personal statement example for college

How to Write a Personal Statement for College (15+ Examples)

Student writing

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 12/8/23

Are you struggling to write your college personal statement? You’re in luck! Read on for a complete guide on how to write a strong personal statement.

Writing a personal statement can feel daunting. Many students struggle to frame themselves how they want to — and we get it! It’s not always easy to talk about yourself. With that said, how do you write a compelling personal statement?

We’ll review how to write the perfect personal statement, from what colleges look for to what a successful personal statement example looks like. If you still have questions by the end, you can always set up a free consultation with one of our admissions experts to kickstart your college application. 

Let’s get started!

What is a Personal Statement?

A personal statement is a college admissions essay. A personal statement shares information beyond what admissions committees have already seen in your other application materials (transcripts, resume, etc.). 

This is your chance to show colleges your personality, strengths, and what matters most to you. Generally speaking, there are two types of personal statements:

A general personal statement is an open-ended essay with very few constraints, sometimes with no prompt or word count. While this type of personal statement allows you to write about whatever you want, it should tell admissions committees about you. General or open-ended personal statements are common in med or law school applications.

A response personal statement is an essay answering a specific question and is more common for college applications. These questions guide your writing but are geared toward getting to know you. For example, you may be asked, “What matters most to you, and why?” or “How have your life experiences led you to your current interests or goals?” 

Think about a story, moment, or lifestyle change that has shaped who you are today or influenced your educational and career goals. These experiences often make great personal statement topics! 

Female student smiling while working on computer

Why Do Colleges Ask for a Personal Statement?

Colleges ask for personal statements to evaluate students apart from their stats. When admissions committees read your essay, they’ll already know your grades, achievements, awards, and qualifications. Essays humanize candidates, allowing them to express themselves and their passions. 

Your personal statement can give you a competitive edge against other candidates if it stands out. When brainstorming topics, consider the unique experiences you’ve had that have shaped who you are. 

What to Include in a Personal Statement for College

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Before getting started, include all the necessary information you want admissions committees to know. Your personal statement could answer some or all of the following questions:

  • What is something unique in your life that has shaped you into who you are today? (Consider your culture, heritage, hometown, health, family traditions, hobbies, etc.)
  • What event first sparked your interest in your chosen field? 
  • What have you learned about your interest area so far, and what more do you hope to learn during college? (It’s a good idea to do school research to best answer this question.)
  • Have you experienced any unique challenges in your life? If so, how have you overcome them? 
  • How do you specifically intend to contribute to your field in the future? (What are your goals, and how will you achieve them?)
  • How does your unique experience set you up for a successful career as a student and a professional? (Think of things you’ve learned, your background, and challenges you’ve overcome.) 

You can answer these questions before you start writing your essay and try to find links to connect them. While all of your answers may not be relevant to the prompt you chose, they can help you get started! 

Note that a personal statement is different from a statement of purpose , in which you would focus more on your academic aspirations and goals. Statements of purpose are typically required for graduate school applications. 

How to Write a Personal Statement for College

Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how to write a college personal statement.

Step 1: Brainstorm 

Before you start writing, it’s essential to brainstorm; this is a valuable personal statement tip. Consider the questions above. What makes you unique? What challenges have you overcome? Ensure you answer each question in the brainstorming process.

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, you can ask a family member or a friend who knows you well what they think makes you unique. This can help you gather some ideas to craft your story. 

Take plenty of time on this step and write down many ideas – even silly ones! You may be surprised by what comes to mind. By the time you move on to the next step, you should have at least five anecdotes to choose from and several pieces of information you want to include.

Make sure to keep the prompt in mind. Your prompt may cancel out some ideas if they don’t relate. 

Step 2: Select Your Strongest Ideas

Evaluate your brainstorming notes. Which story from your life compels you the most? Whichever idea gets you excited to write is likely the one you should choose. 

The story you write should have an apparent climax and a compelling takeaway. What did you learn from the experience? How has it shaped your life? This is what the reader should understand by the end of your essay. 

Step 3: Write Your Introduction

When you write, your introduction should immediately grab the reader's attention. There are many ways to do so – if you’re feeling lost, you can always refer to these five effective ways to start your college essay . 

In summary, avoid clichés and begin with a bang. Your introduction should only be one or two sentences before getting to the meat of the story.

Step 4: Tell Your Story

Your story should answer the prompt and show admissions committees what makes you a unique and qualified candidate. This is the main chunk of your essay. Ensure your writing is self-reflective, concise, and straightforward.

While your narrative should center on an experience you’ve had, the central theme should be bigger than that. Your takeaway should be a trait you’ve developed throughout the story or something you’ve learned that has made you a better person and candidate today. 

Step 5: End on a High Note

The end of your college essay is a crucial moment for the reader, so spending a lot of time here is important. This is the last thing the admissions officers will read, so it should be memorable. You want to ensure your narrative comes full circle and has a common thread. 

How you write your college personal statement’s conclusion is up to you; some students like to look toward the future, whereas others have different ideas about ending a personal statement ! 

Step 6: Revise, Revise, Revise

Once you’ve completed the writing portion, it’s crucial to revise like you’ve never revised before! There should be absolutely no spelling or grammar mistakes, famous quotes, run-on sentences, clichés, or other errors. 

When giving your essay to someone else, ask if they agree with the following points:

  • Your writing is clear, concise, and straightforward. 
  • The essay is interesting from the very beginning, with a short yet compelling introduction.
  • Your story is easy to follow. 
  • Your story tells the reader something unique about you.
  • The essay has an effective conclusion in which the main theme of the essay is clear (i.e., what you’ve learned, your goals, or character traits).

You should also ask your revision partner what they’ve learned about you and ask yourself if their takeaway aligns with your original intention. Sometimes the intended message doesn’t always come across as it does in our heads, so this is an essential final step. 

College Personal Statement Examples 

Here are some examples of good personal statements and explanations of their success. These examples can provide inspiration to formulate your own writing. 

This is a personal statement example that worked from a student named Rozanne who was accepted to Johns Hopkins University:

“ The white yarn slipped off my aluminium crochet hook, adding a single crochet to rows and rows of existing stitches, that looked to be in the form of a blob. Staring at the image of the little unicorn amigurumi lit up on the screen of my laptop, and looking back at the UMO (unidentified messy object) number five, I was extremely perplexed.
…The remaining rounds were blurred into hours and minutes that should have resulted in a little white creature in the likeness of a unicorn, but sitting on my desk (much like the four days before today) was a pool of tangled white yarn…
Very much like learning how to crochet, my journey in forging my own path and finding a passion was confusing, messy and at times infuriating. Even in primary school, I had heard all the stories of individuals finding their own route in life. I had been told stories of those who found their passion at a young age and were exceptionally proficient at their craft, of those that abandoned their interests and pursued a lucrative career, even those who chose their dreams but regretted it afterwards. This weighed heavily on me, as I was determined to have a success story as many of my other family members had. The only problem was that I did not have a direction.
In the years following primary school, I stepped out of my comfort zone in a frenzy to find a passion…At my ballet school, I branched out to contemporary and jazz dance. I stuffed myself with an experience similar to an amigurumi engorged with batting. I found myself enjoying all of those activities but soon enough, I was swamped with extracurriculars. Just like the tangles of white yarn on my desk, I was pulled in all directions. I still felt lost…
It was not until high school that I realized that I could view this mission to find a passion from another perspective. While successfully completing a crochet project is an accomplishment itself, the motions of making slip knots, single or double crochets takes you on an adventure as well. The knots that I had encountered in my craft were evidence of my experiences and what shaped me as an individual…
Through trial and error, the current adventure that I am on resonates the most with me, taking me down the path of service and environmental activism. However, I have learnt that no one path is static, and I can be on more than one path at a time. While I may only be halfway to the proportionate unicorn amigurumi that some others may have already achieved, I still have so much to learn and so much that I want to learn, and so my journey to grow continues. ”

Why This Personal Statement Worked 

Rozanne’s narrative expertly showcases her hobby (which may not have been discussed elsewhere in her application) and connects it to her struggles to find direction and passion when everyone else seems to have everything figured out. 

Her strength in this essay is reflecting upon that idea: it also shows us her vulnerability. Beyond continually weaving in the analogy of a messy crochet project and her perceived lack of direction, this essay also shows she’s a curious individual willing to try new things. 

It also helps that she refers to the ideas in her introduction, conclusion, and the rest of her essay. Circling back to her crocheting hobby creates a nice narrative thread.

This is an NYU example that worked: 

Prompt : “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.”

“In her cramped kitchen, Titi Nana cracked the egg in the center of the pan, the cheeriness of the bright yellow yolk contrasting the harshness of the caldero. In a flourish, she jerked the bottle of alcohol in her hand, flames erupting from the griddle. She instructed me: "Wipe it all off," gesturing to dust off my shoulders and arms into the inferno. I laughed nervously as I removed the maldad [evil] from my body, one brush at a time. I left Titi's apartment that day confused about how our family's practice of Santería [witchcraft] fit in with my outward embrace of my heritage. I felt as if the parts of my Latina identity I claimed openly -- dancing salsa to Celia Cruz or enjoying lechón y arroz con habichuelas en Navidad -- were contradicted by my skepticism towards Titi's rituals. My experience with Santería wasn't new, as proven by my mother's kitchen altar lit dimly by prayer candles and adorned with evil eyes, statues of San Miguel, and offerings to Elegua; however, I'd never before witnessed such a tangible demonstration of my family's ritualistic beliefs. Although it surrounded me, I refused to believe in the effects of Santería... so I shunned it entirely. 
Moving to a predominantly white boarding school and away from the rituals my family had passed down, I avoided addressing the distance I had wedged between myself and my background. I pushed away all things Latina as my fear of failing to honor my Puerto Rican heritage intensified. This distance only grew as my classmates jokingly commented on my inability to speak Spanish and my white-passing complexion, further tearing away bits of my Latinidad with each snide remark. 
In an effort to build myself back up, I began to practice the small bits of Santería that I comprehended: lighting candles for good luck, placing a chalice of water by my bedside to absorb all maldad, and saying my prayers to San Miguel and my guardian angels each day. To my disbelief, the comments that attacked my Latinidad, or lack thereof, faded along with the aching feeling that I had failed to represent my heritage. As I embraced the rituals that I initially renounced, I finally realized the power in Titi's practices. In all of her cleansing and prayer rituals, she was protecting me and our family, opening the doors for us to achieve our goals and overcome the negativity that once held us back. In realizing the potential of Santería, I shifted my practices to actively protecting myself and others against adversity and employed Santería as a solution for the injustice I witnessed in my community. 
Santería once served as my scapegoat; I blamed the discomfort I felt towards black magic for the imposter syndrome festering inside me. Until I embraced Santería, it only served as a reminder that I wasn't Latina enough in the eyes of my peers. Now, I understand that while intangible, ethereal, even, the magic of Santería is real; it's the strength of my belief in myself, in my culture, and in my commitment to protect others.”

The writer has done an excellent job of telling a story related to their cultural background. We learn about the writer and their family in this heartwarming story, even learning things we might not have known about Santeria — but that’s not the central theme.

The main theme of this essay is the lesson of self-trust, cultural pride, and self-acceptance. While we are learning about this person's unique identity, the takeaway is that this person has a newfound respect for their identity and has learned to embrace themselves. 

Example #3 

Our last example excerpt details Stella’s journey as she takes the skies and what she learned: 

“ The first lesson I learned as a student pilot is that left and right don’t exist. Maybe driving on a highway or in a parking lot, left and right is precise enough to describe the location and movements of slow-moving bikers, pedestrians, and cars. But at 36,000 feet in the air in a steel tube hurdling almost 200 miles an hour? Left and right just don’t cut it.
During one of my first flights in a small Cessna-182, my flight instructor ordered me to scan the horizon for approaching aircrafts. To my right, I caught a glimpse of one: another Cessna with maroon stripes, the sun’s reflection glinting off its windows. Gesturing vaguely to my two o’clock, I informed my flying instructor, “There’s a plane to the right.”
“No, to your right. From his position, what direction does he see you?” From his angle, I was to his left. In that moment, I realized that perspective and precision of language is everything. The radio chirped: “Cessna One-Eight-Two Sandra, heading north to John Wayne Airport. Over.”
…Through flying, I began to consider all points of view, regardless of my personal perspective.
Perhaps it was my ability to scan the horizon to communicate a single story, uniting contrasting outlooks, that drew me to my love for journalism and the diverse melting pot that was my community.
To me, journalism modernizes the ancient power of storytelling, filled with imperfect characters and intricate conflicts to which I am the narrator. As editor-in-chief for my school newspaper, The Wildcat’s Tale, I aim to share the uncensored perspective of all students and encourage my editorial groups to talk — and listen — to those with whom they disagree. Starting each newspaper edition with a socratic, round-table discussion, I ask the other journalists to pursue stories that answer the questions: why did this happen and where will it lead?
Expanding beyond the perspectives of my classmates, I began writing articles for the Korea Daily, and later, the Los Angeles Times High School Insider. I schedule interviews with city council candidates, young and old voters, and mayors of my town, obtaining quotes and anecdotes to weave into my writing. My interviews with both Democratic and Republican voters have taught me to thoroughly report polarizing-opposite opinions through an unbiased lens. As a journalist, I realized I cannot presume the opinions of the reader, but instead simply provide them with the tools necessary to formulate their own conclusions.
I found that in my suburban community, people love to read about the small-town hospitality of their own friends and neighbors…My favorite stories to publish are the ones taped onto fridges, proudly framed on the mom-and-pop downtown diner, or pinned into the corkboard in my teacher’s classroom. I discovered the size of my story does not matter, but the impact I leave on the reader does.
In my time as both a student pilot and journalist, I grew to love these stories, the ones that showed me that living life with blinders, can not only be boring, but dangerous. Whether I was 36,000 feet in the air or on ground level, by flying and writing, I realized that the most interesting stories of life come straight from the people most different from me .” 

Why This Personal Statement Worked

Although Stella opens with an anecdote about flying a plane, that’s not really what this personal statement is about. She reflected adequately on points of view in the sky and connected it to how the ability to see an issue from all sides was instrumental to her success as a journalist. 

Stella shares some of her achievements in a way that doesn’t feel like a list, but her responsibilities give us a glimpse of her life. When she transitions to writing about the value in every story, big or small, we see her ability to connect with her community and deliver an impact, even without writing a years-long investigative story. 

Example #4  

Please note that this and subsequent personal statements have been anonymized.

“‘ I have the audacity of equality.’ The roar of applause explodes from the television as I hunch over a rapidly cooling bag of popcorn, my world rocked by this single line. Enter Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix comedy special Homecoming King, an ode to all the brown kids born and raised in the U.S., caught between the country they have known their entire lives and the countries their immigrant parents are still deeply tied to. As I sat enamored by Minhaj’s performance, it was as if the fog that often obscured how to navigate that middle ground of living as a mixed kid in America was cleared. I am the daughter of a [COUNTRY] immigrant mother and a first-generation [COUNTRY] father raised in cookie-cutter American suburbia, and I have spent my entire life in a strained limbo of feeling not quite red, white, and blue enough to fit in with my almost entirely white peers, while also feeling far too disconnected from my parents’ countries to find solace in their cultures. After a lifetime of feeling unseen, not fitting into a boxed-off identity, Minhaj’s special felt like a beacon of understanding. 
The day after watching the special, I announced my newest aspiration in life: to become a professional comedian. But after a few stale jokes fell flat, it was clear comedy would not be my future. Yet that image of Minhaj traipsing across the stage as his words held the live crowd, and me miles away, ensnared in their grasp, was unshakeable. I wanted to chase that feeling of using words to speak to and for others, especially those whose stories are often abandoned and unheard. So while I didn’t join any comedy clubs, I did sign up for my first year of competitive debate. 
Soon after, I found that I too could use my words to influence and speak to others, even if my audience was limited to judges and my spotlight was the glare of fluorescent lights in high schools across the nation. Addicted to the thrill of getting to discuss pressing issues I had previously only seen in the news, I amassed unholy amounts of research on American water resource protection for the 2021 season. As I plowed through mountains of research, I unearthed the truth that how we distribute water is also how we exercise justice, particularly in my community. In [STATE], where agriculture consumes over 80% of my state’s water, every-day people, especially other people of color, struggle to deal with the disproportionate impacts of water scarcity. Though I sat stunned and disappointed by my state’s water conservation practices, the line ‘I have the audacity of equality’ echoed, reminding me that I don’t have to settle for historically inequitable systems of power decided decades before I was born. I have a right to fight for the change my community needs.
Thus, when the opportunity arose to speak to one of my city’s biggest newspapers and radio stations about water conservation, I took it. I was shepherded in front of a voice recorder and later into the radio station, palms sweating as the black microphone that would project my voice city-wide hovered imposingly before me. Yet, I remembered that this was my chance to use my voice to uncover the stories that had been silenced. As my words flowed, (yes, like water) I felt that same spark of advocacy ignited in me years prior. 
However, it’s one thing to elevate silenced stories and another to act upon a desire to change those narratives. If outdated political decisions are to blame for water inequities, I know new ones from young, passionate people like myself must upend them. Accordingly, soon after my interviews, I sought out an internship where I could pitch those same ideas of water conservation to residents throughout [COUNTY NAME]. My audience morphed from high school debate judges to voters, porches as a stage where I amplify the voices of the people through the power of elections and democracy. 
Upon revisiting Minhaj’s comedy special, a line I first missed stands out. Hands gesturing wildly, he asks, ‘Isn’t it our job to push the needle forward little by little?’ I have established the answer is decidedly yes. I no longer miss that line when I rewatch the special because over the course of my advocacy my habit of mind has changed along with my actions. No matter the audience, the stage, or the spotlight, I view each opportunity to speak to issues I care about as pushing that needle forward. Despite my brief dream of comedic glory never coming to fruition, I am no less fulfilled in how I choose to speak for what I believe in because I understand that I have that same potential to inspire change .”

This personal statement example does an excellent job of keeping a narrative thread from the introduction to the conclusion. Through this statement, we learn about the author’s background, identity, values, passions, and skills without feeling like we’re reading from an itemized list. 

Their explanation about comedy not being for them is light-hearted and comical, but their speaking up for water inequities is powerful and shows their determination. 

Example #5  

This personal statement explores a student’s experiences with wildfires: 

“ A cacophony of alert ringtones blared loudly from pockets, backpacks, and desks around the room. I grabbed my phone: “EMERGENCY ALERT: Wildfire evacuation for areas west of [STREET NAME].” I looked out the window of the [HIGH SCHOOL] classroom, where I and the other Link Crew members had planned to spend the week before school started organizing freshman orientation. An angry column of black smoke billowed from just beyond the football field. This fire was closer and more intense than most. We booked it to a nearby friend’s house. An hour later, I received yet another [STATE] Fire alert. My heart dropped – I wouldn’t be able to go home tonight. Instead, the Fire had spread, cutting me off from my dad, mom, and little brother. What’s more, the fire was rapidly approaching our location. After receiving a second evacuation notice, we loaded up the camper and drove through falling ash to the nearest evacuation center, where I spent hours refreshing the [STATE] fire page and anxiously watching the smoke-filled sky.
Since I moved in 2014 from the [CITY] suburbs to [TOWN], a town of [NUMBER] in the [MOUNTAIN] Foothills, I’ve witnessed climate change firsthand. Years of drought gradually turned much of my pine forest playground into sticks of tinder. Instead of running on once-shaded trails at cross-country practice, we now dash through blackened remains of burned-out trees. While my old friends in [CITY] mow their lawns, I clear scotch broom and dead manzanitas from our property to reduce wildfire hazards. 
I recognize climate change for what it is – an existential threat. Yearly reminders during the fire season underscore the immediacy of the threat that climate change poses. Some think of our climate as a problem for the future. But I know that climate change already shapes the lives of me, my community, and millions around the world. Initially, my response to climate change was just on a personal level. After studying the meat industry’s carbon footprint at Tech Trek, a STEM camp at [COLLEGE], I cut meat out of my diet entirely and have been a vegetarian for almost five years. Last year, in response to the fire, I used the skills I learned in my engineering classes to design and construct garden boxes for people who had lost their plants in the blaze.
But I know that my actions alone aren’t enough to engender lasting change. I turned to my community to compound my impact. Partnering with nature preserves and conservation groups around [TOWN], my girl scout troop and I organize environmental cleanups of tributaries and hiking trails. I designed and taught Leave No Trace curriculum and organized challenges for local youth to increase community engagement in local ecological issues. 
More recently, I’ve begun to think more deliberately about how to further my impact on a larger scale. I believe that my firsthand experience with climate change, when paired with my passion for designing technological solutions to environmental problems, allows me to think about innovative ways to tackle climate challenges. To address the lack of useful resources on native and invasive plants in the [MOUNTAIN] Foothills, I’ve created a database of plants with tips and educational materials for each plant in order to create a resource that scientists, gardeners, and enthusiasts alike can use. Using the skills I’ve developed over the course of the last three years in the engineering pathway, I am drawing inspiration from temperature-regulating termite mounds to design a biomimetic home that uses air movement to maintain comfortable interior temperatures. 
My family and home were safe through the fire, but others weren't as lucky. My lived experience with climate change and subsequent response on a personal, community, and larger-scale level equip and motivate me to continue the fight for a more sustainable future. Climate change started this battle, it's up to me to finish it. ” 

The introduction immediately catches our attention for its vivid imagery and charged emotion as the student navigates an emergency. They connect this anecdote to the broader theme of climate change and other experiences relating to their values. 

Although the student describes what they’ve already accomplished, they share what they’d like to do to address climate change on a larger scale in the future and wrap up their story by referencing the anecdote from their introduction. 

Example #6  

This personal statement explores a candidate’s love of fashion: 

“ I nervously stand from behind my desk, ready for my turn. Eyes glare at me from all sides as the teacher beckons me to begin. I dread group introductions, the first days of school, or any icebreaker exercise because of this moment. I have never had a traditional fun fact to share, like ‘I play soccer’ or ‘I have a twin.’ I used to share something safe like, ‘I hate whipped cream.’ On this day, I decided to share my true passion. ‘I love fashion.’ Giggles float through the room. Whispers are exchanged through my classmates' smirks. I immediately began to second guess myself. Was my response too shallow? Too girly? No – fashion transcends the boundaries of gender and is the opposite of shallow. It is an intricate manifestation of a person's true, innermost feelings toward the outside world. It is a way to express oneself when words don't suffice. That does not seem shallow to me.
Each day, I gaze into my closet and try to answer the routine question of what to wear. A flowing white sundress or a worn, black leather jacket? A pleated blazer or a bright red band tee? I might choose a sundress when I feel carefree and lighthearted or a heavy jacket when the world seems overwhelming and I need protection. Though it may seem an insignificant question of comfort or trends, I am really deciding which version of myself I want to reveal that day through my clothing. I could wear a coastal, relaxed outfit, and tomorrow could feature urban business attire. By no means does this imply that I have an identity crisis. I am simply a human with a wide range of emotions that cannot be confined. It is because of my inner diversity that I am unique.
The fabric that wraps my body is not meant only for cover. It also allows others a window into my soul. Though the deep desires of my heart never waver, each day brings new emotions, obstacles, and circumstances that, at times, can be difficult to process. This daily change instigates a perpetual evolution that communicates I am not the same person I was yesterday.
It's human nature to try to categorize people and things. Certain styles and garments tend to connect with a particular aesthetic. For instance, a callous person must dress grunge, and a fun, free-spirited person must dress bohemian. But people are complex. We cannot be constrained by one specific personality type. The beauty of humanity is in its inherent diversity. People can be demographically grouped by their culture, surroundings, family, or upbringing. However, the people who make up those respective communities are capable of diverse and independent thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Fashion can express that.
Fashion is not just an opportunity to display the latest trend or designer clothes. Fashion is an intimate representation of the inner workings of one's being. Even those who claim not to care about their clothing subconsciously express their emotions through it. A girl going through a breakup would think she disregards fashion by putting on a pair of sweats and throwing her hair into a messy bun. In reality, she chose the sweats because she is vulnerable and wants to feel warm and safe, and her bun prevents her hair from drowning in her tears. Her attire tells us multitudes of details if we just pay attention. Acknowledging how she feels through her clothing choice can help her process difficult emotions. She deserves this outlet to express her current state of mind. Everyone deserves this chance. I believe in an industry that can provide the average person with clothing that helps them feel beautiful and confident, regardless of their stage of life or socioeconomic status. So maybe she and I deserve those few extra minutes to get ready in the morning so that we may define the current state of our ever-changing selves .” 

