: floaters, thread-like fragments that appear to float in front of the eye but are caused by matter within the eye. (for a picture: https://wordsmith.org/words/entoptic.html)
As I read through this entry, I was suddenly transported back to the first grade, when I was playing Pokémon Go one day with my friends during recess. Our version was epic: we escaped into virtual reality with our imagination rather than our phone screens, morphing into different Pokémon to do battle.
My friend Ryan had just transformed into an invisible ghost-type Pokémon capable of evading my attacks. Flustered, I was attempting to evolve my abilities to learn to see the invisible. Between rubbing my eyes and squinting, I began to make out subtle specks in the air that drifted from place to place. Aha—the traces of the ghost Pokémon! I launched a thunderbolt straight through the air and declared a super-effective knockout.
...Of course, I never was able to explain what I was seeing to my bewildered friends that day in first grade. But after learning about entoptic phenomena, I realized that my entoptic adventure was not a hallucination but, in fact, one of my first intellectual milestones, when I was first able to connect meticulous observation of my environment to my imagination.
Nowadays, I don’t just see minuscule entoptic phenomena: I see ghosts, too. Two of their names are Larry and Kailan, and they are the top-ranked players in the Exynos League.
Exynos is the name of the elaborate basketball league I have created in my imagination over the last ten years of playing basketball on the neighborhood court in the evenings. As I play, I envision Larry and Kailan right there with me: reaching, stealing, and blocking. Undoubtedly, I might look a little silly when I throw the ball backwards as if Larry blocked my layup attempt—but imagining competitors defending me drives me to be precise in my execution of different moves and maneuvers. More than that, it is a constant motivator for all my endeavors: whether I’m researching for debate or studying for the next math contest, I am inventing and personifying new competitive ghosts that are hard at work every minute I’m off task.
But I perceive perhaps the most vivid images through music, as I tell a different story with each piece I play on the violin. When I play Bach’s lively Prelude in E Major, for example, I visualize a mouse dashing up and down hills and through mazes to escape from an evil cat (à la Tom and Jerry). But when I play Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, I describe a relationship plagued by unrequited love. I revel in the intellectual challenge of coming up with a story that is not only consistent with the composer’s annotations but also resonates with my own experiences.
Between re-living Tom and Jerry episodes and shooting fadeaway three-pointers against ghosts, then, perhaps entoptic phenomena don’t tell my whole story. So, here’s my attempt—in the form of a word of the day, of course:
Pokémon Boom : a legendary form of augmented reality so pure that it is commonly mistaken for hallucination. Denizens of this world are rumored to watch Netflix re-runs without WiFi and catch many a Pikachu via psychokinesis.
It makes tons of uncommon connections. Think about the range of topics covered in this piece: words, Pokémon, basketball, ghosts, debate, math, and music (to name just a few). Yet the author uses the idea of imagination and its relation to vision to weave these disparate topics into a coherent narrative. In fact, his ability to do so emphasizes his ability to think creatively in ways that the average person may not. To find these, consider brainstorming everything you want colleges to know about you and then think of interesting ways in which these might intersect.
It doesn’t try to be overly intellectual. This essay spends most of its time talking about things that we wouldn’t traditionally consider “academic” or “college-y.” In fact, at least a third of it is devoted solely to Pokémon. The author briefly touches on his interest in math and debate, but otherwise it’s used more as a short example than a key point. The takeaway is: you don’t have to talk about classes or academic interests to write a killer essay. You absolutely can if you want to, but feel free to let your imagination run wild. If something excites or intrigues you, try writing a draft about it and see where it takes you.
It’s specific to the author. The combination of examples and insights you see in this essay truly couldn’t have been written by anyone else. Imagine you’re the admissions officer reading this application. It would absolutely stand out from the other essays in the bunch. Sure, other people play basketball. Sure, other people might like Pokémon or enjoy music. But, the particular way in which the author articulates his interests and connects them makes it memorable.
Personal Statement Example #8 The Builder & Problem Solver
Since childhood, I have been an obsessive builder and problem solver . When I was 6, I spent two months digging a hole in my backyard, ruining the grass lawn, determined to make a giant koi pond after watching a show on HGTV. After watching Castaway when I was 7, I started a fire in my backyard--to my mother's horror--using bark and kindling like Tom Hanks did. I neglected chores and spent nights locked in my room drawing pictures and diagrams or learning rubik's cube algorithms while my mother yelled at me through the door to go to sleep. I've always been compulsive about the things I set my mind to. The satisfaction of solving problems and executing my visions is all-consuming.
But my obsessive personality has helped me solve other problems, too.
When I was 8, I taught myself how to pick locks . I always dreamed of how cool it must have been inside my brother’s locked bedroom. So I didn't eat at school for two weeks and saved up enough lunch money to buy a lockpicking set from Home Depot. After I wiggled the tension wrench into the keyhole and twisted it counterclockwise, I began manipulating the tumblers in the keyhole with the pick until I heard the satisfying click of the lock and entered the room. Devouring his stash of Lemonheads was awesome, but not as gratifying as finally getting inside his room.
As the projects I tackled got bigger, I had to be more resourceful . One day in history class after reading about early American inventions, I decided to learn how to use a Spinning Jenny. When my parents unsurprisingly refused to waste $500 on an 18th century spinning wheel, I got to work visiting DIY websites to construct my own by disassembling my bike and removing the inner tube from the wheel, gathering string and nails, and cutting scrap wood. For weeks, I brushed my two cats everyday until I had gathered enough fur. I washed and soaked it, carded it with paddle brushes to align the fibers, and then spun it into yarn, which I then used to crochet a clutch purse for my grandmother on mother's day. She still uses it to this day.
In high school, my obsessive nature found a new outlet in art . Being a perfectionist, I often tore up my work in frustration at the slightest hint of imperfection. As a result, I was slowly falling behind in my art class, so I had to seek out alternate solutions to actualize the ideas I had in my head. Oftentimes that meant using mixed media or experimenting with unconventional materials like newspaper or cardboard. Eventually I went on to win several awards, showcased my art in numerous galleries and magazines, and became President of National Art Honors Society. Taking four years of art hasn't just taught me to be creative, it’s taught me that there are multiple solutions to a problem.
After high school I began to work on more difficult projects and I channeled my creativity into a different form of art - programming . I’m currently working on an individual project at the Schepens Institute at Harvard University. I'm writing a program in Matlab that can measure visual acuity and determine what prescription glasses someone would need. I ultimately plan to turn this into a smartphone app to be released to the general public.
The fact is that computer coding is in many ways similar to the talents and hobbies I enjoyed as a child—they all require finding creative ways to solve problems . While my motivation to solve these problems might have been a childlike sense of satisfaction in creating new things, I have developed a new and profound sense of purpose and desire to put my problem solving skills to better our world.
It turns a perceived weakness into a critical strength. At the beginning of the essay, the author talks about all of the problems she caused because of her obsession (ironically) with problem-solving. However, as the piece progresses, we begin to see how her childlike curiosity and interest in making things became a clear asset. It becomes a way of emphasizing values like resourcefulness, empathy, and dedication. In several other essay examples, we’ve highlighted this idea of growth. This example is no exception. Highlighting the ways in which you’ve changed or reframed your thinking is a great thing to show off to college admissions officers. If you know you’ve experienced some significant change but you’re not sure how to describe it, use our Feelings and Needs Exercise to get started.
There’s a discussion of what’s next. Many colleges are interested not only in what you’ve done, but also how you’d like to pursue your interests in the future. The author here spends some time at the end talking about her plans for a prescription-measuring smartphone app and her general interest in learning more about computer coding. While the piece has a clear conclusion, these examples highlight the ongoing nature of her educational journey and her openness to further learning. It answers the question of “ so what? ”
EXPERIENCING COLLEGE ESSAY OVERLOAD? READ ABOUT COMBINING YOUR COLLEGE ESSAY PROMPTS TO SAVE 20+ WRITING HOURS
Personal statement example #9 the little porch and a dog.
It was the first Sunday of April. My siblings and I were sitting at the dinner table giggling and spelling out words in our alphabet soup. The phone rang and my mother answered. It was my father; he was calling from prison in Oregon.
My father had been stopped by immigration on his way to Yakima, Washington, where he’d gone in search of work. He wanted to fulfill a promise he’d made to my family of owning our own house with a nice little porch and a dog.
Fortunately, my father was bailed out of prison by a family friend in Yakima. Unfortunately, though, most of our life savings was spent on his bail. We moved into a rented house, and though we did have a porch, it wasn’t ours. My father went from being a costurero (sewing worker) to being a water-filter salesman, mosaic tile maker, lemon deliverer, and butcher.
Money became an issue at home, so I started helping out more. After school I’d rush home to clean up and make dinner. My parents refused to let me have a “real” job, so on Saturday afternoons I’d go to the park with my older brother to collect soda cans. Sundays and summertime were spent cleaning houses with my mother.
I worked twice as hard in school. I helped clean my church, joined the choir, and tutored my younger sister in math. As tensions eased at home, I returned to cheerleading, joined a school club called Step Up , and got involved in my school’s urban farm, where I learned the value of healthy eating. Slowly, life improved. Then I received some life-changing news.
My father’s case was still pending and, due to a form he’d signed when he was released in Yakima, it was not only him that was now in danger of being deported, it was my entire family. My father’s lawyer informed me that I’d have to testify in court and in fact our stay in the US was now dependent on my testimony.
The lawyer had an idea: I had outstanding grades and recommendation letters. If we could show the judge the importance of my family remaining here to support my education, perhaps we had a chance. So I testified.
My father won his case and was granted residency.
Living in a low-income immigrant household has taught me to appreciate all I’ve been given. Testifying in court helped me grow as a person, has made me more open-minded and aware of the problems facing my community. And my involvement in the urban farm has led me to consider a career as a nutritionist.
Though neither of my parents attended college, they understand that college is a key factor to a bright future and therefore have been very supportive. And though we don't yet have the house with the small porch and the dog, we're still holding out hope.
I believe college can help.
Drops us in a moment in time. The beginning of this essay is a bit disorienting because it places us in a scene within the author’s life as they experience it. We don’t know all of the information, so we’re a bit confused, but that confusion makes us want to read more. This is a great tactic when done well because it helps us identify with the author and piques our curiosity.
Shows the agency, independence, and resilience of the applicant. The author here goes through a lot over the course of the essay. They have to face very real fears about incarceration, deportation, and financial instability on a daily basis. Talking about the ways in which they approached these obstacles highlights their ability to think clearly under pressure and make the most of what they have. If you have faced significant hardships , worked through them, learned valuable lessons, and want to share these with colleges, the personal statement can be a good place to do that. If you’d prefer to write about something else in your personal statement, but you’d still like to mention your challenges somewhere in your application, you can instead briefly describe them in your Additional Information section. If you want to write about struggles that are particularly related to COVID-19, check out our guide for specific suggestions.
Era el primer domingo de abril. Mis hermanos y yo estábamos sentados en la mesa del comedor riendonos y deletreando palabras en nuestra sopa de letras. El teléfono sonó y mi madre respondió. Era mi padre. El estaba llamando desde la cárcel en Oregon.
Mi padre había sido detenido por inmigración en su camino a Yakima, Washington, donde había ido en busca de trabajo. Quería cumplir una promesa que le había hecho a mi familia de tener nuestra propia casa con un pequeño y agradable porche y un perro.
Afortunadamente, mi padre fue rescatado de la cárcel por un amigo de la familia en Yakima. Pero lamentablemente la mayor parte de nuestros ahorros se gastó en su fianza . Nos mudamos a una casa alquilada, y aunque teníamos un porche, no era nuestra. Mi padre pasó de ser un costurero (trabajador de coser) de ser un vendedor de filtros de agua, fabricante de baldosas de mosaicos, libertador de limones, y carnicero.
El dinero se convirtió en un problema en casa, así que comencé a ayudar más. Después de la escuela llegaba temprano a mi hogar para limpiar y preparar la cena. Mis padres se negaron a dejarme tener un trabajo "real.” Por lo tanto, los sábados por la tarde me iba al parque con mi hermano mayor para recoger latas de refrescos. En domingos y en el verano limpiaba casas con mi madre.
Trabajé dos veces más duro en la escuela. Ayudé a limpiar mi iglesia, me uní al coro, y dí clases particulares a mi hermana menor en las matemáticas. Mientras las tensiones disminuyeron en casa, volví al grupo de porristas, me uní a un club escolar llamado Step Up, y me involucré en la granja urbana de mi escuela, donde aprendí el valor de la alimentación saludable. Poco a poco, la vida mejoraba. Luego recibí una noticia que cambia la vida.
El caso de mi padre todavía estaba pendiente, y debido a una forma que había firmado cuando fue liberado en Yakima, no sólo era él que estaba ahora en peligro de ser deportado, era toda mi familia. El abogado de mi padre me informó que yo tendría que declarar ante los tribunales, y de hecho, nuestra estancia en los EE.UU. ahora dependia de mi testimonio.
El abogado tuvo una idea: yo tenía sobresalientes calificaciones y cartas de recomendaciones. Si pudiéramos demostrar a la juez la importancia de que mi familia se quedará aquí para apoyar a mi educación, tal vez tuviéramos una oportunidad. Así que di mi testimonio.
Mi padre ganó su caso y se le concedió la residencia.
Vivir en un hogar de inmigrantes de bajos ingresos me ha enseñado a apreciar todo lo que se me ha dado . Dar mi testimonio en el tribunal me ha ayudado a crecer como persona y me ha hecho más consciente de los problemas que se enfrentan en mi comunidad. Y mi implicación en la granja urbana me ha llevado a considerar una carrera como nutricionista .
Aunque ninguno de mis padres asistieron a la universidad, ellos entienden que la universidad es un factor clave para un futuro brillante, y por lo tanto, han sido un gran apoyo . Y aunque todavía no tenemos la casa con el pequeño porche y el perro, todavía estamos tendiendo la esperanza.
Creo que la universidad puede ayudar.
Personal Statement Example #10 Life As an Undocumented Student
At six years old, I stood locked away in the restroom. I held tightly to a tube of toothpaste because I’d been sent to brush my teeth to distract me from the commotion. Regardless, I knew what was happening: my dad was being put under arrest for domestic abuse. He’d hurt my mom physically and mentally, and my brother Jose and I had shared the mental strain. It’s what had to be done.
Living without a father meant money was tight, mom worked two jobs, and my brother and I took care of each other when she worked. For a brief period of time the quality of our lives slowly started to improve as our soon-to-be step-dad became an integral part of our family. He paid attention to the needs of my mom, my brother, and me. But our prosperity was short-lived as my step dad’s chronic alcoholism became more and more recurrent. When I was eight, my younger brother Fernando’s birth complicated things even further. As my step-dad slipped away, my mom continued working, and Fernando’s care was left to Jose and me. I cooked, Jose cleaned, I dressed Fernando, Jose put him to bed. We did what we had to do.
As undocumented immigrants and with little to no family around us, we had to rely on each other. Fearing that any disclosure of our status would risk deportation, we kept to ourselves when dealing with any financial and medical issues. I avoided going on certain school trips, and at times I was discouraged to even meet new people. I felt isolated and at times disillusioned; my grades started to slip.
Over time, however, I grew determined to improve the quality of life for my family and myself.
Without a father figure to teach me the things a father could, I became my own teacher. I learned how to fix a bike, how to swim, and even how to talk to girls. I became resourceful, fixing shoes with strips of duct tape, and I even found a job to help pay bills. I became as independent as I could to lessen the time and money mom had to spend raising me.
I also worked to apply myself constructively in other ways. I worked hard and took my grades from Bs and Cs to consecutive straight A’s. I shattered my school’s 1ooM breaststroke record, and learned how to play the clarinet, saxophone, and the oboe. Plus, I not only became the first student in my school to pass the AP Physics 1 exam, I’m currently pioneering my school’s first AP Physics 2 course ever.
These changes inspired me to help others. I became president of the California Scholarship Federation, providing students with information to prepare them for college, while creating opportunities for my peers to play a bigger part in our community. I began tutoring kids, teens, and adults on a variety of subjects ranging from basic English to home improvement and even Calculus. As the captain of the water polo and swim team I’ve led practices crafted to individually push my comrades to their limits, and I’ve counseled friends through circumstances similar to mine. I’ve done tons, and I can finally say I’m proud of that.
But I’m excited to say that there’s so much I have yet to do. I haven’t danced the tango, solved a Rubix Cube, explored how perpetual motion might fuel space exploration, or seen the World Trade Center. And I have yet to see the person that Fernando will become.
I’ll do as much as I can from now on. Not because I have to. Because I choose to.
Again, the author shows growth. We’ve said it a couple times, but it’s nice to highlight growth when possible. Although the author’s family circumstances and immigrant status meant he had to face significant hardships, he learned how to take care of themselves and use his obstacles as motivation to succeed. We see concrete signs of growth in the way he improved his grades and got more involved in school clubs like the California Scholarship Federation as well as athletic extracurriculars like swimming. Essentially, he shows how he made the best of his situation.
The author’s curiosity is palpable. One of the best things about this essay is the very end. The writer has already shown us how much he has had to overcome and how much he’s thrived in high school despite his circumstances. However, he doesn’t just stop. He tells us about all the other things he hopes to do and conveys a clear excitement at the possibility for learning in the future. There’s something lovely about seeing someone who is excited for what the future might hold. It endears him to readers and demonstrates his natural inclination to continue pushing forward, no matter what life might throw his way. Plus, it’s worth noting that he ends on the quality of autonomy , which was his #1 value when you completed the Values Exercise .
Personal Statement Example #11 Umbra
Umbra: the innermost, darkest part of a shadow
The fifth set of chimes rings out and I press my hands against the dusty doors. My nose itches, but scratching would smudge the little black whiskers painted onto my face. I peer through the tiny crack between the cupboard doors, trying to glimpse the audience. The sixth set of chimes, my cue, begins, and I pop onto stage, the brilliant lights flooding my vision. Clara and Drosselmeyer stand to my left, and in front of me lies an endless ocean of audience. I pause a moment, taking it in, then do my best mouse scurry towards the wings. I love performing and dancing to connect with an audience. I dance to inspire others, to share my joy and passion, and because I love the rush of excitement while I’m surrounded by the stage lights .
My hands, covered in grease, hurt terribly as I help another girl with the wire crimper. We force the handles together, and our Anderson connector is finally ready. People scurry around us—several students are riveting metal, assisted by my father (for me, robotics is a family activity), while another pair, including my younger brother, works on assembling the drive train. The next room is filled with shouted Java commands and autonomous code. I’m working on a system that will focus on the reflective tape on our target, allowing the camera to align our shooting mechanism. I love the comradery in robotics, the way teams support each other even amid intense competitions. I love seeing the real world application of knowledge, and take pride in competing in front of hundreds of people. Most of all, I love spending time with my family, connecting with them in our own unique way. Back in the electrical room, I plug in my connector, and the room is filled with bright green light .
I pull on a pair of Nitrile gloves before grabbing my forceps. I carefully extract my latest Western Blot from its gel box, placing it on the imaging system. I’m searching for the presence of PARP1 and PLK1 in dysplasia and tumor cells, especially in reference to DNA damage and apoptosis. I’ve already probed the blot with a fluorescent reagent for imaging. On the screen, I see my bands of protein expression, the bands of red light showing PARP1 and the bands of green showing PLK1. I haven’t been doing research for long, but I’ve already fallen in love with constantly having something new to learn.
Christmas carols play softly as I chase my little brother around the living room, trying to get him to wear a Santa hat. The smell of tamales wafts through the air as my mom and grandmother stand over the pot of mole sauce. The ornament boxes are opened on the floor, each one special to our family, representing our adventures, our love, our history. My dad is winding a mile-long string of lights around the tree, covering the room with a soft glow. My homemade gifts—hats, scarves, blankets I’ve knitted—lie messily wrapped beneath the tree. My family has made tamales on Christmas Eve for generations, and each year it’s a way for us to connect to both each other and our heritage.
Light will usually travel in a perfectly straight line, but if it comes in contact with something it can bounce off it or bend around it, which is why people make shadows. The very innermost part of that shadow, the umbra, is where no light has bent around you—it has completely changed direction, bounced off. People are constantly changing and shaping the light around them, and never notice. But in hindsight, I see it’s the lights that have shaped me.
It demonstrates craft. This author went through 10+ drafts of this essay, and her effort shows in her refined language and structure. She uses images to beautiful effect, drawing us into each experience in her montage, from the moments on stage to robotics to the lab to her family. She also demonstrates craft through the subtlety of her structural thread—we’ve bolded light above, to make it more obvious, but notice how she essentially saves what would traditionally be her introduction for her final paragraph (with some beautiful, refined phrasing therein), and uses “Umbra” and light to thread the paragraphs. This is very hard to pull off well, and is why she went through so many revisions, to walk a fine line between subtlety and clarity.
Show and tell. Rather than just “ Show, don’t tell ,” in a college essay, we think it’s useful to show your reader first, but then use some “telling” language to make sure they walk away with a clear understanding of what’s important to you. For example, this author shows her values through details/actions/experiences—more on values in a sec—then uses the ends of her body paragraphs to more directly tell us about those values and reflect on what they mean to her. And her final paragraph both shows and tells, using language that offers strong symbolism, while also ending with some poetic phrasing that tells us how this all comes together (in case we somehow missed it).
