Personal Statement/College Essay
Read the following information about personal statements.
What is the point of this? Many scholarships and applications to post-secondary schools will ask for a
personal statement or college essay. What you write in this class can serve as a starting point for these
things. Your personal statement is a requirement for your senior portfolio. I know that some of you will
not need to write a personal statement because you plan to go directly into the workforce. I still require
everyone to write this because it can serve as a good reflection/planning tool.
If you plan to apply to a university or technical school, access the institution’s website, find the
application for admission, and see what it asks the applicant to submit. Tailor this writing assignment to
fit your specific plans! You may see the terms “college essay” or “personal statement” used on
applications. I also recommend that you do some additional reading if you are attending an institution or
applying for a scholarship that asks for any type of essay. Here is an excellent source (specifically parts
1 and 4): http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/printable/642/
Use the pre-writing you completed to help guide your writing.
WHY WRITE A FIRST-RATE PERSONAL STATEMENT?
Colleges receive thousands of applications from qualified high-school seniors seeking
admission. How do schools distinguish among all of these bright students who have
nearly identical grades, scores, extra-curricular activities and teacher
recommendations? The answer is, the personal statement essay.
Because so many applications are being read, your statement needs to stand out - make
the readers want to know you personally.
WHAT ARE COLLEGES LOOKING FOR?
Colleges are looking for creativeness, intellectualness, genuineness, and a passion about
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE A TOPIC?
The deeper question in a personal statement is "Who are you?" Choose a topic that
divulges something important about you and then explain that importance.
EXAMPLES OF PERSONAL STATEMENT QUESTIONS:
Evaluate a significant experience or achievement that has special meaning to you.
Topics - an experience as a camp counselor, receiving an award, a negative situation that
turned out positive
Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you and describe that influence.
Topics - a teacher in the area you are concentrating on in college, a counselor, a friend
with a disability or eccentricity
Describe the qualities and accomplishments you would bring to the undergraduate
Topics - event that shows your perseverance, curiosity, compassion, ability to mediate,
COMPLETING THE STATEMENT:
You need a beginning, middle, and end:
• The beginning familiarizes the topic for the reader and gives direction.
• The middle gives details, develops, and proves your topic.
• The ending reminds the reader where you begin; use an unpredictable conclusion - not
exactly like the introduction.
• All three sections need to be consistent; stay on track.
TIPS ON WRITING:
• Be specific and concrete
• Use details that appeal to the senses - create a vivid image
• Be positive - not negative.
THE DO'S AND DON'Ts
DO: *Make a photocopy of the final for your
*Use a photocopy of the application as a
rough draft DON'T:
*Read the question asked carefully
*Comply with work/space requirements - *Cross out, write over, or use white out
they are used to tell you how in depth *Use pencil
you should be *List activities and their dates
*If a choice is given - shorter is better *Use a large subject
*Express emotions within limits - *Use gimmicks or try to be cute
especially when referring to *Do a humorous essay unless you are
contradictory emotions positive that others will see it as
*Authentically tell: humorous
What you realized *Use clichés
How it changed you *Continue to repeat ideas
What it meant to you *Use passive voice
Why you find it a worthwhile topic *Say, "I felt," "I noticed," etc…
*Use a thesaurus *Whine, complain, be sarcastic, etc…
*Vary sentence length and structure
*Chose one event - not an entire trip
*Proofread and have others edit for
*Watch spelling, grammar, punctuation
Following are some sample personal statements. These are the guidelines
these people were given for writing their personal statements. This is just an
example. You may have different guidelines for each school and scholarship
you apply to:
1. Please write about what is important to you, your educational and
career goals, and the ways in which they are reflected in your
accomplishments. Specifically give information about yourself, your
family and background, current activities, interests, employment,
educational achievements, special needs, and financial circumstances.
2. Write about your plans for the future. Discuss your interest in your
intended major, explain how your interest in the field developed and
describe any related work or volunteer experience. Include
information about the steps you are taking to reach your goals.
Personal Statement Sample #2
Early in my high school years I discovered a personal truth, that I have no limitations other than those I
choose to impose upon myself. Everyone brings to the world unique talents, gifts, and abilities, and
some of mine include my strong will and my determination to be able to give something back to the
communities in which I was raised. My plans are to not only use education as a tool to prepare me for a
vocation, but also to help me become a self-sufficient individual who is fully prepared for life.