This personal statement shows the author’s love for fashion, particularly how they describe the various pieces in their closet. Their writing shows how they connect apparel choices to a person’s personality and feelings. 

This statement may be more metaphorical and poetic than others in this list, but it could be a compelling personal statement for an aspiring fashion or art student.

Example #7 

This personal statement showcases a high school student’s experience with physician shadowing: 

“ As I sat observing the patients scattered around the waiting room, my eyes stopped on a man flushed and gasping. He met my gaze; his own eyes were brimming with fear. His face began to take on a deep shade of red. The woman by his side jumped up and began shouting for help. A group of doctors and nurses came rushing into the waiting room. The man held my gaze and I returned his panicked stare. 
Over the four months I’d spent shadowing Dr. [NAME] at [HOSPITAL NAME], my days encompassed: accompanying him during his rounds, checking on patients, and taking vital signs for postoperative patients. I even shadowed him during a valve replacement procedure. I remember thinking that operating on a person’s most central organ, with calculated precision, was the pinnacle of what it meant to be a surgeon. However, as I sat paralyzed in the waiting room, unable to break eye contact with a terrified patient entering cardiac arrest— I knew I was experiencing a part of the medical field I’d never seen.
Dr. [NAME] and the nurses moved in a synchronous dance. The nurses placed the patient on his back and helped to hold him still. Dr. [NAME] centered his hand on the man’s chest and began performing CPR. I knew rationally things were moving in real time, but the doctor’s actions seemed to move in slow motion. Dr. [NAME] began cycling between mouth to mouth and chest compressions. I felt my own heartbeat pounding rapidly in my chest. 
A piercing ‘beep’ filled the room as the monitor detected a heartbeat. 
When the patient met my gaze, my first instinct was to leap from my chair and help him. However, my traitorous body had been paralyzed in terror; all I could do was hold his gaze. This concerned me. If I couldn't manage my anxiety for a patient during high stress situations, did I have what it took to be a surgeon?
‘How did you stay calm?’ I asked Dr. [NAME] as we sat in his office later that day. The regular sounds of the waiting room leaked under the door—as if nothing had happened. He paused for a moment, ‘I was nervous, of course, but years of experience has taught me to channel my nerves into treating the patient the best that I can.’
Although his words made sense, it still seemed impossible to not feel fear for a patient whose life is in danger. However, as I considered his words further, I realized Dr. [NAME] wasn’t telling me he didn’t feel emotionally invested in the patient’s safety. Rather, he was saying he had learned to channel his concern into focusing on providing the best patient care possible. 
During my time shadowing Dr. [NAME], prior to the day of the resuscitation, I learned the importance of surgical precision, clinical expertise, and confidence under pressure. However, as I sat in his office that day, my perspective of the medical field changed. I now understood that staying confident in the midst of chaos isn’t instinctive; it is learned. Moreover, a good surgeon recognizes that she can use her fear for her patient as motivation to save the patient. 
My inclination to help others and fascination with molecular biology is what attracted me to the medical field. From the waiting room ordeal, my preserving commitment to becoming a physician was only reaffirmed. It encouraged me that my natural empathy for others would fuel rather than hinder my ability to work efficiently during stressful situations. I look forward to using this thought process in my day-to-day leadership activities, and one day, as a surgeon. ” 

This personal statement offers a glimpse into the writer’s time shadowing a physician and shows their vulnerabilities and fears. This statement shows what they’ve learned from the experience and how they’ll use these skills and knowledge to realize their dream of becoming a surgeon. 

Example #8  

This sample personal statement is about an applicant’s journey with dance and religion: 

“ I stepped barefoot onto the cool wooden floor and bent down to lay my sweaty palms on the ground. I quickly got into line with the other girls and waited for the music to begin playing. My hips swayed while my heartbeat matched the rhythm of the song. Through each segment, my movements changed, evolving from Jhumar and ending in Dhamal. Behind every motion, there was an intention to send a message to the audience. 
I immediately found my place with Bhangra–a traditional Punjabi folk dance. I picked up the routines effortlessly, dancing with precision. I soon advanced to the older girls’ group, working on intricate choreography that required more stamina. Bhangra became not just a passion, but a path to better explore my Punjabi heritage. With each passing year, I came to see reflections of my life in Bhangra, connecting its many forms to different pieces of my identity.
Jhumar is delicate. It grows in intensity over time, but remains fragile. Full of smooth hand movements and soft placements, it builds on knowledge and experience, mirroring my relationship with Sikhism. For a long time, I was skeptical of practicing my faith. It seemed unnecessary–a method of control rather than a choice. My grandmother coaxed me to attend prayers and forced me to sit for long periods in the Gurdwara, all of which felt like more of a chore. Over the last two years, I found myself returning to the Gurdwara willfully. I had not completely restored my faith in God, but went there as a place of healing, finding comfort in the practices I once dreaded. I sat alone in the silence to calm myself. Gradually, my broken relationship with Sikhism wove itself back together, like the gentle motions of Jhumar. 
In my teenage years, I began to perform Giddha with my mother, aunts, and cousins, clapping and laughing alongside figures who shaped me. The dance is usually performed by women, telling tales of village life through skip steps and illustrative motions. Each gesture conveys the emotion and content of the story told. Giddha captured the evolution of my self-identity, reminding me of my support system and my ancestral roots. Performing next to these strong women in my life allowed me to grow my confidence and granted me a fuller sense of myself.  
Dhamal is the grand finale–bright and energetic, full of jumps on fast-paced beats. It is a dance that is usually performed at the end and demands the most energy. At the beginning of this segment, I am forced to make a decision: push forward and smile through the exhaustion, or flail my limbs and give up. I center myself to keep my hands sharp and clean while stepping with purpose, making every step count. I know I will regret becoming sloppy with my motions when I rewatch the performance, so I do my best to perform elegantly. It is a test of my drive. 
What began as a lighthearted use of time became a fundamental part of me. Bhangra allowed me to restore my relationship with Sikhism and turn towards it as a source of healing from times I felt lost and overwhelmed. I formed meaningful connections to the women in my family, and through them, my ancestors, bonding over traditions and experiencing my culture in depth. I learned to handle pressure with grace, pushing through difficulty with determination, and further strengthening essential parts of my identity. As I dance, I step, clap, and move through the parts of myself that make me whole .” 

This personal statement begins with an anecdote to immerse the reader in an event and showcases how Bhangra helped her reconnect with her heritage, religion, and culture. This narrative shows the applicant’s drive and talent while illuminating her journey toward strengthening her identity. 

Example #9 

Let’s see how one applicant transformed their love of chess into a winning personal statement: 

“ The wooden board promised possibilities and endless opportunities. On the maple wood of the battlefield, rooks, bishops, and knights stood ready in the most strategic war, chess.
My father lovingly taught me the game of chess as a young child. I immediately gravitated toward the game due to its strategic nature and quickly learned that chess appeared simple: just capture the king. Regardless of this apparent simplicity, my analytical mind always thought ten moves ahead. I never entered the battle without a full-fledged plan and a future-focused mindset that always seemed to be an advantage. From that point, many victories made me naive to the need to adjust my well-laid plans to meet outside challenges. Then, a particular game upended my strategies and confidence. This game began no differently from the others as I slowly set up the pieces and developed a seemingly invincible plan. And as my plan was forming, my confidence rose.
I started the game by bringing the king's pawn forward two spaces. In the very next move, I crossed my queen three places. I applied maximum pressure immediately to stay on offense and put my opponent on defense. After a few silly moves later by my father, I saw the opening to put his king in check, so I took it. I was executing my plan perfectly. However, my father started moving his rook closer to my queen, and in a matter of seconds, he captured my strongest piece. Playing it off as no sacrifice, for the rest of the game, I remained unwilling to change my plan, only to lose the game eventually. I realized at that moment that I had not appreciated the importance of adapting to changing circumstances and challenges–to the idea that for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction, as I later learned in physics. Since that game, I began to balance my strategic planning with the need to adjust to the moves of my opponent as one must balance one’s strategic goals with the reality of the present; otherwise, life will deliver missed opportunities.
Yet one of my greatest passions was discovered by thinking far ahead in the future. From a young age, I became fascinated with engineering, both the physics of how objects move and fly and the potential for real innovation that accompanies the design and execution processes of engineering. Due to my logical nature, I prefer to set plans in order to optimize an outcome. When one identifies and defines problems logically and precisely, a plan is necessary, so thinking in future terms becomes essential. However, as time has passed, my love for engineering has grown, especially my passion for discovering how physical objects move and interact and plans can develop in creative and previously unthinkable ways. This future-focused mindset has influenced both my academic studies and my work in STEM internships as well as a recent apprenticeship with [LARGE COMPANY]. These pursuits, in turn, have allowed me to expand my vision of what my undergraduate studies and future career paths may hold. Still, future strategizing and adapting to the present are skills that will guide my future endeavors. Thus, engineering, like the game of chess, not only involves having a strategy going into the game, sometimes the key to victory, but also adapting to changing conditions can mean the difference between success and failure. ” 

The author used their experiences with chess to describe the development of skills such as strategic planning and adaptation. They effortlessly connect their story about a chess game to their love of physics and engineering. 

The chess game serves as a backdrop for their passion for STEM and what they’ve done to further explore their interests and connects the game to engineering and their cultivated skill to adapt amid changing conditions (such as new information) – a skill top colleges look for in candidates. 

Example #10

This candidate’s experience with a disposable camera helped them find the perfect personal statement: 

“ When I was fourteen years old, my mother bought me a disposable film camera, a shiny green plastic gadget from Walmart. At first, I was bewildered by how this seemingly superfluous object could supplement my perfectly efficient iPhone camera. Dangling the gift between my fingers with confusion, I was torn between telling my mother I had no use for this fossil, and graciously giving in to her request to ‘just try it out.’ I took the high road, and settled on the latter. 
Initially photography was an aesthetic hobby, however, it quickly turned into immense devotion to the art. I began to carry around the little green camera everywhere I went. Unfortunately, disposable film cameras have meager lifespans, and I could only take 27 pictures before the film was exhausted. After years of taking pictures with careless abandon, my photography was transformed by the idea of a tiny plastic box forcing me to choose my shots more carefully. Formerly, I could whip out my camera whenever I wanted to and take a picture, capturing a frame that would eventually disappear in the mass conglomeration of my iPhone camera roll. Conversely, my film camera required me to decide the right moment to capture a snapshot of a memory frozen in time. 
Ultimately, the narrative I have captured through my film camera has also helped me find my authentic voice through writing. I love using language to express my character, demonstrating my willingness to explore my passions and capture my every emotion. When I first attempted to write a full length novel, I recognized it would be a massive time commitment, and there would be hundreds of revisions. However, upon completing my first manuscript, I did not feel worried, or overwhelmed by the editing process. I was excited to embark on this next journey of perfecting my work. I was immersed in finishing my novel when my mom convinced me to apply for a Writing Contest. I followed her advice, and the risk ended up paying off. A few months later, I opened up my laptop to see an email announcing I had received the [TOP PRIZE]. The thrill of my teachers and parents could not be compared to my own surprise. I was absolutely overjoyed that the judges were moved by my story. My devotion to the film camera is now reflected in my approach to everyday life and my profile as a student. 
Throughout my high school career, I have dedicated myself to a few activities and developed my skill set, instead of spreading myself thinly in several fruitless activities. Stepping out of my comfort zone, I decided to sign up for a boxing class in my [HIGH SCHOOL] year. I looked forward to every training session, and began to transfer that energy into becoming an even better academic student. I loved learning new techniques and memorizing nuanced tips, until I eventually took the combat training style and made it my own. Yet another activity that began as a hobby, eventually helped build my self-confidence and provided strategies on how to approach adversity; from interactions with peers, to the boxing ring. 
I have yet to fully appreciate the fleeting nature of every moment. Incorporating my film camera into my everyday life has allowed me to take control and fill my high school career with a rich and genuine photo album of experiences .” 

The writer’s careful approach to using the film camera shows their deliberateness and newfound approach to their passion for art and photography. They connect this story to their love of writing, citing their finished full-length novel, a truly impressive feat. 

They also show their ability to step outside their comfort zone and passion for artistic endeavors with their experiences in boxing. This personal statement showcases their commitment to their passions and how taking pictures with a disposable camera showed them how to take control of their journey. 

Example #11  

Here’s another example detailing an applicant’s visit to the zoo: 

“ As the sunlight trickles through the willow trees and glitters on the surface of the water, I squint. Where is it? Even though I’m in the shade, sweat is pouring down my face; it’s easily 115 degrees out. I scour the swamp beneath me one last time, sigh, and give up. Every time I visit the [ZOO NAME], this singular [ANIMAL] (a type of crocodilian) evades me. Somewhere in the murky water underneath the pedestrian bridge, the elusive false gharial hides from view. It’s enough to make most people give up in disappointment, potentially anger. Not me. Each time I visit, I enjoy my experience to the fullest, regardless of what I see.
Since I was a toddler, I have been enamored with every zoo I visit. My mother doesn’t exaggerate when she claims I had to be dragged out of zoos against my will as a toddler. The animal kingdom is beautifully diverse, unique, and absolutely breathtaking; it enraptured me as a child and still does today. The fact that toucans throw their food in the air and catch it with their beaks, parachute frogs glide from tree to tree, or sea cucumbers eject their insides as a self-defense mechanism–these are all such incredible adaptations and behaviors that I sometimes am unable to comprehend the incredible scope of evolution. I am easily swept up in my admiration of all aspects of the natural world, completely losing myself in the experience.
The last time I visited the [ZOO NAME] with my extended family, I was astonished by the new Dome structure. A shimmering glass dome sparkling under the bright, hot sun, the building was reminiscent of a giant greenhouse. Although the eponymous pangolins had not yet been moved to their new home where I could see them, reading about their story was eye-opening. These cute armored mammals are considered the most trafficked animals in the world. As I traversed the rest of the building, I discovered that different levels are devoted to depicting various aspects of the Rainforest, the most ecologically productive biome in the world. Starting from the bottom of the dome, viewers walk through the tropical, fish-filled waters, then climb through the forest’s various levels, getting to see the complex intersection of energy flows, water use, and nutrient cycles. I was humbled by the experience. I left that day with a clear understanding of why I love zoos so much: zoos are a chance for humans to learn how to better coexist with the environment.
We live in a world where human development and conservation are almost mutually exclusive. A forest, field, or beach has to be destroyed, drilled into, or paved in order for ‘civilization’ to exist. Zoos prove that this does not have to be the case; they are a source of inspiration for how we can better live in harmony with nature. Every exhibit is a microcosm of a distinct aspect of the environment and can teach us how facets of nature interact. The aforementioned Dome, for example, uses natural light to simulate a real biome while conserving energy. Other conservationist elements–resource recycling and reuse, water conservation, etc.–are evident throughout the zoo.
In what feels like an instant after stepping out of the tomistoma enclosure, I realize that the sun has already begun to set and the cicadas have already begun to buzz. As I am dragged back into the car by my uncle, I reflect on how I can apply the zoo’s sustainable techniques to the general public. How can we adapt nature’s solutions to certain problems and conform them to meet our needs? For example, can we reduce a city’s temperature and carbon levels? Planting green roofs can reduce both. Whenever I want to solve such environmental issues, I think of the [ZOO NAME]. Nature has solutions to all of our problems; we just have to embrace them. ” 

This personal statement shares the author’s interest in biology and animal sciences through anecdotes showing their love and appreciation of zoos. The animal facts and musings about the new building show their passion for knowledge and happiness at the opportunity for humans to coexist with nature. 

The conclusion raises the writer’s questions but shows their critical thinking skills and how they can connect the zoo’s “sustainable techniques” to new solutions in cities. It also effectively wraps up the narrative.

Example #12 

This personal statement describes a candidate’s experience navigating the jungle and how it ignited a new passion: 

“ Immersed in the core of the [NAME] jungle, I was set to embark on my first plant medicine journey. At age 14, I was depressed and anxiety scheduled my days. For a week, I lived with the [NUMBER] year-old [NAME] tribe: waking before the sun, drinking cleansing tea with the Chief and his counsel, and cutting through the wilds with a machete to hunt for dinner. Known for centuries to be cautious of welcoming Westerners, the village members embraced me. I had the chance to hear the tribe passionately share their knowledge about native plants and ways to live harmoniously with the land. Songs of exotic birds and warm, crisp air breathed love into my lungs, and I felt my nervous system recalibrating. I partook in the ceremony with [TEA NAME], a plant based entheogenic tea that activates the pineal gland, and I felt my connection growing stronger with divine nature. It felt like I was washing my brain in ice water and I was inspired by the tribe’s devotion to Her. At night, I feverishly scribbled down my day in my Moleskin journal. By the time the week was through, every page was filled with thoughts, questions and feelings. 
When I returned back home, I wanted to learn more about these plants and why or how they became so scorned and abused in contemporary society. Taking research into my own hands, I proactively began to dig into the history of these plants. I was hooked after reading Terrance and Dennis McKenna's Stoned Ape Theory and listening to the podcast, ‘Avoid Gurus, Follow Plants.’ This year, I became the youngest to complete The Course [NAME] led by Dr. [NAME].  I learned about limbic healing, the psychoneuroendocrine immunology network, and the power of these sagacious teacher-plants. Dr. [NAME] discussed the harms of disrespecting plant medicines and how if we work for them, they may choose to work with us.
The course included conversations with Ph.D. student, [NAME], regarding her dissertation about the benefits of ketamine in psychotherapy. The thesis concluded that compounds in medicinal plants had healing properties to neurodegenerative diseases and those with terminal illnesses and trauma, all of which are imperative to our current and future concept of health. My enthusiasm for plant medicine spread into all aspects of my life; it was time for another journal and another journey. Thus, I began my podcast: [NAME]. Honoring the wisdom of the indigenous, the podcast bridged gaps between societies and generations, creating a safe space for curiosity to thrive and penetrating the walls of ignorance.  Recently, I watched my mom transform from a senior executive at a major telecommunication company to a [NEW ROLE] and CEO of her own firm. As my first podcast guest, she shared her mission to guide one million souls into personal sovereignty. Since then, I have been blessed to speak with Dr. [NAME], the Chief of a [TRIBE], who discussed the preview of her new book and shared how surrendering invites harmony to a person’s life. It was then that I realized that The [PODCAST NAME] was more than a podcast; it was a quiet voice with something loud to say. Today, its purpose is to focus on integrating spirituality into everyday life, and how to work respectively with these venerated and still controversial plant medicines. It is paradise for thinkers, visionaries, and pioneers. The words exchanged in the podcast are the planks in a bridge that connect some of the world’s most remarkable leaders to a generation that may benefit from their wisdom. The journey that began in [COUNTRY] struck the match to the wildfire of my passion, curiosity and devotion to plant medicine .” 

This personal statement illuminates the author’s experiences living with a different culture in a new environment, showing their ability to exit their comfort zone. The story shows the author’s cultural understanding, describes where their passion for plant medicine bloomed, and how it inspired them to start their own podcast. 

Example #13 

This personal statement explores the writer’s love of painting: 

“ I am a painter. The connection I feel to the art I create and love is — like the art itself — so much more than the words I can use to describe it. I become utterly absorbed in the process of creating, viewing, and studying art; it taps into my vulnerabilities and connects me to previously unknown parts of myself. Everything I paint, regardless of the apparent subject, reflects something about me. My recent painting ‘[NAME],’ for example, depicts a close friend curled up beneath a quilt festooned with red poppies. I have realized that it is a portrait of both of us that reveals our shared yearning for safety, warmth, and beauty. Likewise, my favorite pieces by other artists lay bare my own internal tensions and artistic aspirations. I believe that paintings unlock access to both the artist and the viewer. This has become apparent in an independent art history project I completed this summer about the early 20th-century painter Amrita Sher-Gil. I remember first seeing one of her works and feeling deeply drawn to her use of color. Compelled to learn more, I sought the mentorship of a local art history professor and embarked on an exploration of Sher-Gil’s work that has resulted in a tremendous affinity for her story – and a better understanding of my own.
In volumes of Sher-Gil’s letters, photographs, and paintings, I found an uncanny resemblance to myself. She was Indian and European, moved frequently, played the piano, and saturated her paintings with bold, warm colors. Sher-Gil drew inspiration from Rajput painting and stained her female subjects with a burning red that could have spilled out of the tube of cadmium red I squeeze each time I create an underpainting. In my work, the same Rajput-like red shines through the crevices of my overpainting and brings my subject matter to life.
As I became enthralled by Sher-Gil’s red, I learned about the color’s history and, in the end, I made an original discovery. Rajput artists surrounded their paintings with a luxurious red border and often used the color to adorn and highlight two lovers; this red became a mark of heterosexual longing. As I read Sher-Gil’s letters and looked at her paintings, I noticed that she used the Rajput-like red to allude to her own bisexuality; my paper pointed out that she reworked the color’s meaning to represent intimacy between and among women.
My research on Sher-Gil is a clear reflection of my own artistic process — sometimes confusing, far from neat, and often driving to an unclear conclusion. Nevertheless, it reinforced my relationship with art. Sher-Gil used paint to capture the complexity of her identity and illustrated her struggles, dilemmas, and moments of pleasure; in doing so, she has given me confidence in my own painting process and self-exploration. When I paint, I live in a space of meaningful and productive uncertainty. Just as the unexpected purple highlights on the arm of the figure beneath the poppies in my painting resulted from accidental layers of red, blue, and green, the meaning of my work may not be evident until the painting is complete.
In the same way, I am a work in progress. In art, I explore strength and vulnerability, femininity and masculinity, uncertainty and knowledge; I throw myself into my creative and intellectual interests as the practitioner and academic, the painter and viewer. When I paint, I value the companionship of my tubes of pigment, the subjects of my images, and painters like Sher-Gil, who has become a role model. I am eager to pursue studio art and art history and to introduce others to the possibilities of self-exploration through art. To know me, you should know my paintings: the ones I create, the ones I love, and the ones I will study, teach, and share with others. Painting reveals the fullest version of who I am .” 

This student’s love of painting and Sher-Gil’s work spurred them to seek mentorship and how, like their artistic process, they’re a “work in progress.” The author’s experiences and passion for art intersect with their explorations of himself and their strengths. 