Values and insight/reflection. Because values are core to your essay and application, we’re going to end this post discussing them one more time. Notice how each paragraph demonstrates different values (art/performing, community, engagement, inspiration, joy/passion in the first paragraph alone) and reflects on how or why those values are important to her. We walk away with a strong sense of who this student is and what she would bring to our college campus.
Personal Statement Example #12 Angry brown girl, feminist, singer, meme-lover
My Twitter bio reads: angry brown girl, feminist, singer, meme-lover. You will notice live-tweets of my feminist Pride and Prejudice thoughts, analyses of Hamilton’s power for musical representation, and political memes. Just as my posts bring together seemingly disparate topics, I believe there is a vibrancy that exists at the multidimensional place where my interests intersect.
Growing up as a debater and musician, it was easy to see the two as distinct entities where I had to make unequivocal choices. At the start of my junior year, I decided not to participate in the musical in order to work for Emerge California, an organization that helps Democratic women run for office. There I learned about data science, gender distributions in public office, and how to work with the evil printer. I also halted my voice and piano lessons to focus on building my student-led non-profit, Agents of Change. As someone who has diverted my energy into community activism, I can attest to the power of grassroots movements. It has been so rewarding to measure the impact that my team has had on my community. But even so, I felt that I was losing touch with the music that was such a profound part of me.
I found a new way of being when I started combining my artsy and political sides. I took an intensive class on protest music, where I learned how political movements have been shaped by the music of their time. While in the class, we were asked to compose our own songs. I am not a songwriter, but I am an activist, and I embraced the opportunity to turn music into an outlet for my political beliefs. As a first-generation American, I am dedicated to raising awareness about refugee rights and immigration. My songs about the Syrian Refugee Crisis let me find a way to bring the two sides of me together and gave me a rush that neither music nor politics by themselves would have provided.
This introduction led me to apply to the Telluride Association Protest Poetics program, where I dove deeper into my own identity. I wrote songs about police brutality and the ways that as a non-black person of color I am implicated in instances of subliminal racism. Over the course of the program, as I became more familiar with the visual, literary, and performance art we analyzed, I slowly started to realize that, though I confront colorism, jokes about Indian culture, and intra-community violence in some form every day, my proximity to whiteness still gives me immense amounts of privilege. I have come to know that this means I have a responsibility to both be at the forefront of movements, and conscious of not stepping over the voices of other intersectional identities. I hope that the music I choose to perform and the way I live my life can amplify, not overwrite, any of the struggles that others deal with daily.
Last year, I had another opportunity to use music to pay homage to an issue I care deeply about. In my South Asian community, mental health is an issue that is often papered over. When a member of my school community committed suicide, I was asked to sing “Amazing Grace” for the school to both unify and honor the student. Though I thought that I had really understood the power of music, holding that space for my entire school had a profound resonance that I still don’t fully understand.
My voice is an instrument for change -- whether it be through me raising my hand to contribute to a discussion in a classroom, speaking out against gun violence at a rally, or singing at an event of solidarity. I know that someday my voice, in conjunction with many other unique voices and perspectives, will make a difference.
Get clear on the story you’re telling. Debate? Political organizing? Musical theater? Protest music? This writer probably had a lot more to say about all of those experiences. But we don’t get the whole backstory about her journey toward musical theater. Why? Because she’s clear on what this story is about (she may have even written a logline to get that clarity…). We don’t need a lot of context about her decision “not to participate in the musical” because this essay isn’t about her experiences with musical theater; it’s about her forging a new identity by combining seemingly disparate interests (e.g., music and political advocacy). Telling us every musical she’s ever been in won’t help us “get” what she’s saying in this essay (and she has the activities list to tell us that…). Instead, she shows us only the details relevant to her trying to balance a love of music with her newfound interests: she decides “not to participate in the musical,” and she “halts voice and piano lessons.”
Bridge the gap (between paragraphs). Stronger essays have paragraphs with clear relationships to one another. This writer uses various phrases to achieve that clarity. When she starts paragraph four with “this introduction,” you understand that she’s referring to her “songs about the Syrian Refugee Crisis” from the end of paragraph three. Similarly, she resolves the problem of her “losing touch” with music at the end of paragraph two by beginning paragraph three by stating she found a “new way of being…” She’s using those key moments of transition to tell her readers: hey, I’m going somewhere with all these ideas, you can trust me.
You don’t have to have all the answers . When the writer tells us that she sang “Amazing Grace” to honor someone in her community who died by suicide, she gets vulnerable—she says that she still doesn't “fully understand” the effects of that moment. In admitting that she’s still coming to terms with that experience, she comes off as a mature, reasoned person who thinks deeply about lived experience. No one reading your essay is going to expect you to have fully processed every difficult experience you’ve ever had in your life. That would be outrageous. What they will appreciate seeing, though, is that you’ve reflected deeply on lived experiences. Sometimes reflection yields answers. Sometimes it just yields more questions. Either is okay—just don’t feel like you need to have everything figured out to write about it (or that you need to pretend like you do).
Want help on your college essays?
The CEG mission is to bring more ease, purpose, and joy to the college application process via our library of free resources (much like this blog post).
CEG also offers one-on-one essay help to students who need a little extra support. Learn more about our comprehensive one-on-one essay coaching right here . And we’re proud to be a one-for-one company, which means that for every student who pays, we provide free support to a low-income student. If you identify as low-income, click here .
Want more amazing essay examples?
26 College Essay Examples That Worked 10+ Outstanding Common Application Essay Examples 14 Scholarship Essay Examples 17 UC Essay Examples (AKA Personal Insight Questions)
- Applying to Uni
- Money & Finance
- Vocational Qualifications
- U.S Universities
- Health & Relationships
- Budgeting, Money & Finance
- Health & Relationships
- Jobs & Careers
- Studying & Revision
- University & College Admissions
Guide to GCSE Results Day
Finding a job after school or college
In this section
Choosing GCSE Subjects
GCSE Work Experience
GCSE Revision Tips
Why take an Apprenticeship?
Applying for an Apprenticeship
What is an Apprenticeship?
Choosing an Apprenticeship
Real Life Apprentices
A Level Results Day 2023
AS Levels 2023
Clearing Guide 2023
Applying to University
SQA Results Day Guide 2023
BTEC Results Day Guide
Vocational Qualifications Guide
Sixth Form or College
Post 18 options
Finding a Job
Should I take a Gap Year?
Gap Year Guide
Gap Year Blogs
Applying to Oxbridge
Applying to US Universities
Choosing a Degree
Choosing a University or College
Personal Statement Editing and Review Service
Guide to Freshers' Week
- Top Rated Personal Statements
Personal Statements By Subject
Writing Your Personal Statement
- Postgraduate Personal Statements
- International Student Personal Statements
- Gap Year Personal Statements
- Personal Statement Length Checker
- Personal Statements By University
Personal Statement Frequently Asked Questions
- Personal Statement Template
Types of Postgraduate Course
Writing a Postgraduate Personal Statement
Choosing A College
Ivy League Universities
Common App Essay Examples
Universal College Application Guide
How To Write A College Admissions Essay
Fees & Funding
Budgeting For College
Platinum Express Editing and Review Service
Gold Editing and Review Service
Silver Express Editing and Review Service
UCAS Personal Statement Editing and Review Service
Oxbridge Personal Statement Editing and Review Service
Postgraduate Personal Statement Editing and Review Service
You are here
- Mature Student Personal Statements
- Personal Statement Editing Service
- Personal Statement Writing Guide
- Submit Your Personal Statement
Top Rated Personal Statement Examples
Your personal statement needs to stand out from the crowd in order to be successful. Take a look at our best rated personal statements from our library of over 2,000 examples to understand how students have successfully applied for courses in the past.
- Writing your personal statement
- Analysis of an example statement
- Personal Statement FAQs
- Personal Statement Timeline
- Personal Statement Writing Tips
- Tips from a Teacher
- Personal Statement Editing Services
- 10 Personal Statement Don'ts
Popular Course Categories
Course search & discover.
Start the search for your uni. Filter from hundreds of universities based on your preferences.
Search by Type
Search by region.
University of Suffolk
East of England · 80% Recommended
West London Institute of Technology
London (Greater) · 0% Recommended
University of Leicester
East Midlands Region · 89% Recommended
Search Open Days
What's new at Uni Compare
Request Info From Uni's
Get the help you need direct from the university. Ask about accommodation, your course and university societies.
Bulk Order Prospectuses
Bulk order prospectus from universities and have them delivered to your door for free.
Top 100 Universities
Taken from 175,000+ data points from students attending university to help future generations
About our Rankings
Discover university rankings devised from data collected from current students.
Advice categories, recommended articles, popular statement examples, statement advice.
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.
15 Accounting statements have been submitted.
2 Aerospace Engineering statements have been submitted.
1 American Studies statements have been submitted.
2 Anthropology statements have been submitted.
4 Architecture statements have been submitted.
3 Biochemistry statements have been submitted.
26 Biology statements have been submitted.
7 Biomedical Science statements have been submitted.
1 Biotechnology statements have been submitted.
6 Business Management statements have been submitted.
23 Business Studies statements have been submitted.
3 Chemistry statements have been submitted.
2 Civil Engineering statements have been submitted.
4 Classics statements have been submitted.
14 Computer Science statements have been submitted.
5 Criminology statements have been submitted.
2 Dentistry statements have been submitted.
6 Design statements have been submitted.
1 Dietics statements have been submitted.
3 Drama statements have been submitted.
17 Economics statements have been submitted.
9 Engineering statements have been submitted.
5 English Language statements have been submitted.
13 English Literature statements have been submitted.
1 Environment statements have been submitted.
1 Event Management statements have been submitted.
1 Fashion statements have been submitted.
4 Film statements have been submitted.
1 Finance statements have been submitted.
2 Forensic Science statements have been submitted.
6 Geography statements have been submitted.
1 Geology statements have been submitted.
1 Health Sciences statements have been submitted.
9 History statements have been submitted.
2 International Studies statements have been submitted.
3 Languages statements have been submitted.
50 Law statements have been submitted.
2 Management statements have been submitted.
7 Marketing statements have been submitted.
7 Maths statements have been submitted.
5 Media statements have been submitted.
10 Medicine statements have been submitted.
1 Midwifery statements have been submitted.
10 Nursing statements have been submitted.
9 Pharmacology statements have been submitted.
3 Pharmacy statements have been submitted.
5 Philosophy statements have been submitted.
1 Physical Education statements have been submitted.
3 Physics statements have been submitted.
5 Physiotherapy statements have been submitted.
14 Politics statements have been submitted.
23 Psychology statements have been submitted.
2 Religious Studies statements have been submitted.
1 Social Policy statements have been submitted.
3 Social Work statements have been submitted.
6 Sociology statements have been submitted.
1 Sports Science statements have been submitted.
8 Teacher Training statements have been submitted.
2 Veterinary statements have been submitted.
1 Zoology statements have been submitted.
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 .
Uni of Suffolk
West London IoT
Uni of Leicester
Writtle Uni College
Uni of Reading
Uni of Portsmouth
Uni of Roehampton
Uni of Kent
Uni of Bradford
Uni of Bedfordshire
Uni of Chester
Uni of Derby
Uni of Greenwich
Uni of Winchester
Uni of Surrey
Uni of Sunderland
Uni of Westminster
Uni for Creative Arts
Leeds Beckett Uni
Wrexham Glyndwr Uni
Edge Hill Uni
Uni of Glasgow
Uni of East London
- FOR EDUCATORS
- TRY FOR FREE
- COLLEGE ADMISSIONS
- CAREER DEVELOPMENT
- Free Resources
4 Great Personal Statement Examples and Why They Worked
by Will Geiger , on Jul 22, 2021 11:46:24 AM
In the admissions process, most students will encounter the dreaded personal statement. Whether you are using the Common App, the Coalition Application, or a college-specific application, you’re bound to encounter the personal statement. While a personal statement may seem daunting, the very best personal statements will begin with moments from your life. And don’t worry, these moments can be from everyday experiences like a memorable meal or a walk around your neighborhood.
Keep on reading for four great personal statement examples and our expert analysis on why they worked!
Here’s what we will be covering:
- What is the personal statement?
- Essay #1 by Kenny L. - Accepted to Cornell University
- Essay #2 by Sarah S. - Accepted to Smith College
- Essay #3 by Michael - Accepted to Howard University
- Essay #4 by Romain D. - Accepted to the University of Chicago
Best practices for your personal statement
What is a personal statement.
Essentially, the personal statement is an essay that allows the admissions reader to learn more about you as a person . This means that they should reveal something about who you are in both the content and voice of the essay.
You might be wondering at this point, is the personal statement going to be the same on all applications? What if I have to use a few applications--will the personal statement be consistent?
The specifics of personal statements can vary depending on the application. The Common App will give you up to 650 words, while you will only get 500 words on the Coalition Application. Don’t stress though, in these situations students can usually edit their longer personal statement to fit a lower word count limit.
Different applications will also give you different essay prompts. The good news is that most of the prompts are general and many of the applications--including Common App and the Coalition Application--will allow you to write about anything.
Why do personal statements matter?
College admissions is equal parts art and science. While data points like GPA, test scores, and number of AP or honors classes matter, admissions officers are also interested in learning more about applicants as human beings. College essays are one of the primary ways that the admissions officers get to know you as a person. This is an opportunity for the admissions officer to learn about you outside of your application, grades, and test scores.
According to a survey of admissions officers by the National Association of College Admission Counseling , essays were the next most important factors for admissions decisions after grades and test scores. With more and more colleges going test-optional, this means that essays are even more important factors for admissions.
Now that we have that covered, let’s dive into some of the essay examples and analysis!
Essay #1 by Kenny L. - Cornell University
“Vote Paul Lee for District Leader!” My face brightened as morning commuters passed by and took flyers from my hand. As they turned the corner, they carelessly tossed the flyers away. My brows furrowed. Is this what I woke up at seven in the morning for? To hand out flyers to indifferent strangers who won’t give the time of day, nevertheless a second glance? I was just a background character, a boy handing out flyers in the scene of a lively street. I was a mannequin, easily passed by unnoticed.
After my flyer shift had ended, my boss took me out to lunch at a diner. My eyes were darting back and forth, unsure of the situation. My boss slouched casually in his seat across from me. I had only met him twice before and instinctively, I began surreptitiously examining him. I slyly lowered my menu and peered over the “wall.” He wore a simple white polo shirt and his greying hair was brushed back in an old 60s hairstyle. He seemed like just an average Chinese man. The waiter came and pulled me out of my idle thoughts. As we made our orders, he put down his menu, and said, “how about a story?”
He opened with a story about his stint with the army, when he brashly enlisted at the Chinatown recruitment center. Next was a lighthearted tale of his moment of “stardom” when he debuted on the silver screen in Hollywood. Finally, the curtains closed with a story of an “extreme makeover” of his parents’ antique store to a game shop.
I vicariously experienced the vivid fragments of his past through his stories. I felt the hope and energy of a young man slightly short in stature, but big in heart, enlisting in the army, the excitement of a risk taker trying to make it big in Hollywood, and the freedom of a high spirited man who followed his hobby and turned his parents’ antique store to a game shop.
In my mind Paul Lee had transcended the typical mannequin of an average Chinese man. I had inadvertently made the same oversight as the people that passed me on the street. I fit him into a general mold without trying to see him as an individual, just as they did to me. Looking around me, I had been blind. Every person in the room had their own unique story and character just like Paul had his, and I had mine.
Upon my realization, I found the courage to convey my own unique character to Paul through my ideas. There is a balance between practicality, creativity, and fun that I have come to hold at the highest value in my life. I proposed to Paul an idea that was the embodiment of all three: to host carnival games at the Pavilion with a voter registration stand on the side. Instead of discarding my idea as I had expected, Paul encouraged it. Throughout the next week, the volunteers worked to create flyers, brainstorm ideas for games, and gather prizes. However, on the day it all came together, it rained. Discouraged, I looked to Paul only to see that he was still in high spirits. In that moment I knew I couldn’t be the same defeated, overlooked mannequin handing out flyers in the street. Optimism and vitality surged through the mannequin within me. I wiped the scowl from my face and proudly presented to him the six registration forms we received that day with a smile. The mannequin had come to life; I was no longer a background character but the center of the scene.
Story2 College Coach Explains: Why This Essay Works
Remember, regardless of the prompt the essay is about you. The essays let colleges know what they will be missing if they don’t admit you. In essays about influences, students sometimes make a stronger case for the person who has influenced them than for themselves. Kenny avoids this common mistake.
From the start of the essay Kenny shows us his initiative and enthusiasm as we hear his voice campaigning, “Vote Paul Lee for District Leader!” Kenny gives us enough detail to understand how Mr. Lee has influenced him, but focuses the essay on his own actions. He takes a unique approach to voter registration, setting up carnival games to attract registrants. Through his actions we see a fun-loving, creative problem solver with attention to detail and perseverance. We understand his influence and have a strong reason to believe in him as a college student.
Common App success has never been easier! Access our Ultimate Guide to the Common App for free!
Essay #2 by Sarah S. - Smith College
New York City, 9pm. Friends are laughing in the next room squeezed around the dinner table, as I try to whip something up. I put the water to boil, adding salt. As I wait, the steam begins to twist, to twirl, filling up the kitchen. I pause to wipe the sweat from my brow.
At eight o’clock in the morning my shirt is already moist. Sweat rolls down my face, every inch of my body. A typical morning in Perugia.
Sauté the garlic in olive oil on medium heat.
The gravel in the driveway crunches and crackles, “E’ arrivato zio Mario!” I run barefoot, almost tripping down the stairs, all the way to his car arms outstretched. His hair, grayer this year, falls over his tanned face. His hands rest on his belt, one finger cut off above the joint. I pull on my boots and he climbs onto the tractor. He hauls me onto his lap holding me tightly. The tractor roars, an olive branch lightly grazes my face, the grasshoppers go silent. At the back of the field, Mario climbs up a ladder and starts trimming the tips of the branches, the polloni. I take them and pile them in heaps. The trees are brimming with olives this year.
Chop the tomatoes, put them to simmer with the garlic, add salt and pepper. At noon, I walk back towards the house to find my Nonna in the garden, wearing a flowered apron. She tells me puoi portarmi il cestino un po’ più vicino? “bring that bucket a little closer, would you?” She fills it up with plump, juicy, purplish-red tomatoes, a meal in themselves.
Pour in the linguini, stir fresh basil into the tomatoes. We break off stems of basil. Nonna says, vedi si devono prendere quelli pieni di fiori, così la pianta può crescere. “See we have to take the ones with the most flowers on them, so the plant grows.” We climb the small hill with a full bucket of pomodori. It’s hot.
Dice the mozzarella, strain the linguini, pour the sauce over them, and add the mozzarella.
I follow Nonna into the kitchen trying to avoid the gang of mothers, uncles and aunts. I reach for the mozzarella and it melts in my mouth; creamy, smooth, dripping, flavor that overloads my senses. I thought I was so clever, but as I turn around “Sarah can you set the table? And stop eating all the mozzarella!” They caught me. I take the tablemats and retreat to the step outside. The neighbor’s cat rubs against my legs. I tear off a small piece of cheese and feed it to her.
Serve right out of the pot. “Hey guys,” I call over their laughter, “help me set the table, dinner is ready!”
The ultimate goal of a college essay is to reveal who you are as a human being. Simple moments, like a spaghetti dinner with friends, can say a lot about a person. Sarah organizes her essay around the steps of a recipe and shows us two moments from different parts of her life. In doing so, she removes all interpretations and judgments from her writing. She never states a lesson she learned or tells us about her traits. When you tell the reader what to think, they lose the ability to connect with you.
Instead, Sarah presents us with details, dialogue, and descriptions that let the reader get to know her. From stealing bites of mozzarella to dialogue in Italian to the description of her uncle with one finger cut off above the joint, we are given loads of details that set her story apart and make it impossible to forget.
Essay #3 by Michael - Howard University
There was a girl and her name was Michael. This girl first picked up a camera when she was seven. It was a point-and-shoot camera, but it was hers. The upgraded camera she got for her 15th birthday was hers also. And so was my book. One summer she was in Florida. Her hair was dripping from the pool water, her skin shimmered in the blazing sunlight, and her eyes squinted at her stack of books. She picked the smallest of the bunch; she picked mine. The one labeled “Hawthorne.” It only had one story and she read it quickly. “Hm,” she said as she finished the first time. She said, “What?” when she finished the second time, and at the third ending she raised her sunglasses over her head and squinted at the sun. “Beautiful,” she murmured. She grabbed a pencil and wrote, “There is no absolute beauty. There is only what you make of it” on the last page of my story.
Back home she was entering another photo contest. This one had a theme of beauty. She booked the studio for two hours and brought in her friend. Her friend had high cheekbones, emerald eyes, curly red hair, and lips that sat outward. She was short but had the body of a dancer. When she moved everyone watched, mouths slightly ajar. Her muscles flexed and released with ease. Michael placed the girl in a wooden chair, turned her face upward toward the enormous lights and took a photo of every angle she could possibly get. She switched from black and white to high resolution, back to black and white. When the photos developed she never picked the winning shot for herself. “This is the one,” said her teacher.
