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Sample Personal Statements

 

The following are samples of personal statements written by students who won a scholarship or were admitted to competitive college programs. When reading these samples, bear in mind that your personal statement should reflect your own background, education and career goals and special circumstances. It is not necessary or desirable to duplicate the tone or style of any of the samples presented here.

Your personal statement should say what your resume does not. Do not confuse a personal statement with a college admissions essay. The two are different. A personal statement is a reflection of your goals, background, and accomplishments whereas a college admission essay is a narrative replying to a specific prompt. 

 

The Personal Statement

 

Through a personal statement, you introduce yourself to the university; it reflects your personality and intellect. It is important that you read each question carefully and make every effort to understand and respond to it with well-considered responses and in a persuasive enough manner to hold the reader’s interest.

1. Understand and Explain Yourself 
One of the main problems when writing is that applicants fail to take a thorough and analytical look at themselves and their objectives. Admission committee members are looking for interesting, insightful, revealing, and non-generic essays that suggest you have successfully gone through a process of careful reflection and self-examination.

2. Set Yourself Apart 

Remember that committees are looking for something PERSONAL and ANALYTICAL in the personal statement. This means sharing information you rarely share with others and assessing your life more critically than you might usually be used to. This approach is key to a successful personal statement. Your goal is to share with the selection committee any reasons why you should be selected over other candidates. Remember, you want to think of yourself as a product that they will want to buy. How are you going to make yourself stand out among all of the other “products” out there?

Exercise: In order to begin writing your personal statement – your story—you’ll need to answer some basic questions to prepare yourself. Choose at least FIVE of the questions and write 5-7 sentences in response. This can be hard! But, at this point, don’t think of this as an essay. Think of this as “dumping your brain.” Just get all ideas out onto the paper.

Questions:

  • What is special, unique, distinctive, or impressive about you or your life story? What details of your life (personal or family problems/ history, any genuinely notable accomplishments, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
  • When did you originally become interested in a particular area of study (pick one that you might be interested in pursuing as a career) and what have you since learned about it—and about yourself—that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? This does not mean that you should write, “Why I want to be a lawyer.” Instead, tell what insights you have gained from certain experiences, such as coursework, volunteer work, etc., that reinforce your goals to pursue a career in this field.
  • How have you learned about this field—through classes, research, readings, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
  • What leadership opportunities have you pursued and how has your leadership work contributed to your personal growth?
  • What are your career goals beyond college?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (poor grades, or lack of participation in extra-curricular activities, etc.)?
  • Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (e.g., economic, familial, physical) in your life?
  • What personal characteristic (integrity, compassion, persistence, for example) do you possess that would enhance your ability to excel in college? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
  • What skills (leadership, communicative, analytical, for example) do you possess? How did you learn/gain these skills?
  • Why might you be a stronger candidate for this scholarship/college—and more successful and effective—than other applicants?
  • What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?

Tell a Story 
Be truthful and stick to the facts; yet, think of your personal statement in the terms of writing a story. You want to write something that is fresh, lively, and different, to put yourself ahead of the other applicants. A personal statement MUST be MEMORABLE. One of the worst things you can do with your personal statement is to bore the admissions committee, yet that is exactly what most applicants do. Review your life very carefully (get help from family or friends if necessary) for facets or experiences that reveal an unusual dimension related to your professional goals or that could serve as evidence of your suitability for being a lawyer.

Find an Angle 
If you are like most people, your life story might well lack significant drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle is vital. Brainstorm for ideas that emphasize your exceptional qualities, goals, past performances.

Concentrate on Your Opening Paragraph 
Keep in mind when composing your statement that the lead or OPENING PARAGRAPH IS generally the MOST IMPORTANT. Here you either GRAB the readers attention or lose it. If you are telling a story you will use this first paragraph to introduce the elements most relevant to that story—and the ones that will hold greatest interest for the reader.

Tell Who You Are 
The committee needs to get a sense of who you are, what makes you tick, and how you are different from other applicants. They should be interested in you, eager to hear more, impressed that
what you are saying to them is not what they have read a thousand times before.

Sometimes a personal statement can be perfectly well written in terms of language and grammar, but disastrous in lacking punch or impact and in being totally off the mark concerning what it chooses to present about the applicant. Remember, what is most important about your personal statement is what you say and how you say it! Be selective about what you tell the admissions committee.

What you choose to say in your statement is, again, very much a reflection of you, because it shows the committee what your priorities are, what you consider to be important. The personal statement is often an indication, too, of your judgment, so be careful and give a great deal of thought to what you write. Think about yourself, your background, and your experiences and abilities to develop a strategy.

 

 

by Elizabeth Archuleta

 

Personal Statement Advice

 

Dos and Don'ts

Personal Statement Dos and Don'ts

 

DO

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Include brief descriptions of your specific achievements.

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Give credit to people or books or whatever has inspired you.  Mention the early influences that led you to your goal, if they are interesting or unusual. Remember, to keep the focus on you.

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Give readers a taste of your daily life to make a point about yourself (multiple responsibilities, busy schedule, financial hardship, etc.)

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Rely on your Letters of Recommendation to supply praise and superlatives.

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Identify your long range goals.

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Find out as much as possible about your chosen field and explore the merits of particular careers before you write your personal statement.

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Acknowledge the support you have received from CCSF, including counselors, faculty, departments, classes, clubs, etc.

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Make your opening paragraph as individual as you are! Spend time crafting your first sentence, and each sentence, until you are satisfied with the message and the style.

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Make your personal statement easy to read.

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Consider format, fonts, margins and line spacing carefully. Ask you friends, tutors and teachers about their preferences.

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Show that you have taken time in writing your personal statement.

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USE Spellcheck and proofread your statement for missing words, typos and repeated words.

 

DON'T

 

Don't simply list the honors, awards or achievements that you included on your application.

 

Don't include long narrative passages or take up too much space describing other people.

 

Don't include details of your daily life that are common to many students at CCSF.

 

Don't compliment yourself with praise that makes you seem immodest.  Let your readers decide whether you " have and excellent GPA" or "are extremely diligent."

 

Don't make too many detailed promises about what you intend to do (volunteering, initiating special projects).

 

Don't promise to figure out your career options at some point in the future.

 

Don't spend too much time discussing what other people have done for you. Keep the bulk of your personal statement focused on what you have done.

 

Don't begin with: "Hello, my name is ..."

 

Don't use fonts that are too small or elaborate. Don't use bold, capitals or underlining to emphasize key points.

 

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