Example #14 

This personal story begins with what appears to be a humorous anecdote that transforms into a well-written personal statement: 

“ During my first week of kindergarten, I pulled the fire alarm.
We had just come in from recess and kindergartners were lined up single file against the wall. It was our ritual before returning to class. I felt antsy, fidgety, and bored; my body was not ready for the impending ‘circle time.’
A quick turn of my head and there it was – a red, shiny, attractive box. The allure was all-consuming. ‘Pull the lever,’ an internal voice told me. Before I knew it, my thoughts had become actions, and I instantly became a legend. Blue ink on my palms from the dye pack gave me away when the blaring alarm and chaos settled. Despite initial frustration, even the principal appreciated my clever argument: ‘Why can a small kid reach the fire alarm – is it even really my fault?’
For years, I struggled with that question as I learned that my brain craves action and I need to learn to ‘pause’ while most others don't. I also discovered that I have a passion for understanding how and why the brain works, and a resulting interest in neuroscience.  
Recognizing that people learn and experience things differently and that it's not their ‘fault’ spurred my desire to help others from a young age. I cajoled my parents to take me to a library – an hour away, each way – that was willing to accept a 12-year-old tutor. Soon after, I developed [WEBSITE NAME], a service that provides a combination of learning and social support. I learned that each child has individual needs, different ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ for learning and experiencing the world – and I was fascinated by it all. 
My high school serendipitously had a program perfectly designed for me - [PROGRAM NAME]. I didn’t realize until I started working as a fellow with the [PROGRAM NAME] – a center for mind, body, and education science – that my “field” experience as a tutor coupled with my fascination with learning differences made the intersection of neuroscience and education an ideal focus. My innate desire to understand the brain's inner workings guided me to help others learn and feel comfortable with their own brain wiring. Whether leading a study on the biggest stress factors for high school students or exploring what types of music best influence learning, I am inspired to gain a deeper understanding of brain function and its educational implications.
My parents often tell the fire alarm story – it is pretty funny, after all – but it also represents something more serious for me: the realization that impulsivity is part of my brain circuitry. It's arguably a blessing. As a five-year-old, I needed to pull that alarm. As a more mature student, I need to pursue my desire to understand the brain, recognize I have no ‘fault’ to fix, and use scientific research and insights to help myself and others. To this day, I still believe the fire alarm should be higher than a kindergartner's reach.” 

Although this personal statement begins with a humorous anecdote, the tone remains serious enough to convey the author’s lived experiences and accomplishments influenced by their brain’s impulsivity. This exploration of themselves led to their interest in neuroscience and inspired them to learn more about brain function. 

The conclusion brings the narrative full circle in a light-hearted way while the author shares their conviction to use scientific research in the future to better understand themselves and others. 

Example #15 

This personal statement describes the a figure skater’s reflection of their path: 

“ The frigid air bit my cheeks as music breathed life into the otherwise dead-silent arena. I felt the intimidating stares of a million eyes as I started gliding across the gleaming ice in sync with the music, yearning to flaunt the moves I’d assiduously perfected during my early-morning practices. Flawlessly landing the last double lutz in my program, I was homebound. As the music reached its final decrescendo, I slowly exited my last spin and struck my final pose facing the motionless audience. The silence returned momentarily but quickly turned into thunderous applause and cheers as I took my bow after another ‘gold medal’ performance.
Exiting the ice, I noticed a haze of silhouetted smiles. Most were unrecognizable, but a few jumped out at me before I was even off the ice: those of my coach, my parents, and my exuberant little sister. However, after performing this same program multifarious times this season, each warm post-program greeting by friendly or familiar faces felt like déjà vu. 
Competition after competition caused me to gradually lose sight of my goal. An Olympic gold medal is known to be the pinnacle of a figure skating career, but the elusivity and cutthroat nature of the journey slowly became more of a deterrent to finding my way to the top of that podium. Instead, I was prompted to look beyond the bounds of this track as I sought to uncover a solution to the monotonous cycle that held me confined to the quotidian repetition of competition between training sessions and performances.  
Serendipitously, I soon stumbled upon a volunteer coaching opportunity at my local rink. Through the [NAME] Skating Program, I was given the opportunity to work with individuals with a range of physical and developmental disabilities on the ice. Initially hesitant to fill this position because it’d be my first coaching opportunity, I was soon elated by each skater’s positive demeanor and excitement to reach their fullest potential. To them, skating wasn’t about a collection of gold medals, but instead about the freedom granted to them on the ice and the resultant sense of coach-and-skater camaraderie so freely formed.  
After the program met each week, I continuously found myself exceptionally eager to return to the ice to improve my own skating skills. However, I began approaching practice sessions with a renewed sense of purpose, as I was no longer concerned with the minuscule details that’d cost me valuable points in competition. Shifting my focus from technicalities to the bigger picture, I could now enjoy my time spent on the ice while also enhancing my skills as a mentor. Precipitating fulfillment out of practice sessions, I discovered that the pride I held in my mentoring abilities was more valuable than any medal.
Reflecting on my decade of skating, I’ve come to find that the most rewarding times, just like the most rewarding and delicious recipes, tend to rely on a balance between leadership and zealousness, between seasoning and zest. The leadership seasoning has come from my coaching experiences, which have impelled me to thrust myself into even more leadership roles both inside and outside the rink. On the other side of the rink, my zest at my best is hard for the rest to test, so this equilibrium between leadership and enthusiasm is critical for me to maintain so that I can always be my best self not just for my own self, but also and mostly for others. Whether it be teaching a skating class, educating underclassmen on basic business fundamentals for DECA, or discussing how to write efficacious and mellifluous news articles for my school paper, I’ve constantly been able to find avidity in every activity I pursue through an equilibrium of mentorship and individual effort, even if it doesn’t earn me an Olympic gold medal in the end, because when it comes to being golden-hearted, I’ve already been Olympic-caliber all my life.” 

While the beginning of this personal statement showcases the author’s figure skating talent, the “reflection” piece shows how they handled feeling deterred from their goal of an Olympic gold medal. 

Their mentoring experience shows their community spirit, leadership potential, and adaptability – they connect these experiences to helping them enjoy their time on the ice again. This story conveys how they found balance and can apply it to other situations. 

These examples of college personal statements are just that: examples. While your statement doesn’t need to look exactly like these, reading examples is a great way to gain inspiration. 

Common Personal Statement Mistakes

Many students find it easy to fall into certain traps when writing their personal statements. Make sure to avoid these mistakes in your writing!

  • Relying on cliches : It is imperative that you avoid cliche saying, topics, or ideas in your statement. Admissions officers read tons of statements daily, so you want to make yours stand out. Using cliches will give the impression that you aren’t putting honest effort in and only writing what you think they want to hear. 
  • Choosing an inappropriate topic : Stay away from topics involving illegal activities, highly personal or tragic situations, or controversial ideas. You don’t want to make your reader uncomfortable in any way. 
  • Using quotes : Your personal statement should come from you. Using a famous quote in your statement is not only cliche but also takes up valuable space that you could use for your own words and story. 
  • Not proofreading : If you want to look professional and polished, you need to avoid grammar or spelling mistakes at all costs. Proofread your work and then proofread it again. Try reading it aloud to catch small errors. 
  • Repeating your application : You don’t need to talk about your GPA or test scores in your personal statement. The admissions committee has already seen them. Your statement is a place for you to show them who you are in a personal sense. 

FAQs: How to Write a Personal Statement for College

Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about how to write a college personal statement.

1. What Should a College Personal Statement Include?

Your college personal statement should include a unique story about you and how the event shaped you. You can include important lessons you’ve learned, qualities you’ve developed over time, and your goals.

2. How Do You Start a Personal Statement?

Your introduction should be short and enticing. Don’t spend too much time on your introduction; starting with one or two sentences to set up your story and grab the reader’s attention is best. 

3. How Do I Make My Personal Statement Stand Out?

Your personal statement should highlight something unique to you. Think about your life experiences that meant a lot to you growing up and have shaped you into who you are today and who you want to be. Avoid clichés like famous quotes or general statements. 

4. How Should I Format a Personal Statement?

College application platforms typically provide a personal statement format, such as a word count or page limit. Generally speaking, you’ll want to select a basic, legible font, such as 12 pt. Times New Roman. 

5. How Long Should a Personal Statement Be? 

Your personal statement should ideally be between 500 and 650 words. However, make sure you check the specific requirements for your school to confirm how long your statement should be . 

6. What Should You Not Do in a Personal Statement? 

There are numerous pitfalls to avoid as you write your personal statement, including using famous quotes, making small spelling/grammar errors, or choosing an inappropriate topic. 

Final Thoughts

Your personal statement should be authentic, compelling, and give the reader an excellent idea of what makes you, you . The best personal statements include a punchy introduction, a compelling and unique anecdote, and conclude with a few lines nicely wrapping up the narrative. 

Don’t be afraid to get personal — it’s a personal statement, after all! Just ensure you end on a high note. Remember, your conclusion is the last thing admissions officers will read, so it should be memorable and impactful. What do you want the audience to take away? 

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College Personal Statement Examples and Writing Tips

personal statement example for college

So, you have started your college application process and are hitting a wall. You got your high school transcripts and letters of recommendation in order. Your SAT scores are on the way. But your college personal statement is sitting there unfinished, and the deadline is coming fast!

But have no fear!

Because Wordvice edits thousands of essays every admissions season, we have seen some of the best (and worst) college application essays out there. This guide will tell you how to write the best personal statement for college possible for your college application. Included are examples of successful college personal statements and analyses.

What we will learn here about writing a personal statement for college:

  • What is a college personal statement?
  • How important is the personal statement for college admissions?
  • Why do colleges require a personal statement?
  • Read examples of successful personal statements
  • Successful personal statement example & analysis
  • Essay editing services can improve your personal statement

Personal Statements and Other College Admissions Essays

Even knowing what specific terms regarding college admissions documents means can be a bit confusing. To clear up any questions, here is a brief rundown of some main college application terms that are often used:

  • Personal statement for college — an essay you write to show a college admissions committee who you are and why you deserve to be admitted to their school. It’s worth noting that, unlike “college essay,” this term is used for application essays for graduate school as well.
  • College admissions essay— this is essentially the same as a college personal statement. (I’ll be using the terms interchangeably.) It can also include supplemental essays or widely-used essays such as the Common App Essay . 
  • Essay prompt— a question or statement that your college essay is meant to respond to.
  • Supplemental essay— an additional school or program-specific essay beyond the basic personal statement. Some schools require both a supplemental essay and a personal statement. Check your college’s application guidelines to determine which specific admissions essays are necessary for submission.

What is the personal statement for college?

The college personal statement is a key part of the college application and a key factor among admissions committees. It is the one opportunity for high school students applying to college to sell themselves on their own terms and using their own words.

Personal statements for college differ from SAT scores and academic transcripts, which are more standardized. Further, while letters of recommendation touch on many of the same issues as personal statements, they are not written by you but by a recommender.

A focused and effective personal statement for college serves three major functions:

1. Personal statements give broad, comprehensive insights into your personal and academic background.

Ultimately, your academic, personal, and even professional background can be the determining factor in your admission to any college program. But there’s a big  difference between a personal statement and resume or CV.

2. It provides college admissions counselors with an accurate overview of your academic goals.

A good college personal statement must explain how your background relates to your university’s program and your goals. It must put in context the tools, resources, and background you bring to the table and how they are aligned with your school’s profile. In the business world, this is called “ vertical alignment .”

In other words, how you write about your background should make you stand out from other college applicants as well as connect with what you want to accomplish. Your background empowers you to succeed!

In admissions essays, small steps can yield big results.

3. Personal statements answer very specific questions.

Often, your college application will require you to apply to a specific program and will ask very specific questions. For example, applying to your university’s business college will require answering different application essay questions than applying to a performing arts program.

So be sure to research not only your target university’s profile but also your specific college major and professors in that department.

We illustrate this exact idea in the two successful personal statement examples below!

personal statement examples, person studying

How Important is the personal statement for college to admissions officials?

Covid-19 has made the sat/act less important.

Common App announced that it will include a dedicated essay prompt on COVID-19 for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle. As a result, students are scrambling to figure out how to write about COVID-19 in their college admissions essays .

There’s even more evidence that the college personal essay is becoming the most important part of the application process. As CBS News reports :

A growing number of U.S. colleges and universities are abandoning ACT and SAT scores as part of their admissions process. The so-called test-blind movement has gathered steam this year amid widespread cancellations of standardized tests because of COVID-19.

Moreover, a court recently ruled that the University of California public school system can no longer consider SAT/ACT scores in the admissions process . The days of the standardized test may be numbered.

This means that the application essay just got a lot more important.

How to Write a Personal Statement for College to Impress Admissions Officers

Why do college admissions committees rely on college application essays so much? The answer is that a college personal statement sets you apart from your high school peers by explaining three ideas:

Show your personality in your personal statement

College admissions committees rely on your transcripts and GPA as a measure of your academic prowess. Letters of recommendation focus more on how others view you and how you interact.

On the other hand, your college personal statement application essay gives admissions counselors a sense of your personality. It demonstrates how you will fit in as well as contribute to the university community.

Are you hyper-focused and ambitious with a lot of professional experience and projects to back it up? Or are you more curious, with a wide range of interests? Are your motivations related to achieving concrete objectives, or are they more personal or emotional in nature? The lens through which you interact with the world is exactly what your personal statement essay should show.

On paper, your SAT score, GPA, and extracurricular activities may be the same as other applicants. You may end up in the same college classes. College counselors know no two applicants are the same. What matters is that both fit in with what the university wants for its students.

Describe any extenuating circumstances

Are your grades a bit below average? Did you fail a class in high school? Those things jump out when it comes to numbers on paper. Universities want to know the context for abnormal records, and most importantly, how you view them.

As the world continues to become more global and aware of social disparities, the definition of “traditional success” is becoming increasingly irrelevant. It has become standard for U.S. universities to have action plans for the diversity and inclusion of underprivileged students.

Most importantly, colleges want to understand how you struggled and overcame a difficult situation. Those are the exact students they want!

Explain why you are applying to this school

Besides selling your personality and explaining any drawbacks or holes in your record, a great college personal statement should provide insights into why you are applying to university. This may seem obvious, but unfortunately, many students get caught up in proving themselves like a job application. They totally forget to explain why they are applying to college.

How to write about reasons for applying to college:

  • Define what part(s) of the university appeal to you. Explain how they align with your personal goals and personality.
  • Pick out a couple of unique characteristics of the school. These can be professors, programs of study, or facilities.

hands covered in paint, personal statement examples

Successful College Personal Statement Examples

Now that we know how important a college personal statement is and what it does, what’s the first step?

Success imitates success

At Wordvice, we encourage college applicants to look at successful personal statement examples to really absorb and gain insights into what an engaging personal college essay is. Read as many as you can, as no two students are the same. But you will see many of the themes discussed above again and again in successful college personal statements.

College Personal Statement Examples and Sample Essays

To start, Wordvice is including a couple of successful personal statement essay examples, including comments and feedback provided by our editors to the students. Both of these essays were edited by Wordvice’s professional editors , with both students gaining admission!

Personal Statement Essay #1: The “Holistic Profile” Essay

Dear Sir or Madam, I am writing to express my interest in studying at the University of ________ as a Supply Chain Management student. Thank you in advance for taking the time to read my letter. I am currently studying for a bachelor’s degree in Public Finance and Supply Chain Management at ________ University. I have decided to apply to your Supply Chain Management programme because I am sure it would strongly enrich my future studies and help me in my prospective career. Moreover, I consider this programme as a great opportunity to get to know ________ culture and its well-developed logistic background. I am also very curious about the different approaches taken in this field at a prominent university. I have chosen to apply to the University of________ because it examines all types of supply chain management perspectives, from production to services. During my previous studies, I discovered that simply working on procurement is far from enough. My fellow students and I had the opportunity to create an e-commerce project. At the time, the only thing in our control was the procurement decision, but I soon realized I had the capacity and drive to learn more about solutions and innovations. Another reason I am applying for this programme at ________ is its close relationship with relevant companies in my desired field. I learned on the university’s website that there is a specific resource that helps to connect students with these companies. Since I am interested in working in the Netherlands after I graduate, this resource will definitely be useful for my career. In addition, the fact that this programme offers an option to participate in an apprenticeship is very appealing to me. This could not only broaden my horizons through practical experience but also provide a chance for me to expand my connections in the industry. My current undergraduate studies make me highly suitable for this programme. I have learned the basic foundations of supply chain management through courses such as operations management, strategic purchasing, and inventory management. I have also taken mathematics and statistics to help me understand data problems. In addition to my academic interests, I have a full and interesting life off-campus. I was a member of our school volleyball team, which won several championships; this led to me graduating as an honour’s student. Those times spent on the court have strengthened my team spirit and my ability to work under pressure. During summer vacations, I spend time travelling around Europe and the United States. My first experience in Amsterdam was unforgettable, and it made me consider coming back in the future. Planning the trip carefully, and living alone in an unfamiliar area, have turned me into a more independent young woman. Professionally, I have done internships in international companies such as Red Bull and ASUS. These experiences gave me the chance to work in a global context with people from different countries, which has encouraged me to have a more flexible and adaptive mindset. Because of these wonderful experiences, I am certain I will conquer all future challenges and make the most out of them. In conclusion, I am very eager to study Supply Chain Management at the University of ________, as it would give me a chance to deepen my skills and knowledge in one of the field’s top universities. I am confident I excel in this programme due to my solid educational foundation in business and personality strengths. Thank you again for reading my personal statement. I look forward to hearing from you.

Why was this personal statement for college successful?

The essay is well-organized and directly answers key questions.

The applicant clearly lays out her educational and professional background as well as her skills. She also includes two solid paragraphs about why she has chosen her program of study and later explains why she is both qualified and a perfect fit.

This essay displays excellent organization and has a natural flow of ideas indicative of a native English speaker who can write exceptionally well.

The essay is personal and does not feel like a resume or CV

This college applicant came with a very strong academic and professional background. A solid handle on supply chain management (not the most exciting major) with internships to back it up. But notice how she doesn’t dwell on just that? She is able to connect things like her academic math experience with personal motivation. She even includes her extracurricular activities to show she’s more than a number cruncher.

First, she shows that she is a well-rounded person , not just a student that studies for grades. Second, she conveys her well-developed personal identity that has chosen this course of study at this particular college in this particular country. Make sure your college essay communicates this!

The essay specifically targets the school

Every major university has a business school, and every business school has a supply chain management program. How do the college admissions counselors reading her personal statement know she’s motivated to apply there?

This applicant clearly explains how she personally wants to attend this particular university in The Netherlands. She lists her personal travel experience and mentions a specific mentorship program.

Personal Statement Essay #2: The “Enthusiastic Achiever” Essay

I am passionate about computers because technology will continue to play a fundamental role in our lives. Based on this fact, I researched colleges that have both a strong computer science program and co-op program, and this is when I found Hofstra. I visited the campus for a tour and was really impressed with what I saw. Not only are the campus facilities top-notch, but the advanced computer science labs are world-class. This shows Hofstra’s focus to be able to provide the best intellectual and technical resources for students. I asked my tour guide about the class sizes and curriculum style. I was thrilled when he told me that average class sizes are in the 20s and that the curriculum emphasizes experiential learning.   I am looking for more than just academic excellence; extracurricular activities, including community service opportunities, are also very important to me. In researching schools that would provide students with the most well-rounded lifestyles, I was amazed to see the number of philanthropic events that the school hosts and supports. Philanthropy seems ingrained in the school’s culture. I also saw hundreds of clubs that can cater to everyone’s unique interests. Students are also welcome to start new clubs if no existing clubs can foster their interests. The energy on campus is something that I noticed right away. Both the students and staff show a lot of pride for Hofstra, and it’s truly memorable how enthusiastic the school spirit is among students. Leaving home to attend college is a big change for everyone, and I think school pride and a strong sense of community will help me make a smooth transition. I was very happy to hear that students get two tickets to events on campus. This is especially great because I am a sports fan and would love to experience the electric game-day atmosphere of a division one basketball game and cheer on the Lions!  Hofstra’s location is also ideal because it has the advantages of being in a smaller town but also being very close to New York City. I do not want to attend college in a big city, but the fact that New York City is so close opens up a lot of opportunities. First off, there are numerous internships at top companies in the city. In addition, it would be great to visit the city from time to time and see a show or sports game. Being able to do that with friends would give me great experiences and memories.   Hofstra is my top choice because it fulfills my most important criteria: esteemed faculty members, a strong computer science program, a strong sense of belonging, amazing internship and community service opportunities, and a diverse campus. I cannot wait to be a Hofstra Lion!

This personal statement is brief and under the word count

This essay is 461 words, which is perfectly under the 500-word limit on many college admissions essays. Although content is the main focus, your personal statement needs to abide by all rules laid out in the essay brief. That includes mundane but essential stipulations such as word count.

It is multi-faceted and hits major selling points

The student talks about Hofstra’s location, academics, sports, extracurriculars, and even philanthropy. The student doesn’t just list these as a marketing brochure would; each selling point is connected to the student personally and emotionally. Excitement is something that every student tries to portray in their admissions essay, so be sure you emulate something like this.

spools of colored thread, personal statement examples

Improve Personal Statements with College Essay Editing Services

It’s an understatement that college is one of the most important factors, affecting your social and professional future. Unfortunately, college personal statements and admissions essays sometimes come a bit disorganized and unfocused, just like the students who write them. That’s where essay editing services like Wordvice come in. They are beneficial for a number of reasons.

Why Use an Admissions Essay Editing Service?

1. they help fix errors that you miss.

College admissions committees have to reject a certain number of applicants every year. You can be sure that your application essay will go straight into the reject pile if it has any grammar or spelling errors.

It definitely takes a bit of self-awareness and experience to realize when it’s best to let someone help you. No one person has a monopoly on knowledge or perspective, no matter how strong their background is. Ever played the “what’s the difference between these two pictures” game?

Our brains are hard-wired to lock in our own biases. That’s a major problem when it comes to writing a personal statement where the entire point is convincing someone else.

2. They save students time

College consulting services have stated that the average number of applications is about 5.9 per college applicant. Of course, students will try to maximize their chances of getting into a good college. The downside is lack of time, which no one can buy more of.

English editing services like Wordvice help free up time so you can do what you need to do: apply to college.

3. Editors help improve your ability to communicate

Whether you are an ESL student or a native English speaker, everyone can improve their writing. In the case of a college application essay, this can mean the difference between getting into your dream college and attending your second-choice school. In addition to fixing grammar and basic errors, editing services go above and beyond to match the flow and readability of your writing with your goal – academic or admissions.

If you are writing a personal statement or college essay, you want editors with first-hand college and university admissions experience reviewing and editing your essay.

Additional College Personal Statement Tips

We hope you learned a lot from these examples of successful college personal statements. So what’s next?

I want to learn more about the college admissions process

Interested in learning more tips from experts about the college admissions process, personal statements, or letters of recommendation? Check out the  Wordvice Admissions Resources blog.

I am interested in professional editing for my personal statement

We also got you covered! Whether you choose personal statement editing , recommendation letter editing , resume editing , or any of our other essay editing services , you can find the help you need to improve your college essay.

I want to improve my college personal statement for college right now

Check out our turnaround times and conditions on our editing FAQ page. Or you can jump straight in and use our Editing Price Calculator to start the ordering process.

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How to Write an Amazing Personal Statement (Includes Examples!)

personal statement example for college

Lisa Freedland is a Scholarships360 writer with personal experience in psychological research and content writing. She has written content for an online fact-checking organization and has conducted research at the University of Southern California as well as the University of California, Irvine. Lisa graduated from the University of Southern California in Fall 2021 with a degree in Psychology.

Learn about our editorial policies

Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

personal statement example for college

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

How to Write an Amazing Personal Statement (Includes Examples!)