No one is exempt from turmoil during their lives, and I can honestly say that I am thankful for the
adversities and challenges which have crossed my path because they have strengthened my character
and brought forth certain virtues I might otherwise never have known. There are various personal issues
with which I have struggled and I have no doubt as to where their foundations lie. Because my parents
divorced when I was two, I did not grow up with a secure sense of home. I was juggled around between
different family members, each taking part in raising me with their own set of standards and values. I
had different customs at each home and had to learn how to be "politically correct" according to who I
was with. For example, with my father's family, I went to a Catholic church and studied the New
Testament and, while with my mother's family, who is Jewish, I attended synagogue, studied the Torah
and learned to pray in Hebrew.
One of the greatest challenges I have faced was growing up multi-ethnic in a bilingual and multi-cultural
environment. Even though the society in which I live insists on categorizing me into one racial category,
I consider myself to be multi-ethnic. My mother's ethnic make-up is French, Polish and Ukranian and
my father's is Brazilian, Native American (Fulni-o), and African. Some of the conflicts that I dealt with
while growing up concerned issues surrounding physical appearance, self-esteem, and questions such as
"where do I fit in?" and "to whom do I belong?" Fortunately, I have since learned that being part of more
than one ethnic group is anadvantage, not a detriment, and I am proud to claim and take part in my
diverse heritage. Everyone and everything in my past has been my teacher, and I feel that my history has
inevitably led me to my major field of study, Ethnic Studies, about which I am immensely passionate. It
has been a wonderful rite of passage for me to learn to accept all the parts of myself.
I am currently involved in various community activities and am particularly proud of my involvement
with the Shanti Project, a San Francisco based organization dedicated to helping people who are HIV
positive. I also devote a great deal of my time to music, a tremendously important part of my life. In
addition to performing at local fund raisers, I spend time practicing and recording. I have on occasion
found myself challenged to the maximum of my capabilities because of my high academic standards, my
volunteer work, my music, and my part-time jobs. But my strong belief that I have no limitations and
my will to succeed has kept me going.
One cannot always choose the circumstances one is dealt, but one does have the choice as to how one
chooses to deal with them. Some of my goals include developing my spirituality, working with children
to help them maintain their sense of self by possibly teaching or counseling, and graduing from
university. I would like the opportunity to be able to pass along the information I have learned, that no
one person other than oneself can keep one from achieving one's goals and that everyone has the
potential to share with the world their unique talents, gifts, and abilities. While one may find motivation
in one's hopes for the future, one must not devalue the steps one takes to get there, because it is through
one's past joys and hardships that one comes to be who one is in the future. As Ursula le Guin so aptly
stated, "I is good to have an end to journey towards, but is the journey that matters in the end."
Personal Statement Sample #1
I have always dreamed of becoming an artist.
Art is my passion;
Art is my companion;
Art is my soul.
I am surrounded by art work in my home: ceramics, paintings, calligraphy, photography, and graphic
designs that I have created with pencil, pen, charcoal, clay, and brushes.
I was just four years old when my mother taught me how to paint. Rather than having me play with dolls
and toys, she encouraged me to copy her drawings and to paint my own pictures. Year after year she
insisted that I continue to draw. Consequently, I drew thousands of pictures when still a child. I sketched
eggs, fruits, vegetables, furniture and gypsum sculptures, even human figures. Other children would beg
their parents to take them to places of amusement; I would beg my parents to take me to art museums.
I had a lonely childhood; my parents were often called out of town and could not spend as much time
iwth me as they would have liked. My consolation was my art. Even before I could write, I was drawing
pictures for my mother and father, indicating that I loved them and missed them, sending them pictures
in place of letters. My parents saved these pictures for many years, and recently my father informed me
that the love I showed during those trying times was a strong motivation to help my parents survive the
catastrophe of Chinese Cultural Revaluation.
When I was in the third grade, my art teacher considered me to be more advanced than many other
students and suggested that I design and paint pictures for the school bulletin board, so other students
could have the opportunity to view my drawings. Every Friday afternoon, I would stand on a desk and
facing that 18-foot-long bulletin board (I was not tall enough to reach the top of the board), sketching,
drawing, painting and writing calligraphy. Year by year, I was given the chance to create and share my
colorful world with others; it became my greatest pleasure. I now had a goal: to become the best
designer the world has ever known.