“Wow, you don’t need to take any more pictures, Michael, this is it,” said her peers. Michael went home that night and gazed at the photo. Her brow wrinkled and eyes narrowed. She put the photo in her drawer and went to sleep. The next day Michael set out with her most basic camera, the one that is always on her person. She’s walking up 34th street and sees a woman. This woman had dirty skin and dirty clothes. Her blackened flingers held a sign that said, “I’m hungry.” Her eyes were vacant, and she looked to the side. Her eyes were trained in that direction and never moved. Michael took out her camera and took a quick picture, just one. She went to develop it that same day and put it in a folder to take home. On her bed, crosslegged, she sat looking at the red-haired girl. Her eyes cast upward, her cheek bones highlighted; Michael’s mom gazed at the picture and said, “That should be in Vogue.” Michael pulled out the other picture, of the hungry woman and placed it next to the other. Her eyes widened as she saw how the light created a shadow over the woman’s face. There was no dirt, just an eye looking away. “Now that,” her mother said, “shouldn’t be. Easy choice, huh?”
“Yes, it is,” Michael said. She placed her finger over the shadow and tapped the photo four times. She smiled. She folded the color image in half and put it in her drawer; she placed the photo of the woman in a protective folder and placed it in her bag. As she laid down that night she smirked into the glow of the TV. She said, “There is no beauty. There is only what we make of it,” and closed her eyes.
Great college essays draw you in from the beginning, take you on a clear journey, and make you want more at the end. At Story2, we call this structure Magnet, Pivot, and Glow. It keeps readers engaged by ensuring a strong sense of purpose and direction throughout the essay:
- The Magnet of this essay is simple but effective. The tense catches the reader off guard, as does the surprise of a girl being named Michael. We want to find out who this person is.
- The Pivot is the point where Michael needs to make a choice that will reveal her character. She has two photographs to decide between and is being heavily pressured to choose the one that represents conventional ideas of beauty.
- The Glow stays in the moment and ends with action. We hear her voice. It answers the question in the beginning: who is this girl named Michael? Now, we know that she is a strong woman who will make her own decisions and stand up for what she believes in. The influence of Hawthorne is clear and there is no need for a summary or a lesson learned.
Essay #4 by Romain D. - University of Chicago
Try to find us on these pages of our lives, and I believe we are hard to distinguish.
As Wenda often reminds me, traveling allows us to discover who we really are by giving us the opportunity to blend in and inspire ourselves from imitating the best in other people. Here and there I collect tools that I find useful—rope, candles, an under-water compass, along with open-mindedness, humility, responsibility, drive, and curiosity—and add them to the arsenal I carry along the road in my backpack and in myself.
One evening, after an intense day of traveling in Beijing, walking along the Great Wall and contemplating the remnants of China’s glorious history in the blistering cold, a couple of my friends and I decided to end the day by celebrating our western heritage at the nearest McDonald’s. The dark cold night had sent the streets’ beggars into the warm 24/7 restaurant. The passive look on employees’ faces as they cleaned the improvised hotel suggested this happened on a regular basis. People were lying or sleeping on every chair and bench, so we settled on the floor, in the middle of the room. We ordered a few extra burgers, and after a few bites, one by one the beggars woke up and asked us to share. We insisted they join our circle. At first they resisted. As we exposed our broken Chinese, they opened up and challenged us at a game like Yatzee, that required throwing 5 dice around and scoring high multiples. Next some young Western and Chinese kids joined in. The better generation at languages and breaking social barriers, the kids took the game to new dimensions. We ended up spending the night in our sleeping bags on the floor under the disdainful stare of the confused McDonald employees. In the end our American burgers gave us an authentic taste of China
When an environment becomes too familiar, we change pages. Whether it was wearing the same letters as my American brothers in California, acting the part of a professional fund manager when interviewing the executive board of major corporations, or tutoring Chinese children in English, the Waldo within me adapts, challenges himself and discovers something new about the people around him.
Who knows where life will take me next? I have heard of a particular platform of intellectual and cultural exchange that gathers the most interesting minds from all around the world. The institution is praised for its ability to convey experience and wisdom through round tables of interaction and Socratic rhetoric. I believe it is a place where, as my Chicago family and friends would say, “finding passionate people is easier done than said.” In other words, it is/would be a wonderful page to be on, completely invisible and singular at the same time
With a prompt like, “Where’s Waldo?” it’s very easy to get lost in your ideas. The two biggest mistakes students make writing college essays are staying too general and writing about thoughts rather than actions. Romain avoids this by becoming Waldo. This narrative technique allows him to tell the story through his unique perspective and in his authentic voice.
Romain uses a specific moment to show readers who he is. The night spent at McDonald’s gives the reader reasons to believe in Romain as a person and community member. We see Romain as a compassionate and curious person who brings people together, explores new ideas, and welcomes the opportunity to teach and learn. He uses his fourth paragraph to give the audience the scope of his experiences and the fifth paragraph to make a specific connection to the University of Chicago. However, the heart of his essay is the third paragraph, which takes the reader into a moment and gives powerful details that reveal his character.
Now you should be feeling ready to tackle your own personal statements! The above personal statement examples are powerful and yours can be, too! That’s why, before we wrap up, we want to recap three of the most important best practices to follow.
1. Strong writing
Grammar is certainly important, but it is more important to write with the power of storytelling—using description, detail, and dialogue instead of interpretations, generalizations, and cliches.
2. Unique perspective
Focus on specific moments when you learned a key lesson, changed in a fundamental way, or made a difference in the lives of others to reveal your character strengths through your actions.
3. Authentic voice
Tell your story out loud to capture your authentic voice—the unique idiosyncrasies that make you you! Psychologists call this term “mirroring” and it is a scientifically-proven way to connect with others. Beware of over-editing your essays from sounding like an individual to something generic.
After grades and test scores, your essays are going to be the most important part of your college application. Essays can be the difference between admission officers saying, “we’ve absolutely got to have this student!” and “this student could be a good fit here.” These essays, our Story2 coaches’ expert analysis, and best practices will give you a great foundation as you begin to write your own personal statements.
Go to College Admission Essays Made Easy!
For more info about college admission and scholarship essays and interviews, sign up for self-paced courses and our award-winning StoryBuilder writing platform FREE . Want to stay up to date on the latest tips and resources? Follow us @story2 on Instagram!
Will Geiger is co-founder of Scholarships360.org. A graduate of Wake Forest and Penn, Will was previously Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at Kenyon College where he personally reviewed over 10,000 admissions applications and essays and oversaw the merit aid program; Associate Director of College Counseling at a high school in New Haven, Connecticut; and Marketing Manager at Story2.
- "HirePower" (1)
- accomplishment (2)
- achievement (2)
- application essay topics (2)
- authentic voice (1)
- brainstorming (2)
- Careers (20)
- college admission (34)
- college admissions (41)
- college applications (1)
- college essays (23)
- college interview (3)
- common app (13)
- communication (1)
- Community (11)
- discussion (1)
- essay examples (1)
- essay writing tips (15)
- internship (2)
- internships (1)
- interviews (1)
- juniors (1)
- knowledge (2)
- management (1)
- moments method (2)
- overwhelm (1)
- preparing for college (1)
- scholarships (2)
- self discovery (2)
- senior year (1)
- seniors (1)
- standardized testing (1)
- storytelling (3)
- strategy (1)
- strengths (1)
- student story (1)
- students (1)
- summer internship (1)
- summer internships (1)
- summer job (1)
- summer program (1)
- summer programs (1)
- supplement essays (6)
- what to do (1)
- workplace (1)
- Writing (1)
- July 2021 (47)
- May 2019 (5)
- December 2019 (4)
- March 2020 (4)
- August 2016 (3)
- March 2019 (3)
- June 2019 (3)
- July 2019 (3)
- January 2020 (3)
- February 2015 (2)
- August 2015 (2)
- April 2019 (2)
- August 2019 (2)
- September 2019 (2)
- November 2019 (2)
- February 2020 (2)
- May 2021 (2)
- December 2012 (1)
- June 2014 (1)
- January 2015 (1)
- March 2015 (1)
- July 2016 (1)
- September 2016 (1)
- May 2018 (1)
- August 2018 (1)
- November 2018 (1)
- February 2019 (1)
- October 2019 (1)
- May 2020 (1)
- June 2020 (1)
- July 2020 (1)
- September 2020 (1)
- October 2020 (1)
- August 2021 (1)
- October 2021 (1)
- June 2022 (1)
- Privacy & Cookies
- Log in
- Site search
Personal statements for university applications
Forming a key part of your university application, you should use the UCAS personal statement to showcase how your skills, experience and aspirations make you a good fit for the course
What is a university personal statement?
This is your opportunity to tell course tutors in your own words the reasons why you feel you'd be an asset to their university.
How long should a personal statement be?
There's no maximum word count, but you'll need to remain within the 4,000 character limit (including spaces and punctuation) allowed in your UCAS application, as well as keeping the statement to a total of 47 lines.
UCAS recommends that you write your personal statement in Microsoft Word before copying and pasting it into the online application form. This is because the application page times out after being inactive for 35 minutes. You'll still need to account for how individual characters are counted differently between Microsoft Word and the online form.
What do I write about?
When considering what to include in your personal statement, take time to think about the reasons you're applying to university and what makes you a suitable candidate.
To make this work for different courses and different universities, you'll need to find some common ground by providing examples of why you'll be a success - demonstrating enthusiasm for the choices you've made and how they fit in with your career ambitions.
You'll need to talk about the relevant skills, experience and achievements you've gained through extra-curricular activities - whether these are sporting, musical or creative.
As well as going through your academic record to date, your personal statement also gives you the opportunity to take about any work experience or volunteering you've undertaken, detailing what you've learned from it. For instance, you may have been involved with the Young Enterprise programme at school and have a better idea of how to manage your money.
It's never too late to show you're actively preparing for higher education. Get involved with an extra-curricular club, secure a part-time job or get volunteering. You could even complete a free online course in a relevant subject with an organisation such as FutureLearn or the Tech Nation Digital Business Academy .
If you're an international student, you could discuss why the UK is your preferred study destination ahead of universities in your own country. Don't forget to mention the English language tests, courses and qualifications you've taken.
Finally, if there are any personal or financial circumstances that have had a strong bearing on your performance at school or college, you can outline these in this statement. The coronavirus pandemic has affected many people up and down the country so if you feel it's had a strong impact on your studies, you can let the university know about that here.
How do I write a personal statement?
By breaking your personal statement down into sections, you can ensure you cover the most relevant points.
Course-relevant skills and credentials should be given prominence in the overall structure. You can use the course descriptions to help you.
However, as you only have the one personal statement for all your choices, if you've selected a variety of subjects that aren't that similar, you'll need to focus on the transferable skills and common qualities typically valued by universities - for example, creativity or problem-solving.
Adopt a simple, concise and natural style for writing your statement, while still showing enthusiasm. Allow your personality to shine through.
It can often take a number of redrafts until the statement is ready, so allow plenty of time to write it properly, and set yourself a schedule.
Get used to reading your statement aloud and asking for feedback from family, teachers and advisers before redrafting to make sure your writing flows well. You'll also need to check for the correct punctuation, spelling and grammar and not just rely on a spellchecker.
Keep an up-to-date copy of your statement saved so you can refer back to it during the interview process.
How do I start a personal statement?
At this point, think about why you're applying for the course you're applying for, and how you became interested in it in the first place. Was it through work experience or studying the subject at A-level?
Once you've noted down your reasons for choosing the course, you can move on to your skills and what makes you stand out positively from other applicants, providing evidence of where each specific attribute has been utilised.
After you've written this down, condense it so it's less wordy. You can then attempt to write a punchy opening paragraph showcasing your genuine excitement at the prospect of going to university, and an understanding of what you're getting yourself into.
Get off to the best start by using the UCAS personal statement tool .
What should I avoid?
- As you'll only have the one statement, it's important not to mention universities by name - unless you plan on applying to just a single institution.
- Remember that admissions staff may not share your sense of humour, so steer clear of anything that might get misinterpreted.
- Refrain from using clichés or making arrogant or exaggerated statements.
- Resist any temptation to use somebody else's work as your own. The UCAS Similarity Detection Service utilises the Copycatch system, which will compare your statement against those stored within a comprehensive library of statements - those sent to UCAS and elsewhere (including paper publications).
- Be careful not to ramble. Structuring your work so you know how much space you have for each section will make sticking to your main points much easier.
University personal statement examples
While you can find some examples online - from the likes of Reed.co.uk , King's College London and Aston University - it's important to use your own words and not copy them directly.
Indeed, the UCAS personal statement worksheet can prove just as useful when it comes to helping you decide what to put in your own personal statement.
You can simply print out this personal statement template and jot down any ideas into the various sections as you think of them.
Find out more
- Read the full lowdown on how to apply for university .
- Get tips on preparing for a university interview .
- For further guidance on writing a university personal statement, visit UCAS .
How would you rate this page?
On a scale where 1 is dislike and 5 is like
- Dislike 1 unhappy-very
- Like 5 happy-very
Thank you for rating the page
Did you know? The Uni Guide is a part of The Student Room Group.
- Teacher training
- Bangor University
- Birmingham City University
- Sheffield Hallam University
- University of Aberdeen
- University of East Anglia
- University of Hull
- University of Kent
- University of Reading
- A-level choices
- GCSE choices and university
- Choosing a course
- Making firm and insurance choices
- University open days
- Applying to Oxbridge
- How to avoid plagiarism when writing your personal statement
- How to write your uni application
- 6 steps you need to take to apply to uni
- Ucas deadlines and key application dates
- What do I need to get into Oxbridge?
- Before you go to university
- Student cooking and food mistakes
- AS and A-levels explained
- Is a higher or degree apprenticeship right for you?
Read more with your free account...
Want to read more? Become our newest member and unlock everything on The Uni Guide. It’s free!
By Tamsyn McLennan (Writer, The Uni Guide) | 12 December 2022 | 22 min read
How to write an excellent personal statement in 10 steps
Stand out from the crowd: here's how to write a good personal statement that will get you noticed
Share this page
Email & print.
Your personal statement forms a core part of your university application, and the sooner you get going, the better you can make it. You may think that your personal statement won’t matter as much to unis as your grades and experience but a great personal statement could make all the difference between you and a candidate with the same grades. Sure, your application might not reach that deal breaker stage. But is it something you want to leave to chance? Here we’ll take you through the process of planning, writing and checking a good personal statement, so you end up with something you can submit with confidence. And to make sure the advice we're giving you is sound, we’ve spoken to admissions staff at loads of UK universities to get their view. Look out for video interviews and advice on applying for specific subjects throughout this piece or watch our personal statement playlist on YouTube .
- Read more: 6 steps you need to take to apply to university
Personal statement deadlines
You'll need to make sure you've got your personal statement written well in advance of your application deadline. Below are the main university application deadline dates for 2023 entry.
2023 entry deadlines
15 October 2022: Deadline for applications to Oxford and Cambridge universities, along with most medicine, dentistry, and veterinary courses. 25 January 2023: Deadline for applications to the majority of undergraduate courses. After this date, universities will start allocating places on these courses – but you can still apply after the 25 January deadline , as this article explains. 30 June 2023: Students who apply after this date will be entered into Clearing .
- Read more: Ucas deadlines and key application dates
What is a personal statement?
A personal statement is a central part of your Ucas application, where you explain why you’ve chosen a particular course and why you’ll be good at it. It's your chance to stand out against other candidates and hopefully get that all-important offer. You only write one personal statement which is then read by each university you apply to, so if you are applying for more than one subject (or it's a combined course) it's crucial that you include common themes or reference the overall skills needed for all subjects. Personal statements are especially important if you’re trying to get on a very competitive course, where you need to do anything you can to stand out to admissions tutors. Courteney Sheppard, senior customer experience manager at Ucas, advises that your personal statement is "the only part of the application that you have direct control over. Do lots of research to demonstrate your passion, curiosity and drive to pursue your chosen subject." There’s a limit on how much you can write: your personal statement can be up to 4,000 characters (including spaces) or 47 lines of 95 characters (including spaces); whichever is shorter. This may appear generous (read: long) but once you've got going you may find yourself having to edit heavily.
- Read more: teacher secrets for writing a great personal statement
1. Plan what you want to cover
The first thing you need to do is make a plan. Writing a personal statement off the top of your head is difficult. Start by making some notes, answering the following questions:
- What do you want to study?
- Why do you want to study it?
- What is there about you that shows you’re suited to studying this subject at university? Think about your personality, as well as your experiences.
- What are your other interests and skills?
These few points are going to form the spine of your personal statement, so write them in a way that makes sense to you. You might want to make a simple bulleted list or you might want to get all arty and use a mindmap. Whatever you choose, your aim is the same. You want to get it clear in your own head why a university should offer you a place on its course. Getting those details down isn't always easy, and some people find it helpful to make notes over time. You might try carrying a notebook with you or set up a memo on your phone. Whenever you think of something useful for your personal statement, jot it down. Inspiration sometimes comes more easily when you’re thinking about something else entirely. It might help to take a look at The Student Room for some sample personal statements by university and sample personal statements by subjects , to give you an idea of the kind of thing you want to include.
- Read more: personal statement FAQs
2. Show off your experience
Some things are worth adding to your personal statement, some things are not. Firmly in the second camp are your qualifications. You don’t need to mention these as there’s a whole other section of your personal statement where you get to detail them very precisely. Don’t waste a single character going on about how great your GCSE grades are – it’s not what the admissions tutor wants to read. What they do want to see is: what have you done? OK, so you’ve got some good grades, but so do a lot of other applicants. What have you done that’s different, that shows you off as someone who really loves the subject you’re applying for? Spend some time thinking about all the experience you have in that subject. If you’re lucky, this might be direct work experience. That’s going to be particularly appropriate if you’re applying for one of the more vocational subjects such as medicine or journalism . But uni staff realise getting plum work experience placements is easier for some people than others, so cast your net wider when you’re thinking about what you’ve done. How about after-school clubs? Debating societies? Are you running a blog or vlog? What key skills and experience have you picked up elsewhere (eg from hobbies) that could be tied in with your course choice? Remember, you’re looking for experience that shows why you want to study your chosen subject. You’re not just writing an essay about what you're doing in your A-level syllabus. Use this checklist as a guide for what to include:
- Your interest in the course. Why do you want to spend three years studying this subject at university?
- What have you done outside school or college that demonstrates this interest? Think about things like fairs/exhibitions, public lectures or voluntary work that is relevant to your subject.
- Relevant work experience (essential for the likes of medicine, not required for non-vocational courses such as English )
- Skills and qualities required for that career if appropriate (medicine, nursing and law as obvious examples)
- Interest in your current studies – what particular topics have made an impression on you?
- Any other interests/hobbies/experiences you wish to mention that are relevant either to the subject or 'going to uni'. Don't just list your hobbies, you need to be very selective and state clearly what difference doing these things has made to you.
- Plans for a gap year if you’re deferring entry.
3. Be bold about your achievements
Don't be bashful about your achievements; that’s not going to help you get into uni. It's time to unleash your inner Muhammed Ali and get all “I am the greatest” with your writing. Do keep it focused and accurate. Do keep your language professional. But don’t hide your qualities beneath a layer of false modesty. Your personal statement is a sell – you are selling yourself as a brilliant student and you need to show the reader why that is true. This doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and if you’re finding it difficult to write about how great you are it’s time to enlist some help. Round up a friend or two, a family member, a teacher, whoever and get them to write down your qualities. Getting someone else’s view here can help you get some perspective. Don’t be shy. You are selling your skills, your experience and your enthusiasm – make sure they all leap off the screen with the way you have described them.
- Read more: the ten biggest mistakes when writing your personal statement
4. How to start your personal statement
Type your personal statement in a cloud-based word processing program, such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word and don’t copy and paste it into Ucas Hub until it’s finished. One of the benefits of doing it this way is that you can run spell check easily. (Please note, though, that Word adds "curly" quotation marks and other characters (like é or ü) that won't show up on your Ucas form, so do proofread it on Ucas Hub before submitting it to ensure it is how you typed it.) Another big benefit is that you'll always have a backup of what you've written. If you're being super careful, you could always save your statement in another place as well. Bear in mind that extra spaces (eg adding spaces to the beginnings of paragraphs as indentation) are removed on Ucas. In your first sentence, cut to the chase. Why do you want to do the course? Don’t waste any time rambling on about the daydreams you had when you were five. Just be clear and concise – describe in one line why this course is so important to you. Then, in the rest of your intro, go into more detail in demonstrating your enthusiasm for the course and explaining how you decided this is what you want to do for the next three or more years. However you choose to start your statement, just avoid the following hoary old chestnuts. These have been some of the most used lines in personal statements over the years – they are beyond cliche, so don’t even think about it.
- From a young age I have (always) been [interested in/fascinated by]…
- For as long as I can remember, I have…
- I am applying for this course because…
- I have always been interested in…
- Throughout my life I have always enjoyed…
- Reflecting on my educational experiences…
- [Subject] is a very challenging and demanding [career/profession/course]…
- Academically, I have always been…
- I have always wanted to pursue a career in…
- I have always been passionate about…
5. Focus your writing on why you've chosen that subject
So you’ve got your intro done – time to nail the rest of it. Bear in mind that you’ve got to be a little bit careful when following a personal statement template. It’s easy to fall into the trap of copying someone else’s style, and in the process lose all of your own voice and personality from your writing. But there is a rough order that you can follow, which should help keep you in your flow. After your opening paragraph or two, get into any work experience (if you’ve got it). Talk about extracurriculars: anything you've done which is relevant to the subject can go here – hobbies, interests, volunteering. Touch on your career aspirations – where do you want this course to take you? Next, show your enthusiasm for your current studies. Cite some specific examples of current work that you enjoyed. Show off your relevant skills and qualities by explaining how you’ve used these in the past. Make sure you’re giving real-world examples here, not just vague assertions like “I’m really organised and motivated”. Try to use examples that are relevant. Follow this up with something about you as a person. Talk about non-academic stuff that you like to do, but link it in some way with the course, or with how it shows your maturity for dealing with uni life. Round it all off by bringing your main points together, including a final emphasis of your commitment to studying this particular course.