The personal statement. It’s one of the most important parts of the entire college application process. This essay is the perfect opportunity to show admissions officers who you are and what makes you stand out from the crowd. But writing a good personal statement isn’t exactly easy. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate guide on how to nail your personal statement, complete with example essays . Each essay was reviewed and commented upon by admissions expert Bill Jack. Let’s dive in!

Related: How to write an essay about yourself  

What is a personal statement? 

A personal statement is a special type of essay that’s required when you’re applying to colleges and scholarship programs. In this essay, you’re expected to share something about who you are and what you bring to the table. Think of it as a chance to reveal a side of yourself not found in the rest of your application. Personal statements are typically around 400 – 600 words in length. 

What can I write about? 

Pretty much anything, as long as it’s about you . While this is liberating in the sense that your writing options are nearly unlimited, it’s also overwhelming for the same reason. The good news is that you’ll probably be responding to a specific prompt. Chances are you’re applying to a school that uses the Common App , which means you’ll have seven prompts to choose from . Reviewing these prompts can help generate some ideas, but so can asking yourself meaningful questions. 

Below you’ll find a list of questions to ask yourself during the brainstorming process. For each of the following questions, spend a few minutes jotting down whatever comes to mind. 

  • What experiences have shaped who you are? 
  • What’s special or unique about you or your life story? 
  • Who or what has inspired you the most? 
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of? 
  • What are your goals for the future? How have you arrived at those goals? 
  • If your life was a movie, what would be the most interesting scene? 
  • What have been some of the biggest challenges in your life? How did you respond and what did you learn? 

The purpose of these questions is to prompt you to think about your life at a deeper level. Hopefully by reflecting on them, you’ll find an essay topic that is impactful and meaningful. In the next section, we’ll offer some advice on actually writing your essay. 

Also see:  How to write a 500 word essay

How do I write my personal statement? 

Once you’ve found a topic, it’s time to start writing! Every personal statement is different, so there’s not really one formula that works for every student. That being said, the following tips should get you started in the right direction:  

1. Freewrite, then rewrite 

The blank page tends to get more intimidating the longer you stare at it, so it’s best to go ahead and jump right in! Don’t worry about making the first draft absolutely perfect. Instead, just get your ideas on the page and don’t spend too much time thinking about the finer details. Think of this initial writing session as a “brain dump”. Take 15-30 minutes to quickly empty all your thoughts onto the page without worrying about things like grammar, spelling, or sentence structure. You can even use bullet points if that helps. Once you have your ideas on the page, then you can go back and shape them exactly how you want. 

2. Establish your theme 

Now that you’ve got some basic ideas down on the page, it’s time to lock in on a theme. Your theme is a specific angle that reflects the central message of your essay. It can be summarized in a sentence or even a word. For example, let’s say you’re writing about how you had to establish a whole new group of friends when you moved to a new city. The theme for this type of essay would probably be something like “adaptation”. Having a theme will help you stay focused throughout your essay. Since you only have a limited number of words, you can’t afford to go off on tangents that don’t relate to your theme. 

3. Tell a story

A lot of great essays rely on a specific scene or story. Find the personal anecdote relevant to your theme and transfer it to the page. The best way to do this is by using descriptive language. Consult the five senses as you’re setting the scene. What did you see, hear, taste, touch, or smell? How were you feeling emotionally? Using descriptive language can really help your essay come to life. According to UPchieve , a nonprofit that supports low income students, focusing on a particular moment as a “ revised version of a memoir ” is one way to keep readers engaged. 

Related: College essay primer: show, don’t tell  

4. Focus on your opening paragraph

Your opening paragraph should grab your reader’s attention and set the tone for the rest of your essay. In most cases, this is the best place to include your anecdote (if you have one). By leading with your personal story, you can hook your audience from the get-go. After telling your story, you can explain why it’s important to who you are. 

Related:  How to start a scholarship essay (with examples)

5. Use an authentic voice 

Your personal statement reflects who you are, so you should use a tone that represents you. That means you shouldn’t try to sound like someone else, and you shouldn’t use fancy words just to show off. This isn’t an academic paper, so you don’t have to adopt a super formal tone. Instead, write in a way that allows room for your personality to breathe. 

6. Edit, edit, edit…

Once you’re done writing, give yourself some time away from the essay. Try to allow a few days to pass before looking at the essay again with fresh eyes. This way, you’re more likely to pick up on spelling and grammatical errors. You may even get some new ideas and rethink the way you wrote some things. Once you’re satisfied, let someone else edit your essay. We recommend asking a teacher, parent, or sibling for their thoughts before submitting. 

Examples of personal statements 

Sometimes viewing someone else’s work is the best way to generate inspiration and get the creative juices flowing. The following essays are written in response to four different Common App prompts: 

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.”

When I was eight years old, I wanted a GameCube very badly. For weeks I hounded my dad to buy me one and finally he agreed. But there was a catch. He’d only get me a GameCube if I promised to start reading. Every day I played video games, I would have to pick up a book and read for at least one hour. At that point in my life, reading was just something I had to suffer through for school assignments. To read for pleasure seemed ludicrous. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this proposed agreement. But I figured anything was worth it to get my hands on that shiny new video game console, so I bit the bullet and shook my dad’s hand. Little did I know that I had just made a life-changing deal. 

At first, the required hour of reading was a chore — something I had to do so I could play Mario Kart. But it quickly turned into something more than that. To my complete and utter surprise, I discovered that I actually enjoyed reading. One hour turned into two, two turned into three, and after a while I was spending more time reading than I was playing video games. I found myself captivated by the written word, and I read everything I could get my hands on. Lord of the Rings , Percy Jackson , Goosebumps — you name it. I was falling in love with literature, while my GameCube was accumulating dust in the TV stand. 

Soon enough, reading led to writing. I was beginning to come up with my own stories, so I put pen to paper and let my imagination run wild. It started out small. My first effort was a rudimentary picture book about a friendly raccoon who went to the moon. But things progressed. My stories became more intricate, my characters more complex. I wrote a series of science fiction novellas. I tried my hand at poetry. I was amazed at the worlds I could create with the tip of my pen. I had dreams of becoming an author. 

Then somewhere along the way my family got a subscription to Netflix, and that completely changed the way I thought about storytelling. My nose had been buried in books up until then, so I hadn’t really seen a lot of movies. That quickly changed. It seemed like every other day a pair of new DVDs would arrive in the mail (this was the early days of Netflix). Dark Knight, The Truman Show, Inception, Memento — all these great films were coming in and out of the house. And I couldn’t get enough of them. Movies brought stories to life in a way that books could not. I was head over heels for visual storytelling. 

Suddenly I wasn’t writing novels and short stories anymore. I was writing scripts for movies. Now I wanted to transfer my ideas to the big screen, rather than the pages of a book. But I was still doing the same thing I had always done. I was writing, just in a different format. To help with this process, I read the screenplays of my favorite films and paid attention to the way they were crafted. I kept watching more and more movies. And I hadn’t forgotten about my first love, either. I still cherished books and looked to them for inspiration. By the end of my junior year of high school, I had completed two scripts for short films. 

So why am I telling you all this? Because I want to turn my love of storytelling into a career. I’m not totally sure how to do that yet, but I know I have options. Whether it’s film production, creative writing, or even journalism, I want to find a major that suits my ambitions. Writing has taken me a long way, and I know it can take me even further. As I step into this next chapter of my life, I couldn’t be more excited to see how my craft develops. In the meantime, I should probably get rid of that dusty old GameCube. 

Feedback from admissions professional Bill Jack

Essays don’t always have to reveal details about the student’s intended career path, but one thing I like about this essay is that it gives the reader a sense of the why. Why do they want to pursue storytelling. It also shows the reader that they are open to how they pursue their interest. Being open to exploration is such a vital part of college, so it’s also showing the reader that they likely will be open to new things in college. And, it’s always fun to learn a little bit more about the student’s family, especially if the reader can learn about how the students interacts with their family. 

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?”

I remember my first impression of Irvine: weird. It was foggy, stock-full of greenery and eucalyptus trees, and reminded me of my 5th grade trip to a “science camp” which was located in the San Bernardino mountains. Besides Irvine, that was one of the few places in Southern California where you’d find so many non-palm trees. 

Of course, perhaps my initial impression of Irvine was biased, motivated by a desire to stay in my hometown and a fear of the unknown. While that was true to an extent, Irvine was certainly still a little peculiar. The city itself was based on a “master plan” of sorts, with the location of each of its schools, parks, shops, and arguably its trees having been logically “picked” before the foundation was poured. Even the homes all looked roughly the same, with their beige, stucco walls almost serving as a hallmark of the city itself.

Thus, this perfectly structured, perfectly safe city seemed like a paradise of sorts to many outsiders, my parents included. I was a little more hesitant to welcome this. As I saw it, this was a phony city – believing that its uniformity stood for a lack of personality. My hometown, although not as flawlessly safe nor clean as Irvine, was where most of my dearest memories had occurred. From the many sleepovers at Cindie’s house, to trying to avoid my school’s own version of the “infamous” cheese touch, to the many laughs shared with friends and family, I shed a tear at the prospect of leaving my home.

Moving into the foreign city, remnants of the hostility I held towards Irvine remained. Still dwelling in my memories of the past, I was initially unable to see Irvine as a “home.” So, as I walked into my first-ever Irvine class, being greeted by many kind, yet unfamiliar faces around me, I was unable to recognize that some of those new faces would later become some of my dearest friends. Such negative feelings about the city were further reinforced by newer, harder classes, and more complicated homework. Sitting in the discomfort of this unfamiliar environment, it started to seem that “change” was something not only inevitable, but insurmountable.

As the years went on, however, this idea seemed to fade. I got used to my classes and bike racing through Irvine neighborhoods with my friends, watching the trees that once seemed just a “weird” green blob soon transform into one of my favorite parts of the city. While I kept my old, beloved memories stored, I made space for new ones. From carefully making our way over the narrow creek path next to our school, to the laughs we shared during chemistry class, my new memories made with friends seemed to transform a city I once disliked into one I would miss. 

Through this transformation, I have come to recognize that change, although sometimes intimidating at first, can open the door to great times and meaningful connections. Although Irvine may have once seemed like a strange, “phony” place that I couldn’t wait to be rid of, the memories and laughs I had grown to share there were very real. As I move onto this next part of my life, I hope I can use this knowledge that I have gained from my time in Irvine to make the most of what’s to come. Even if the change may be frightening at first, I have learned to embrace what’s on the other side, whether green or not.

One huge plus to writing an essay that focuses on a place is that you might have it read by someone who has been there. Yet, what’s really helpful about this essay is that even if someone hasn’t been there, a picture is painted about what the place is like.  Admission officers have the hard task of really understanding what the student sees, so the use of adjectives and imagery can really help.  It’s also really clever to see that the green that’s mentioned at the beginning is mentioned at the end.  It’s a nice way to bookend the essay and tie it all together.

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?”

I like getting lost. Not literally, of course, but figuratively. Whether it be in the story of a love song by Taylor Swift, or in the memories brought back by listening to my favorite childhood video game’s background music, I’ve always appreciated music’s ability to transport me to another place, another time, another feeling. 

Alas, I cannot sing, nor have I practiced an instrument since my middle school piano class days. So, perhaps Kurt Vonnegut was right. As he puts it, “Virtually every writer I know would rather be a musician.” While I cannot speak for others, I have certainly not debunked his theory. Writing allows many, including myself, to attempt to mimic the transformative power of music – even if our singing voices aren’t exactly “pleasant.” Just as you can get lost in music, you can do so in a story. Whether it is in George Orwell’s totalitarian Oceania, or Little Women’s Orchard House, the stories outlined in novels can provide an amazing look into the lives and worlds of others, and an escape from the worries and problems of those in your own.

While I am certainly not claiming to have the storytelling abilities of the Orwells or Alcotts before me, I’ve had fun trying to recreate such transformative feelings for others. When I was nine, I attempted to write a story about a little girl who had gotten lost in the woods, only managing to get a couple pages through. As I got older, whenever I was assigned a creative writing assignment in school, I wrote about the same pig, Phil. He was always angry: in my 8th grade science class, Phil was mad at some humans who had harbored his friend captive, and in my 9th grade English class, at a couple who robbed him. 

Thus, when I heard about a writing club being opened at my school in 11th grade, I knew I had to join. I wanted to discern whether writing was just a hobby I picked up now and then, or a true passion. If it was a passion, I wanted to learn as much as possible about how I could improve. Although my high school’s writing club certainly wasn’t going to transform me into Shakespeare, I knew I could learn a lot from it – and I did. The club challenged me to do many things, from writing on the spot, to writing poetry, to even writing about myself, something that’s hopefully coming in handy right now. 

From then on, I started to expand into different types of writing, storing short ideas, skits, and more in appropriately-labeled Google Drive folders. At around the same time, I became interested in classic literature, which largely stemmed from a project in English class. We had been required to choose and read a classic on our own, then present it to the class in an interesting way. While my book was certainly interesting and unique in its own right, nearly everyone else’s novels seemed more captivating to me. So, I took it upon myself to read as many classics as I could the following summer.

One of the books I read during the summer, funnily enough, was Animal Farm, which starred angry pigs, reminiscent of Phil. I had also started going over different ideas in my head, thinking about how I could translate them into words using the new skills I learned. While the writing club helped reaffirm my interest in writing and allowed me to develop new skills, my newfound affinity for classics gave me inspiration to write. Now, I am actually considering writing as part of my future. In this endeavor, I hope that Phil, and the music I inevitably listen to as I write, will accompany me every step of the way.

Admission officers might read 70 (or more!) essays in one day. It’s not uncommon for them to start to blend together and sound similar. This essay might not make you laugh out loud. But, it might make the reader chuckle while reading it thanks to the subtle humor and levity. Being able to incorporate a little humor into your essay (if it is natural for you to do… do not force it), can really be a great way to shed additional light into who you are. Remember, the essay isn’t merely about proving that you can write, but it should also reveal a little bit about your personality.

Prompt 5: “Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.”

I learned a lot of things during the summer I worked at Tropical Smoothie. I discovered the value of hard work. I figured out how to save money. I even mastered the art of the Mango Magic smoothie (the secret is lots of sugar). But most importantly, I learned the power of perspective. And I have Deja to thank for that. 

Deja was my shift supervisor, and one of Tropical Smoothie’s best employees. She was punctual, friendly, and always willing to lend a helping hand. She knew the store from top to bottom, and could handle pretty much any situation thrown her way. She made everyone around her better. On top of all that, she was four months pregnant! I was always impressed by Deja’s work ethic, but I gained an entirely new level of respect for her one day.

It was a Friday night, and Deja and I were working the closing shift together. It was very busy, and Deja and I were the only ones on shift. We managed to get by, but we were exhausted by the end of the evening. After wiping down the counters and mopping the floors, we closed up shop and went our separate ways. I was eager to get home. 

I walked a couple blocks to where I had parked my car. Well, it wasn’t my car actually. It was my dad’s ‘98 Chevy pickup truck, and it was in rough shape. It had no heat or A/C, the leather seats were cracked beyond repair, and the driver’s side door was jammed shut. I sighed as I got in through the passenger side and scooted over to the driver’s seat. The whole reason I was working at Tropical Smoothie was to save up enough money to buy my own car. I was hoping to have something more respectable to drive during my senior year of high school. 

I cranked the old thing up and started on my way home. But soon enough, I spotted Deja walking on the side of the road. There was no sidewalk here, the light was low, and she was dangerously close to the passing cars. I pulled over and offered her a ride. She got in and explained that she was on her way home. Apparently she didn’t have a car and had been walking to work every day. I couldn’t believe it. Here I was complaining about my set of wheels, while Deja didn’t have any to begin with.

We got to talking, and she confessed that she had been having a tough time. You would never know from the way she was so cheerful at work, but Deja had a lot on her plate. She was taking care of her mother, her boyfriend had just lost his job, and she was worried about making ends meet. And of course, she was expecting a baby in five months. On top of all that, she had been walking nearly a mile to and from work every day. The whole thing was a real eye opener, and made me reconsider some things in my own life. 

For one, I didn’t mind driving my dad’s truck anymore. It was banged up, sure, but it was a lot better than nothing. My mindset had changed. I appreciated the truck now. I began to think about other things differently, too. I started making mental notes of all the things in my life I was thankful for — my family, my friends, my health. I became grateful for what I had, instead of obsessing over the things I didn’t. 

I also gained more awareness of the world outside my own little bubble. My encounter with Deja had shown me first-hand that everyone is dealing with their own problems, some worse than others. So I started paying more attention to my friends, family members, and coworkers. I started listening more and asking how I could help. I also gave Deja a ride home for the rest of the summer. 

These are all small things, of course, but I think they make a difference. I realized I’m at my best when I’m not fixated on my own life, but when I’m considerate of the lives around me. I want to keep this in mind as I continue to grow and develop as a person. I want to continue to search for ways to support the people around me. And most importantly, I want to keep things in perspective.

Too often we can be focused on our own problems that we fail to realize that everyone has their own things going on in their lives, too.  This essay showcases how it’s important to put things in perspective, a skill that certainly will prove invaluable in college… and not just in the classroom.  Another reason I like this essay is because it provides deeper insight into the student’s life.  Sure, you might have mentioned in your activities list that you have a job.  But as this essay does, you can show why you have the job in the first place, what your responsibilities are, and more.

A few last tips

We hope these essay examples gave you a bit of inspiration of what to include in your own. However, before you go, we’d like to send you off with a few (personal statement) writing tips to help you make your essays as lovely as the memories and anecdotes they’re based off of. Without further ado, here are some of our best tips for writing your personal statements:

1. Open strong

College admissions officers read many, many essays (think 50+) a day, which can sometimes cause them to start blending together and sounding alike. One way to avoid your essay from simply fading into the background is to start strong. This means opening your essay with something memorable, whether an interesting personal anecdote, a descriptive setting, or anything else that you think would catch a reader’s attention (so long as it’s not inappropriate). Not only might this help college admissions officers better remember your essay, but it will also make them curious about what the rest of your essay will entail.

2. Be authentic

Perhaps most important when it comes to writing personal statement essays is to maintain your authenticity. Ultimately, your essays should reflect your unique stories and quirks that make you who you are, and should help college admissions officers determine whether you’d truly be a good fit for their school or not. So, don’t stress trying to figure out what colleges are looking for. Be yourself, and let the colleges come to you!

3. Strong writing

This one may seem a little obvious, but strong writing will certainly appeal to colleges. Not only will it make your essay more compelling, but it may show colleges that you’re ready for college-level essay writing (that you’ll likely have to do a lot of). Just remember that good writing is not limited to grammar. Using captivating detail and descriptions are a huge part of making your essay seem more like a story than a lecture.

4. Proofread

Last but not least, remember to proofread! Make sure your essay contains no errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. When you’re done proofreading your essay yourself, we would also recommend that you ask a teacher, parent, or other grammatically savvy person to proofread your essay as well.

Final thoughts 

With those in hand, we hope you now have a better sense of how to write your personal statement. While your grades and test scores are important when it comes to college admissions, it’s really your essays that can “make” or “break” your application. 

Although this may make it seem like a daunting task, writing an amazing personal statement essay is all about effort. Thus, so long as you start early, follow the advice listed above, and dedicate your time and effort to it, it’s entirely possible to write an essay that perfectly encapsulates you. Good luck, and happy writing!

Also see:  Scholarships360’s free scholarships search tool

Key Takeaways

  • It may take some people longer than others to know what they want to write about, but remember that everyone, including you, has something unique to write about!
  • Personal statements should be personal, which means you should avoid being too general and really strive to show off what makes you “you”
  • Time and effort are two of the most important things you can put into your personal statement to ensure that it is the best representation of yourself
  • Don’t forget to ask people who know you to read your work before you submit; they should be able to tell you better than anyone if you are truly shining through!

Frequently asked questions about writing personal statements 

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How to Write a Personal Statement (with Tips and Examples)

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Hannah Yang

How to write a personal statement

Table of Contents

What is a personal statement, 6 tips on how to write a personal statement, personal statement examples (for college and university), faqs about writing personal statements, conclusion on how to write a personal statement.

How do you tell someone who you are in just a few hundred words?

It’s certainly no easy task, but it’s one almost every college applicant must do. The personal statement is a crucial part of any college or university application.

So, how do you write a compelling personal statement?

In this article, we’ll give you all the tools, tips, and examples you need to write an effective personal statement.

A personal statement is a short essay that reveals something important about who you are. It can talk about your background, your interests, your values, your goals in life, or all of the above.

Personal statements are required by many college admission offices and scholarship selection committees. They’re a key part of your application, alongside your academic transcript, standardized test scores, and extracurricular activities.

The reason application committees ask you to write a personal statement is so they can get to know who you are. 

Some personal statements have specific prompts, such as “Discuss a period of personal growth in your life” or “Tell us about a challenge or failure you’ve faced.” Others are more open-ended with prompts that essentially boil down to “Tell us about yourself.”

No matter what the prompt is, your goal is the same: to make yourself stand out to the selection committee as a strong candidate for their program.

Here are some things a personal statement can be:

It can be funny. If you have a great sense of humor, your personal statement is a great place to let that shine.  

It can be vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to open up about hardships in your life or failures you’ve experienced. Showing vulnerability can make you sound more like a real person rather than just a collection of application materials.  

It can be creative. Candidates have got into top schools with personal statements that take the form of “a day in the life” descriptions, third-person short stories, and even cooking recipes.

Now we’ve talked about what a personal statement is, let’s quickly look at what a personal statement isn’t:

It isn’t a formal academic paper. You should write the personal statement in your natural voice, using first-person pronouns like “I” and “me,” not in the formal, objective language you would use to write an academic paper.

It isn’t a five-paragraph essay. You should use as many paragraphs as you need to tell your story instead of sticking to the essay structure you learned in school.

It isn’t a resumé. You should try to describe yourself by telling a clear and cohesive story rather than providing a jumbled list of all of your accomplishments and ambitions.

personal statement definition

Here are our top six tips for writing a strong personal statement.

Tip 1: Do Some Serious Self-Reflection

The hardest part of writing a personal statement isn’t the actual process of writing it.

Before you start typing, you have to figure out what to write about. And that means taking some time to reflect on who you are and what’s important in your life.

Here are some useful questions you can use to start your self-reflection. You can either answer these on your own by writing down your answers, or you can ask a trusted friend to listen as you talk about them together.

What were the key moments that shaped your life? (e.g. an important friendship, a travel experience, an illness or injury)

What are you proud of? (e.g. you’re a good listener, you always keep your promises, you’re a talented musician)

How do you choose to spend your time? (e.g. reading, practicing soccer, spending time with your friends)

What inspires you? (e.g. your grandmother, a celebrity, your favorite song)

Doing this self-reflection is crucial for figuring out the perfect topics and anecdotes you can use to describe who you are.

Tip 2: Try to Avoid Cliché Topics

College application committees read thousands of personal statements a year. That means there are some personal statement topics they see over and over again.

Here are a few examples of common personal statement topics that have become cliché:

Winning a tournament or sports game

Volunteering in a foreign country

Moving to a new home

Becoming an older sibling

Being an immigrant or having immigrant parents

If you want to make a strong impression in the application process, you need to make your personal statement stand out from the crowd.

But if your chosen personal statement topic falls into one of these categories, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t use it. Just make sure to put a unique spin on it so it still delivers something the committee hasn’t seen before.

personal statement example for college

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Tip 3: Show, Don’t Tell

One common mistake you might make in your personal statement is to simply tell the reader what you want them to know about you, such as by stating “I have a fear of public speaking” or “I love to cook.”