I continued to design and paint school bulletin boards throughout my middle and high school years,
winning many awards for my drawings, Chinese brush paintings and calligraphy. However, my parents
did not want me to become an artist. They would rather I become a business person or scientist because
in China, art is used for political propaganda; they didn't want me to get involved in Chinese politics. I
acceded to their wishes, working for foreign business companies after graduating from high school.
In July of 1993, I immigrated to the United States, and from then until December, 1994, I struggled
through the most difficult period of my life, surviving one traumatic experience after another: domestic
abuse, hiding from a violent ex-husband, divorce, a serious illness and major surgery. Without question,
some of those experiences have strengthened me. In spite of this, nothing could extinguish my dream.
Art was the candlelight that illuminated those dark shadowy days. I went to work in a fishing tackle
store, using my spare time to visit museums and practice sketching and drawing. My love for art
overcome those anxioius and otherwise gloomy times.
Not long time ago, I acquired a part-time position as a professional painter, tooling and painting Disney
figures on ceramics. Now I am more certain than ever before that my art is my life. I cannot live without
In January of 1995, at the age of 28, after having been out of school for nearly five years, I went to
college to pursue a higher education. I studied diligently throughout the week, weekends, and holidays. I
took 19 units, so I could complete my General Education requirement in three semesters. With a 3.9
GPA, I achieved my AA degree with the highest honor of City College of San Francisco. During the
graduation ceremony, I wept tears of joy.
During the summer of 1996, I used all my savings to take a trip on Amtrak, primarily to visit art
museums. I didn't see many of the other sights in the cities I visited by spent nearly all my time at the
Boston Fine Arts Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the National Gallery of
Art at the Smithsonian complex in Washington D.C., the Chicago Art Institute and the William Rockhill
Nelson Gallery of Art in Kansas City, MO. I also enjoyed the many fine paintings gracing the walls at
the White House in Washington when on a special tour. I was absolutely captivated by the collections in
these wonderful museums and would often spend the entire day in one building. While visiting the
Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., I fortuitously came upon a series of 3-D computer
animation and graphic design, playing a a TV set. I was enthralled by this utilization of modern
technology in art and stood there watching it over and over again, mesmerized and spellbound.
Because of this and other experiences, I feel an irresistible impulse to challenge myself once more, to
acquire knowledge of art with respect to the application of advanced scientific technology. I have
decided to use the gifts that God has given me in this challenging field. I wish to attend the University of
California because of its prestige and long history of teaching art courses, but perhaps more importantly,
I wish to be exposed to the outstanding faculty. Indubitably, their help will be a significant factor in my
achieving my educational goal, that of becoming an artist.
With the help of Scholarship funds, I will be able to add more art supplies to aid my daily practice.
Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and QuarkXpress are the three computer graphic design softwares
that I dream to have, however, I am not able to afford. With some help, I wish I can purchase these
software and use them on making better brochures and flier designs for the departments of CCSF.
During the vicissitudes of life, my art is always with me. I shall go anywhere art leads me. With it, I am
living my life to the fullest, happy and content. Without it, I am nothing.
Personal Statement Sample #3
Search for Enlightenment: A Personal Statement
So, I've decided to become a lawyer. After twenty years of preservation, history, activism and
scholarship, it's what's left to do. So begins a six-year expedition. First, let's see how we arrived at this
place; where we've been, where we're going, and, perhaps, What do we hope to find there?
Preservation runs in my family. When my grandfather, a hillbilly from the Virginia mountains, returned
from W.W.I., he settled in Arlington County, near Washington, DC, and started a tree-care business.
Forman and Biller Tree Expert Company, now more than 75 years old, would soon become the company
of choice for Washington's millionaires. They would entrust to my grandfather, and then my father, their
precious oaks, maples and other aged shade trees, even through the Great Depression. In time, the
"ladies" at Mount Vernon, George Washington's homestead, would recruit my grandfather to help
restore the mansion and grounds of that historic plantation. In the next generation, Jacqueline Kennedy
would bring Forman and Biller to the White House to restore that historic landscaping on Pennsylvania
Avenue. What began with two-man saws and teams of horses would be finished by high-tech chainsaws,
hydraulic cranes, and even more modern technologies. But in 1959, when I was born, preservation had
become a family legacy, one which I would inherit. Little did I know how complex and challenging the
pursuit would become as times changed and preservation became not just an aspiration, a personal
struggle, but a career.