- Read more: how to write your personal statement in an evening
6. How long should a personal statement be?
You've got to work to a very specific limit when writing your personal statement. In theory you could use up to 4,000 characters – but you’re probably more likely to be limited by the line count. That's because it's a good idea to put line breaks in between your paragraphs (to make it more readable) and you only get a maximum of 47 lines. With this in mind, 3,500 characters is a more realistic limit. But when you’re getting started you should ignore these limits completely. At first, you just want to get down everything that you feel is important. You'll probably end up with something that is far too long, but that's fine. This is where you get to do some polishing and pruning. Keep the focus of your piece on the course you’re applying for, why you want to do it and why you’re perfectly suited to it. Look through what you’ve written so far – have you got the balance right? Chop out anything that goes on a bit, as you want each point to be snappy and succinct.
- Read more: universities reveal all about personal statements
7. Keep it simple
8. Smart ways to end your personal statement
Writing a closing line that you’re happy with can feel as tricky as coming up with your opener. What you’re looking for here is a sign-off that is bold and memorable. The final couple of sentences in your statement give you the opportunity to emphasise all the good stuff you’ve already covered. Use this space to leave the reader in no doubt as to what an excellent addition you would be to their university. Pull together all your key points and – most importantly – address the central question that your personal statement should answer: why should you get a place on the course?
- Read more: universities explain how to end your personal statement with a bang
9. Make sure your personal statement has no mistakes
Now you’ve got a personal statement you’re happy with, you need to make sure there are no mistakes. Check it, check it a second time, then check it again. Once you’ve done that, get someone else to check it, too. You will be doing yourself a massive disservice if you send through a personal statement with spelling and/or grammatical errors. You’ve got months to put this together so there really is no excuse for sending through something that looks like a rush job. Ask your teachers to look at it, and be prepared to accept their feedback without getting defensive. They will have seen many personal statements before; use what they tell you to make yours even better. You’ve also got another chance here to look through the content of your personal statement, so you can make sure the balance is right. Make sure your focus is very clearly on the subject you are applying for and why you want to study it. Don’t post your personal statement on the internet or social media where anyone can see it. You will get picked up by the Ucas plagiarism checker. Similarly, don't copy any that you find online. Instead, now is a good time to make your parents feel useful. Read your personal statement out to them and get them to give you feedback. Or try printing it out and mixing it up with a few others (you can find sample personal statements on The Student Room). Get them to read them all and then try to pick yours out. If they can't, perhaps there's not enough of your personality in there.
10. Don't think about your personal statement for a whole week
If you followed the advice at the very start of this guide, you’ve started your personal statement early. Good job! There are months before you need to submit it. Use one of these weeks to forget about your personal statement completely. Get on with other things – anything you like. Just don’t go near your statement. Give it a whole week and then open up the document again and read through it with fresh eyes. You’ll gain a whole new perspective on what you’ve written and will be well placed to make more changes, if needed.
- Read more: how to write your personal statement when you have nothing interesting to say
10 steps to your ideal personal statement
In summary, here are the ten steps you should follow to create the perfect personal statement.
Personal statement dos and don'ts
- Remember that your personal statement is your personal statement, not an article written about your intended field of study. It should tell the reader about you, not about the subject.
- Only put in things that you’re prepared to talk about at the interviews.
- Give convincing reasons for why you want to study the course – more than just "enjoying the subject" (this should be a given).
- For very competitive courses, find out as much as you can about the nature of the course and try to make your personal statement relevant to this.
- Be reflective. If you make a point like 'I like reading', 'I travelled abroad', say what you got from it.
- Go through the whole thing checking your grammar and your spelling. Do this at least twice. It doesn’t matter if you’re not applying to an essay-based course – a personal statement riddled with spelling mistakes is just going to irritate the reader, which is the last thing you want to do. If this is something you find difficult then have someone look over it for you.
- Leave blank lines between your paragraphs. It’s easier for the reader to get through your personal statement when it’s broken into easily digestible chunks. Remember that they’re going to be reading a lot of these! Make yours easy to get through.
- Get someone else's opinion on your statement. Read it out to family or friends. Share it with your teacher. Look for feedback wherever you can find it, then act upon it.
- Don’t write it like a letter. Kicking off with a greeting such as "Dear Sir/Madam" not only looks weird, it also wastes precious space.
- Don’t make jokes. This is simply not the time – save them for your first night in the union.
- Don’t criticise your current school or college or try to blame teachers for any disappointing grades you might have got.
- Be afraid of details – if you want your PS to be personal to you that means explaining exactly which bits of work or topics or activities you've taken part in/enjoyed. It's much more compelling to read about one or two detailed examples than a paragraph that brushes over five or six.
- Just list what you're doing now. You should pull out the experiences that are relevant to the courses which you're applying to.
- Mention skills and activities without giving examples of when they have been demonstrated by you or what you learnt from them. Anyone can write "I have great leadership skills" in a PS, actually using a sentence to explain when you demonstrated good leadership skills is much rarer and more valuable.
- Refer to experiences that took place before your GCSEs (or equivalent).
- Give explanations about medical or mental health problems. These should be explained in your reference, not your PS.
- Apply for too many different courses, making it difficult to write a convincing personal statement which supports the application.
- Write a statement specific to just one institution, unless you're only applying to that one choice.
- Copy and paste the statement from somewhere else! This means do not plagiarise. All statements are automatically checked for plagiarism by Ucas. Those that are highlighted by the computer system are checked manually by Ucas staff. If you’re found to have plagiarised parts of your statement, the universities you apply to will be informed and it could jeopardise your applications.
You may want to look at these...
How to write your university application.
Tips for writing your university application, including deadlines and personal statements
What to do if you miss the 25 January Ucas deadline and still want to apply to uni
How long does it take for universities to reply to your application?
When can you expect to get an offer (hopefully!) from a university you've applied to? As our guide explains, response times on decisions can vary.
Where could your A-levels take you?
Enter your a-level choices below to find out.
- Enter A-level option 1 Accounting Afrikaans Anthropology Arabic Archaeology Art and Design Bahasa Basque Bengali Biology Business Studies Chemistry Chinese Classical Civilisation Communication Studies Computer Science Craft and Design Critical Thinking Czech Dance Danish Design Design and Technology Drama and Theatre Studies Dutch Economics Electronics Engineering English Language English Language and Literature English Literature Environmental Studies Fijian Film Studies Fine Art Finnish Food Technology French Further Mathematics Gaelic General Studies Geography Geology German Government and Politics Graphics Greek Gujurati Health and Social Care Hebrew Hindi History History of Art Hungarian ICT Irish Italian Japanese Latin Latvian Law Leisure and Recreation Malay Mathematics Media Studies Mongolian Music Nepali Norwegian Panjabi Performing Arts Persian Philosophy Photography Physical Education Physics Polish Portuguese Product Design Psychology Religious Studies Romanian Russian Sanskrit Science Slovak Sociology Spanish Statistics Syariah Tamil Textiles Travel and Tourism Turkish Urdu Welsh World Development
- Enter A-level option 2 Accounting Afrikaans Anthropology Arabic Archaeology Art and Design Bahasa Basque Bengali Biology Business Studies Chemistry Chinese Classical Civilisation Communication Studies Computer Science Craft and Design Critical Thinking Czech Dance Danish Design Design and Technology Drama and Theatre Studies Dutch Economics Electronics Engineering English Language English Language and Literature English Literature Environmental Studies Fijian Film Studies Fine Art Finnish Food Technology French Further Mathematics Gaelic General Studies Geography Geology German Government and Politics Graphics Greek Gujurati Health and Social Care Hebrew Hindi History History of Art Hungarian ICT Irish Italian Japanese Latin Latvian Law Leisure and Recreation Malay Mathematics Media Studies Mongolian Music Nepali Norwegian Panjabi Performing Arts Persian Philosophy Photography Physical Education Physics Polish Portuguese Product Design Psychology Religious Studies Romanian Russian Sanskrit Science Slovak Sociology Spanish Statistics Syariah Tamil Textiles Travel and Tourism Turkish Urdu Welsh World Development
- Enter A-level option 3 Accounting Afrikaans Anthropology Arabic Archaeology Art and Design Bahasa Basque Bengali Biology Business Studies Chemistry Chinese Classical Civilisation Communication Studies Computer Science Craft and Design Critical Thinking Czech Dance Danish Design Design and Technology Drama and Theatre Studies Dutch Economics Electronics Engineering English Language English Language and Literature English Literature Environmental Studies Fijian Film Studies Fine Art Finnish Food Technology French Further Mathematics Gaelic General Studies Geography Geology German Government and Politics Graphics Greek Gujurati Health and Social Care Hebrew Hindi History History of Art Hungarian ICT Irish Italian Japanese Latin Latvian Law Leisure and Recreation Malay Mathematics Media Studies Mongolian Music Nepali Norwegian Panjabi Performing Arts Persian Philosophy Photography Physical Education Physics Polish Portuguese Product Design Psychology Religious Studies Romanian Russian Sanskrit Science Slovak Sociology Spanish Statistics Syariah Tamil Textiles Travel and Tourism Turkish Urdu Welsh World Development
- Enter A-level option 4 Accounting Afrikaans Anthropology Arabic Archaeology Art and Design Bahasa Basque Bengali Biology Business Studies Chemistry Chinese Classical Civilisation Communication Studies Computer Science Craft and Design Critical Thinking Czech Dance Danish Design Design and Technology Drama and Theatre Studies Dutch Economics Electronics Engineering English Language English Language and Literature English Literature Environmental Studies Fijian Film Studies Fine Art Finnish Food Technology French Further Mathematics Gaelic General Studies Geography Geology German Government and Politics Graphics Greek Gujurati Health and Social Care Hebrew Hindi History History of Art Hungarian ICT Irish Italian Japanese Latin Latvian Law Leisure and Recreation Malay Mathematics Media Studies Mongolian Music Nepali Norwegian Panjabi Performing Arts Persian Philosophy Photography Physical Education Physics Polish Portuguese Product Design Psychology Religious Studies Romanian Russian Sanskrit Science Slovak Sociology Spanish Statistics Syariah Tamil Textiles Travel and Tourism Turkish Urdu Welsh World Development
- Get results
Related to this article
Search the uni guide, find further advice or search for information on a course or university.
- Search Advice
- Search courses &/or universities
The Uni Guide and The Student Room are both part of The Student Room Group.
- Durham University
- University of Glasgow
- University of Southampton
- University of the Arts London
- Aston University, Birmingham
- University of Surrey
- Bristol, University of the West of England
- Swansea University
- University of East Anglia UEA
- University of Lincoln
Browse expert advice
- Oxbridge applications
- Ucas application
- Personal statements
- Ucas deadline 2023 countdown
- Clearing and results day
- Preparing for university
- Student accommodation
- Student life
- Student finance
- Advice for parents
About this site
- List of universities and colleges
- Privacy notice
- Terms and conditions
- Where we get our info
Who we work with
- Your account settings
Popular tools and features
- A-level Explorer
- Course search
Connect with us
- Product overview
- Document Sending
- University Connect
- Intelligent matching
- Guidance Support
- Curriculum Building
- Student Events
- Case Studies
- Customer Success
- Help Center
- 2021 Results
- For universities
How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement [With Examples]
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.
Download your free UCAS Personal Statement worksheet
Download our free worksheet and template to help your students plan and write an original UCAS Personal statement that is positive, engaging and sets them apart.
What are the big challenges students should be aware of before writing their UCAS Personal Statement?
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 .
Related Resource: Discover the simple steps that will boost the confidence of your native English speaking & ESL students alike in University Application Essays: The 5 Secrets of Successful Writing .
The essential ingredients for writing a great 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: UCAS explore how students can find a formula for a successful Personal Statement
Planning a 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 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.
Related Resource: Learn how you to nix procrastination and improve the quality of your students’ applications with BridgeU's How to Improve Your Students’ University Application Essays with BridgeU .
How to help your students start their 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 a UCAS personal statement: free worksheet
Use our free worksheet as a classroom resource to help your students plan and write an original UCAS Personal statement that is positive, engaging and sets them apart.
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.
Example : 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,
Example : 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.
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.
Example : 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
Final hints & tips to help your students, 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!
Leave a comment
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
I want to register in order to achieve all my goals because it is clear at this time that you cannot achieve your goals and dreams without a university degree, and I hope you accept.
Omar shakr Sunday 21st February 2021
“Hey, That’s awesome! What you have written about UCAS Personal Statement is very well written, and all the points are beneficial for everyone.
Rohit Sharma Thursday 28th October 2021
Essay Examples 20 Personal Statement Examples That Stand Out + Why They Work
This is your ultimate list of Personal Statement examples.
In this post, you'll learn:
- What makes a successful Personal Statement
- How to write an irresistible Personal Statement
- Ivy League personal essay examples
If you're looking to read and write Personal Statement essays, you've found the right place.
In this post, I'm going to share everything you need to go from zero to having a Personal Statement essay you can be proud of.
This guide will help you get started writing an engaging Personal Statement essay. Or if you already have one, how to make it even better.
What is a Personal Statement Essay?
A personal statement, also called a statement of purpose (SOP) or personal essay, is a piece of creative, personal writing.
The purpose of your personal statement is to express yourself and your ideas. Personal statements usually aren't piece of formal writing, but still should be thoughtful and planned out.
Many applications for colleges, graduate schools, and scholarships require you to write a personal statement.
How to Write a Personal Statement Essay
While there are no rules or guidelines for writing a personal statement, the best ones often have these in common:
Have Strong Ideas:
Having compelling and interesting ideas shows you are a strong thinker.
It isn't necessarily about having all the answers, but asking theright questions.
For personal statement essays, the quality of your ideas matters more than your writing level. Writing interestingly is more important than writing beautifully.
I’ve stopped tripping over my own feet, and it’s led to me not being afraid to connect and interact with patients and customers or present in front of large crowds. Life is just one long Carioca – you might stumble at first, but if you keep pushing, the right feet will find themselves in the right place. Excerpt from essay for UNC at Chapel Hill →
Writing authentic essays means writing from the heart.
The best personal statements tend to come naturally, because the writer is excited about the topic.
Choose an idea that makes you feel excited to write about and start writing.
As you begin drafting, ideas will naturally arise related to your original idea. Exploring these tangential ideas is what leads to even better reflections for your essay.
That's why its so important to be genuinely passionate about your subject. You can't just have an interest "in the topic," but there has to be something deeper you're writing about that moves you.
Use Narratives and Story-Telling:
Humans are naturally drawn to stories.
And often the best insights and ideas come from real life experiences.
Telling a story, or many, is the basis for developing your analysis and ideas. Remember, all stories need conflict in order to work.
It can help to think about the different types of conflict.
- Character vs. Self
- Character vs. Character
- Character vs. Nature
- Character vs. Society
And so on...
Once you've written a meaningful story, getting insights is as simple as answering the question: What did your experiences teach you?
The sounds of my knife striking kale unnerves my cat asleep in the corner. He quickly runs over to examine the situation but becomes instantly uninterested when he sees green and smells bitterness. Unfortunately, my family has this same reaction every day of every week. Excerpt from essay for University of Southern California →
Showcase Your Values and Identity:
The purpose of a personal statement is to tell about who you are.
Personal statements are your opportunity to showcase what your values are, and how you would contribute to the school, scholarship opportunity, etc.
Good writers are those who write authentically. Write about your unique ideas and ask interesting questions, even if you don't know the answers.
How Long Should a Personal Statement Be?
A typical personal statement can range in length from 500 to 650 words or more.
For applying to colleges, the Common Application essay personal statement has a word limit of 650 words.
For graduate school programs, the application essay will vary in length, but most schools require a personal statement essay of at least 500 words.
20 Personal Statement Essays That Worked
It can be difficult to understand what makes a great essay without seeing some for yourself.
Here's 20 of our favorite personal statement essays that we've chosen for being unique and high-quality.
There essays were all accepted into some of the most selective schools. And while it isn't the only factor in admissions that matters, having outstanding essays can help tip the scales in your favor.
Table of Contents
Prompt: Background, Identity, or Interest
- 1. Uncomfortable Truths
- 2. Romanian Heritage
- 3. Film and Theater
- 4. Person of the Woods
- 5. Beautiful Walks
Prompt: Lessons from Obstacles
- 6. My Father
- 7. Self-Determination
- 8. Game Design Music
- 9. Speech and Debate
Prompt: Questioned or Challenged a Belief
- 10. Finding Answers
Prompt: Accomplishment, Event, or Realization
- 11. Connecting with Others
- 12. Summer Confidence
- 13. First Impressions
- 14. Law Career
- 15. Growing Up Asian
Prompt: Engaging Topic, Idea, or Concept
- 16. Secrets of Riddles
- 17. Rubik's Cube
- 18. Narrative Diversity
Prompt: Any Topic of Your Choice
- 19. Search for Dreams
- 20. Recipe for Success
Personal Statement Example #1: Uncomfortable Truths
Common App Prompt #1: 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. (250-650 words)
People love to ask why. Why do you wear a turban? Why do you have long hair? Why are you playing a guitar with only 3 strings and watching TV at 3 A.M.—where did you get that cat? Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist? My answer is…uncomfortable. Many truths of the world are uncomfortable. A couple of examples are that an equal number of pets are euthanized as are adopted each year and that cats roam the streets at night because they are actually looking for owners with better food. One of those statements is a horrible truth and the other is a thought I had in the shower. Either way, the point still stands. Uncomfortable truths are just that, uncomfortable. The answer to ‘Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist?’ is the most uncomfortable answer I can give, barring the current status of aboriginal street cats.
Sikhs like myself have borne the brunt of the backlash through our forced subjection to hate crimes, bullying, and job discrimination. In [Date] , a misguided gunman took the lives of six Sikhs who were praying peacefully in their house of worship in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Their families, through their tears, asked the nation, like I continue to ask myself, “Why?”
The uncomfortable truth is that as a society, we have not found a solution to the growing trend of extremism and hate crimes— we failed at the whole “freedom of religion” clause in the Bill of Rights. The media tells us that these crimes are carried out by individuals that are ignorant and motivated by hate. I would personally call them losers, but that would solve none of underlying system problems that have grown from anti-immigration rhetoric. When my cousin joined the US Army, he was told that he’d have to cut his beard and hair. Every time I tell that part of the story I can’t help but guffaw at how ridiculous it sounds. My then eleven-year-old angst came to a climactic fruition hearing those words—it was a call to action.
I helped to gather signatures for a petition to Robert Gates , then Secretary of Defense, pleading with him to allow Sikhs to serve without having to cut our hair. We garnered over 15,000 signatories , receiving generous media attention. We called and convinced our local congressional offices to support this issue. I created a Facebook page to help spread awareness, and helped to organize fundraisers to help fight this ban on our articles of faith. Our message is simple. Through service, we can push back against both hate and intolerance. But, if the largest employer in the U.S. does not allow us to serve with our articles of faith, then we will continue to be victimized as outsiders, contrary to the founding principles of our nation.
I’m proud to say my cousin deployed to Afghanistan as the first Sikh to be granted a religious waiver in nearly a generation. He saved countless lives as a doctor on the front lines of war and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his efforts. But, (there’s always a but) Sikhs today still face a presumptive ban. Despite being in perfect—for the army’s sake—physical condition, I cannot join the US Army because of my hair.
So now the uncomfortable story that was the uncomfortable answer to an uncomfortable question comes to an uncomfortable ending. And, like all great uncomfortable answers, I never really answered the main question. I don’t have the answers to why people do the hateful things they do. But by wearing my turban proudly every morning, by answering questions when they come up, by being willing to talk about everything that is wrong, I become a personification of what is right. My solution to the systemic problem starts with me.
Why This Essay Works:
- Central Theme Having a unifying idea is key to successful personal statements. Find your deepest idea or realization and focus your essay around that.
- Connects to Accomplishments Find a way to showcase your achievements while connecting to broader, more universal ideas.
- Strong Conclusion and Hook Connecting your ending to your beginning is a powerful way to bring your essay full circle. A great conclusion expands on your ideas introduced earlier, while leaving some room for more to be said.
About This Personal Essay:
This is a personal statement that worked for Princeton . It is outstanding for many reasons, but most of all because of its ideas and the thoughtfulness put into organizing them.
Get access to our huge essay database and learn the secrets of what really works.
- 200+ Essay Examples
- With Expert Analysis
- Rated From A+ to C
- Easily Searchable
Personal Statement Example #2: Film and Theater
“One of the parents emailed me, saying their daughter came home terrified because of your lunch-time horror stories.”
I was in third grade, and Mrs. Brewer pulled me aside at lunch. She leaned down - barely, however, as she was already so short - and gently grabbed my shoulder. Her lips were chapped and pink and wisps of her soft gray hair outlined her round face.
Without a mirror, I already knew my cheeks were red. The idea of getting in trouble engulfed my face with heat and tingled the tip of my nose. “It’s okay!” she assured me, with an air that suggested she found the whole situation amusing. “I just wanted to tell you so you could stop. You aren’t in trouble.” I granted a small nod, my mouth drier than the Sahara. She stood and patted my back. “Alright.”