Instead of simply stating these facts, you should show the committee what you’re talking about through a story or scene, which will make your essay much more immersive and memorable.

For example, let’s say you want the committee to know you overcame your fear of public speaking. Instead of writing “I overcame my fear of public speaking,” show them what it was like to be onstage in front of a microphone. Did your palms get clammy? Did you feel light-headed? Did you forget your words?

Or let’s say you want the committee to know you love to cook. Instead of writing “I love to cook,” show them why you love to cook. What’s your favorite dish to cook? What does the air smell like when you’re cooking it? What kitchen appliances do you use to make it?

Tip 4: Connect the Story to Why You’re Applying

Don’t forget that the purpose of your personal statement isn’t simply to tell the admissions committee who you are. That’s an important part of it, of course, but your ultimate goal is to convince them to choose you as a candidate.

That means it’s important to tie your personal story to your reasons for applying to this specific school or scholarship. Finish your essay with a strong thesis.

For example, if your story is about overcoming your fear of public speaking, you might connect that story to your ambition of becoming a politician. You can then tie that to your application by saying, “I want to apply to this school because of its fantastic politics program, which will give me a perfect opportunity to use my voice.”

Tip 5: Write in Your Own Voice

The personal statement isn’t supposed to be written in a formal tone. That’s why they’re called “personal” statements because you have to shape it to fit your own voice and style.

Don’t use complicated or overwrought language. You don’t need to fill your essay with semicolons and big words, unless that’s how you sound in real life.

One way to write in your own voice is by speaking your personal statement out loud. If it doesn’t feel natural, it may need changing. 

Tip 6: Edit, Edit, Edit!

It’s important to revise your personal statement multiple times in order to make sure it’s as close to perfect as possible.

A single typo won’t kill your application, but if your personal statement contains multiple spelling errors or egregious grammar mistakes, you won’t be putting your best foot forward.

ProWritingAid can help you make sure your personal statement is as clean as possible. In addition to catching your grammar errors, typos, and punctuation mistakes, it will also help you improve weaknesses in your writing, such as passive voice, unnecessary repetition, and more.

Let’s look at some of the best personal statements that have worked for successful candidates in the real world. 

Harvard Personal Statement Example

Love. For a word describing such a powerful emotion, it is always in the air. The word “love” has become so pervasive in everyday conversation that it hardly retains its roots in blazing passion and deep adoration. In fact, the word is thrown about so much that it becomes difficult to believe society isn’t just one huge, smitten party, with everyone holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.” In films, it’s the teenage boy’s grudging response to a doting mother. At school, it’s a habitual farewell between friends. But in my Chinese home, it’s never uttered. Watching my grandmother lie unconscious on the hospital bed, waiting for her body to shut down, was excruciatingly painful. Her final quavering breaths formed a discordant rhythm with the steady beep of hospital equipment and the unsympathetic tapping hands of the clock. That evening, I whispered—into unhearing ears—the first, and only, “I love you” I ever said to her, my rankling guilt haunting me relentlessly for weeks after her passing. My warm confession seemed anticlimactic, met with only the coldness of my surroundings—the blank room, impassive doctors, and empty silence. I struggled to understand why the “love” that so easily rolled off my tongue when bantering with friends dissipated from my vocabulary when I spoke to my family. Do Chinese people simply love less than Americans do?

This is an excerpt from a personal statement that got the applicant admitted to Harvard University. The applicant discusses her background as a Chinese-American by musing on the word “love” and what that means within her family.

The writer uses vulnerable details about her relationship with her grandmother to give the reader an understanding of where she comes from and how her family has shaped her.  

You can read the full personal statement on the Harvard Crimson website.

Tufts Personal Statement Example

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go,” and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon. Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration. Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear. I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.

This is the beginning of a personal statement by Renner Kwittken, who was admitted into Tufts University as a pre-medical student.

Renner uses a humorous anecdote about being a pickle truck driver to describe his love for nanomedicine and how he got involved in his field. You can feel his passion for medicine throughout his personal statement.

You can find Renner’s full essay on the Tufts Admissions page.

Law School Personal Statement Essay Example

For most people, the slap on the face that turns their life around is figurative. Mine was literal. Actually, it was a punch delivered by a drill sergeant at Fort Dix, New Jersey, while I was in basic training. That day’s activity, just a few weeks into the program, included instruction in “low-crawling,” a sensible method of moving from one place to another on a battlefield. I felt rather clever for having discovered that, by looking right rather than down, I eliminated my helmet’s unfortunate tendency to dig into the ground and slow my progress. I could thus advance more easily, but I also exposed my unprotected face to hostile fire. Drill sergeants are typically very good at detecting this type of laziness, and mine was an excellent drill sergeant. So, after his repeated suggestions that I correct my performance went unheeded, he drove home his point with a fist to my face. We were both stunned. This was, after all, the New Army, and striking a trainee was a career-ending move for a drill sergeant, as we were both aware. I could have reported him; arguably, I should have. I didn’t. It didn’t seem right for this good sergeant, who had not slept for almost four days, to lose his career for losing his temper with my laziness. Choosing not to report him was the first decision I remember making that made me proud.

These are the first three paragraphs of an anonymous personal statement by a Wheaton College graduate, who used this personal statement to get into a top-25 law school.

This statement describes a time the applicant faced a challenging decision while in the army. He ended up making a decision he was proud of, and as a result, the personal statement gives us a sense of his character.

You can find the full essay on the Wheaton Academics website.

Here are some common questions about how to write a personal statement.

How Long Should a Personal Statement Be?

The length of your personal statement depends on the specific program you’re applying to. The application guidelines usually specify a maximum word count or an ideal word count.  

Most personal statements are between 500–800 words. That’s a good general range to aim for if you don’t have more specific guidelines.  

Should Personal Statements Be Different for Scholarships?

Many scholarship applications will ask for personal statements with similar prompts to those of college applications.

However, the purpose of a personal statement you’d write for a scholarship application is different from the purpose of one you’d write for a college application.

For a scholarship application, your goal is to showcase why you deserve the scholarship. To do that, you need to understand the mission of the organization offering that scholarship.

For example, some scholarships are meant to help first-generation college students get their degree, while others are meant to help women break into STEM.

Consider the following questions:

Why is this organization offering scholarships?

What would their ideal scholarship candidate look like?

How do your experiences and goals overlap with those of their ideal scholarship candidate?

You can use the same personal anecdotes you’d use for any other personal statement, but you’ll have a better chance of winning the scholarship if you tailor your essay to match their specific mission.

How to Start a Personal Statement

You should start your personal statement with a “hook” that pulls the reader in. The sooner you catch the reader’s attention, the more likely they’ll want to read the entire essay.

Here are some examples of hooks you can use:

A story (e.g. When the spotlight hit my face, I tried to remind myself to breathe. )

A setting description (e.g. My bedroom floor is covered with dirty laundry, candy wrappers, and crumpled sheet music. )

A funny anecdote (e.g. When I was a little kid, my friends nicknamed me Mowgli because of my haircut. )

A surprising fact (e.g. I've lived in 37 countries .)

There you have it—our complete guide to writing a personal statement that will make you stand out to the application committee.

Here’s a quick recap: 

A personal statement is a short essay that shows an application committee who you are

Start with a strong hook that pulls the reader in

Tell a story to engage the reader 

Write in your own voice, not in a formal tone

Good luck, and happy writing!

Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on hannahyang.com or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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  • Knowledge Base
  • Applying to graduate school
  • How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

Published on February 12, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 3, 2023.

A personal statement is a short essay of around 500–1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you’re applying.

To write a successful personal statement for a graduate school application , don’t just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to demonstrate three things:

  • Your personality: what are your interests, values, and motivations?
  • Your talents: what can you bring to the program?
  • Your goals: what do you hope the program will do for you?

This article guides you through some winning strategies to build a strong, well-structured personal statement for a master’s or PhD application. You can download the full examples below.

Urban Planning Psychology History

Table of contents

Getting started with your personal statement, the introduction: start with an attention-grabbing opening, the main body: craft your narrative, the conclusion: look ahead, revising, editing, and proofreading your personal statement, frequently asked questions, other interesting articles.

Before you start writing, the first step is to understand exactly what’s expected of you. If the application gives you a question or prompt for your personal statement, the most important thing is to respond to it directly.

For example, you might be asked to focus on the development of your personal identity; challenges you have faced in your life; or your career motivations. This will shape your focus and emphasis—but you still need to find your own unique approach to answering it.

There’s no universal template for a personal statement; it’s your chance to be creative and let your own voice shine through. But there are strategies you can use to build a compelling, well-structured story.

The first paragraph of your personal statement should set the tone and lead smoothly into the story you want to tell.

Strategy 1: Open with a concrete scene

An effective way to catch the reader’s attention is to set up a scene that illustrates something about your character and interests. If you’re stuck, try thinking about:

  • A personal experience that changed your perspective
  • A story from your family’s history
  • A memorable teacher or learning experience
  • An unusual or unexpected encounter

To write an effective scene, try to go beyond straightforward description; start with an intriguing sentence that pulls the reader in, and give concrete details to create a convincing atmosphere.

Strategy 2: Open with your motivations

To emphasize your enthusiasm and commitment, you can start by explaining your interest in the subject you want to study or the career path you want to follow.

Just stating that it interests you isn’t enough: first, you need to figure out why you’re interested in this field:

  • Is it a longstanding passion or a recent discovery?
  • Does it come naturally or have you had to work hard at it?
  • How does it fit into the rest of your life?
  • What do you think it contributes to society?

Tips for the introduction

  • Don’t start on a cliche: avoid phrases like “Ever since I was a child…” or “For as long as I can remember…”
  • Do save the introduction for last. If you’re struggling to come up with a strong opening, leave it aside, and note down any interesting ideas that occur to you as you write the rest of the personal statement.

Once you’ve set up the main themes of your personal statement, you’ll delve into more detail about your experiences and motivations.

To structure the body of your personal statement, there are various strategies you can use.

Strategy 1: Describe your development over time

One of the simplest strategies is to give a chronological overview of key experiences that have led you to apply for graduate school.

  • What first sparked your interest in the field?
  • Which classes, assignments, classmates, internships, or other activities helped you develop your knowledge and skills?
  • Where do you want to go next? How does this program fit into your future plans?

Don’t try to include absolutely everything you’ve done—pick out highlights that are relevant to your application. Aim to craft a compelling narrative that shows how you’ve changed and actively developed yourself.

My interest in psychology was first sparked early in my high school career. Though somewhat scientifically inclined, I found that what interested me most was not the equations we learned about in physics and chemistry, but the motivations and perceptions of my fellow students, and the subtle social dynamics that I observed inside and outside the classroom. I wanted to learn how our identities, beliefs, and behaviours are shaped through our interactions with others, so I decided to major in Social Psychology. My undergraduate studies deepened my understanding of, and fascination with, the interplay between an individual mind and its social context.During my studies, I acquired a solid foundation of knowledge about concepts like social influence and group dynamics, but I also took classes on various topics not strictly related to my major. I was particularly interested in how other fields intersect with psychology—the classes I took on media studies, biology, and literature all enhanced my understanding of psychological concepts by providing different lenses through which to look at the issues involved.

Strategy 2: Own your challenges and obstacles

If your path to graduate school hasn’t been easy or straightforward, you can turn this into a strength, and structure your personal statement as a story of overcoming obstacles.

  • Is your social, cultural or economic background underrepresented in the field? Show how your experiences will contribute a unique perspective.
  • Do you have gaps in your resume or lower-than-ideal grades? Explain the challenges you faced and how you dealt with them.

Don’t focus too heavily on negatives, but use them to highlight your positive qualities. Resilience, resourcefulness and perseverance make you a promising graduate school candidate.

Growing up working class, urban decay becomes depressingly familiar. The sight of a row of abandoned houses does not surprise me, but it continues to bother me. Since high school, I have been determined to pursue a career in urban planning. While people of my background experience the consequences of urban planning decisions first-hand, we are underrepresented in the field itself. Ironically, given my motivation, my economic background has made my studies challenging. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship for my undergraduate studies, but after graduation I took jobs in unrelated fields to help support my parents. In the three years since, I have not lost my ambition. Now I am keen to resume my studies, and I believe I can bring an invaluable perspective to the table: that of the people most impacted by the decisions of urban planners.

Strategy 3: Demonstrate your knowledge of the field

Especially if you’re applying for a PhD or another research-focused program, it’s a good idea to show your familiarity with the subject and the department. Your personal statement can focus on the area you want to specialize in and reflect on why it matters to you.

  • Reflect on the topics or themes that you’ve focused on in your studies. What draws you to them?
  • Discuss any academic achievements, influential teachers, or other highlights of your education.
  • Talk about the questions you’d like to explore in your research and why you think they’re important.

The personal statement isn’t a research proposal , so don’t go overboard on detail—but it’s a great opportunity to show your enthusiasm for the field and your capacity for original thinking.

In applying for this research program, my intention is to build on the multidisciplinary approach I have taken in my studies so far, combining knowledge from disparate fields of study to better understand psychological concepts and issues. The Media Psychology program stands out to me as the perfect environment for this kind of research, given its researchers’ openness to collaboration across diverse fields. I am impressed by the department’s innovative interdisciplinary projects that focus on the shifting landscape of media and technology, and I hope that my own work can follow a similarly trailblazing approach. More specifically, I want to develop my understanding of the intersection of psychology and media studies, and explore how media psychology theories and methods might be applied to neurodivergent minds. I am interested not only in media psychology but also in psychological disorders, and how the two interact. This is something I touched on during my undergraduate studies and that I’m excited to delve into further.

Strategy 4: Discuss your professional ambitions

Especially if you’re applying for a more professionally-oriented program (such as an MBA), it’s a good idea to focus on concrete goals and how the program will help you achieve them.

  • If your career is just getting started, show how your character is suited to the field, and explain how graduate school will help you develop your talents.
  • If you have already worked in the profession, show what you’ve achieved so far, and explain how the program will allow you to take the next step.
  • If you are planning a career change, explain what has driven this decision and how your existing experience will help you succeed.

Don’t just state the position you want to achieve. You should demonstrate that you’ve put plenty of thought into your career plans and show why you’re well-suited to this profession.

One thing that fascinated me about the field during my undergraduate studies was the sheer number of different elements whose interactions constitute a person’s experience of an urban environment. Any number of factors could transform the scene I described at the beginning: What if there were no bus route? Better community outreach in the neighborhood? Worse law enforcement? More or fewer jobs available in the area? Some of these factors are out of the hands of an urban planner, but without taking them all into consideration, the planner has an incomplete picture of their task. Through further study I hope to develop my understanding of how these disparate elements combine and interact to create the urban environment. I am interested in the social, psychological and political effects our surroundings have on our lives. My studies will allow me to work on projects directly affecting the kinds of working-class urban communities I know well. I believe I can bring my own experiences, as well as my education, to bear upon the problem of improving infrastructure and quality of life in these communities.

Tips for the main body

  • Don’t rehash your resume by trying to summarize everything you’ve done so far; the personal statement isn’t about listing your academic or professional experience, but about reflecting, evaluating, and relating it to broader themes.
  • Do make your statements into stories: Instead of saying you’re hard-working and self-motivated, write about your internship where you took the initiative to start a new project. Instead of saying you’ve always loved reading, reflect on a novel or poem that changed your perspective.

Your conclusion should bring the focus back to the program and what you hope to get out of it, whether that’s developing practical skills, exploring intellectual questions, or both.

Emphasize the fit with your specific interests, showing why this program would be the best way to achieve your aims.

Strategy 1: What do you want to know?

If you’re applying for a more academic or research-focused program, end on a note of curiosity: what do you hope to learn, and why do you think this is the best place to learn it?

If there are specific classes or faculty members that you’re excited to learn from, this is the place to express your enthusiasm.

Strategy 2: What do you want to do?

If you’re applying for a program that focuses more on professional training, your conclusion can look to your career aspirations: what role do you want to play in society, and why is this program the best choice to help you get there?

Tips for the conclusion

  • Don’t summarize what you’ve already said. You have limited space in a personal statement, so use it wisely!
  • Do think bigger than yourself: try to express how your individual aspirations relate to your local community, your academic field, or society more broadly. It’s not just about what you’ll get out of graduate school, but about what you’ll be able to give back.

You’ll be expected to do a lot of writing in graduate school, so make a good first impression: leave yourself plenty of time to revise and polish the text.

Your style doesn’t have to be as formal as other kinds of academic writing, but it should be clear, direct and coherent. Make sure that each paragraph flows smoothly from the last, using topic sentences and transitions to create clear connections between each part.

Don’t be afraid to rewrite and restructure as much as necessary. Since you have a lot of freedom in the structure of a personal statement, you can experiment and move information around to see what works best.

Finally, it’s essential to carefully proofread your personal statement and fix any language errors. Before you submit your application, consider investing in professional personal statement editing . For $150, you have the peace of mind that your personal statement is grammatically correct, strong in term of your arguments, and free of awkward mistakes.

A statement of purpose is usually more formal, focusing on your academic or professional goals. It shouldn’t include anything that isn’t directly relevant to the application.

A personal statement can often be more creative. It might tell a story that isn’t directly related to the application, but that shows something about your personality, values, and motivations.

However, both types of document have the same overall goal: to demonstrate your potential as a graduate student and s how why you’re a great match for the program.

The typical length of a personal statement for graduate school applications is between 500 and 1,000 words.

Different programs have different requirements, so always check if there’s a minimum or maximum length and stick to the guidelines. If there is no recommended word count, aim for no more than 1-2 pages.

If you’re applying to multiple graduate school programs, you should tailor your personal statement to each application.

Some applications provide a prompt or question. In this case, you might have to write a new personal statement from scratch: the most important task is to respond to what you have been asked.

If there’s no prompt or guidelines, you can re-use the same idea for your personal statement – but change the details wherever relevant, making sure to emphasize why you’re applying to this specific program.

If the application also includes other essays, such as a statement of purpose , you might have to revise your personal statement to avoid repeating the same information.

If you want to know more about college essays , academic writing , and AI tools , make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

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How to Start a Personal Statement

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One of the first hurdles students encounter when writing college essays is how to start a personal statement. As a core element of many applications, understanding how to write a personal statement is crucial. Learning how to write a personal statement that is an authentic representation of yourself can be challenging. However, mastering this skill will help you craft personal essays that make a lasting impact on admissions officers. 

Specific, actionable college essay tips can help you learn how to write a personal statement for college. If you spend time learning how to start a college essay, you’ll feel even more confident as you begin the process. So, let’s demystify just exactly how to start a personal statement. 

In this guide, How to Start a Personal Statement, we’ll cover everything you need to know about personal statements, including:

  • Personal statement meaning, goals, and expectations
  • Common personal statement formats
  • The importance of a hook and how to write one
  • Steps for how to start a personal statement
  • Tips for how to write a personal statement
  • How to approach the editing phase
  • Coming up with personal statement ideas
  • Examples of personal statements and how to use them

Remember, any writing process takes time. This applies whether you’re figuring out how to start a college essay or how to write a personal statement for college. No matter what approach you take, the key to how to write a great college essay is to start early! 

Now, let’s start with the basics: what is a personal statement?

What is a personal statement?

personal statement example for college

Simply put, a personal statement is a type of college application essay. But, if you’re looking for answers to, “What is a personal statement?” you probably already know that. At its core, the personal statement should be the essay that most clearly reflects your application narrative . By reading your personal statement, colleges should gain a better understanding of who you are. That means having a clear sense of your strengths, values, and interests.

However, this doesn’t mean that your personal statement needs to capture your entire life story. In fact, often, your personal statement will likely center around just one particular moment or experience. Specifically, one that has defined your identity, passions, or personal growth. 

If you search for a personal statement meaning by school, you may find slightly varying definitions. However, all personal essays have the same goal. Personal essays show colleges your authentic voice while highlighting a part of yourself that isn’t captured elsewhere in your application. You’ll notice this if you read any example of a personal statement for college. 

Engaging in self-reflection

To understand the personal statement meaning in the simplest terms, think of two words: self-reflection . Identifying pivotal life moments, values, and skills are all a part of how to write a great college essay. However, the process of how to write a personal statement for college takes more than just describing an experience. Instead, it forces you to find the balance between contextualizing what happened and expressing how it impacted you.

Successful personal essays will generally do two things. One, they’ll capture the meaning of your past experiences, specifically the ways you were changed and the lessons you learned. Two, they’ll connect your past experiences to your current and future goals. For many students, college applications are the first time they’ve been asked to write about themselves. So, the process of making these personal connections may seem daunting.

Preparing for the future

Knowing exactly what is a personal statement and how to write a personal statement can also help you in other facets of life. For example, consider the overlap between the college application process and the job application process. When applying to jobs, you need to highlight pertinent skills, values, and beliefs—just like in a college application essay. You can even use the skills and principles for writing a personal statement to write a cover letter (with certain nuances, of course).

For more information on the personal statement meaning, check out the application/essay page for schools on your college list. Their advice and resources can help students understand exactly what’s expected from them in these types of essays. And, many colleges will even provide their own tips for how to write a great college essay. They might also provide an example of a personal statement for college. 

We’ve answered the question, “What is a personal statement?” So, now, let’s get into the personal statement format.

Personal statement format

personal statement example for college

When learning how to write a personal statement, you’ll encounter some different personal statement formats. While there is no singular or “best” personal statement format, most personal essays share a few key attributes. So, understanding these key features can greatly help students learning how to write a great college essay.

Many students’ personal statements tell stories. In fact, discovering these important stories forms a key component of how to start a college essay. Much of the work that goes into discovering how to write a personal statement starts before you even begin writing. (We’ll discuss brainstorming ideas in a later section of this guide.)

Before we dive into how to start a personal statement, we need to pinpoint the starting point for your personal statements: the prompts.

Common/Coalition Application Personal Statement

In many cases, the personal statement refers to the Common App essay or Coalition Application essay. While there are some differences between the two application portals, both follow the same personal statement format. Students will choose from a selection of college essay prompts and write an essay (650 words max). Then, they will submit that essay to every school they apply to via that particular portal. In these cases, the process of how to start a college essay begins with reading through the provided prompts.

Learning how to write a personal statement for college includes learning how to choose the best prompt for you. The personal statement topic you ultimately choose is extremely important; your topic is essentially the soul of your essay. You’d be hard-pressed to find a well-written example of a personal statement for college that wasn’t based on an impactful topic. 

The Common App essay

Let’s take a closer look at how to start a college essay for the Common App. In the Common App, students have seven college essay prompts to choose from. Each of these college essay prompts allows students to share important anecdotes from their lives. Most of these college essay prompts ask specific questions, however, the seventh prompt is slightly different. Prompt #7 actually allows students to choose any topic for their essay.

10 Exceptional Common App Essay Examples

The coalition app essay.

The Coalition Application offers a similar personal statement format. Prompt #6 also asks students to submit an essay on any topic. You might think that responding to such an open-ended prompt would change your approach for how to write a great college essay. However, you can still use the college essay tips provided in this guide, no matter what prompt you decide to respond to.

The Common App and the Coalition Application are the most common personal statement formats you’ll encounter. However, some schools have their own unique personal statement format and requirements.

Coalition Essay Prompts 2023-24

Other personal statements

The method you take when figuring out how to write a personal statement will largely depend on your personal statement prompt. However, a personal statement for college isn’t always based on specific college essay prompts. You might simply be asked to share more about yourself. However, even if your personal statement format doesn’t directly ask you for a particular narrative, your essay still needs a focus. So, you should still aim to have your personal statement tell a story about some critical aspect of your identity. 