First came reading. Boy, did I read. Biographies, fiction, non-fiction; I ripped through my elementary
school library, moving on to the public library by age 10, and tearing through those stacks, too. By age
15, the stacks of George Washington University became my home-away-from-home. There was, of
course, all the boy-stuff: camping, Eagle Scout, sailing at the beach house my family owned in the
1970s. I built a racing boat when I was 16, with plans from Popular Science. Having a fully-equipped
workshop was a big advantage. I could build almost anything. When I got older, I realized the value of a
When I reached high school, there was trouble at home. My parents separated. I went off to college in
Richmond, Virginia, and did as well as one might expect: terribly. I had been accepted at Cornell
University, but with the divorce and lawyers and settlement financing, Cornell did not happen. I did
manage to hook up with a rock n' roll band, though. It didn't help much with college, but ina few short
years the technical skills I learned would help me land a job at the venerable Smithsonian Institution.
You never know where things will take you.
From 1981 to 1987, I served the Smithsonian as an audio-visual specialist. I worked hundreds and
hundreds of shows, met luminaries such as the artist Christo, VIP's such as Jimmy Carter and George
Schultz, and spent many an early morning listening in on top-secret Wilson Center breakfasts with the
Trilateral Commission, as they laid out their plans to usurp Communism. The pay was good; the
education was unparalleled. Even at Ivy League institutions, I could never learn such things. But in
1987, after nearly 30 years in the DC area, I heeded the call to "Go West, Young Man." California
would become home; San Francisco my new port of call. In California, my history and future would
I wasted no time catching up on California history. Soon after arriving, I began a local history library,
which now contains 5,000 books and some 25,000 periodicals; it will all go to U.C. Berkeley's esteemed
Bancroft Library, soon. I became involved in local preservation efforts. A friend and I began archiving
400,000 historic SF blueprints at U.C. Berkeley, a project still in its infancy. By 1991, I was publishing
books and newsletters and tackling one preservation/education effort after another. And in 1994, upon
discovering that the deYoung Museum had given away a 12th Century monastery received from
William Randolph Hearst in 1941, an illegal gift to 27 aging monks 200 miles north of the city, my local
career in activism began. Although we have not yet returned the two-million pounds of hand-carved
limestone home, we did manage to see published a national article on the controversy in a major New
York-based publication, Metropolis Magazine. And before that event had transpired, another major
controversy arose. The ongoing desecration of the San Francisco Public Library was discovered.
Books are being written about the "San Francisco Public Library Revolt." Thanks to the work of myself
and others, the plight at SFPL reached millions of Americans via newspapers, television and magazine
accounts. Along with my colleagues, we created, and pushed ahead, the most comprehensive library
media campaign in American history. Corporate profieteers were running amuck in that noble
institution. Through our massive political/media efforts, the henchmen were repelled. Today, thanks to
our work, a million books and periodicals have been saved from destruction and the library is being
slowly restored. If you'd asked me five years ago if I could predict this, I would have questioned your
sanity. After all, nobody would trash a great library with SFPL, now would they?
So here I am. I learned from the SFPL and monastery projects that political and media skills are not
enough. One needs the law. So, with every other tool in my toolbox, these last assets, a law degree and
bar certificate, would make my workshop complete. So I returned to City College, to begin that
expedition. As a matter of fact, I may attend Cornell after all. But not as an undergrad; as a law student,
this time. Life has a way of taking us backwards to the future.
In the classic Hollywood film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones' greatest discovery, the Ark of the
Covenant, is unearthed and as suddenly returned to the sacred tomb of history. The modern-day
buccaneer turns to his father, Indiana Jones, Sr., and asks incredulously, with everything seemingly lost,
"What was it all for?" The wizened senior laughs, and beaming, answers: Enlightenment!
That is, after all, what we seek through our work, our education and our worldly aspirations. From City
College to Cornell University, the trail of discovery beckons. Nothing can be sure. Enlightenment, after
all, is not an end, but a path.