That was the first time a story I created had ever affected anyone else ; part of me danced in the sunlight, while a larger part of me ruminated in the dark, worried about the trouble I may have caused because someone’s daughter came home terrified thanks to some chubby, nerdy girl’s ghost stories. However, for that chubby, nerdy girl, those scary campfire stories were her door into the A-list social crowd of the lunchroom; the popular girls in my grade invited me to their table every day. Granted, I knew they only wanted me for entertainment. But, man, it felt good to be wanted, and it still does.
When my films affect other people, I feel joy. For example, “Cardboard Castles” is a drama I co-directed about a father with a terminal illness grappling with the challenges of explaining to his daughter that he is dying. When I watch it with an audience and the audience begins to cry, it means I have successfully conveyed a story that connected deeply with others. There’s not a feeling in the world like it.
From creating make-believe scenarios with dollhouses to Scooby-Doo movies made by my cousins and me to producing my own films, stories follow me like cats follow laser pointers. I feed off of other people’s energy like a new-age carnivore. I am fascinated by the human experience and enjoy thinking, talking, learning, and even complaining about it. With this in mind, it makes sense that I talked to random strangers as a toddler, loved history class, and have participated in student council since I attended a school that offered it.
To build on this, storytelling is one of the most human things we do. As far as we know, humans are the only species who do this. From cave walls to the Globe Theatre to online fanfiction , humans have been telling stories since we could think. Now, I find myself considering a career path, and I have concluded with certainty that I want–no, need –to collaborate with others to celebrate the human experience.
So, here I am, pushing forward with my motivation to become a successful director. I want to influence filmmaking in a revolutionary way. I want to be an auteur. I want little girls to look up to me and see that directing is something they can do. I want to win awards. I want to mentor young filmmakers and help them overcome obstacles. I want to push limits and break glass ceilings. I want to tell stories the world needs to hear. I am so fortunate to have found a profession that combines all of my skills and passions into one expansive field. My leadership, resilience, creativity, and drive are like a delicious soup served at one specific restaurant: the film industry.
- Shows Strong Sense of Personality This essay has lots of moments where the author's character comes across vividly. By using conversational language and interjections like "I want to—no, need—to...", the author has a clear "voice" and you can easily imagine them as if they were speaking directly to you. This student also showcases self-awareness and a sense of humor, by using slightly self-deprecating phrases like "some chubby, nerdy girl" and by recognizing how the social approval of sitting with the "popular girls" was enthralling at the time. Self-awareness is a highly valuable trait to portray, because it shows that you're able to reflect on both your strengths and weaknesses, which is a skill needed to be able to grow and develop.
- Connects To Accomplishments Naturally This author manages to tie in their activity of producing films and reference them specifically ("Cardboard Castles") by connecting them to their main point. Instead of listing their activities or referencing them out-of-the-blue, they show how these accomplishments are perfect examples of a greater message. In this case, that message is how meaningful it is to connect with others through storytelling. To write about your activities and achievements without seeming arbitrary or boastful, make them have a specific purpose in your essay: connect to a value, idea, or use them as examples to show something.
- Unnecessary Descriptions In the intro of this essay, there are some descriptions that seem fiction-like and are ultimately unimportant to the main idea. Sentences that describe Mrs. Brewer's appearance or phrases describing how their teacher stood up after talking to them ultimately don't contribute to the story. Although these provide "context," the only context that admissions are interested in is context and details which have a purpose. Avoid writing like fiction books, which describe all the characters and settings, and instead only describe exactly what is needed to "go somewhere" in your essay.
What Could Be Improved:
- Hook Lacks Explanation This essay has a strong hook which captivates the reader by making them ask a question: "What are these lunch-time horror stories?" By sparking the reader's imagination early on, you can draw them into your writing and be more engaged. However, ultimately this is somewhat of a letdown because these intriguing "lunch-time horror stories" are never described. Although it may not be completely necessary for the main point, describing one example or hinting at it more closely would be satisfying for the reader and still connect to the main idea of storytelling. One idea is to replace the conclusion with a reference to these "lunch-time horror stories" more vividly, which would be a satisfying ending that also could connect to filmmaking and storytelling. In general, anticipate what the reader will be looking for, and either use that expectation to your advantage by subverting it, or give them what they want as a satisfying, meaningful conclusion.
- Stronger Conclusion Although this conclusion could work as is, it could be stronger by seeming less arbitrary and less "fancy for fancy sake." Often, a good strategy is to connect your conclusion to something earlier in your essay such as your introduction or specific wording that you used throughout. In this essay, it could work much better to end by revealing one of those "lunch-time horror stories" in a way that also emphasizes their main point: how storytelling is a powerful tool to connect people.
This student's essay was accepted to USC , among other top schools. It's topic is seemingly simple—taking walks—but the author brilliantly shows how even in the mundane there can be meaningful reflections.
- Improve your essays in minutes, not hours
- Based on hundreds of accepted essays.
- Easy and actionable strategies
Personal Statement Example #3: Romanian Heritage
Rica nu stia sa zica rau, ratusca, ramurica. I stared at the cracked ceiling of my bedroom in Romania, repeating the eight words under my breath. Rica nu stia sa zica rau, ratusca, ramurica. More than anything, I wanted to roll my r's, to speak Romanian without the telltale American accent. The simple exercise became a prayer. Rica nu stia sa zica rau, ratusca, ramurica. More than anything, I wanted to assimilate into the country that was my second home.
My problems with identity probably sound familiar to many children of immigration. I felt most at home when surrounded by Romanians. I ate mici on the Fourth of July with Romanians. I met my best friend through the Romanian community. But when I spoke Romanian, I was something else: an American. I wanted to demolish that language barrier, to jump up and down on its remains, to destroy what marked me as an imposter, a pretender, a fake.
Instead, I ran away. When my parents spoke to me in Romanian, I answered in English. When my friends called me a "fake Romanian," I laughed. I chose to distance myself from my culture, and I made sure everyone was aware of that choice. But beneath the surface I felt adrift in a sea of ambiguous identity. I wanted to feel at home in two cultures; instead I felt like an outsider to both.
About two years ago, I caught the baking bug. Starting out with pre-made mixes and rock-hard chocolate chip cookies, I worked my way up to custards, traybakes, and the occasional cake. I loved the methodical, precise nature of baking and came to appreciate the chemical underpinnings that made it possible. Though I did bake for myself, I baked mostly for others, revelling in the warm nods and crumb-filled smiles as people tasted the cake I'd spent the weekend making.
As I started baking more on my own, I began leafing through old family recipes scrawled on yellowed scraps or typed up in long-forgotten emails. The aromas of cornulete , fursecuri , and saratele soon wafted through our house, evoking memories of summers long ago in our grandparent's apartments in Bucharest. The all-too-loud radio in Buni Doina's kitchen as she labored over prajituri de cirese . Plucking gogosi from the fryer with Buni's scoldings ringing in our ears. Watching Buni spoon generous amounts of honey and ground walnuts atop steaming mucenici . On some days, I imagined Buni's expert eye watching me stretch dough into clumsy figure eights, five thousand miles away.
Buni's most important baking lesson, though, was not about moisture or measurements. Like me, Buni Doina can be overbearing at times, stubborn in the face of offered help, unyielding in her ways. But in the kitchen, dusted in powdered sugar, there is no denying her devotion to our happiness. Every stir of her wooden spoon is a step back to the common ground that unites us, fueled by constant, unrelenting affection. Her baking is not confined to an amalgamation of sugar, butter, and flour. It's an outstretched hand, an open invitation, a makeshift bridge thrown across the divides of age and culture.
Thanks to Buni, the reason I bake has evolved. What started as stress relief is now a lifeline to my heritage, a language that allows me to communicate with my family in ways my tongue cannot. By rolling dough for saratele and crushing walnuts for cornulete, my baking speaks more fluently to my Romanian heritage than my broken Romanian ever could. Making my parents the desserts of their childhood, seeing their warm, nostalgic smiles as they taste that first bite of cremsnit , I reconnect to our family and culture. Through baking, I've come to see food not simply as sustenance, but as a universal language, a way to say the unspoken and voice the impossible.
- Subverts Expectation This essay starts off by posing a challenge, which is typical of essays. But rather than showing how they overcame this particular challenge of speaking Romanian without an accent, this reader shows how something unexpected—baking—came to satisfy what was missing all along. By the end, this creates a conclusion that is both surprising, connected to the beginning, and makes perfect sense once you've read it. In other words, the conclusion is inevitable, but also surprising in content.
- Descriptive and Specific Language This student uses Romanian words to help exemplify the culture and language. If you're writing about a culture, using foreign language words can be a compelling way of adding depth to your essay. By including specific terms like "muni" and "cornulete," it shows a depth of knowledge which cannot be faked. Always use specific, tangible language where possible, because it is "evidence" that you know what you're talking about.
- Shows Self-Awareness This student exhibits strong self-awareness by noting characteristics about themself, even some which may not be the most glamorous ("can be overbearing at times, stubborn in the face of offered help"). Rather than telling the reader flat out about these personal attributes, they are able to discuss them by connecting to another person—their grandmother Buni. Using another person to showcase your own character (through comparison or contrast) is a literary "foil," which can be an effective way of showing your character without stating it outright, which generally is boring and less convincing.
- Connects To Deep Ideas This student doesn't focus on surface-level ideas like "how they got better at speaking Romanian." Instead, they reflect in a creative way by connecting the Romanian language to baking. Revealing unseen connections between topics is a great way to show that you're a thoughtful and clever thinker. Ultimately, having unique ideas that are specific to you is what will create a compelling essay, and this essay is a perfect example of what that could look like.
This personal statement worked for UMichigan , among many other top schools like MIT, Rice, UNC at Chapel Hill , University of Pittsburgh, UW Madison, and more.
This author is able to vividly bring you into their world using cultural references and descriptive writing. You can practically taste and smell Buni's kitchen through her words.
Personal Statement Example #4: Person of the Woods
I am a person of the woods , and every summer when I come back from my canoe tripping camp, I have transformed from the city dweller that defines ten months of my year to the wilderness man my friends jokingly call me. Canoe tripping is so much more than carrying a canoe or a pack , or paddling lakes bigger than my whole city; it’s about the people you’re with, the friendships you create, learning about yourself, and your relationship with your surroundings.
I have spent every summer since I was seven at Camp Pathfinder, building friendships with people who were so different than me each year. Pathfinder has a way of bringing people together from different backgrounds, sides of the continent, even countries, and bonding them for life. I have friends all the way across my continent in Los Angeles, friends who I’d never seen before who actually live on my street, and even friends who live in Spain . Going across the trails with packs half our size and more than half our weight, or canoes sixteen feet, you get to know each other well and deeply. My friends range from seven years old to sixty-three. At Pathfinder, everyone is equal and everyone is in the same boat, or canoe for that matter.
When I first went to camp, I loved being on the island, but hated canoe tripping. Being forced to carry a pack and traveling by canoe was awful. Where was the fun in sleeping in small tents with an absurd amount of mosquitoes and aching after portaging? I came home crying that first summer, but for some odd reason, I was drawn back. It took four years until, finally, I understood. I went on a twelve day canoe trip and it clicked; I had the time of my life, and I was hooked. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate not only learning about the people I am with, but the environment that surrounds me. The sunsets in Algonquin Park are the most beautiful on Earth, seeing water at the end of an arduous portage feels greater than spying land from the lake, the sound of a loon has an unmatched purity, and the fog on the water draws you to it.
My friend Aidan has taught me to push myself harder than I thought possible; Tate taught me there is no rest until we have made the trip as good as it can be for the younger campers; Gabe showed me that laughter is the best way out of any situation. From Rohan I’ve learned there is always a solution, and from Grady I’ve learned that it IS possible to encompass all of the ideals that define each of us. From me, they say they have learned leadership, and I hope that is true.
Anywhere I go, I can meet someone with some strange connection to Pathfinder and this common ground alone allows us to talk on a more intimate level, passing the “get-to-know-you” stage of acquaintances . We bond over past staff, mutual friends, canoe trips, lakes in the park, and our beautiful, red, cedar-strip, canvas canoes. Pathfinder has jokingly been referred to as a cult because of the way we religiously worship our “sacred” island. The scary part is, this is true. We worship the canoes that allow us to travel and we thank the great spirit, who constantly watches over us.
In reality, it is more similar to one large family with thousands who share the one hundred five years of its history. Our days of canoe tripping and pushing each other connects us deeply. When we sit around the fires at the end of the day, we don’t need to talk; we just need to relax and enjoy one another’s company. And as we lay down our heads, on our soft balsam beds, we thank the great spirit that our blood runs Pathfinder red.
- Imagery and Descriptions Using visuals, like descriptions of scenarios and environments, can help bring the reader into your world. However, make sure that all of your descriptions are relevant to your main point, or else they could be distracting. For example, in this essay it would be unnecessary to describe what they're wearing or the appearance of canoes, but it makes sense to describe the nature as it relates to the main topic.
- Shows Human Connection People are not isolated units. Instead, everyone depends on and is defined by those around them. By showing how you relate and connect with other people, you can provide insights into your character. In this essay, the student does a great job of delving into their strong friendships, particularly what they've learned from their friends.
- Shows Humility and Changed Perspective Admissions officers love to see self-growth. Showing how your perspective on something has changed (in this case, how they went from disliking to loving an activity) conveys a development of your character. Ask yourself: what preconceived notions did I have before, and how did they change? This student reflects in a humble way, by first emphasizing what they've learned from others, before offering up what they might have contributed themselves. Always try to have a tone of gratitude in your essays because it makes you more likeable and shows strong character.
This essay was accepted into Dartmouth College . It is a brilliant example of showing how any experience, even those which originally may have been unpleasant, can be the topic of meaningful reflection.
Personal Statement Example #5: Beautiful Walks
The most beautiful part of my day is when I walk.
Every morning before school, I put on my grandmother’s plush red coat, tie my white Keds, and begin on a fifteen minute journey. The rhythmic motion of my limbs, the caress of the sunlight upon my skin, this is what guides my mind to achieve clarity. My mental acuity allows me to conceive fascinating ideas, to spill through the infinitudes of philosophical reflection, and experience captivating intrigue.
Growing up, walking was used as a means of attaining peace in a time of instability. When it became painful to hear my mother fight with men I was supposed to love, my outdoor solace distracted the pain from amplifying. While gazing upon some classic Virginia evergreens, I questioned.
Why do some stars end up as black holes? What makes my eyes dark blue? How do owls turn their heads all the way back?
I dared to find explanations, letting my tiny fingers tear through pages of astrophysics books and biology encyclopedias. I drowned in documentaries about the stars and studied YouTube videos of violinists playing Paganini. And when my grandparents came to visit me during times of hardship, I asked them about ballet and music and DNA, thirsting to discover my breathtaking world.
As a result of my flourishing inquisitiveness, I inevitably developed a fascination with my family that encouraged me to learn about my family’s walks. These were not walks in the purely literal sense, but rather walks generated by journeying life itself. My mother and grandmother’s encounter with oppression and assault while living in Iran aroused in me a fierce fervor for combating evil. Yet my adoptive father and grandfather’s encounters with plummeting aircrafts and chemical weapon attacks instilled an intense wonder about the psychological and moral implications of war. Moreover, these experiences intensified my thirst for learning and a desire to become a positive contributor to our ever-competitive global society. To quench this thirst, I submerged myself in my own ocean of intellectually invigorating walks.
These walks have provided me invaluable experiences: I have toured the streets of Nuremberg with Hegel, idolizing his ideas on human consciousness. But I have glided across the glossy tiles of Hwa Chong Institute with my Singaporean research partners, latching onto the scientific complexity that drips from their lips. I have trudged past the mud-brick houses of Tehran with my great-uncle, marvelling at the blossoming political intellectualism within Iranian artists. Yet I have shrunk my frame into the dimensions of my pHEMA-VP hydrogel nanoparticles, exploring its polymeric networks with excitement and awe.
My movement has fueled my hunger to learn more about biology, my desire for my cosmetic business to excel, my romance with learning political philosophy. This movement, this is what defines me. Indeed, my walks have also taught me how my intellectual endeavors satiate my love for the journey more than for the destination. For it is the pursuit of knowledge, with all its undulations, which electrifies the lover of wisdom more than the knowledge itself.
In fact, arriving at my destinations have often provided my spirit a sharp, bittersweet sting. Like the stub end of a cucumber, I have tasted the unpleasantness of departing the people who have taught me and the experiences which have coached me: time has grinned at me with a gleam of schadenfreude. But I have also savored the sweet, ironic enlightenment that destinations provide: there is no end to my experiments in life. I will never cease to develop inwardly. My life is one that has converted the pursuit of intellectual endeavors from the machine of my destiny into the servant of my will. Walks have taught me to be patient, but to also live passionately and authentically. With my plush red coat and white Keds, I walk onward, for the wisdom of life is gained by walking through life itself.
Personal Statement Example #6: My Father
Common App Prompt #2: 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? (250-650 words)
His eyes stared back at me with contentment. Neither he nor I, the baby girl on his lap , are smiling, but there is a sense of peace, of quiet happiness about us. I hold his wrist in one hand, my other grasping a bottle of ketchup. He holds my tiny leg and my waist, propping me up. His wedding band gleams in the midafternoon sunlight.
That same ring catches the light in my bedroom, the bedroom he painted yellow when I was still the baby in the photo. My mother gave it to me for my sixteenth birthday, and it flashes purple when I move my hand. Staring at my reflection in the ring’s surface, I can still see the baby girl in the photo. I have the same round face, the same brown, almond-shaped eyes. For the first time, I have something tangible to remind me of him -- something more substantial than our shared love of puns or 16-year-old photographs that curl at the corners.
That picture has stayed the same for 16 years. My dad passed away before I took my first steps. I have no conscious memories of him. My mother did her best to make my childhood as normal as possible, but my dad’s loss still hurts. It is a strange feeling not to know what my own father’s favorite color was or what foods he liked.
I was most fascinated by my mother’s stories of his career. Driven by a desire to emulate him, I decided I wanted to prosecute corporate tax fraud for the IRS, as he had done. If I was unable to know him, choosing his career path felt like the most substantial connection I had to him. I wanted to make him proud to be my father.
For much of my life, my dad’s most discernible presence came through Social Security survivor benefits or checks from his pension fund, supporting our family and compensating for my mom’s sporadic employment. My health insurance was provided through Medicaid. These programs leveled the socioeconomic playing field so that my family had one less thing to worry about. So we could afford to focus our limited finances on things like extracurricular activities or saving money to further my education.
Slowly, my desire to become an attorney became less about becoming my father. The older I have grown, the more I have realized the necessity of programs like Medicaid and Social Security, how changes in entitlement programs affect the everyday lives of Americans dependent on them: if Medicaid suffered cuts or my pediatrician’s accepted forms of insurance changed, I went months at a time unable to see a doctor. Through this experience, I discovered a passion for civil rights law. I want to aid others in danger of losing the same programs that have been instrumental to my success -- to help those that need additional advantages to gain the same opportunities as their peers.
Even many of my close friends do not ask why I wear the same ring every day; I keep the story personal. Writing about my dad is difficult. I rarely talk about him with anyone, even my family. I prefer my ring to be a silent symbol of our relationship. Our connection is intimate, and sharing the ways that I feel his presence in my day-to-day life makes me feel exposed. I have never written in this much depth about the ways losing my dad has affected me.
Addressing my greatest vulnerability has forced me to think about the example my dad set for me, despite being unable to play the role in my life he deserved. His legacy helped me form my greatest aspirations. Embodied in my story is the story of someone I barely remember, yet has inspired me more than anyone , someone who has given me so many traits that have made me the person I am today.
- Navigates Tragedy Gracefully Writing about a tragedy like a loss of a parent is a tricky topic for college essays. Many students feel obligated to choose that topic if it applies to them, but it can be challenging to not come across as trying to garner sympathy ("sob story"). This student does a graceful job of focusing on positive elements from their father's legacy, particularly the inspiration they draw from him.
- Compelling Motivations This student does a great job of connecting their educational and career aspirations to their background. Admissions officers want to understand why you're pursing what you are, and by explaining the origin of your interests, you can have compelling and genuine reasons why.
- Write Only From Your Perspective In this essay, the student writes from their hypothetical perspective as an infant. This doesn't quite work because they likely wouldn't remember these moments ("I have no conscious memories of him"), but still writes as though they do. By writing about things you haven't seen or experienced yourself, it can come across as "made up" or inauthentic.
About This Personal Essay
This personal statement was admitted to Michigan in recent years. It is an outstanding example of how you can write about topics that are often cliché if done poorly, such as the death of a family member.
But unlike other essays, this one works because it has a unique take and genuine approach to the topic that makes it come off as heartfelt.
Personal Statement Example #7: Self-Determination
My head was contorted to the left in a painful, awkward position in which the tip of my head brushed the top of my chest. It was as if a puppeteer had gained control of my now jerky, wooden-like legs ; I could not walk without aid. My whole body was so weak that simple movements like lifting a glass of water exhausted me. Therefore, I had to be fed, bathed, and clothed as if I was an infant. My speech was extremely slurred and incomprehensible. The physical problems were not what destroyed me the most, however; my mental cognition was severely inhibited. I could not successfully read, write, or even keep up with simple plots of television shows. Everything moved too fast for me. I’d just finished learning about complex trig identities, and I now couldn't even count to ten!
I’d developed a sudden, severe, rare form of dystonia just after my junior prom, but I have never believed in the quote “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” more than during my miraculous recovery, which revealed that my illness occurred to encourage me to stretch my supposed limitations in life’s journey.