That being said, always double-check the specific personal statement format and requirements for each program you apply to. For instance, if you apply to universities in the UK, the UCAS personal statement is far different from other personal essays. Namely, these personal statements focus almost entirely on academics. 

When considering how to start a personal statement, look to admissions websites or university blogs for advice. Often, they’ll have a page dedicated to helpful college essay tips with insight into what they look for from students’ personal essays. For example, check out this blog from UChicago that provides tips on how to approach their quirky prompts. Additionally, check out this personal statement webinar in which an admissions officer shares helpful college essay tips. 

Now, let’s define an important attribute of how to start a personal statement: the hook.

How to start a personal statement: Understanding the “hook”

how to start a personal statement

It’s impossible to learn how to start a personal statement or how to write a personal statement that “wows” without a hook. A hook is an opening statement that catches the reader’s attention. It draws them in and makes them want to keep reading to see how the story unfolds. In personal essays, the hook is key to getting your reader invested in your story. 

But, if the idea of coming up with a compelling hook intimidates you, don’t panic! The hook isn’t necessarily the step you need to start with when learning how to start a college essay. That being said, it forms a crucial component of the personal statement introduction. You’ll notice that almost every successful example of personal statement for college has an engaging hook.

Let’s check out some hooks that impressed to help give you a better idea of how to start a personal statement.

College Personal Statement Examples

Example of personal statement for college: hook #1.

My life is as simple as a Rubik’s Cube: a child’s toy that can be solved in 20 moves or less IF and only if enough knowledge is gained.

In this personal statement introduction, this student intrigues the reader by comparing their life to a toy. Simply by reading this hook, we can see this student’s self-reflection as well as their creativity. And, most importantly, we’re intrigued to see the connection of how and why this person is fascinated by a Rubik’s cube. In this example, the Rubik’s cube is both unique and genuinely important to the writer. Moreover, by the end of the essay, we gain some valuable insight into how this person navigates the world. And, it all started with this hook. 

Example of Personal Statement for College: Hook #2

When I joined the high school swim team, I never expected to go to school dressed as Shrek.

After reading this hook, you’re probably left with more questions than answers. “What does having to be on the swim team have to do with dressing up as Shrek?” We don’t know yet! And, that’s the point. This surprising hook has the reader curious about the connection the writer will make. However, when figuring out how to start a personal statement, don’t go overboard with the shock factor. Keep in mind that personal essays can’t come from wild statements alone. Rather, they need to connect to a meaningful moment in the writer’s life. 

Example of Personal Statement for College: Hook #3

At six years old, most kids I know get excited to help Blue find clues or recite Elmo’s songs on Sesame Street. So you can imagine my family’s surprise when they saw me ignoring the other kids to go belt alongside my grandfather’s mariachi trio in the backyard.

Your hook doesn’t have to be just one sentence. Rather, it might be a couple of sentences or even the first paragraph, like in this example. Keep in mind that there are no definitive rules to how to start a personal statement—other than sharing important information about yourself that will stand out to admissions officers.

Students who want to master how to write a personal statement need to learn how to craft an engaging hook. This particular hook shows how the writer is different from their peers. As the reader, we can learn a lot from just these few sentences. We already know that this writer isn’t afraid to be themselves and do what they love from a young age. This college application essay gets into much deeper themes as the narrative continues. However, the most important part of the personal statement introduction—the hook—has already done its job of pulling the reader in to learn more. 

Using these examples

These are just a few successful hooks that students have used in their approach to how to start a personal statement. Each of these comes from a strong example of a personal statement for college. As you can see from each example of a personal statement for college, the best personal statement topics are unique. However, even the most quirky hooks always lead the reader into an essay of substance.

Use each example of personal statement for college to help inspire your “how to write a personal statement” journey. When considering how to write a great college essay, analyzing examples of what works can help. 

Want to see how others figured out how to start a personal statement? Check out these personal statement examples as well as these Common App essay examples for inspiration.

When to write your hook

Having a hook is a crucial part of how to write a personal statement that impresses. However, coming up with your hook won’t necessarily form the first step in your process. Just as there’s no one right way of how to write a personal statement, there’s no one right way to write a hook. 

When considering how to start a personal statement, you don’t need to dive into the hook right away. You may even write a whole draft of your essay before figuring out the best hook for your personal statement introduction. 

So, if a hook doesn’t jump to your brain as you consider personal statement ideas, just start writing! Sometimes, it’s best to write a straightforward beginning (maybe even dry!) and then work your way backward. Remember, it doesn’t matter when you come up with it. Just be sure to add that sparkly hook to your personal statement before submitting your final draft.

Do all colleges require a personal statement?

how to start a personal statement

It’s more than likely that you will need to know how to write a personal statement during the college application process. However, not every college requires a personal statement—though most top schools do. 

So, before stressing about how to start a college essay, check the requirements of the schools on your college list . However, keep in mind that most of the nation’s top schools require applicants to submit a personal statement for college.

Additionally, you might want to adjust your personal statement for different programs. You’ll still submit the same personal statement for college for each school you apply to through the Common App. However, other specialized programs and applications might request a slightly different personal statement format. So, always check the admissions requirements and do your research on every school and each individual program. Your approach to how to start a college essay will depend on each program’s prompts and formats. You can also always look at an example of a personal statement for college for inspiration. 

33 Colleges Without Supplemental Essays

Do colleges care about the personal statement? 

A strong college application essay is extremely important in the admissions process. So, put simply, yes—colleges really do care about the personal statement. Understanding how to start a personal statement means understanding the weight that it carries. Of course, you shouldn’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the process. Rather, try to feel excited by the opportunity to truly show off your personality, skills, background, future goals, and more.

That being said, the extent to which your personal statement impacts your admissions decision will likely vary by school. For instance, some larger state schools may focus foremost on your grades or standardized test scores (due to the fact that they receive such a large volume of applicants and have more spaces available). While these schools will still care about your personal statement, other factors may have a more immediate impact on their admissions decisions. 

On the other hand, top universities with smaller enrollments often place a considerable amount of emphasis on the personal statement. These schools receive more qualified applicants than the places they have available. Your personal statement lets you highlight what makes you unique and how you’ll enrich their campus community. 

How to write a personal statement – Step-by-step guide

A successful personal statement for college will read as passionate and authentic. You’ll notice this in each example of personal statement for college that you read. But how exactly do you write a passionate and authentic essay?

To begin, you’ll likely brainstorm personal statement ideas and decide on your personal statement topic.  However, understanding how to write a personal statement will require more than simply knowing how to start a personal statement. And remember, you can always check out an example of a personal essay for college if you’re feeling stuck. 

How to write a personal statement isn’t a strict process—as seen in this personal statement webinar about rethinking your essay . However, you should follow certain key steps as you craft your essays. Following each step, and allotting yourself sufficient time to do so, will make the writing process all the better. (Tips about staying on track are just as important as the best college essay tips about writing!)

Next, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of how to write a personal statement. This includes brainstorming personal statement ideas, exploring personal statement topics, and reviewing and submitting your personal essays.

Ready to learn just how to write a personal statement? Let’s get started!

How to start a personal statement – First steps

how to start a personal statement

Now, let’s dive into how to start a personal statement. The first steps to how to start a personal statement can be broken down into two parts:

During these steps, you’ll generate personal statement ideas and select your personal statement topics. Without a strong topic, you’ll struggle to write a genuine essay. So, let’s talk about how to generate an essay topic that highlights your passion. 

Step 1: Brainstorm

How to start a personal statement begins with brainstorming a list of ideas. Each stellar example of a personal statement for college likely came from a brainstorming session. But, why is brainstorming so important? 

While some personal statement requirements won’t provide specific prompts for applicants, many will, including the Common App essay. So, you should make sure to choose a great topic that directly answers the prompt. 

Let’s check out some brainstorming exercises that can help you get the great ideas flowing. 

The best way to choose a great topic for a personal statement for college is through your passions. If you’re stuck when it comes to pinpointing your passions, try answering this question: If you were going to host a TED talk, what would it be and why? We all know that TED talks are addicting—that’s because they’re engaging. And they’re engaging because the hosts are talking about their passions. 

So, think about something you would be excited to spend 30-40 minutes discussing in front of an audience. What would you say about it? You might find using voice notes and recording yourself is easier than writing out your ideas. For some students, talking about something may feel easier than immediately putting pen to paper. 

If a TED talk doesn’t get your creative juices flowing, try a classic essay brainstorming method: mind maps. You’ve likely done mind maps in your high school English class. But for those who haven’t, let’s break down the process. 

First, take the prompt for your essay. For instance, maybe it asks about a challenge you’ve faced. Set a timer for 10 minutes and write the prompt on a sheet of paper. Then, next to the prompt, start writing every experience you’ve had that relates to the prompt. This is not the time to get into the details—just focus on potential topics. Even if you’re not sure if something is a perfect fit, include it! At this stage, all ideas are fair game. Later, you can narrow them down to find the topic that you have the most to write about. 

Defining values

Another useful brainstorming exercise for a college application essay, especially when it comes to how to start a personal statement, has to do with defining your values. Most successful personal essays center around a value that students have. Think about the values that are most important to you (loyalty, kindness, empathy, honesty, etc.). Then, create a list of 4-6 values. After that, for each of your values, come up with a list of experiences that reflect them. You can even set a timer for each value. 

Alternatively, you might work backward by coming up with a list of experiences that you find were the most impactful in your life. From these experiences, you can identify values that they instilled or that you embodied. Make sure to focus on an experience that highlights something critical about who you are as a person, student, or community member. You might also consider doing this same activity for qualities or skills depending on the essay prompt. 

Step 2: Free-write

how to start a personal statement

Once you have your topic, it’s time to flex your writing muscles. Don’t feel constrained by the word count at this stage. In fact, forget about a hook, a conclusion, and other literary details. Now is just the time to get your ideas on paper stress-free. 

Struggling with Step 2 in how to start a personal statement? You might benefit from doing a timed free write. Set a timer for 20 minutes and don’t stop writing about the topic until the time is up. Don’t stress about writing the perfect sentence or having the right flow–just keep writing on the topic at hand. You may want to do this step a couple of times if you’re still deciding on the best prompt to respond to. You won’t always find the perfect personal essay topic on the first try, and that’s okay.

However, keep in mind that some topics may read as inappropriate or cliché. If you end up choosing an overused essay topic, you may struggle to come up with a unique angle. (But that doesn’t mean these topics are entirely off-limits!) However, you should not talk about illegal or illicit behavior and never use explicit language. 

While you have free range to pick an essay topic, there are certain errors you can make. Make sure you don’t join the club of students who missed the mark with their personal essays. Learn from this personal statement webinar reviewing common mistakes that students make in their personal essays. Then, you’ll know what to avoid when deciding how to start a personal statement.

How to start a personal statement – Writing & editing

how to start a personal statement

You’ve gotten some answers to the question “what is a personal statement?” and learned how to start a personal statement. Now, it’s time to start a draft. 

For some students, figuring out how to start a college essay is the most stressful part of writing their personal essays. Indeed, you may have to write four to six drafts of your college application essay before you’ve written a personal statement for college that makes you feel proud. 

This is why our top piece of advice for how to write a great college essay is to start early. If you start early, you’ll have plenty of time to learn how to write a personal statement. You’ll also have the flexibility to write multiple drafts of your personal essays. Additionally, you’ll be able to read an example of a personal statement for college. 

Time also allows you the freedom to try out multiple personal statement topics. That way, you can find the personal statement format that makes for a powerful college application essay.

In this section, we’ll provide some college essay tips for outlining your personal statement, an important step for how to start a personal statement.

One idea for how to start a college essay is to draft an outline. An outline is simply a list of the ideas that will go into each part of your essay. You can format your outline in any way that makes sense for you. 

By outlining, you can remove some of the pressure around how to start a personal statement. Instead of putting pen to paper to write a whole essay , you just have to jot down what order you want your ideas to go in. Think of an outline as a sketch of a picture you want to draw. Once you have that sketch, drawing the rest of the picture is usually easier.

However, outlining is not for everyone. Some students find outlining stressful, limiting, or confusing. If you’d rather jump into writing your personal statement on a blank page, do so. At the end of the day, when figuring out how to start a personal statement, you should follow the writing process that works best for you.  

Drafting Your College Essay

Regardless of whether you choose to outline your ideas, here are some tips for how to start a college essay draft:

Find a beginning, middle, and end to your story.

As we’ve shared, a strong personal statement for college tells a story about who you are and demonstrates what you would bring to a college campus. 

To write a strong example of a personal statement for college, you must have a beginning, middle, and end. By this, we mean that your essay should introduce and build upon ideas until they lead to some kind of resolution usually related to your personal growth. Think about your favorite book or movie – how did the story develop and resolve itself? Make sure your personal essays do the same.

Develop your hook.

The key to how to start a personal statement is with a hook. As we shared above, a hook is an engaging personal statement introduction that catches the reader’s attention. In your outline, consider adding some ideas for potential hooks. 

A hook can include, but is not limited to, any of the following types of opening sentences:

  • A piece of dialogue (i.e. “Do you remember the summer we went to Turkey?” said my mother.)
  • A description of a scene (i.e., The Alaskan lake was warm that summer, the sun gleaming off its gentle ripples.)
  • A thought-provoking question (i.e., What makes a house feel like a home?)
  • A relevant and powerful quote (i.e., When Steve Jobs said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking back,” he gave words to a struggle I have long faced.) 
  • An unexpected thought (i.e., I am the fourth of eleven children in my family and the first one to dream of going to college.)

Each of the above personal statement introductions is unique and original. Additionally, all of these hooks make the reader wonder what else is coming in the essay. Indeed, each of these hooks is a great idea for how to start a college essay. 

When thinking about how to start a college essay, avoid using cliché or generic personal statement introductions. In general, don’t directly answer college essay prompts like “A challenge I have faced is…”. These types of personal statement introductions are so common that they tend to lose the reader’s attention quickly.

Jot down details.

After identifying a hook, begin telling your story. In your outline, include any details that make your story unique. While some students assume that personal statement topics must be very rare or ground-breaking, in most cases the details are what set essays apart. 

What do you remember that can help the reader experience your story vividly? How can you evoke their senses or emotions in a way that makes them feel and remember your story? Keeping these questions in mind will unlock many tools for how to write a great college essay.

Identify reflections.

Stories are powerful not only for how they make us feel but for what they teach us. When you jot down your outline, consider what reflections or lessons you have to share. Why does your story matter? What does it demonstrate about who you are? 

Your essay should be descriptive and show us what you were experiencing. However, you can also include a few lines that tell the reader what you want them to take away. Usually, these reflections come towards the end of the essay, but they can also be sprinkled throughout. 

How to Write a Personal Statement – Polish and Revise 

how to start a personal statement

Now that you’ve learned how to start a personal statement, let’s discuss what some consider to be the most critical part of writing an essay – revising. Polishing and revising an essay are the keys for how to write a great college essay. When you look at an example of a personal statement for college, remember that the student probably spent many hours revising that essay.

When revising your personal essays, avoid getting frustrated by how long the process takes. The key for how to write a personal statement without getting too overwhelmed is to be gentle and compassionate with yourself. Just like living your story takes time, energy, and resilience, so does writing your story in a college application essay. Rather than getting frustrated, celebrate how much you have learned about how to start a college essay.

In the next section, we’ll dive deeper into college essay tips for revising your personal essays. 

Step 4: Revise

personal statement example for college

If you’re wondering how to write a personal statement for college, you’re probably also wondering how to revise one. Revision is the process during which you review what you have written for errors and to check whether the ideas make sense. You might also revise to find ways to shorten your essay if it is too long or expand on ideas that you didn’t fully flesh out. 

Here are some college essay tips for revision:

College Essay Revision Tips

1. take breaks.

After you write your first draft, step away from it for at least 24 hours. When we spend a long time working on a piece of writing, sometimes our brains find it hard to focus. Stepping away will give you time to let your brain rest and return to it with fresh eyes.

We also recommend taking breaks whenever you feel stuck, a condition sometimes called writer’s block. While you might feel that pushing through is the best option, stepping away for a glass of water or a stretch can rejuvenate your body and give new energy to your mind as well. Taking care of yourself is actually one of the keys for how to write a personal statement that represents your best work. 

2. Make a revision checklist

Create a list of items to look for as you revise. That way, you won’t miss anything. Here are some ideas for what how to start a personal statement revision checklist:

  • Structure/flow – Does the structure of my essay support its meaning? A structure can refer to the length of paragraphs, the order of ideas, or the format. Maybe your essay has a lot of dialogue, but now you have realized the dialogue is distracting. 
  • Repetitive language – Do you use the same words or phrases over and over again? While you may have fallen into repetition when figuring out how to start a personal statement, try varying vocabulary or rephrasing sentence structure to keep the reader interested.
  • Spelling/grammar/syntax – Run your essay through an app like Grammarly and always use spell check. Look for ways to remove unnecessary words or shorten sentences. Generally, the fewer words you use to express an idea, the easier it will be for the reader to understand.
  • Narrative voice – This refers to the voice you use to tell your story. Is it very informal? Do you sound like you are texting with friends? One of the keys for how to write a personal statement is to use your own voice while still remembering that you are speaking to a college admissions officer. As experts in how to write a great college essay know, avoid slang and spell out contractions for added formality.

3. Read your essay aloud

Reading your essay out loud can help you find mistakes. Even more importantly, it can also help you feel if the essay captures your voice. When you read it out loud, does your essay sound like you? Are there words in your essay that you would never use in real life? These questions can help you determine if you need to adjust the narrative voice of your essay. After all, admissions officers want to hear what you sound like, not a parent or friend.

4. Get help

Whether you’re stuck on how to write a personal statement or not, it’s always a good idea to get another set of eyes on your essay. Just be careful who you select. Make sure you are asking someone who knows how to write a personal statement and can give you the right kind of feedback. 

Also, consider asking both someone who knows you well and someone who does not know you well. The person who knows you well, like a teacher, parent, counselor, or college advisor (like our team of experts at CollegeAdvisor) can make sure your voice comes across. A person who does not know you well can provide input from an outsider’s perspective. Ultimately, when you submit your college essay, you will be sending it to someone who has never met you. As such, it should make sense to people who don’t know you as well.

5. Don’t be afraid to start over

Sometimes, during the revision process, you may realize that your topic doesn’t work for you. Perhaps you realize that you were so worried about how to start a personal statement that you chose a topic you thought others wanted to read instead of one that really resonates with you. Or, maybe you just thought of a new idea for how to start a personal statement that you like a lot better. It is totally normal to redraft entire paragraphs or simply throw out the essay and start over . Even though it may seem like you have wasted time, you were learning throughout the entire process about how to write a personal statement. 

Starting over might be the best approach for you and allow you to write an essay that feels more authentic . However, do not simply start over because you are being hyper-critical of yourself. Focus as much on what you like about your essay as the parts that you do not. Do not let perfectionism cause you to throw away a perfectly good essay.

On average, students learning how to write a great college essay need to write four to six drafts until they are ready to submit. However, if you have done your research on how to write a personal statement, it may take you less. After six drafts, ask yourself if you really need to keep working on the essay, or if you are letting perfectionism get the best of you. Remember, no essay is perfect. As long as your personal statement reflects your true voice and shares a compelling story about how you became who you are, you’re likely ready to submit it.

In the next section, we will dive deeper into the final steps for how to write a great college essay that you should take before hitting submit.

Step 5: Final Review & Submit

how to start a personal statement

Congratulations! You’re almost ready to submit your personal statement for college. You’ve learned how to write a personal statement, brainstormed and drafted one, and revised it. Before you hit submit, here is a final checklist of questions to ask yourself: 

1. Did I answer the prompt fully?

Just like you plug your answer back into a math equation to see if it works, plug your essay back into the prompt. Make sure each part of the question is being answered.

2. Did I meet the word or character count?

While it is okay to be a bit under the word count, as long as you answer the question fully, going over the word count will usually mean you cannot submit your essay. 

3. Does my essay paste neatly into the application?

Before pasting your essay into the online application, we recommend pasting your essay into a Word document or Google document. Make sure to remove any formatting like bolding, italics, or comments. Left-align your essay so that it is easy to read. And, double check that spacing between sentences and paragraphs is uniform. 

While these might seem like small details, they all add to the impression you make upon admissions officers about how prepared you might be to attend their school.  Take advantage of the option to download the PDF summary of your application, if it exists, to ensure everything looks neat before you submit it.

If you can answer all these questions with a yes, you’re probably ready to submit your essay. Now, you can teach others how to write a personal statement, too. 

How to start a personal statement

At this point, you have reviewed all the steps for how to write a personal statement for college. We’d like to remind you of some important parts of this process that will help ease any stress related to writing your college essays.

First, try brainstorming first. Writing a college essay is a lot different than most academic writing you’ll have done, and it’s natural to face some writer’s block. By taking advantage of brainstorming exercises, you can get used to the idea of writing about yourself in a low-pressure environment. Some students want to skip brainstorming because they find this step unnecessary or a waste of time. 

In fact, brainstorming can help you write your essay faster because your personal statement ideas will already be on paper. Brainstorming can also help you avoid writing an essay and then realizing you do not like your topic, leading to you having to write a whole new draft.

Another key point in how to start a personal statement is to write a good “hook.” However, this doesn’t need to be the first thing that you write as you begin the drafting process. Just like writing a title sometimes is easier after you have written a paper, it can be easier to find your hook after you have fleshed out other parts of your essay.

Starting early

Regardless of what approach you take, remember that the most important piece of advice for how to start a personal statement is to start early. If you begin the process early, you’ll have time to learn about personal statement format and personal statement meaning, brainstorm essay ideas, watch personal statement webinars, and review sample essays. All of these steps will help you learn how to write a personal statement that is strong and clear.

Below, we’ll help you learn more about how to start a personal statement by providing brainstorming exercises to come up with personal statement ideas.

Generating personal statement ideas

how to start a personal statement

The first question many students ask when learning how to start a personal statement is how to come up with personal statement ideas. As we have mentioned, brainstorming forms a key part of this process.

Importantly, there are many ways to brainstorm. So, even if you think you do not like to brainstorm, consider revising these brainstorming methods. One of them might open up ideas for how to start your personal statement that you had never considered.

One important note is that you do not have to use college essay prompts as the starting point for your brainstorming process. While they can certainly jog your thinking, sometimes they can also limit your creativity. Since most of the Common App and Coalition App prompts are open-ended, you can usually turn most ideas into a great response to college essay prompts.

Keep reading for activities that can help you brainstorm your personal statement for college. 

Here are some ideas for brainstorming personal statement topics:

Brainstorming Activities

1. make a timeline of important life events.

Students who ask “what is a personal statement?” are often concerned that they have to tell their entire life story in 650 words. While this is not true, your personal statement should highlight key life events. A life event can include a big change, an accomplishment, or a time of deep personal growth. 

For this activity, consider making a timeline of important life events. Do so without judgment or filtering. No event is too small to include. After you have completed your timeline, consider if any event is one that you want to share in your college application essay. One of these events might be a great hook for your personal statement introduction and give you ideas for how to start a personal statement.

2. Make lists

Lists are an excellent way to brainstorm personal statement topics. Try making lists of accomplishments, challenges you have faced, people who have taught you important life lessons, values, fears, hobbies, or mistakes you have made. Remember that it is perfectly fine to talk about times when you feel you failed or made mistakes if you can show how you learned and grew from the experience.