My high school principal froze my grades where they were at, but my mother had to contact the college I was dual enrolled with to extend the time to take my French and trig finals. I’d doubted I could even pass my finals due to my current cognitive state. My friends and family held back tears when they visited me. Their eyes stared at my stark white neck brace and awkward limbs, and their ears strained to comprehend my unintelligible speech. I did not react. I could not react. I felt like an empty shell of a human because I could not feel any kind of emotion—happiness, anger, fear, or sadness. I was simply being. Precious values my parents instilled in me–to maintain my faith and to crave the expansion of my knowledge– were gone. Prescribed medicine relieved my pain, but the various neurologists I’d seen could not determine how long I would be in this state; I believed God wanted me to be mentally and physically handicapped for the rest of my life .
Then one day, after many hazy days of nothingness and being unaware of the passage of time, my mother asked me morosely if I would like to enroll in an online school or drop out of school altogether since my condition was not improving. Her words echoed in my mind, and I was immediately drawn out of my vegetative state because I was horrified at the potential reality of my dreams being crushed from something I had no control over. I refused to accept my supposed fate.
I was the one thing in life I had control over.
Every day, I exercised my legs by taking my dogs outside, checking the mailbox, and walking around my room. Instead of watching new shows or reading books, since I could not keep up, I watched movies that I’d regularly watched to practice reading subtitles and interpreting information. Who would’ve thought that Walt Disney’s Tarzan and Pixar’s Bee Movie would be some of the most vital tools of my healing process?
For my trig class, numbers appeared to be Latin. However, after many weeks, I finally was able to solve problems and learn at the original rate I did before I got sick. As for French, I studied it every day to combat my weakened recall. Eventually, towards the end of the summer, I took my finals and aced them, and this success encouraged me to continue to strive for more successes, varying from learning new French words every day to starting my own music business. From my sickness, I realized that even the darkest points of your life occur for a reason, and any success begins with a powerful, true sense of self-determination .
- Topic Deals With Struggle Some of the best essay topics are dealing with challenges you've faced, because difficulties make it easier to reflect upon what you've learned. Admissions officers ultimately are looking for self-growth, and showing how you've handled personal challenges can demonstrate your new understandings as a result. However, avoid talking about "tragedy" or difficulty without a clear purpose. Don't write about it because you think "you should," only write about challenges if they are true to yourself and you have something meaningful and unique to say about them. Otherwise, it can come off as trying to garner sympathy (i.e. "sob stories") which admissions officers generally dislike.
- Uses Showing, Not Telling More convincing than telling admissions officers, is presenting them with "evidence" and allowing them to come to the conclusion themselves. If you want to show the idea "I couldn't learn due to this condition," it is far more effective to do what this student did and say, "I'd just finished learning complex trig identities, and I now couldn't even count to ten." When drafting, it is normal and okay to start off with more "telling" as you get your ideas on paper. But as your essay progresses, you should transform those moments of "telling" into more powerful and convincing moments of "showing."
- Surface-Level Takeaways Having meaningful reflections is a critical part of having compelling essays. But make sure your takeaways are not surface-level or generic. Each admissions officer has likely read thousands of essays, so they are well aware of the common ideas and tropes. Avoid cliché ideas at all costs, because it comes across as forgettable and unoriginal. Instead, it is okay to start with surface-level ideas, but keep asking yourself probing questions like "Why" and "How" to push your ideas deeper.
- Weak Conclusion This essay tells a nice story of overcoming their physical impediment, but ultimately lacks meaningful reflections in the conclusion. Too much time is spent on "the problem" and not enough on how they overcame it. Your conclusion should have your best, most compelling ideas in your entire essay. Try ending your essay by connecting to the beginning with a new perspective, expanding on your idea with a new takeaway, or connecting to broader, more universal themes. Avoid having a conclusion that "sounds nice," but ultimately is lacking in meaningful content.
Personal Statement Example #8: Game Design Music
“ If you care about your future, you shouldn’t allow yourself to think such things. ”
My mom used to tell me this a lot. She’d always disapproved of my passion for the arts.
My dreams are a few sizes too big for me and my parents make sure I’m well aware of it. In an ideal world, I’d have a knack for composing and singing sappy ballads and I’d be well on my way towards making it big in Korea’s music industry.
However, my parents are firmly against my making music for a living. They’d rather have me study a more academically inclined subject, like law or business. I can’t blame them, either -- socially, any career in the arts is looked down upon. It’s true that fine arts careers are not as financially supportive as careers in scientific or mathematical areas of study. Music and arts are usually for consumer enjoyment, while science and math have real world “purpose”. However, without fine arts, our worlds would be empty and monochrome. They hold so much importance in our lives, yet people disregard them and forget that there are people behind these masterpieces of lyrical art, writing songs for a living.
During my more frivolous years, I used to dream of becoming a singer-songwriter. Every time I brought it up with my parents, they’d laugh in my face and ask if I was joking. They’d say that if I truly cared about my future, I shouldn’t allow myself to have such dreams. It’s hard to become successful, they’d say, and compare me to all the people that have tried and failed. It was a little discouraging, to say the least. I hit the looming wall of my dilemma just last year -- how could I reconcile my passions with my parents’ wishes? Was there even a solution out there?
Eventually, I came to understand their viewpoint. It’s hard to deny the fact that careers in STEM are more profitable and sustainable. I still retain my love of music and desire to continue working on my ability, but now I’ve found another outlet of creativity: programming. The way so many components interact and come together to become something as equally as beautiful as song lyrics, albeit in its own way -- a polished mechanism, an aesthetic webpage, an organized and concise block of code. I used to be so reluctant to test the coding waters, content to reside on familiar shores, but it wasn’t difficult to experience the incredible joy of working through and solving problems.
As soon as I stepped into the world of computers, it felt as though a hundred doors had just opened in front of me. I could peek through the doorway of entrepreneurialism or the entryway of graphic design. I could easily get involved with AI and its moral questions, or create my own universe and every character. I could even stir in my passion for music by working with electronic music. And I think I’ve solved my dilemma.
I discovered the concept of game design as an industry during the summer before senior year, when I had the pleasure of speaking to Sheri Graner Ray , a game design veteran. She told me about all of the different divisions -- the programming, the writing, and the audio -- and her own company, Zombie Cat Studios. She told me about her work in gender inclusivity within the industry. And once I kept searching for more, it felt as though the world of game design had been created for me. For the first time outside of music, I felt an incredible excitement to chase after a new dream. Being able to appease my parents was an added plus.
In the end, I don’t count on getting my parents’ approval of my passions any time soon. I hope to be able to prove myself to them eventually.
- Understanding Of Other's Perspectives In this essay, the author does a fantastic job of showing how they are thoughtful in considering the perspectives of others, even though they may disagree. Showing that you can entertain ideas that you may disagree with is an admirable trait that admissions officers love to see, because intellectual discussion is all about trying to see other people's views. When writing about things that you may disagree with, try to play devil's advocate and see things from their point of view. Doing so will make you come off as thoughtful, understanding, and inquisitive, and it will strengthen your own viewpoint if you can identify arguments against it.
- Uses Questions To Show Thinking The best essays help admissions officers understand how you think about things. One strategy is to offer up questions to explore. These can be questions that arose during a particular moment or questions that you're reflecting upon right now. By using questions in your essay, you'll also present yourself as a thoughtful and curious thinker. Ultimately, you want to help the reader see things from your perspective by showing your thought process.
- Compares and Contrasts Subjects A good starting place for reflection can be in comparing and contrasting different topics. This could finding the similarities and differences in an extracurricular and an academic class, or any other number of things. By finding the similarities in things often thought of as "opposing," or finding the differences in things thought of as "similar," you can get to interesting ideas. Comparisons are useful because they force you to think from a different viewpoint. For example in this essay: How does "programming" relate to "song lyrics"?
- Stronger Conclusion This essay ends on a note that feels somewhat off-topic and not as interesting as their main idea. The conclusion leaves more to be wanted, as the reader ends up thinking: Are you simply seeking the approval of your parents? Or are you carving your own path in life? Or does the answer lie somewhere in between? Avoid ending your essay with a tangential idea. Instead, a strong conclusion is often closely related to the main point of your essay, but with a slight twist. By planning out your essay before writing, you can make sure that each point (from start to finish) connects the way you want it to and that your conclusion ends on a strong, well-connected note.
This essay was admitted into Cornell University . It discusses a common conflict of ideology that comes with pursuing the arts. What the author does brilliantly is show how that conflict was reconciled, as well as how it changed their perspective.
Personal Statement Example #9: Speech and Debate
I was still high off the competition, poring over ballots by the soft streetlights as we drove. “Are you sure you want to do this?” My Dad was worried about me. Worried about my world crashing down around me, losing friends, being crushed by hate. Scarred by controversy. I laughed it off, and we rode in silence.
Forgive the melodrama: this is a story about being a dissident in an authoritarian regime, but it’s a fun story. From 12 years old, I grew up in the NCFCA—the National Christian Forensics and Communication Association, a homeschool speech and debate league. My friends and I joked that the only difference between fascist Italy and the NCFCA is that in Italy, things at least ran on time. But this is how my political awakening began: a summer debate camp in [Date] that my parents sent me to because I “always argued.” I was hooked.
Politically, the NCFCA is conservative. Not totally homogenous , but Christian and homeschooled. At the same time I was learning debate—how to think—in that context, my Dad and I started watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and talking about its subjects. This duality was key: as I developed my own, left-leaning views, I was surrounded by very smart people who disagreed with me. I had instant access to the best arguments against my beliefs—instant access to the best tools to refine them. Beyond that, though, it imparted empathy: seeing a wide range of views held by people that I liked and respected (and still do) made me want to understand. I loved it.
Fast forward to my second or third year in the league. I wanted to have some fun. I emailed the regional coordinator, asking if there’s a rule against a speech advocating for same-sex marriage.
The answer? “No, but people wouldn’t like it.” That was fine. That was the point .
Why do a persuasive speech if everyone already agrees with you? The first draft of the speech was straightforward: establish the separation of church and state, then outline the secular arguments for gay marriage. Watching everything from disgust to bemusement play across my club members’ faces as I gave the speech , hearing the note of concern that didn’t quite mask the edge creeping into the critique, I tried again. I built a theological argument, established common ground with my audience, and I was going to persuade them. I never got the chance. A couple months before competition season began, we were pulled aside at club. The hushed tones, the guarded expressions—the room was heavy with quiet, administrative displeasure. It wasn’t a two-sided conversation. They told me two things: I couldn’t give the speech in club (because controversy has no place in a debate club !), and the national leadership decided my speech didn’t reflect a Biblical worldview. Meaning? Banned speech.
After writing a flurry of ultimately ineffective emails, I did a speech on why we should embrace theological diversity. That speech wasn’t fueled by spite—though I do enjoy the irony of its birth, and I sarcastically named the word document “HERESY.” Rather, I wanted to make a point. Christian Abolitionism, the Nicene Creed, the doctrine of the Trinity: all once hotly debated products of dissent, iron sharpening iron. Of history’s 40,000+ competing theologies, why assume that you’ve come along and finally gotten the Bible right? I didn’t do well with this speech, but I still won : because I am unbroken—not scarred, but emboldened. I saw intolerance, but I also see hope. To this day, some of my closest friendships are built upon discussions of theology and politics, iron on iron, punctuated by laughter. Hope lives in that laughter , because as it dances between us, it brings with it empathy and wisdom.
- Reflects Meaningfully and Deeply This essay has lots of interesting ideas about having discussions between people of different viewpoints. This student is able to reflect sincerely about what the benefit of that dialogue is ("iron sharpening iron") and able to draw meaningful conclusions ("hope lives in that laughter") that express deeper ideas. By focusing on these compelling reflections, this student shows themself as a brilliant and thoughtful thinker, while demonstrating what they value: discourse between opposing viewpoints. Rather than focusing on the literal happenings (i.e. giving a speech to their club), the student reflects on what that experience represents more broadly, which allows them to connect to deeper ideas.
- Specific And Vivid References This essay is full of details, without being wordy or drawn out. Even small details like naming the show "The Daily Show" or giving a number of "40,000+ theologies" makes their writing much more engaging and compelling. By avoiding broad and vague language, this student paints a fascinating picture that allows the reader to enter their world. It is always better to be specific than to be generic, but make sure that the specific details are always relevant to your point. This essay is a great example of how to do both.
- Shows Strong Sense of Personality This essay does a fantastic job of creating a "voice." That is, you can easily imagine the student as if they were speaking to you while reading it. To craft this voice, this student uses small moments of more informal language and interjecting remarks that show their thought process. Using parentheses can be a good way to show your voice by jumping in when you have a small remark to add. This student also demonstrates a sense of humor and lightheartedness while still discussing meaningful ideas. The sarcastic remark "because controversy has no place in a debate club!" demonstrates their values (of dialogue between differing viewpoints) as well as showing their sense of personality.
- Unnecessary Intro Paragraph This essay's weakest point is its intro or "hook." In fact, it could work much better by excluding the introduction paragraph and starting off with the second paragraph: "Forgive the melodrama: this is a story..." That short phrase is much more captivating and immediately draws the reader in. The introduction paragraph in this essay is too much of a meandering and vague story: you don't know what they're talking about, and ultimately it doesn't matter. Rather than using a fancy story or descriptions to introduce your essay, try jumping into the "meat" of your essay immediately. Consider using a short, declarative sentence or phrase like "Forgive the melodrama" as a hook, which is more impactful and draws the reader immediately into your essay.
Personal Statement Example #10: Finding Answers
Common App Prompt #3: Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? (250-650 words)
The initial sound of a distant ambulance didn’t cause my grandmother any worry as she relaxed and looked out over Eagle Lake in Acadia State Park. She only started to take notice when the third ambulance urgently made its way into the mountains behind them, causing her and her best friend to sit up from their beach chairs. They had been enjoying the afternoon on the beach while my grandfather and his best friend had gone hiking on the popular yet daunting Beehive Loop Trail. Both men were in excellent shape and often found themselves hiking alongside one another.
My grandmother’s concern faded rather quickly as sirens fell distant and time passed.
After about 30 minutes, my grandfather’s friend ran toward the beach. My grandfather was not next to him. He was not there at all. At that moment, my grandma knew.
“Burt...he was with me...he slipped...he fell...I ran down the side of the mountain, off the trail, but I couldn’t find him. The park rangers are looking...” She stopped listening. She could see his lips moving, yet she heard nothing.
My grandfather died that day. As he was only about 5 minutes from the top of the mountain, he lost his balance on a particularly difficult section of the trail and fell over 100 feet. A freak accident. One that could never have been imagined or anticipated. A horrific event which brutalized a man and a family which had been nothing but good to the world.
I never knew my grandfather. He died only 80 days before I was born. But I know the man he was. I know him well. I know that he was a school psychologist, a life he chose so that he could help children who could not help themselves. I know he spent countless hours in the garden so that he could give my grandmother flowers every morning. I know that he spent years with a young boy, the son of a drug addicted mother, taking him to baseball games, bringing him home to dinner, and simply teaching him how to live, despite the poor hand this boy had been dealt.
Most importantly, I know that I did not get to know a man that would have made my life better in every way. I never got to go to baseball games with him. He never was able to cheer for me on the soccer field or basketball court. I know that this great man certainly should have been able to live well past 57, yet he was given an abrupt end. An end that he deserved less than anyone in the world became his reality.
This story has made me question what so many people around me believe is an undeniable truth. Is God real?
I was not raised with religion in my life, despite living in a primarily Christian area. When my friends went to church on Sunday, I watched the Wiggles. I went to many First Communions, cheering on my peers without knowing what I was really celebrating. I have listened to countless prayers and promises made to Jesus, while I sat awkwardly alongside. Sometimes I would feel jealous that I did not have God to look after me, despite not knowing what God was. I never believed or didn’t believe in God, I just never knew.
The story of my Grandfather’s death is what sparked my curiosity in this matter. I’ve always wondered why people believe in God, or what has proven to them the reality of God. I’ve asked myself questions like, “Why, if God is all-powerful, would he end a great man like my grandfather’s life?” “Why wouldn’t he cause this pain to a murderer or rapist?”
My questions are still unanswered, and I’m not educated enough at this point to determine an answer for myself. Maybe as I grow and learn, I can find an answer.
- Too Repetitive This essay repeats a lot of the same ideas or information, just using different words. Rather than "getting to the point," this repetition makes the essay feel meandering and like it is going nowhere ultimately. When drafting your essay, it is okay to have repetition (your drafts shouldn't be perfect, after all). But when editing, ask yourself with each sentence: does this add something new? Is this necessary to my main point? If not, you should exclude those sentences.
- Unnecessary Exposition This essay starts off with a drawn-out story of the tragedy involving the author's grandfather. Most of this story is unnecessary, because all that really matters for this student's main idea is the fact that their grandfather passed away from a tragic accident. Details about his grandmother or his grandfather's best friend are unnecessary and distracting.
- Doesn't Write From Their Perspective An important "rule" in college essays is to only write from your perspective. That is, don't describe things that you couldn't have seen or experienced. In this essay, the author spends a lot of time describing their grandfather's incident as if they was there to witness it. But we later learn that the author was not even alive at this point, so how could they be describing these things? On a smaller level, don't describe yourself from an outside perspective. For example, instead of, "I grimaced when I heard the news" (how did you see yourself grimace?) you could say, "I felt my stomach pang when I heard the news."
- Lacks Reflection and Interesting Ideas Your ideas are most valuable in your essays. Admissions officers want to see how you think, and having interesting ideas that are unique to you is how you demonstrate that you're thoughtful and insightful. Avoid surface-level ideas at all costs, as it comes off cliché. It is okay to start with more generic ideas, but you should always delve deeper. To get at deeper and more unique ideas, the key is to ask yourself questions. For example: Why is this the case? Why don't things work differently? What does this mean for other people? What does this represent? How can I apply this to other areas of life?
- No Essay Requirements
- Test-Blind or Optional Policies
- Sorted by Acceptance Rate
- And 80+ useful filters!
Personal Statement Example #11: Connecting with Others
Common App Prompt #5: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. (250-650 words)
As I sat alone in a crowded airport, I felt both excitement and nervousness. I took my laptop and opened it to the Facebook profile of my third cousin Joey. I remembered how curious I was the first time I learned about his existence. He seemed just like me. I could not have been more excited, for I was on my way to New Jersey to spend spring break at his parents’ house.
It may seem strange that I was so eager to meet a third cousin, as most Americans have minimal contact with relatives as distant as third cousins. Meeting distant relatives meant expanding the family tree, forming new connections, and expanding support networks. Setting down new roots by travelling to New Jersey to meet Joey not only felt right but also necessary.
After landing and meeting Joey and his mom Alla, I felt awkward; we had absolutely nothing to discuss. Maybe visiting people I have never met was a mistake.
That night Alla explained to me that partner dominos was a family tradition dating back 50 years in the Soviet Union. I had never played dominos with a partner. Absolutely stunned, Alla cried, “YOU HAVE NEVER PLAYED PARTNER DOMINOS? HOW THE HELL IS YOUR MOTHER RAISING YOU? ” The rest of the night we played partner dominos, and let me admit, I was awful. Nevertheless, I experienced a strong sense of belonging and connection to my heritage by taking part in an old family tradition. That game broke the ice and made me realize that we share a cultural and personal connection; starting with that game, I actually felt like we were family members. Unsure of what else my mom had neglected, Alla inundated me with an entire rundown of my extended family. I learned that I could travel to almost every continent, knowing there would always be someone to whom I am related. Due to my family’s Russian heritage, I would always be welcome, adept at partner dominos or not.
A week later when I sat waiting for my flight home, I smiled. People whom I had just met, who had their own busy lives to live, took me in and made me feel welcome. At the end of the visit, I felt as if I had known Joey and Alla my entire life. I had to acknowledge that I had underestimated the need for extended family in my life. Furthermore, as I contemplated the transition from stranger to family member, my mind took me further to comprehend that whether related or not, I would live a more fulfilling life if willing to make vital connections. I consider every person with whom I forge a connection part of my “family” network, regardless of how remote. Though I had thought of “family” as merely a support system, I realized now that it is comprised of the people who, through powerful shared experiences, help one find a place in the world.
When I launch into the next phase of my life, I am hoping to forge relationships with roommates, classmates, and professors. As a global citizen, I am also dedicated to connect with others and help them find a place in this world, just like Alla and Joey did for me.
- Shows Personality It's important to create a "voice" in your personal statement, so that admissions officers can imagine your character and personality. Try to write as you would speak, but refined and polished. In this essay, natural-sounding phrases like "...let me admit, I was awful..." humanizes the author and makes the reader feel like they're being spoken to.
- Compelling Narrative This essay is a perfect example of how effective essays don't need to have a super unusual story to be compelling. What makes this essay's story compelling is not necessarily the topic itself (meeting distant relatives), but instead how the student reflects and makes interesting connections to broader ideas. Even seemingly mundane experiences can make for meaningful personal statements topics.
- Stronger Conclusion This conclusion works well by connecting to the main story of the essay. However, certain phrases like "As a global citizen" and "I am hoping to forge relationships" are potentially too generic. Instead, try taking your main idea (in this case forming connections with others) and broaden it or connect to more universal ideas.
Personal Statement Example #12: Summer Confidence
As I left home last July to fly nearly 5,000 miles to summer camp in the Pacific Northwest, it felt easier than ever before. Not only had I made the trip each summer since the age of 12, but I had been newly promoted from camper to counselor-in-training (CT), and the prospective change of role filled me with anticipation.