3. Ask trusted people for ideas

Brainstorming does not have to happen alone. Ask friends, family, mentors, teachers, classmates, or others who know you well to tell you what your most important character traits are. You’d be surprised what people will share. Perhaps one of your friends sees you as adventurous because you like to take new routes to school every day, and you had never considered that to be a noteworthy trait of yours. This feedback could be the inspiration you need for how to start a personal statement.

4. Free-write

Rather than trying to find an idea, allow yourself the freedom to free-write. Set a timer for 10 minutes and write without stopping. Write a response to any of the following questions :

  • What matters to you?
  • What do you want others to know about you?
  • What is the hardest thing you have ever gone through? How did you get through it?
  • What brings you joy?
  • How have you grown or changed in the past few years?

If you feel at a loss for words, write “I don’t know” over and over until a new idea pops into your head. The idea is to allow your brain to flow without restriction or pressure. Do not judge what you write, just allow it to be. When you have completed your free-write, look through what you wrote looking for meaningful stories or learnings you might want to share.

Undoubtedly, these are just a few ideas for how to start a personal statement and find a good personal statement introduction. If none of these work, do not despair. Instead, try a different route for coming up with personal statement topics. For instance, you may try reading an example of a personal statement for college or checking out this personal statement webinar. 

In the next section, we’ll discuss how to use sample essays when figuring out how to write a personal statement.

Using personal statement examples

how to start a personal statement

When looking for answers to questions like “What is a personal statement?” or “How to start a personal statement?” college application essay examples can be very helpful. In this section, we’ll look at how to write a personal statement for college and identify college essay tips with the help of sample essays .

Sample Personal Essays

In this article , we review ten essays that provide ideas for how to start a personal statement. Whether writing about books or gymnastics, each example of a personal statement for college highlights a unique important aspect of a student’s life. In addition, each student provides meaningful insights into how their thinking developed over time.

How to Write a Personal Statement: 5 Personal Statement Examples

Check out this resource to see five excellent responses to the Common App college essay prompts. Note how each essay has a unique hook that captures the reader’s attention.

College Essay Examples: 10 Best Examples of College Essays and Why They Worked

Wondering how a personal statement format impacts the essay’s meaning? This essay compilation answers that question and much more, providing college essay tips based on what worked in these personal essays.

How to Analyze an Example of a Personal Statement for College

If you’re looking for ideas on how to start a personal statement, then reading sample essays is an excellent idea. However, be careful not to copy others’ work. In this section, we’ll discuss how to use these samples when you develop your own personal statement meaning and personal statement format.

First, be authentic. While it is important to find inspiration in others’ work, copying topics or phrases is dangerous. At best, it will come across as disingenuous to admissions officers, who read thousands of essays. At worst, it can get you into serious trouble. 

Instead, use these samples to learn about how to write a personal statement. As you read them, ask yourself questions such as:

  • Why did the writer choose this topic?
  • How does the first sentence of the essay engage the reader?
  • What structure does the personal statement use?
  • How does this personal statement format add to the essay’s intrigue?
  • What does this essay teach us about the writer?
  • In what ways might this essay be an expression of the writer’s personal brand ?

Take notes as you read each example of a personal statement for college. In your notes, identify general thoughts regarding the questions “What is a personal statement?” and “How to start a college essay?” If you can answer these questions fully after reading sample essays, you’re on your way to acing your college essay.

How to Start a Personal Statement: Final Thoughts

With this article, we answered the question: “What is a personal statement?” By breaking the personal statement meaning, we found tips for approaching many kinds of college essay prompts. We also identified why personal statement meaning is important to colleges and how to write a great college essay that will help your application shine.

Even skilled writers struggle with how to write a personal statement. Personal essays are difficult not only because they require a certain level of vulnerability , but also because the personal statement format is not something we use often in our day-to-day lives. For that reason, it is difficult to know how to start a college essay.

Throughout this guide, we provided resources like personal statement webinars and sample essays. We also highlighted how to use an example of a personal statement for college in your own process. Within these samples, you’ll find lots of ideas for how to start a personal statement.

Whenever you feel overwhelmed by thinking about how to start a personal statement, remember that you are not alone. Our team can provide you with additional insights and individualized coaching about how to write a personal statement for college. With support, you will be able to express who you are and ace your personal statement. Good luck!

how to start a personal statement

This article was written by Sarah Kaminski and senior advisor, Courtney Ng . Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.

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Last updated March 5, 2024

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Blog > Common App , Essay Examples , Personal Statement > 15 Amazing Personal Statement Examples (2024 Update)

15 Amazing Personal Statement Examples (2024 Update)

Admissions officer reviewed by Ben Bousquet, M.Ed Former Vanderbilt University

Written by Kylie Kistner, MA Former Willamette University Admissions

Key Takeaway

What’s that old saying? “The best way to learn is by doing.” Well, we believe that, in personal statements and in life, cliches like this should be avoided. For some people, the best way to start writing a personal statement is indeed just to start.

But for most writers, jumping right into the writing process is a daunting task. If you’ve never written a personal statement before, then how do you know where to begin?

That’s where example essays come in. There are millions of opinions in the college admissions world about whether or not students should read example essays. But here’s ours:

You absolutely should be reading example personal statements.

Let’s get into it.

Why you should read example personal statements

Reading example personal statements helps you understand why they work (or don’t work) in the admissions process.

Now, the point of reading them isn’t to copy them. It’s not even necessarily to be inspired by them.

Instead, the point of reading examples is to know what personal statements look like. Think about it: if you’d never seen a children’s book before, would you know how to write one? Probably not! Same goes for personal statements.

In this post, we show you some exceptional, solid, and need-to-be-improved personal statements.

And to help you understand how these essays function as personal statements, we’ve also gotten our team of former admissions officers to grade and provide feedback on each.

What does an admissions officer look for in a personal statement?

Before we get to the essays, let’s briefly walk through what goes through an admissions officer’s head when they open an application.

Admissions officers (AOs) read hundreds to thousands of applications in a single year. Different institutions require admissions officers to use different criteria when evaluating applications, so the specifics will vary by school. Your entire application should cohere to form a seamless narrative . You'll be crafting that narrative across the following categories:

  • Transcripts and course rigor : AOs look at the classes you’ve taken to assess how much you’ve challenged yourself based on the classes your school offers. They’re also looking at how well you've done in these classes each term.
  • Extracurricular activities : When reading through your activities list, AOs look at the activities you’ve done, how many years you’ve participated in them, and how many hours a week you devote to them. They’re assessing your activities for the levels of magnitude, impact, and reach that they demonstrate. (Want to know more about these terms? Check out our extracurricular impact post .)
  • Background information : This background information briefly tells admissions officers about demographic and family information, your school context, and any honors or awards you’ve received.
  • Letters of recommendation : Letters of recommendation give AOs insight into who you are in the classroom.
  • Essays : And, finally, the essays. Whether you’re writing a personal statement or a supplemental essay , essays are the main place AOs get to hear your voice and learn more about you. Your personal statement in particular is the place where you get to lay out your overall application narrative and say something meaningful about your personal strengths.

So, with all that in mind, what does an admissions officer actually look for when reading your personal statement?

A few traits tend to surface across the best personal statements, no matter the topic or format. There are four primary areas you should focus on as you craft your personal statement.

  • Strengths : AOs want to know about your strengths. That doesn’t mean bragging about your accomplishments, but it does mean writing about a topic that lets you showcase something positive about yourself.
  • Personal meaning : Personal statements shouldn’t be fluff. They shouldn’t be history essays. They should be personal essays that ooze meaning. The topic you choose should show something significant about yourself that the admissions officers won’t get from any other part of your application.
  • Authenticity and vulnerability : These characteristics can be the most difficult to achieve. Being “vulnerable” doesn’t mean airing all your dirty laundry. It means revealing something authentic and meaningful about who you are. To be vulnerable means to go beyond the surface level to put yourself out there, even to admissions officers who you’ve never met.
  • Clear organization and writing : And lastly, admissions officers also want your essay to be organized clearly so it’s easy to follow along. Remember that admissions officers are reading lots of applications, even in one sitting. So you want to make your reader’s job as easy as possible. Thoughtful and skillful writing can also help take your personal statement to the next level.

If you want to know more about how to incorporate these traits into your own essay, we have a whole guide about how to write the perfect personal statement .

But for now, let’s get into the examples.

We’ve broken up the example personal statements into three categories: best personal statement examples, good personal statement examples, and “bad” personal statement examples. These categories show you that there is a spectrum of what personal statements can look like. The best examples are the gold standard. They meet or exceed all four of the main criteria admissions officers are looking for. The good examples are just that: good. They’re solid examples that may be lacking in a specific area but are still effective personal statements. The “bad” examples are those that don’t yet stack up to the expectations of a personal statement. They’re not objectively bad, but they need some specific improvements to align with what admissions officers are looking for.

Here we go!

The Best Personal Statement Examples

Writing an exceptional personal statement takes a lot of time and effort. Even the best writers can find the genre challenging. But when you strike the perfect chord and get it right, it’s almost like magic. Your essay jumps off the page and captures an admissions officer’s attention. They feel like you’re right there with them, telling them everything they need to know to vote “yes” on your admission.

The following essays are some of our favorites. They cover a range of topics, styles, and student backgrounds. But they all tell meaningful stories about the writers’ lives. They are well-organized, use vivid language, and speak to the writers’ strengths.

For each essay, our team of former admissions officers have offered comments about what makes the essay exceptional. Take a look through the annotations and feedback to see what lessons you can apply to your own personal statement.

Personal Statement Example #1: Thankful

My family has always been broke. Saturday mornings and Thursday evenings, always the same drill: the kids (my brothers and me) would be loaded in the car with my parents and off we’d all go to the food pantry. New clothes were few and far between, and going on vacation was something that we could only dream of. Despite our financial struggles, one year, my parents decided to surprise us with a trip to Disney Land. It was a complete shock to me and my siblings. We were over the moon. In fact, the screams of excitement that emanated from my younger brother’s mouth still ring in my ears.

But as the trip drew close, my excitement tempered and I began to worry. Being poor when you’re young doesn’t just affect you materially. It also affects how you see the world and loads you up with a whole range of anxieties that, in an ideal world, no child should have to face. How were my parents going to afford this, I wondered? Would an expense like this push us over the brink?(( The beginning of this essay, and especially this sentence, show the writer’s empathy. They are not selfish; they understand their broader family context and take that into consideration.)) I didn't want to ruin the surprise by asking, but I couldn't shake the feeling of dread building inside of me.

The day of our trip arrived and we set off for the airport. In the car, my dad made an off-the-cuff comment about a new video game that he’d wanted to play but didn’t buy, and everything clicked—my parents had made the trip possible by saving for months, cutting back on expenses and sacrificing their own comforts to make the trip happen.

As we boarded the plane, I was filled with a mix of emotions. I was grateful beyond words for my parents' sacrifice, but I was also overwhelmed by the guilt of knowing that they had given up so much for us. I didn't know how to express my gratitude; when we deplaned in LAX, I gave my mom and dad a rib-crushing hug.

The trip itself was everything that I had dreamed of and more. We spent four magical days at Disney Land(( Nice use of vivid details here. The reader can picture the sights and smells of Disney—and the ensuing hunger when passing a churro stand.)) , speed running the roller coasters and campy boat rides from the 70s. Sure, we packed our own food and walked right by the churro stands with a hungry look in our eyes. But I will never forget the feeling of unmitigated joy that my family shared on that trip, the smiles that painted my parents’ faces.

But the trip itself was nothing compared to the gratitude I felt for my parents(( Here, the writer transitions to reintroducing the theme of gratitude.)) . They had given us the gift of a lifetime, and I knew that I would never be able to repay them for their sacrifice.

In the years since that trip, I have carried that feeling of gratitude with me. It has motivated me to work hard and to always strive to be the best person that I can be. I want to make my parents proud and to show them that their sacrifice was worth it(( Finally, the writer sums things up with an eye to the future. It’s helpful for an admission officer to picture what the essay’s lessons might mean for the student as a future community member.)) .

I will never be able to fully express my gratitude for what my parents did for us, but I will always remember their selflessness and their willingness to put their own needs aside for the sake of our happiness. It was a truly surprising and incredible act of love, and one that I will always be thankful for.

AO Notes on Thankful

This essay accomplishes a few things even though it essentially tells one story and offers a quick reflection. It gives some important context regarding the challenges of being from a lower-income family. It does that in a way that is authentic, rather than problem-focused. It also shows that the writer is empathetic, family-oriented, and reflective.

Why this essay stands out:

  • Vulnerability : This essay is upfront about a challenging topic: financial insecurity. While you don’t have to tell your most difficult challenge in an essay, this writer chose to write about a circumstance that gives additional context that may be helpful as admissions considers their application.
  • Personal : The writer gets into some family dynamics and paints a picture of how their family treats and takes care of each other.
  • Values: We clearly see some values the writer has and that they don’t take their parents’ sacrifices for granted. As an admission officer, I can picture this student using their education to give back—to their family or to others.

Personal Statement Example #2: Pickleball

I’ve always been one to have a good attitude no matter the circumstances. Except when it comes to exercise. From dodgeball in PE class to family Turkey Trots, I’m always the first one out and the last one across the finish line. These realities aren’t from a lack of skill—I’m actually quite coordinated and fast. They are from a lack of effort(( This is a quick hit of… either humor or vulnerability. I chuckled at the blunt honesty, and am intrigued to learn more.)) . Despite my best intentions, I can never get myself to care about sports or competitions. So when my dad first asked me to be his pickleball partner last summer, I did nothing but laugh.

But soon, I realized that he was serious. My dad started playing pickleball two years ago as a fun way to exercise. He’d become a star in our city’s recreation league, and I always enjoyed cheering him on from the sidelines. When his doubles partner got relocated for work, my dad decided that the disruption was a good opportunity for us bond through pickleball. Even though I was mortified by the thought of running back and forth to hit a bouncing ball, I reluctantly agreed.

The next Saturday morning, we went to the court for our first practice. I was wearing sweatpants, an old sweatshirt, and a grimace. My dad showed me how to hold the paddle, serve, and return the ball to our opponents. He told me about staying out of the kitchen—an endearing pickleball term that references the “kitchen,” or the middle part of the court—trying to make me laugh. Instead, I sighed impatiently and walked to my end of the court, ready to get it over with.

My dad remained patient in spite of my bad attitude. He gently served me the ball, and I gave a lackluster attempt to return it. The ball bounced into the net. I hadn’t even made it to his side of the court. Trying his best to encourage me, my dad gave me the ball so I could serve it to him instead. I tossed the ball up and hit it underhand toward my dad. It hit the net again. I tried again and again, each attempt with less care than the last. I grew frustrated and threw my paddle down in anger(( Okay, this paragraph gives a good dose of openness to the emotions of the writer. They’ve served up an opportunity to learn a lesson soon…)) .

After seeing my mini-meltdown, my dad crossed the kitchen to talk to me. During our conversation, I began to ask myself why I got so frustrated when I wasn’t trying very hard in the first place. I thought pickleball was a miserable sport, but I realized that it wasn’t pickleball that I cared about. I cared about my dad. I wanted to make him proud(( Ah, and there it is! A realization. As the admission officer I’m thinking, “Go on…”)) . Playing pickleball with him was the least I could do to thank him for everything he’d done for me. I dusted off my bad attitude alongside my paddle, and I got up to try another serve.

That serve hit the net again. But more determined now, I kept trying until my serves went over the net and through my dad’s weak side. I couldn’t believe it. My attitude adjustment helped me see the game for what it was: a game. It wasn’t supposed to be agonizing or cruel. It was supposed to be fun.

I learned that my attitude towards sports was unacceptable. This experience taught me that it’s okay to have preferences about what you enjoy, but it’s important to always maintain a positive attitude(( And the lesson learned! )) . You may just enjoy it after all.

Now my dad and I are both stars in our recreation league. Soon, we will make our way to our league’s semi-finals. We’ve worked our way through the bracket and are close to the championship. What I appreciate more about this experience, however, is how close it’s brought my dad and I together. His patience, positivity, and persistence have and will always inspire me. I want to be more like him every day, especially on the pickleball court.

AO Notes on Pickleball

This is a strong “attitude adjustment” essay, a bit of a remix of a challenge essay. The challenge, in this case, was a fixed mindset about sports that needed to be adjusted. The writer takes us on a witty journey through their own attitude towards organized athletic activities and their father.

  • Self-aware : Similar to the vulnerability of other essays, this writer is willing to criticize themselves by recognizing that they need an attitude adjustment. Even before they changed their attitude, we get the sense that they are at least aware of their own lack of effort.
  • Strong conclusion : We see a nice lesson at the end that relates both to having an open mind and caring for others. They even make a point about simply enjoying things because they are fun.
  • Life lesson : Beyond the stated lesson, as an admission officer with a few more years on this Earth than the writer, I can tell this lesson will apply beyond sports. In fact, I can easily picture this student trying a new class, club, or group of friends in college because they are now more open to novel experiences.

Personal Statement Example #3: The Bird Watcher

I’m an avid walker and bird watcher(( Okay, the writer gets right into it! I think this simple introduction of the topic works well because they are writing about a less common hobby among teenagers. If they had said “I am an avid baseball player”, I would have been less eager to learn more.)) . Growing up, I’d clear my head by walking along the trail in the woods behind my house. By the time I was immersed in the chaos of high school, these walks became an afternoon routine. Now, every day at three o’clock, I don my jacket and hiking shoes and set off. As I walk, I note the flora and fauna around me. The wind whispering through the trees, the quiet rustling of a chipmunk underfoot, and the high-pitched call of robins perched atop branches, all of it brings me back to life after a difficult day.

And recently, the days have been more difficult than not. My grandparents passing, parents divorcing, and doctor diagnosing me with ADHD have presented me with more challenges than I’ve ever experienced before. But no matter what’s going on in my life, the wildlife on my walks brings me peace. As an aspiring ornithologist, the birds are my favorite(( This paragraph accomplishes a lot: a montage of difficult circumstances, context for their application, and declares their future career.)) .

I became interested in ornithology during long childhood afternoons spent at my grandparents’ house. They would watch me while my parents finished up work. I’d listen to the old bird clock that hung on the wall in the kitchen. Each number on the clock corresponded with a different bird. Every hour, the clock would chirp rather than chime. When the cardinal sang, I knew my parents would be arriving soon. Those chirps are all seared into my memory.

Twelve o’clock: robin. The short, fast, almost laugh-like sound of the robin always makes me hungry. All those Saturday afternoons filled with laughter and good food have resulted in a Pavlovian response. I’d cook meatballs with my grandma, splashing sauce on her floral wall paper. We’d laugh and laugh and enjoy the meal together at her plastic-covered kitchen table. This wasn’t my home, but I felt at home just the same.

Three o’clock: blue jay. It’d chime as soon as we walked in the door after school. The blue jay was my grandpa’s favorite. It was also mine. Why he loved it, I’m not completely sure. But it was my favorite because it marked the beginning of the best parts of my day. Symbolizing strength and confidence, blue jays always remind me of my grandpa.

Six o’clock: cardinal. The sharp whistle and staccato of the cardinal indicated that it was almost time for me to leave. Like the whistle of a closing shift, I’d hear it and start to pack my things. The cardinal has always been my least favorite.

Nine o’clock: house finch. The high, sweet, almost inquisitive call of the house finch was the one my grandma loved most. It was also the one I rarely heard. Either too early or too late in the day, the house finch was reserved for the occasional weekends when I’d spend the night at their house. My grandma would explain that finches symbolize harmony and peace. They are petite but mighty, just like she was(( This is a clever and sweet way of describing summer days with grandparents, while sprinkling in some vivid details to bring the story to life.)) .

This past weekend was the anniversary of my grandpa’s passing. Longing for my grandparents, I went for a walk. Winter is approaching, so the sky was darkening quickly. I walked slowly. As the sun set, I heard the tell-tale squawk of a blue jay, loud and piercing through the chill of the wind. I looked around and saw it sitting on an old stump, a small house finch behind it. I extracted my binoculars from my backpack, hoping to get a better glimpse through the dark. I turned the dial to focus the lenses, just as the birds flew away together. I took a deep breath, binoculars in hand, and continued on, spotting a robin in the distance(( The ending stylistically wraps the essay up without tying a bow on it. It’s a more artful way of concluding, and it works well here.)) .

AO Notes on Birdwatcher

This first two paragraphs are well-written and fairly to-the-point in their language. They do a nice job of setting the scene, but the third paragraph transitions into the writer’s distinctive voice. They detail the birds on the clock to chronicle the hours of their summer days and end, not without concluding, but leaving the reader wanting to read more of their stories.

  • Voice: The writer transitions to writing in their own distinct voice, which comes to a crescendo in the final paragraph.
  • Interesting approach: Sometimes students use an approach to tell a story that feels overly forced or cliche. This one feels organic and relates nicely to the writer, their family, and the story as a whole.
  • Career path : This is far from a “What I want to be when I grow up” essay, but it clearly shows an academic interest grounded in family and childhood memories. This is an artistic and beautiful approach to showing admissions how the writer may use their college education.

Personal Statement Example #4: Chekov’s Wig

At the age of six, I starred in an at-home, one-woman production of Annie. My family watched as I switched between a wig I’d fashioned from maroon yarn, a dog’s tail leftover from Halloween, and a tie I’d stolen from my dad.

When the reveal came that Annie’s parents had actually passed away, I took a creative liberty: they had left Annie a small unicorn farm. The rest of the play proceeded as normal. When the curtain closed, I bowed to the sound of my family’s applause. But one set of hands was missing: my grandmother’s. Instead she sat, arms raised, and jokingly exclaimed, “But what about the unicorns?”(( Wow, an interesting intro! We see creativity and a silly side to the writer. As the admission officer, I’m eager to see where this leads.))

My grandma, an avid thespian, taught me a lot about life. But one of the most important lessons followed this production of Annie . After we laughed about her remark, she introduced me to the concept of Chekov’s gun. For Anton Chekov, brilliant playwright, the theory goes something like this: a writer shouldn’t write about a loaded gun if it’s not going to be fired. In other words, writers shouldn’t include details about something if it won’t serve a purpose in the story later. My unicorn farm had committed this writing faux pas egregiously.

I’m not a natural writer, and I have no goal to become one, but I’ve taken this concept of Chekov’s gun to heart—it forms the foundation of my life philosophy. I don’t believe that everything was meant to be(( This philosophical reflection is a nice introduction to the paragraphs that follow. )) . In fact, I think that sometimes bad things just happen. But I believe that these details will always play a part in our larger story.

The first test of my Chekov’s gun philosophy occurred shortly after Annie when my grandma, my biggest supporter, passed away. My family tried to console me saying that “it was her time to go,” but I disagreed. I couldn’t see how a death could be destined. Instead, I found comfort knowing that her presence, her support, and her death wasn’t for nothing. Like Chekov’s gun, I wasn’t quite sure how or why, but I knew that she would return for me.

As I grew older, my philosophy was tested time and again. Most recently, I fell back on Chekov’s gun as I coped with my parents’ divorce and my subsequent move to a new town. Both events shattered my world. My happy family theatre productions turned into custody hearings and overnight bags. The community I’d found at my old school became a sea of unfamiliar faces at my new one. None of this was meant to be. But as the writer of my own life, I won’t let the details become inconsequential.