My CT summer last year was by far my most memorable. I finally had the opportunity to impact the lives of the next generation of campers in the same way my own counselors had impacted mine; however, this chance was equally exhilarating and daunting. While it did motivate me to excel at my job and present the best of myself, it also made me increasingly aware of my perceived shortcomings , especially after witnessing many of my peers thrive in their new roles. One became a prominent and well-respected basketball coach, having played at an elite level all through high school, while another was especially gifted at looking after the youngest children, having helped her father raise her siblings back home. Compared to their successes, I struggled to maintain self-confidence as I did not know if my effort was being equally well-received by the campers.
However, one thing I was proud of by the midpoint of the session was the close friendship I had struck up and nurtured with one of the older campers while teaching his sailing class. This build up of trust culminated in him visiting my table one lunchtime and handing me a crumpled sliver of red paper, before scurrying away with a bashful grin. There is a strong tradition at camp of writing heartfelt letters to those for whom you are grateful, and this was one such note. Upon reading it that evening I collapsed onto my bunk, overcome with emotion. I lay there reflecting and reminiscing until late at night, before delicately tucking the paper into my journal. It detailed not only how I had greatly impacted and improved his camp experience, but that ‘I had become like a brother to him’, which I quote from the letter that is pinned to my bedroom wall even now.
From that moment, my attitude for the rest of the session was markedly more confident, as I had received the assurance I was lacking. I channeled this confidence into teaching, working with the campers, and also into my personal relationships. After thanking my friend for the note, we further connected in an especially memorable conversation, where I shared some of my biggest fears surrounding loneliness, deteriorating friendships with my high school friends, and terrifying upcoming changes in my own life, such as moving abroad for college . In return, he entrusted me with his feelings about his troubled relationship with his parents and how that had affected his mental health, which he later admitted was the first time he had shared that.
The assurance and confidence I gained from the summer did not desert me once I returned home. For one, the practical skills I had gained through counseling made my job as a diving coach far easier, as I had more experience teaching and thus better understood how to productively and positively interact with the young divers. However, the biggest change was in my attitude towards the future. While I confided in my friend about my fear of moving away from the familiarity of home during the summer, upon further consideration it no longer fills me with the same sort of apprehension. The confidence and maturity I nurtured while at camp will continue to serve me well as I move into the next stage of my life.
- Shows Interaction With Others This essay has a heartfelt moment where the author connects deeply with a camper and feels a sense of genuine gratitude. By showing their newfound connection with a person they were mentoring, this creates a sense of humanity and also tells a lot about the author themself. By talking about other people in your life, you create a literary "foil" which in turn describes something about yourself. Showing how you interact with others can be telling into your character, such as showing your empathy, sense of humor, friendliness, or how you draw inspiration from others.
- Shows Vulnerability and Self-Awareness This essay does a good job of expressing vulnerability, specifically the author's fears about the future and "deteriorating friendships" after going to college. By being vulnerable, these moments feel more relatable to the reader. Showing your struggles (especially emotional ones) can also make your later "successes" feel more impactful when you show how you've overcame them or persist in face of those struggles. By recognizing your flaws or insecurities, you also show self-awareness, which is a positive trait because you need to be self-aware in order to improve the areas of yourself you want to fix.
- Lacks Deep And Nuanced Reflection Although this essay does reflect upon the lessons learned during their time at this camp, the takeaways are ultimately surface-level and not delved into. Rather than saying things like "I had more confidence," it would be more engaging to show how that confidence made an effect and what exactly that "confidence" meant. This essay touches upon some meaningful lessons, but ultimately they fall flat because the nuances of these lessons are glossed over. Phrases like "upon further consideration it no longer fills me with...apprehension" don't delve into the most interesting part: How and why did that fear go away? What changed about your perspective and why? Instead, these are explained away with "confidence and maturity," which are too broad of terms and feel meaningless because they are overused in essays.
- Use First Names Rather Than Vague Words In your personal statement, it is completely OK to reference people by their first name. Using names makes your essay more vivid and engaging, while showing a deeper connection that you have with others. Rather than saying "other people" or "one of the older campers," it would be more impactful to use their first name. There are some caveats, however. Don't use their name if you're showing them in a negative light (which you probably shouldn't do anyway) or if you're revealing something personal about them. If you are revealing something personal, you can substitute their name for another name, or ask them for their direct permission.
Personal Statement Example #13: First Impressions
First impressions are everything—even in kindergarten.
I was born with Nonsyndromic Aplasia Cutis Congenita. Basically, I have had a scar on my head since birth, and hair couldn't always grow over it. Up until fourth grade, when I underwent two hair transplants that would allow me to slowly grow hair over my scar, it was definitely noticeable.
What I remember vividly about kindergarten is my new peers glaring at my shiny head with a puzzled look. I learned about my classmates through their lunchbox covers and backpack designs; they saw me as the boy with the scar.
It had a nice ring to it, but I wasn’t a fan. Unfortunately, that’s what I imagined everyone saw first, and first impressions stick.
In elementary school, it was still my defining characteristic—what separated me from a sea of collared t-shirts and cargo shorts. As I began first grade, the questions started. In retrospect, they were harmless, but they made me feel alienated. I would try to shrug them off, but the benign inquisitions furthered the self-created idea that I was different than my classmates because of something I couldn’t fix.
The idea of my peers seeing only my bare scalp when they looked at me, whether true or not, was a nightmare I couldn’t shake. It was my most distinct feature, but I didn’t want it to be defining. So, I applied myself to my activities. No matter what it was, I always tried to stand out so I wouldn’t be seen as the boy with the scar anymore. My hair wasn’t something I could control, but my personality was. I wanted to build an identity on my interests and attributes, not have one automatically assigned because of a birth mark.
From art to sports to being one of the only first graders on elementary student council, my desire to distract my peers from my scar was the reason I pushed myself to try new things and work at them, even if it wasn’t for the best reason.
As I grew up with it and found hobbies that I genuinely enjoyed doing and talking about, I slowly became more comfortable with the attention that I once shied away from. I found a way, through my activities and interests, to feel comfortable in my skin, whether there was hair on it or not.
I remember walking out of the operating room after my second surgery with a new sense of self, ready to be a different person with a re-created identity and a full head of hair. That didn’t happen. I went back to school as the same person I was before, and that was exactly what I wanted—I just didn’t know it then. For so long I felt restricted by my scar. It wasn’t until hair started growing when I realized I never really was.
I didn’t have a sudden epiphany about my scar after the surgery, nor did I feel like a new person. By that point in my life, I had figuratively grown into my scar just as I grew into my brother’s hand-me-downs. I found and focused on my interests, and from them I developed an identity that I was proud of, well before I went under the knife.
A caveat of my surgery was that the hair would grow, then one-third would fall off. My scar will never be completely gone, but I no longer feel defined by it like I did in elementary school.
Neither the surgeries or my search for a more redeeming quality completely changed my life, but both experiences made me more confident in my self-perception. I can be whatever I want to be; a scar can’t change that. It just took two surgeries and years of nail biting and pushing myself at my activities, some of which I still partake in and am passionate about today, to realize it.
- Strong Hook An effective hook doesn't need to be complicated. Often, the best hooks are simple, declarative sentences. By using a short sentence, you'll immediately draw the reader into your essay and create a point of emphasis. In general, avoid long and meandering sentences to start your essay, and save those for later in your essay. Clear and succinct phrasing is often the hallmark of a strong hook.
- Exemplifies Ideas Using Tangible Anecdotes To convey your ideas more strongly, show them using concrete examples. In this essay, the author does a great job of that by not saying "classmates only saw me for my scar," but instead showing that idea through the memorable image of "I learned about my classmates through their lunchbox covers...they saw me as the boy with the scar." Using tangible imagery makes for a compelling way of expressing your ideas, as it allows the reader to come to the conclusions you want them to, without just "telling" them.
- Not Overly Dramatized Avoid exaggerating or "fluffing up" experiences in your essays. Instead, be realistic and tell them for what they are. This essay does that perfectly by using phrases like "I didn't have a sudden epiphany about my scar." Avoid using phrases like "suddenly, I..." which are often overused and unrealistic. Most new understandings aren't acquired in one moment in particular, but are developed over time.
- Deeper Reflections This essay touches on some compelling ideas, such as how people can distill down other people into their physical attributes or ailments. However, it would be even stronger to delve deeper into these reflections by asking further questions: Why do we gravitate towards "categorizing" people based on surface-level attributes? What is the impact of only be acknowledged for surface-level characteristics by others, but knowing that you have much more depth to your character? This essay has some meaningful ideas, but other ideas such as "I can be whatever I want to be" feel surface-level and somewhat generic.
Personal Statement Example #14: Law Career
The judge called “the prosecution may begin to question the defendant.” I shuddered quietly to myself as I smoothed my skirt and rose slowly from the chair. As I began to speak, I gained my confidence. My statement rolled off my tongue, as I projected my voice throughout the courtroom. “Would you please provide a rendition of events during this incident?” I asked. But, the testimony given was not in compliance with the pre-court interview notes from the previous weeks. This defendant was sent to Ontario County Youth Court for consuming acid in school. I continued to question cautiously, but finally caught the defendant in a blatant lie. I calmly stated, “You are under oath and by lying, you are committing a federal offense of perjury. I would please ask you to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so the jury can reach an appropriate sentence.” I could see the defendant squirm during this confrontation. But, I was holding the upper hand, and lying could not undermine my self-assurance. The case progressed with a sense of caution, for the power of prosecution can dampen the mood.
I have always been a searcher ; for new opportunities, new friends, and a true passion. I have taken dance classes for fifteen years because I enjoy the creativity of movement, exercise, and my friendships with other dancers. But, dance is not my calling in life or deepest passion. I have taken tennis, golf, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, sailing, sailboarding, scuba diving, and even sewing lessons. But these are also merely hobbies or interests. Freshman year, after fourteen years of searching , I finally discovered my true passion and calling in life: a career in law.
I live on a dirt road and attend a small, rural school. There is not a single traffic light in the entire school district. But, these factors of seclusion have never hindered my appetite for exploration. One day, I saw a poster hanging in the atrium of my school about an information night regarding Ontario County Youth Court. On a whim, I decided to attend. I have always been an advocate for trying new activities, or else passions can never be unleashed and discovered. Without leaving one’s comfort zone and broadening one’s horizons, we can never grow as people. That evening, I sat in a room with fifteen other strangers and learned about restorative justice principles and careers in law. I was hooked. At that moment, I realized this my calling.
After completing a 20-hour training process, being inducted as a full member of youth court, and religiously attending youth court cases each month, my thirst was still unquenched. Therefore , I became involved in court evaluating. Local court officials are assessed by volunteers to ensure they are fulfilling their duties to the community. Watching judges mandate reprimands for speeding tickets might be dull for some, but I find it fascinating. The legal system has such a vast array of powers and professions. I have continued to expand my knowledge by attending local, district, and circuit courts, along with touring a jail.
While I was first motivated to join Ontario County Youth Court for the sake of self-exploration and serving my community, I discovered my passion for law. By interacting with a vast array of youth offenders, I have had the opportunity to see the world others live in. Now, I have the ability to understand other people’s circumstances and social pressures. Most importantly, I have fully encompassed the value of prioritizing the common good above individual success.
- Shows Interest In "Mundane" Activities One great way to have interesting ideas is to show things that you find fascinating that other people may find boring. This essay describes how a judge mandating "reprimands for speeding tickets might be dull for some," but how they find it interesting. Everything, even the seemingly mundane, has interesting aspects if you're willing to look closely enough. When brainstorming, ask yourself: what do I find fascinating that others find boring? What do I think is "fun" while others may think it is "hard" or boring? By following these threads, you can often find unique and compelling ideas that allow you to bring the reader into your world and show them how you see the world uniquely.
- Story-Like Intro Is Weak A common trap when writing a personal statement is to use a descriptive, fiction-like story to start your essay. Although this may sound like a good idea, it is often ineffective because it buries what is most interesting (your ideas and reflections) and can easily be long and drawn out. Short, concise stories with a focus can be effective introductions, but in general avoid overly descriptive storytelling to start your essay. Also, avoid describing things that aren't critical to your main point. There is little to no benefit in describing things like "I smoothed my skirt and rose slowly from the chair." Focus on why your stories matter, rather than telling stories in a descriptive manner.
- Lacks In-Depth Ideas This essay does have some reflections, particularly about how the author discovered their passion for law by joining the Youth Court. However, most of these ideas end there, and there aren't any deep, unique ideas. The closest the author comes to having a unique and compelling idea is the final sentence where they write "the value of prioritizing the common good above individual success." This could be a fascinating topic to explore, but ultimately is cut short because it is tagged onto the ending. Your focus when brainstorming and drafting should be to have specific and original ideas—ideas that are not generic, not cliché, and not surface-level. To get to those ideas, ask yourself probing questions like "Why" and "How" over and over.
Personal Statement Example #15: Growing Up Asian
You are 7 years old. A girl you are trying to befriend tells you that she does not want to be friends with you because your eyes are “ugly and squinty.” Hot tears run down your face because you do not understand the reason for her ugly words.
You are 13 years old. It is Halloween and on Instagram you see two of your classmates dress up as Asians. Their faces are painted yellow and their eyes are pulled back with tape. The caption reads, “can’t find the dogs to eat with our eye slits!” People ask if you are offended. You do not want to be seen as uptight so you laugh it off. Numerous incidents like these dot your childhood. You do not want to be Asian anymore. You hate your hideous Asian face.
I had always been shy as a kid and the environment I was raised in only exacerbated my growing insecurities. My school’s population was 99% white, so I had no friends of my own ethnicity and often faced the brunt of people’s ignorance. In middle school, everyone suddenly started caring about looks. I wanted so badly to look like my Caucasian classmates and worked tirelessly to try to erase my “Asian” features. I bleached my hair and skin. I glued my eyelids into double folds and wore eye-enlarging contacts. I spent countless hours researching plastic surgeons that could “Westernize” my looks. I was utterly obsessed with how others perceived me. My insecurities were loud, and they attracted unwanted attention from other students who bullied me.
At this point I lacked friends in real life and began to find solace on the internet, my getaway from the burdens of real life. People could not judge me based on how I looked, only by my words. I was playing an online game where I met my first Asian friend, Ethan. He had a pride in his ethnicity I never had. After getting to know me better, Ethan asked why I tried so hard to reject my heritage. He wanted to know why I never showed my face. Over time, on the internet, I started to meet more people of my ethnicity who became my role models and cherished friends.
After constant reflection and studying psychology, I began to understand my past in a new light. The ignorant people who ridiculed me faced stress and insecurity in their own lives that spurred their actions. Thereafter, I was able to come to the realization that has since then freed me of my insecurities: every person who passes by me is living a life just as vivid and complex as my own, with their own thoughts and perceptions; everyone has their own image of me in their head, and because none are a fully correct representation of who I am , I should not be concerned with trying to modify them. And what I learned from the hours I resided immersed on the internet was that what defines me is not my looks, but what I have to say. My life was not mine if I cared constantly about what others thought.
The internet was my catalyst for change, and slowly, I started to blossom. Fear of judgement had once stopped me from seeking opportunities, and I sought to change that. I began to branch out and engage with new people. My makeup was no longer a mask, but instead a tool I used to enhance the features that I now love. I am proud of my unique features and refuse to let anyone make me feel the way I used to feel. Though I will never be able to erase the scarred little girl from my past, I would not want to because she has made me strong from what she endured. I want to be Asian.
Personal Statement Example #16: Secrets of Riddles
Common App Prompt #6: 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? (250-650 words)
As I was going to St. Ives, Upon the road I met seven wives; Every wife had seven sacks, Every sack had seven cats: Cats, sacks, and wives, How many were going to St. Ives?
I have three principles that define my searches for the best riddles: 1) Riddles should be tricky but not impossible. 2) Riddles should be shared with friends. 3) A riddle should always have a solution.
Growing up, I followed these guidelines to find a treasure trove of engaging problems, including puzzles about doors that only tell truths and lies, prisoners in monochromatic hats, and of course, the aforementioned St. Ives rhyme.
Part of what I love so much about riddles is that as difficult as they are, there is always a solution. Even the most confounding question has an answer that can perfectly satisfy it.
I love to wrap my mind around the possibilities of a logic conundrum and parse through an intricate labyrinth of mental avenues. As a child, I enjoyed the process of solving a riddle, but the deepest satisfaction for me came from the end result , the acquisition of an answer unlocking the problem's secrets.
Information was my favored currency in Elementary and Middle school. I enthralled my friends with questions in exchange for the satisfaction of possessing secrets undiscovered by any other. Over peanut butter and sliced ham, I assumed the role of story teller among our lunch group, facilitating a discussion on the particularities of a murder mystery puzzle.
As I grew older and invariably more aware of my place in the world, I began to encounter new types of riddles. Unlike my playful games and puzzles that existed in their own vacuums of imagined space, these questions encroached on major world issues with deep implications on society as a whole.
Is language inherently limiting as a form of expression? How do we uphold the marginalized without sacrificing the majority? Are aliens real?
The riddles of life were not as straightforward as the puzzles in my books and websites. In fact, they were not straightforward at all, like winding mazes of philosophical quandary.
As is my nature to ask questions, it is also my nature to at least attempt to answer them, even if they have already faced the mental battering of minds far greater than my own. Diving into books, websites, and documentaries, I pulled apart cotton-candy strings of possibilities.
One of the most thought-provoking subjects that preoccupies my mind regards the existence of aliens. Initially, my mind was settled on the possibility of intelligent life. A universe so big could not possibly be lifeless.
However, my research on this subject has led me in a different direction. The contradictions between the statistical likelihood of aliens and a historical lack of contact (aka the Fermi Paradox) alludes to a possible scarcity or even absence of extraterrestrials. Furthermore, this theory has interesting implications on future environmental destruction and its role as a Great Filter impeding full intergalactic potential.
The Fermi Paradox. The Hopi tribe. Group polarization. My desire for knowledge has led me to the farthest ends of human discovery. I have written dozens of essays, debated with friends and family, made endless lists of information, and evaluated and re-evaluated my opinions, always with the understanding that there is still more to know.
Obviously, I have not definitively answered these questions. Obviously, I have much to learn. But rather than feel discouraged by the impossibilities of these problems, I am ready to seek the far reaches of human thought and even surpass those barriers. I have found a new satisfaction in life: not the achievement of a solution but simply its pursuit, the challenge of trying to find an answer to a question that may not even have one.
As for the solution to the riddle at the start:
How many were going to St. Ives?
Just one, me.
- Central Theme This essay does well by having a unique central topic—riddles—which allows the author to draw out interesting ideas related to this theme. Your topic doesn't necessarily need to be profound or hugely significant, because this author shows how you can take a seemingly unimportant topic and use it to make meaningful connections. In this essay, riddles grow to represent something greater than the activity itself, which is something you can do with almost any topic.
- Concrete Examples One of the most effective ways to "show, not tell" is to use specific and tangible examples. This essay does a great job of exemplifying their ideas. Rather than just saying "I enthralled my friends with questions," the author also shows this: "Over peanut butter and sliced ham, I assumed the role of story teller..." Examples are always more convincing because they are proof, and allow the reader to interpret for themselves. Don't tell the reader what you want them to think. Instead, set up moments that guide the reader to come to those conclusions themselves.
- Contrived Conclusion This conclusion connects back to the beginning, which is generally a good idea as it creates a cohesive structure. However, this ending doesn't quite make sense in the context of the riddle. Rather than creating new meaning, it comes off as arbitrary and contrived. Make sure your conclusion isn't creative just for creative-sake, and instead also has significant meaning attached to it.
Personal Statement Example #17: Rubik's Cube
Right, Up, Right inverted, Up inverted was what went through my mind when solving the Rubik’s cube. Years of solving the Rubik’s cube allowed me to hone my skills making the puzzle almost as easy as puzzles from my childhood. I remember when I first started tackling puzzles they were very simple. Word Searches were my favorite and I could do them for hours and hours. Once, I finished a whole book of them in only a few days because I had become so infatuated with them. I slowly made my way to harder puzzles and when I was in 5th grade, my aunt introduced me to a puzzle game on the Nintendo DS called Professor Layton and The Curious Village. I would play the game nonstop trying to solve all the puzzles the game had to offer and often, I would go past my bedtime. It was then that I knew I had a love for puzzles as it challenged my mind and forced me to think differently.
My love for puzzles led me to buying a Rubik’s cube after I saw my friend solve his own. I bought my first Rubik’s cube in 7th grade and it had me perplexed . Learning how to solve a Rubik’s cube was, at the time, a tough challenge for me, as the Rubik’s cube can be mixed up to any of the 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possible combinations. In the beginning, I was unable to follow the guide that came with the first Rubik’s cube I bought, but then I searched up a tutorial on YouTube and learned by watching. Utilizing my skill of memory, I was able to remember possible patterns that the Rubik’s cube could be after each step, and I was able to perform the correct algorithm to complete the step.
After I learned how to solve a Rubik’s cube and learned that it could be solved many ways, it lead to me memorizing as many of the fifty-seven possible permutations of the third step, and all of the twenty-one permutations of the last step. I memorized the turns of each algorithm and visualized the process in my head, so I would be able to remember how to perform it. I never get tired of solving it, because there are so many combinations that every time I mix it up, there is a different solution.
My outlook of the world changed, as I realized that there is not one concrete solution to everything, but multiple solutions. Being able to see things differently, the ways I solved some problems with multiple solutions were uncommon amongst my classmates . My 10th grade math teacher had acknowledged this when he wrote a comment on my test, saying he had not thought about solving a problem the way I had solved it. At that moment, I gained a new perspective in approaching the challenges of life.
The little puzzles and obstacles that we encounter throughout our lifetime are preparation in order for us to solve the everlasting mystery of life , which is why I love all kind of puzzles. When I was younger, I faced one of these obstacles, which was the divorce of my parents. I wanted to know why my mother left and no longer lived in my house, but I was not able to understand exactly what had happened.
Puzzles became my escape as I knew that all puzzles have an answer ; they had unknowingly become a large part of my childhood as they made sense to me unlike what was going on in my life. Now I have come to see that life is a puzzle and that we must find the solution to it. Realizing that life is a puzzle in itself, I now openly accept and embrace the challenge of going through life with a new perspective, as I would any other puzzle.
Personal Statement Example #18: Narrative Diversity
I have seen 2017’s Power Rangers exactly five times in theaters, and it was the best 50 dollars I ever spent.
There is nothing extraordinary about a movie filled with gaping plotholes, inconsistent writing, and cheesy cliches: what makes Power Rangers unique is its diversity. The content we consume should properly represent our world, and Power Rangers does just that. The film’s positive representation of marginalized groups is a stepping stone for Hollywood; four out of the five rangers are people of color, one is autistic, and another is queer.
Power Rangers wasn’t the catalyst for my passion regarding diversity, but it demonstrates how eagerly I will consume anything with realistic representation. From as early as elementary school, I knew that, as an Asian girl coming home to watch the Disney Channel, there were few people who looked like me whom I could idolize. My white friends could relate to the shows’ families, yet my household customs never appeared on screen. The few Asians that did appear faded into the background, forgotten by the audience or reduced to racist caricatures.
Ironically, I never realized the harmful effects of this erasure until I discovered proper Asian representation. Believing that my race made me inferior in our white-dominant society, I unconsciously succumbed to the “reserved and quiet” Asian stereotype, purposefully shying away from the spotlight. When I finally saw Asians as protagonists, my craving for diverse media grew, and I sought to learn as much about the importance of minority representation as I could. The countless TED talks and think pieces I discovered, which described the conundrum of marginalization I had encountered, helped me come to terms with the experience, and to recognize the need for change.
Despite the contemporary push for female-driven narratives, I know that Hollywood’s fixation on “white as default” remains (Leia and Rey from Star Wars , Wonder Woman and Black Widow of DC and Marvel Comics). I know that when storylines showcasing cultures of color become popular, producers want to cast white actors for roles - even if whitewashed movies have collectively lost $500 million in revenue over the years. I know that LGBT characters of color are virtually nonexistent. I know that the problem extends beyond actors to people behind the scenes, that most scriptwriters, directors, authors, and producers are still straight white men.
As someone whose identity has historically been ignored by the media, my existence is validated by the rare but increasing presence of Asians in books, movies and TV. Seeing Asian content creators use their platforms to talk about the importance of representation and their firsthand experiences in fighting bigotry inspires me, in turn, to engage in my own brand of activism. I’ve participated in a panel about race relations following a school incident in which we discussed topics ranging from the danger of whitewashing to living life as a minority - ideas I’ve pursued more intensely in my blog. Additionally, I co-founded my school’s first multimedia magazine in the hopes of offering others a means of self-expression. I continuously challenge myself to push past society’s ideals of what I can and cannot accomplish; by using my voice, I strive to educate others while simultaneously educating myself.
With a college education , I hope to further explore the damaging psychological effects a lack of representation or, worse, erasure of representation can cause, and study ways to reverse or even prevent them. Most importantly, we must make it easier for marginalized groups to share their stories. After all, if more people start advocating for more diversity, positive representation will emerge - a recent example being Hidden Figures , whose empowering portrayal of black women was universally praised and inspired people everywhere.
My race and gender will always play a huge part in who I am. So instead of letting the media dictate how people like me are perceived, I am ready to write my own narrative.
- Embraces Their Identity If your cultural background or identity is an important part of who you are, then writing about it can make for a compelling essay. Often times in college admissions, Asian-Americans in particular are advised to "hide" their ethnic background, because it can be perceived to hurt their application. This student embraces their Asian heritage by recognizing ways in which they faced societal barriers. As this essay shows, regardless of your identity, there are unique aspects you can delve into that can make for compelling topics.
- Shows Self-Reflection This essay does a great job of reflecting upon previously held beliefs, such as "I unconsciously succumbed to the 'reserve and quiet' Asian stereotype," and challenging them. Questioning your beliefs and where they came from can often be a good starting point for interesting reflection. Showing your new perspectives over time also conveys self-growth. Ask yourself: what did I once believe (in regards to myself, an activity, other people, etc.), what do I believe now, and how has this changed?
- Incorporates Activities Naturally Rather than starting off with an activity and then reflecting upon it, this student takes a different approach. By introducing an interesting idea (the representation of underrepresented groups in media) and then later connecting to their activities, it makes the incorporation of those extracurriculars seem more appropriate and natural. The last thing you want to do is list your activities plainly, but it's still important to reference them. One strategy to naturally talk about your activities and accomplishments is to attach them to interesting ideas, as this essay shows.
Personal Statement Example #19: Search for Dreams
Common App Prompt #7: 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. (250-650 words)
I close my eyes and find myself within a forest of lights.
The diamond leaves of gnarled oak trees throw spectrums of color onto mounds of frosty snow that gleam melancholily under the moonlight. The leaves chime as wind violently rustles them in a haunting melody. I splinter a leaf off its branch and inspect the shard of my illusion, eyes dancing with amusement.
I breathe a cloud into the nipping air and halfconsciously crunch through a path of snow as it languorously carves its way through the forest. I walk to the sound of clinking, broken gems as they scratch my ankles, and wonder what circuitry must be alight in my wits to create this particular fantasy. I stumble along in hope of unravelling this enigma, my mind guiding me on its own inclination.
The path opens up at last, and I approach a cabin shrouded by thick fog. The door opens for me and I wonder at the foreboding as I sit in a cherrywood chair and sip a sparkling chartreuse drink. My feet swing idly as I listen to the forest’s indiscernible whispers, wondering whether my mind would ever allow me to unstitch its knots.
As I dwell in my worries, a cold hand reaches from behind me and taps my shoulder.
I jerk away, fear bubbling in my amygdala as I look into the nonexistent eyes of my intruding visitor.
The moon illuminates a blob of pink squish as it draws back slowly, points its spindly hands towards my drink and asks: “Could I have some of that?”
I wordlessly offer the eerie thing some Mountain Dew. I watch as it eagerly chugs the drink, and think, Ah. My mind is definitely acting strangely today.
The blob wipes its invisible mouth with its nonexistent sleeve. I ask: “What are you?”
It shakes its head, invigorated with soda. “S’pose it’s natural not to recognize me.” The thing smiles ominously and declares itself as my brain.
I stare mutely at the absurd being. I wonder at how I will be able to paint it in my waking state.
The blob tells me to stop looking at it so suspiciously. “I can prove it,” It says. I tell it, please, go ahead.
Suddenly we are back in the glowing forest. “Diamonds? Pah!” The blob dismisses them. Instantly, the leaves turn solid gold, the snow melts, and the wintry world is thrown into a blistering summer.
The blob laughs heartlessly. “Your cortex is under my control,” it says smugly.
I blink under the sudden intensity and acknowledge its greatness, humbled by its supremacy.
“I heard you had a question for me?” It taps its invisible ears knowingly.
This is perfect, I think. Here I was all this time wandering through my mind, searching for the answer, when now I could ask my brain for it directly.
The blob wriggles its invisible brows as it waits.
I open my mouth and ask it my most crucial question.
It smiles that wicked smile. It laughs that sinful laugh. Then that insufferable blob wakes me up.
As I sit up in the dark and rub my bleary eyes, I am vaguely aware of the deepset unfulfillment settling itself inside me. I yawn and plop back into bed, the soft red glow of my alarm clock indicating that it is still before midnight.
I cover myself with blanket, and drift back into sleep to continue my search.
- Creative Structure and Premise One thing is for sure about this essay: it has a unique idea that has surely not been written before. Regardless of your topic, you want your essay to be unique in some way, even if it isn't as fantastical as this essay. You can use a unique structure, such as having central symbolism, metaphor, or being structured as a recipe, for example. But this can easily become "gimmicky" if it doesn't have a clear purpose. In general, the most effective way to have a unique essay is to focus on having deep and unique ideas and reflections. By focusing on interesting takeaways and connections that are ultra-specific to you and your experiences, your essay will standout regardless of the structure.
- Unnecessary And Long Descriptions This essay uses a lot of fiction-like writing that is fantastical and "flowery." Although moments of this kind of writing can make your essay more vivid, it is quite easy to end up with dense storytelling and descriptions that ultimately don't share anything interesting about you. The purpose of your essay is ultimately to learn about you: your values, your ideas, your identity, etc. By using dense story-like writing, it can be easy to lose focus of what admissions officers are looking for. In general, avoid writing "fancy" stories like this essay, unless you have a clear and distinct purpose for doing so. Everything in your essay should have a purpose in "going somewhere" (i.e. reaching interesting ideas and takeaways).
- Lacks Meaningful Reflections This essay is definitely creative, but lacks meaningful takeaways and ideas. By the end of the essay, we don't know much about the author besides the fact that they have an affinity for creative writing and are "on a search." Although the content is unique, the end result comes off as quite generic and surface-level because no interesting thoughts are explored deeply. The most interesting part of this essay is "I open my mouth and ask it my most crucial question," but this is super unsatisfying because the question is never divulged. Instead, the reader is teased by this fantasy story and the essay goes nowhere meaningful, which comes off as gimmicky and "creative for creative's sake," rather than deeply personal and interesting.
- Weak Conclusion This essay ends on the idea of "continuing my search," but for what exactly? It is never explained, elaborated, or even implied (besides one reference to painting earlier). That makes this conclusion comes off as somewhat surface-level and uninteresting. Admissions officers won't care about "your search" unless they have a reason to care. That is, unless it tells something specific about you. On it's own, this idea of "exploring" and "searching" is meaningless because it is too broad and unelaborated.
Personal Statement Example #20: Recipe for Success
Step 1: Collect the ingredients
On the Saturday before Chinese New Year , the kitchen counter is cleared of its usual cluttering of letters, cups, flowers, and brochures and replaced with flour, soy sauce, meat, celery, and spices. These are the telltale signs of dumpling making.
Step 2: Marinate the meat
The filling of the dumpling includes a mixture of different ingredients. I learned the importance of balance when I was in 7th grade. I had just transferred from a sixteen person private school to an 800 person public one, going from a school that was about 50% Asian to about 1%. I struggled with my identity, hiding my Chinese culture under a mask of normality. However, in my world history class, we started learning how each culture brings a particular perspective to the world. As I studied numerous different cultures, I slowly learned how to live as a daughter of Chinese immigrants and as an American citizen. I used my unique perspective, living at the edge of both cultures, to share my Chinese heritage with my peers. I opened myself to leading a balanced life—neither fully Chinese or American, but a little bit of both. Like the filling of a dumpling, balance is important in a fruitful life.
Step 3: Wrap the dumplings
The wrapper of the dumpling is the part that the world sees, but it is also the way a person sees the world. I have been privileged enough to travel around the globe, meeting people and learning about their cultures. I also have seen death and pain, and I recognize that they plague this world. When I traveled to New Mexico, I got to work with the Navajo and learn about their stories. I had the opportunity to talk to a lady in her late sixties. She had lost her son to a heart attack and her nephew to suicide a few months prior. Despite her struggles, she looked for the small blessings in life and remained hopeful. Her attitude encouraged me to do the same and look to the bright side of situations. Travel and knowledge have fueled a desire to help others around me. The wrapper of the dumpling is like the lenses someone wears when observing his surroundings. I have chosen to see others in a positive light.
Step 4: Boil or pan-fry?
Dumplings, like many Asian dishes, can be served different ways. The heated water necessary for boiling and the searing oil needed for frying represent the many different trials a person passes through. During my freshman year of high school, one of my closest friends started to shun me. I would pass every hurtful comment off as her response to puberty. I struggled alone for a long time, too ashamed of my weakness to cry for help. Cutting ties with her was hard; we had shared so many happy memories. The ordeal left me guarded. However, through taekwondo, I found my voice in teaching others, training them to respect and mentoring them through emotional trials that I could relate to. I also found strength in sharing my struggles, learning that weakness can be catalyzed into strength. Every trial and every triumph leave marks just like oil leaves a brownish burn on the dumplings and water leaves wrinkles.
Step 5: Share and enjoy!
Every dumpling is unique and so is every person. I am a dumpling that is still in the making. My experiences have added to my filling, fostering a heart for service and a mind open to new possibilities. They have shaped my wrapper, adjusting the lenses through which I see the world. My journey continues as I look down a new road, one that forks and turns with every decision. While the unknown may lead to fear, my previous struggles with balance and transition have taught me to embrace new challenges and allow them to shape me into a better, more flavorful dumpling.
- Unique Structure This essay has a clearly unique format in that it is structured as a dumpling recipe. By walking the reader through each step of dumpling-making, the student is able to explore various ideas and use the dumpling process as a metaphor for their own self-discovery. Having a creative structure like this can be beneficial, so long as you also have compelling ideas and the structure isn't unique just for the sake of being unique.
- Compelling Metaphors This whole essay is one big metaphor: the student compares their self-growth to the process of making dumplings. In doing so, the student introduces their heritage, while also having a creative literary device that they can use to explore various topics. By having a "central theme" such as this essay does, it makes it easier to explore a variety of ideas and activities, without seeming like you're listing them.
- Shows Vulnerability and Challenges Struggles are one of the most defining aspects of self-development, and admissions officers are interested to see how you have overcome challenges. These difficulties don't need to be extreme tragedies or insurmountable obstacles, but everyone has faced difficulties. By reflecting upon those difficulties, you can draw out interesting ideas, showcase vulnerability, and express your personality.
With these 20 Personal Statement examples, you can get inspired and improve your own essays. If you want to get accepted into selective colleges this year, your essays need to make you stand out.
These 20 examples show how real students got into highly selective schools and teach us several lessons for writing your own successful Personal Statement essay:
- Write a compelling first sentence that grabs the reader
- Be specific and reference things by name
- Tell a meaningful story
- Reflect on your life and identity. Be self-aware.
If you enjoyed these personal statement examples, check out some of our top Common App Essays , which are also personal statements essays, but for the Common Application.
You May Also Like:
Ultimate List of College Essay Examples (2023)
25 Elite Common App Essays That Worked (And Why) for 2022
12 Best Stanford Supplemental Essays That Worked 2023
12 UNC Chapel Hill Essays That Worked (2023)
Leave a reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
© 2018- 2023 Essays That Worked. All rights reserved.
Personal statements for university.
by Amber Rolfe
Applying for university can be a stressful time…
Not only do you have to decide on a subject you want to spend three years of your life doing, you also have to be one of the chosen few to make it onto your number one choice of course and university.
To make sure you’re selling yourself effectively, here’s everything you need to know about writing your personal statement for university, and a personal statement example to help you get started:
What is a personal statement for university?
A personal statement for university is a key part of the UCAS application process.
It involves writing about your skills, experience, and ambitions – in order to persuade your chosen university that you’re a suitable applicant for their course.
Essentially, it shows how your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and other relevant experience has made you interested in taking the course.
How long should a personal statement for university be?
Although it’s similar to a personal statement for your CV , personal statements for university are slightly longer and more detailed.
According to UCAS, a personal statement should be no more than 4000 characters .
How should I structure my personal statement for university?
Unlike a CV, it’s important to structure your personal statement in clear paragraphs (usually around three or four) – rather than one block of text.
Although you won’t need to follow a set structure, here’s a rough guideline of how you could order your personal statement for university:
- Reasons for wanting to study
- Why you’re suitable
- How your current study is relevant
- Your related hobbies and interests
- Your skills and achievements
When do I need to submit my personal statement for university?
Your personal statement should be submitted along with the rest of your application by the deadline given by UCAS.
This will vary depending on your course and university choice, but most are expected to be sent off by the 15th January on the year you’re looking to start – with some art and design courses extending a later deadline (24 th March).
However, courses at Oxford or Cambridge (along with courses in medicine, dentistry, veterinary or science) will require students to submit their applications earlier – by the 15 th of October (the year before your course starts).
Any applications submitted after the 30 th of June will go into clearing .
UCAS clearing: How does it work?
How to write a personal statement for university
Writing a good personal statement is vital if you want to be accepted into your chosen course.
And although there aren’t any set rules on how to write one, there are a few things you should always cover. Not only will this ensure you’re selling yourself effectively, it’ll also demonstrate your passion and enthusiasm about the course you’re applying for.
Here’s a guideline of what you should include:
- Reasons for wanting to study. First things first, you need to explain why you’re interested in the course. This involves being specific, whilst demonstrating enthusiasm. Talk about what you like about the subject, how your interest developed, and how it would help you towards achieving your long-term career goals.
- Why you’re suitable. Not only do you have to want to do the course, you also have to fit the criteria. This means that explaining why your skills and experience are relevant is vital. To really impress, always ensure you’ve done your research and are aware of what the course involves. That way, you can be more specific about how you match up.
- How your current study is relevant. Even if the subjects you’ve studied in the past aren’t exactly the same as your chosen university course, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t taught you the skills needed to progress into a different field. Make the most of these in your personal statement.
- Your related hobbies and interests. Hobbies are a great way to show that you’re a well-rounded person. Possible examples could be anything from clubs and societies, to summer schools, online courses, or even just museum/gallery/theatre visits. Any wider reading and/or research around your chosen subject could also be mentioned here.
- Your skills and achievements. Admissions tutors aren’t only interested in you telling them your most impressive (and relevant) skills and achievements, they also want to how you got them. This means that providing examples is essential – whether it’s referring to how you developed your communication skills in group projects, or how you worked in a team.
- Your work experience. Whether its full or part-time work, temporary placements, or internships – work experience teaches you a range of practical skills. Discuss the roles that are most relevant to your course and explain how studying at university would help you get the career you want.
How can I make my personal statement stand out?
With university places in high competition, your personal statement gives you the perfect opportunity to key to stand out.
So how can you do it right? Here are a few tips:
Make it relevant – remember: there’s a character limit. Don’t waste space on details that have no relevance to your chosen course and career path.
Show how you’re unique – through your own examples, independent research, and personality.
Present a good balance of academic and extra-curricular credentials – but don’t feel like you have to include hobbies if you don’t have any.
Make it engaging (whilst avoiding clichés) – lines like ‘I was born to be a dancer’ are definitely not unique, and generic clichés like this might risk mildly irritating the admissions tutor.
Think outside the box – let’s face it, no one wants to read through thousands of English students talk about how Shakespeare opened their eyes to poetry. Avoid the obvious, and think laterally.
Personal statement for university example
I’m applying to do a degree in English language because the modules involved will help me to expand on what I’ve learnt in school and college, and eventually start a career in writing. As an active blogger with an interest in entering a career in the media, I was particularly attracted to the module, language in the media – as well as language, society and power.
I’ve always been interested in reading, writing, and analysing language. Whether it’s listening to different dialects and colloquialisms, understanding the ways adverts use words to sell a product, or even just reading a book – language has many uses.
As a hardworking student with an ability to meet deadlines and produce work to a high standard, I think I would be able to put my skills to good use in this course. As I have a proficiency in language and a keen interest in learning more, this course would be a perfect fit.
Having studied English Language at A level and GCSE, I have built a strong knowledge base around it. As demonstrated in my most recent assignments covering language development and language change over time, I’ve gained an active interest in understanding words and meaning on a new level.
I’m an active fashion blogger and have my own website, where I post articles weekly – whether it’s reviewing new products or just talking about my life. I also helped out in writing a monthly newsletter at school, where I used my writing skills to keep students up-to-date with news and events.
My ability to work well in a team has been demonstrated in a number of group projects. Not only did I develop my communication and skills, I also learnt how to negotiate and juggle tasks. I’m also particularly proud of my creative writing ability, which has been shown and expanded on throughout a number of essays and assignments (as well as my own blog). I’m also extremely organised, with a high attention to detail.
View all available university courses
Should I go to university?
Looking for more advice? View all personal statement examples now.
Sign up for more Career Advice
Please enter a valid email address
4 ways the Reed.co.uk LGBTQ+ inclusion group supports our co-members
Top companies hiring March 2023
The top courses to help you get hired March 2023
Work experience courses: How to get started
Workplace words glossary: A dictionary of the most used slang words in the workplace
Top companies hiring February 2023
Your personal skills and achievements · Be bold and talk about the achievements you're proud of. · Include positions of responsibility you hold, or have held
Physically and mentally, I've changed a lot since freshman year, growing 11 inches and gaining newfound confidence in myself and my abilities.
Being a composed, explicit person, I enjoy the challenge of questions with unequivocal answers. My character's orderly side draws me enthusiastically towards
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
Essentially, the personal statement is an essay that allows the admissions reader to learn more about you as a person. This means that they
What is a university personal statement? ... This is your opportunity to tell course tutors in your own words the reasons why you feel you'd be an asset to their
Touch on your career aspirations – where do you want this course to take you? Next, show your enthusiasm for your current studies. Cite some specific examples
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
The purpose of your personal statement is to express yourself and your ideas. Personal statements usually aren't piece of formal writing, but
How to write a personal statement for university · Reasons for wanting to study. First things first, you need to explain why you're interested in the course.