I’ve used these events as plot points in my high school experience. Dealing with my parents’ divorce has taught me how to make the best of what’s given to me. I got the chance to decorate two bedrooms, live in both the suburbs and the city, and even have twice the amount of pets. And without the inciting incident of the divorce and move(( We see that the writer is able to make lemonade out of lemons here.)) , I never would have joined a new drama club or landed leading roles in Mama Mia and Twelfth Night. The divorce and move, like Chekov’s gun, have been crucial details in getting me where I’m at today.

I know that Chekov’s gun is more about the details in a story, but this philosophy empowers me to take what happens, the good and the bad, as part of my personal character development. Nothing would be happening if it weren’t important.

This summer, as we cleaned our garage in preparation for yet another move, I found my old Annie wig, yarn tangled from the box. Next to the wig was a note, handwritten in a script I’d recognize anywhere. My darling star, it read. You are going to go on to do great things. Love, Grandma ((And a sweet, or bittersweet, conclusion.)) .

AO Notes on Chekov’s Wig

This essay tells a beautiful story about a foundational philosophy in this young writer’s life. As their admission officer, I can see how grounded and positive they are. I can also imagine them taking this lesson to college: really paying attention to life, reflecting on the past, and understanding the value of even the smallest instances. There is an inherent maturity in this essay.

  • Creativity: From the first few sentences, we can see that this student is now, and was as a child, creative. An original thinker.
  • Reflective: When challenged by their grandmother, the writer didn’t insist that their way was correct. They took the criticism in stride and absorbed it as a salient life lesson. This shows open-mindedness and an uncommon level of maturity.
  • Silver linings: It’s clear that this young writer has had some familial challenges that are likely familiar to some of you. They don’t gloss over them, but instead they learn from them. From having more pets to starring in the school musicals, there are lessons to glean from even life’s more difficult challenges.

Personal Statement Example #5: An Afternoon with Grandmother

The Buddhist temple on the hillside above my home has always possessed a deep power for me. With its towering spires and intricate carvings thousands of years old, it is a place of peace and serenity(( This writer opens with some wonderful imagery. I like how the imagery mirrors the meaning.)) —somewhere I can go to escape the chaos of the world and connect with myself and with my sense of spirituality. When my grandmother called me one January to let me know that she would be coming to visit, I smiled, my mind darting immediately to the temple and to the visit of it we would take together.

My relationship with my grandmother is a special one. After my parents passed away, she and my grandfather raised me for three years before I moved in with my father’s sister. In that time, she was my sole companion; she shared her recipes with me, told me stories, and most importantly, she taught me everything I know about spirituality. We spent countless nights staying up past bed-time, talking about the teachings of the Buddha, and she encouraged me gently to explore my own path to enlightenment(( This topic is accomplishing a lot: we see the writer’s relationship with their grandmother, their personal values, and their ideas about who they want to be in the future.)) .

When my grandmother finally arrived, I felt bathed in a warm glow. After catching up and preparing her favorite meal—red rice with miso soup and hot green tea—I told her about the plans I had for us to visit my special place.

Later that afternoon, as we entered the temple, I felt the calmness and tranquility wash over me. I took my grandmother's hand and led her to the main hall, where we knelt before the altar and began to recite the prayers and mantras that I had learned from her years before.

As we prayed, our voices joined together, echoing throughout the temple. A gentle rain began to fall outside and, as the cold crept around where we knelt, I was engulfed by a deep sense of connection with my grandmother and with the universe. It was as if the barriers between us were falling away, and we were becoming one—with each other, and with our shared connection to the divine.

We finished our prayers and sat in silence, lingering in the serenity of the temple. I could feel my grandmother's hand in mine, and I was filled with a sense of gratitude and love(( A great example of weaving vivid language with explicit reflection!)) .

Spirituality has been essential in my life. It gives me a sense of grounding and purpose, and it teaches me the value of compassion. My spirituality has also given me a way to connect with my grandmother on a deeper level—like a private language that only we speak together. In a world that can often feel chaotic and disconnected, faith and spirituality provide a sense of stability and connection.

As we left the temple, I held my grandmother's hand and felt suffused by a sense of peace and contentment. Too often people who are disconnected from spirituality misunderstand the role it plays in billions of people’s lives. They see it as a way to “check out” from the issues the world faces, ignoring their responsibilities to others. This may be true for others, but not me. Quite the opposite. My spirituality helps me empathize with others(( Wonderful reflection.)) ; it helps me focus on the obligations we each have to every other person and creature on this planet. For me, it is the ultimate way to “check in” to the needs of the world and my community in a way that grounds me emotionally.

Spirituality offers a way to find meaning and purpose in life, and to connect with something greater than ourselves. For that, and for my grandmother, I am truly grateful.

AO Notes on An Afternoon with Grandmother

In this deeply reflective essay, the writer uses spirituality and their relationship with their grandmother to reveal a very personal part of themselves. The writer isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, and they clearly showcase strengths of wisdom and compassion.

  • Vivid language: This author is a talented writer who has included a bunch of vivid language. But it’s not over the top. They include just enough to hold a reader’s attention and add some interest.
  • Reflection: The reflection throughout this essay is excellent. Notice how it’s not just at the beginning or the end. It’s woven throughout. The writer follows up each major detail with an explanation of why it’s personally meaningful.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion combines vivid language and reflection perfectly. By the end of the essay, we know exactly what the writer wants us to take away: spirituality is personally meaningful to them because it helps them connect with the people around them. And I especially like how the writer chose to end on a note of gratitude—always a good value to have in a personal statement.

Personal Statement Example #6: Rosie’s

While most people find their lowest point at rock bottom, I found mine in an Amerikooler DW081677F-8(( We’re definitely off to an odd start. I’m curious where this is headed!)) . With drops rolling down my back and my cheeks, I snuck into the walk-in freezer for a moment of chill.

At that point, I had worked at Rosie's for nearly a year. The job was a good one: it fit with my school schedule, paid well, and introduced me to close friends. But as a workplace, Rosie’s was pure chaos. The original owners passed on a host of problems the new owners were working hard to fix. But the problems ran deep. From an inefficient kitchen organization to a malfunctioning scheduling software, we never knew what to do or when.

The day I found myself in the Amerikooler was the day everything caught up with us(( This is a good transitional phrase that helps readers navigate this fairly complex narrative.)) . An error in our scheduling software led to us operating with only 30% of our typical team. As the only waitress on duty, I ran between the kitchen and the guests, stopping mid-delivery to put new vegetables in the steamers. The kitchen staff were barely getting through each dish before customers lost patience.

Then, in all the commotion, I dropped a plate of macaroni and cheese all over a customer. I apologized over and over again. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I couldn’t believe what I had done. I always tried to be one step ahead to give my customers the best service, so my mistake felt like an utter failure. After helping them clean up, I ran immediately to the freezer. I realized that something had to change.

In the Amerikooler, a pea and corn mix cool on my back, I considered my options. The easiest option was to quit. I could find another job, one that didn’t cause me so much stress. But quitting wouldn’t just mean giving up. It would mean accepting my failure. It would also mean abandoning the coworkers I had grown close to. Leaving them would only burden them more. While I knew it wasn’t my job to fix the restaurant, I knew that leaving wasn’t the answer either. Instead, I decided to focus on solutions(( I like the focus on solutions and action steps here!)) . I stood up from the cold, dirty freezer floor, dusted off my work pants, washed my hands, and got back to work.

Despite being the newest and youngest member of the Rosie’s staff, I recognized that I brought a new perspective to the workplace. Having spent the previous three summers scheduling volunteers for my local food drive, I used my organizing experience to devise a new scheduling system, one that didn’t rely on our outdated technology. I brought up the system at our weekly meeting, and after initial pushback, everyone agreed to give it a try. Three months later, my system keeps everyone happy and our kitchen and floor staffed.

But it wasn’t just the staffing problem that was the issue. Our workflows were inefficient, and we didn’t know how to communicate or collaborate effectively. I know that identifying an issue is always the first step to a solution, so I raised the question at our most recent staff meeting. Having earned my coworkers’ and bosses’ trust(( And here we see some good growth and leadership.)) , I led us in outlining a few new processes to streamline our productivity. In stark contrast to the failure I felt after spilling the macaroni and cheese, developing a new workflow with my coworkers made me proud. I hadn’t given in to the chaos, but I had worked thoughtfully and collaboratively to create new solutions.

I’m sure that won’t be my last time working in a disorganized environment or spilling macaroni and cheese. But I know that I’ll be ready to address whatever comes my way.

AO Notes on Rosie’s

If you’ve ever worked in a food establishment, then something in this essay will probably resonate with you. But I appreciate how the writer doesn’t get pulled into the negativity they experience. Instead, they focused their efforts (and their essay) on how they could make things better for everyone. That’s the kind of student admissions officers want to see on their campuses.

  • Organization: The writer has to narrate and backtrack a bit at the beginning of the essay to make the introduction work. But it’s not confusing for a reader because they have very solid transitions. I also like how the action steps and reflection are organized in the narrative.
  • Positive outlook: As an admissions officer, I would admire this student for their problem-solving skills. Working in that environment was surely tough, but they didn’t give up. They got to work and helped everyone out in the process.
  • Humor: From the introduction to the conclusion, the writer incorporates subtle humor throughout. Because of it, we actually feel like we know the writer by the conclusion. Too much humor can overwhelm a personal essay, but just enough can help readers see who the writer really is.

Personal Statement Example #7: Gone Fishing

I pulled the line with my left hand and snapped the rod back with my right. The line split through the air above me like a knife through cake. I rigidly waved my right arm up and down to dry off my fly, which had started sinking from the weight of the water. Ready to cast, I loosened the grip on my left hand to release a few more feet of line, pulled my right arm back in a grandiose motion, and hammered it back down. I expected my line to fly out in front of me, gracefully floating back onto the surface of the water. Instead, I was met with a startling resistance. My fly had lodged itself into the bush behind me(( This opening paragraph has great vivid description. Here, we end on a moment of suspense that has left me intrigued about what will happen next.)) .

Annoyed, I waded through the tall, thick grass, rod under my arm and mosquitoes buzzing in my ears. This was the reality of fly fishing. In my short time as a fisherman, I’d caught far more trees, bushes, and riverweed than I had fish. What seems so elegant in movies like A River Runs Through It is actually a grueling process of trial and error. I took up flyfishing a year ago to conquer my fear of the outdoors(( Ah ha—we learn that this essay isn’t really about fly fishing. It’s about conquering a fear. And with that, we see that the stakes are high.)) . I could have (and probably should have) chosen a more mild activity like hiking or kayaking, but I’ve always been one to take on a challenge.

I had been afraid of the outdoors since childhood. Coming from a family that prefers libraries to parks and bed and breakfasts to tents, I never learned how to appreciate nature. I limited my time outside as much as I could. I feared the bugs, the sun, and the unknown.

I decided to try flyfishing when I realized I didn’t want to be controlled by my fear any longer(( As an AO, I would applaud this student’s bravery.)) . All the birthday parties I’d turned down, the memories that were made without me, I had missed out on so much. Being outside was an integral part of the human experience—or, at least, that’s what I’d been told. Without being willing to enjoy nature, I was missing out on what it meant to be myself.

Soon after this realization, I found an old rod in my grandpa’s garage and took it as a sign from the universe. On my first time out, my Honda Civic lurched over a ditch on the gravel road Google Maps had directed me to. I’d spent hours watching YouTube videos of proper technique. Stepping out of my car, I felt my skin crack under the dry heat, and I wanted to leave. But I continued on, walking through branches and over logs to the riverbank. I was doing it( More vivid detail that really gives us a sense of the writer’s discomfort—yet they’re persisting.)) .

I pushed myself to continue, no matter how uncomfortable I got. I went back, Saturday after Saturday, each time noticing improvements in my abilities. Along the way, I learned to push myself to do things that make me uncomfortable. I saw myself in a new light. I wasn’t Charlie, afraid of the outdoors. I was Charlie, fisherman.

The first time I caught a fish, I could hardly believe it. Thinking I had caught another piece of riverweed, I tugged on my line and rolled my eyes. But suddenly, it started tugging back. It was a sensation I’d never experienced before, one of haste, pride, and panic. I instantly collected myself, bracing against the bank as I secured the line with my finger and slowly pulled the fish ashore. Delicately removing my hook from its mouth, I admired its beauty. Whereas I had once feared creatures like this trout, I now respected it. Its holographic scales glistened in the sunlight. I thanked it for helping me grow, and I placed it back in the water. It swam away. I wiped the slime off my hands and picked up my rod, left hand tugging at the line, right hand snapping back again((This conclusion is quite long, but I really like this poetic ending. It shows so much growth, and there’s a subtle nod to the fact that the writer is continuing to fish.)) .

AO Notes on Gone Fishing

From all this imagery, I really felt like I was fishing alongside them. What’s better, I feel like I really get where this student is coming from because of their vulnerability. They show immense growth and open-mindedness, which is exactly what admissions officers are looking for.

  • Imagery: This writer definitely likes creative writing. From the introduction, we can envision ourselves going on this journey with the writer. There is some excellent “show, don’t tell” here.
  • Deep personal meaning: Biggest fears are hard to overcome, especially with such a good attitude. It’s clear that this topic is a meaningful one to the writer. Even the act of fly fishing, which they didn’t seem to like much at first, becomes a meaningful act.
  • Narrative arc: We have a classic “going on a journey” essay, where the writer transforms on a journey from point A (being afraid of the outdoors) to point B (catching a fish). The writer’s implementation of this structure is excellent, which makes the essay easy to follow.

Good Personal Statement Examples

Even if your essay isn’t worthy of The New Yorker , you can still make your mark on admissions officers. Writing an essay that fulfills all the goals of a personal statement, whether or not it meets every single criterion an admissions officer is looking for, can still get you into a great college.

Most personal statements are good personal statements, so don’t worry if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amazing essay examples you see online. The key to writing a good personal statement is writing your personal statement. Focus on finding a topic that lets you communicate your own meaning and voice, and you’ll be set.

The following examples are awesome personal statements. There may be a little room for improvement in places, but the essays do exactly what they need to do. And they say a lot about their writers. Let’s see what the writers and admissions officers have to say.

Personal Statement Example #8: Beekeeper’s Club

As I lift the heavy lid of the hive, the hum of thousands of bees fills my ears. I carefully smoke the entrance to calm the bees, and I begin to inspect the frames. The bees are busy at work, collecting nectar and pollen, and tending to their young. I am in awe of their organization.

I never would have thought that I, a high school student, would become a beekeeper(( An interesting hobby for a high school student! I’m intrigued to see where this is going.)) . But now it’s something I can’t imagine my life without.

It all started when I found a beekeeping suit at a garage sale two summers ago. At a mere five dollars, it was yellowing and musty, but it appeared to be fully intact and without any holes. I’ve lived many lives as a hobbyist, always willing to try new things. I’ve been a sailor, a gardener, a basketball player, a harpist, a rock climber, and more. The problem is that I can never manage to see these hobbies through(( I see. Here we get a sense of what’s at stake in this new venture. The problem is that writer can’t seem to hold down a hobby. Will beekeeping solve that problem? Let’s find out .)) . As a perpetual novice, I always lose interest or become overwhelmed by all the information. But that’s never stopped me from taking up a new hobby, so I brought the beekeeping suit to the make-shift register and handed the seller a five-dollar bill.

To embark on my new hobby, I first went to the library and read everything I could find about beekeeping. Research is always my first step when starting something new. I like to know what I’m in for. As I read, I became fascinated by the fact that such small creatures can serve such a critical role on our planet. I learned about the importance of bees for pollinating crops, and I read that their populations have been declining in recent years. I was determined to do my part to help. This wasn’t just a hobby anymore— it was a mission(( And the stakes just got higher.)) .

But like the bees I’d been reading about, I knew I couldn't do it alone. My years of abandoning hobbies had taught me that this time, I needed guidance from someone with experience. I knew the first place to look. At the farmer’s market that Saturday, I went straight to the honey stand and introduced myself. The vendor’s name was Jeremy, and he was excited to see someone so young taking up beekeeping. I asked if I could come see his hives sometime, and he agreed.

I showed up the next weekend with my used beekeeping suit in hand. Jeremy gave me a tour. I was astounded by the simultaneous simplicity and complexity. As the months went by, Jeremy became my mentor. He taught me the importance of monitoring the health of the hive, how to properly harvest honey, and even the ins and outs of the farmer’s market business.

I was grateful for his guidance and friendship. I found myself becoming more and more passionate about bees and the art of beekeeping.

After months of tending to my hive, I finally had it up and running. These bees were in my care(( The writer has shown us that they’ve learned a big lesson from their past failures: they need support and guidance. I’m impressed that this time they are making an intentional change.)) —this was one hobby I couldn’t abandon. With that knowledge and Jeremy’s support, one hive grew to five. I’m not in it for the money or even the honey. I’m in it for the bees, for the millimeter of difference I’m making in their lives and in the life of the earth.

Through beekeeping, I have found a community of people who share my love for bees. Jeremy, the bees, and the entire beekeeping community have taught me not to quit. We support each other, share tips and advice, and work together to help protect these important insects. And in the process, I have learned that I can take up any new hobby I want and stick with it if I just put in enough effort(( Yep—the writer has come out of this journey on the other side, having learned that their effort does pay off.)) .

AO Notes on Beekeeper’s Club

As an admissions officer, it’s always fun to read about students’ eccentric hobbies. I’d count this as one of them. But what’s better than learning about the hobby is seeing a student’s personal growth.

What makes this essay good:

  • Personal journey: Most good personal statements show some kind of personal growth. In this case, we see that the writer has grown mature and aware enough to hold down a hobby. We see that it wasn’t an easy road, but they got there.
  • Strengths: There are lots of strengths in this personal statement. We see self-awareness, initiative, teamwork, and care for the bees and the planet.
  • Reflection: Part of what makes this personal journey so good is that the writer takes us on the journey with them through reflection. At each stage of the journey, we know exactly what the writer is thinking and feeling. By the end, we’re celebrating their success with them.

What the writer could do to level up:

  • Personal meaning: Yep, “personal journey” and “personal meaning” can be two separate things. Although the writer goes on a great personal journey, the personal meaning seems to be lacking a bit. It’s clear that this is an important topic to the writer, but it doesn’t exactly come across as an especially vulnerable one. The writer could make it more vulnerable by incorporating more personal meaning into their reflection: what would it have meant if they had quit beekeeping too? What’s the problem with dropping hobbies in the first place? Why is it personally important to learn to stick with things?

Personal Statement Example #9: Ann

Pushing her blonde curls from her forehead, she pursed her lips in focus(( This vivid, detailed description really draws me in.)) . She sat with legs crossed across the kitchen chair. This was it: the moment she’d been preparing for. Her tiny hand gripped the pencil as if it were a stick of dynamite and twitched her fingers up, down, and back again. She looked up at me and smiled, teeth too big for her growing mouth. “Ann,” the paper read. As I glowed back at my mini-me, I saw in her my whole heart(( And here the focus switches from Ann to the writer—an important transition.)) .

My sister was technically an accident, born when I was eleven years old. But I know that, in the grand scheme of things, Ann’s existence was destined by the cosmos. Watching her write was like looking in a mirror. My hair has long since turned brown, but she and I deal with the same unmanageable curls. Her toothy grin developed over five years of mutual laughter. And she got that unwavering focus from watching me do my own homework each night. At the same time I’ve taught her the ways of the world, she’s taught me joy, patience, and persistence(( Lessons learned! This sentence really draws attention to the main theme. It could be a little more specific because “joy, patience, and persistence” are almost cliche.)) .

I had been an only child for my first decade of life. I remember being lonely and without purpose. With Ann came the opportunity to make a real impact on someone, even as a child myself. The night she was born, I vowed to protect her. I had never seen anyone so small and fragile, and I begged my parents to let me hold her. Next to mine, her hand looked like a doll’s. It was purple and pink from the ordeal of birth. Her eyes barely opened, but I couldn’t keep mine off her.

Many older siblings find their younger siblings to be nuisances. But Ann has always been my best friend. Her first two years of life, she struggled with health issues that scared us all. I felt helpless and afraid, but I knew I had to fight alongside her. I did everything I could: I grabbed diapers and bottles for my parents, I talked to her for hours on end, and, when she was old enough, I spoon fed her and encouraged her to eat. As Ann grew bigger and stronger, I grew stronger, too(( It sounds like this was a really difficult challenge for the writer and their family. I appreciate this picture we get of the writer in relation to Ann.)) .

Each year has gotten better than the previous. I was there to catch Ann when she took her first steps, teach her her first words, and get her dressed every day. She tagged behind me as I took photos before my first dance, got my learner’s permit, and went on my college tours. While being a teen with a toddler sibling wasn’t always perfect, Ann’s mere presence makes those around her feel loved and appreciated. She’s exactly who I aspire to be.

Watching her write her name at the kitchen table, I became overwhelmed with the thought of leaving her to head off to college. She still has so much to learn, so many ways to grow. But just as the thought entered my mind, she spoke in her high-pitched and innocent voice. “When you go to college,” she asked, “will you tell me about your classes?” I blinked away the tears gathering in my eyes, smoothed her curls with my hand, and pulled her in close.

Going to college won’t mean leaving Ann. It will mean opening her world—and mine—to endless new knowledge and possibilities. She’ll grow and change, and so will I. When we reunite, we’ll smile our toothy smiles and embrace each other, our curly hair intertwining. We’ll sit at the kitchen table, focused and laughing, like nothing has changed(( I like how the siblings are continuing to grow together, but at the end of the day, they still have their amazing relationship.)) .

AO Notes on Ann

I always find sibling essays like this one so sweet. It’s amazing how clearly we can understand someone solely through their interactions with a loved one. As an admissions officer, I would see that this student would be a great community member (and roommate!).

  • Deeply meaningful: Especially with the family context, it’s apparent that this topic is deeply meaningful to the writer. Because it’s so meaningful a topic, the writer is able to show an immense amount of care for Ann without even trying. AOs love seeing traits like care, maturity, and the ability to grow.
  • Clear message: Personal statements should have themes that encompass the main message the writer wants to convey. This essay’s message is clear as day: the writer is a better, happier, more generous person because of Ann. They are an awesome sibling.
  • More about the self: This one’s tricky because we get an implicit sense of who the writer is now through the overall tone and meaning. But a lot of the personal examples the writer chose are old examples from childhood and early adolescence. Some of those are important to provide family context, but I still would have liked to get a more recent picture of the writer.

Personal Statement Example #10: Running through My Neighborhood

My mind and eyes began to wander as I turned the corner on my fourth mile. I’ve always been a runner. It's a way for me to relax and challenge myself. Running makes me feel like I’m one with the world around me. As I run, I can't help but be struck by the beauty of the buildings and people that make up my city. Each is a work of art—a carefully-crafted expression of my community. With every step, I feel a deep connection to the life around me(( This introduction covers a lot, so this last sentence could be a bit more specific.)) .

On my run, I find myself drawn to the intricate details of the buildings. I admire the way the light catches on centuries-old bricks, casting shadows that dance across the pavement below. I look up at the skyscraper windows that nearly touch the sky, frightened at the sight of window washers. Old and new, the buildings all carry stories.

In the same way, I admire the neighbors around me. I see them feeding pigeons, smiling at me as I pass by. They’re walking dogs and babies, talking on a park bench, and playing hopscotch. I run by them, fast but steady, and breathe it all in. I’m on this beautiful city block, surrounded by people whose whole lives are familiar yet mysterious, and I’m running.

But it's not just the aesthetic beauty of the buildings that grabs my attention. As I run, I find myself thinking about the stories and histories behind each one. I wonder about the people who built them, the families they had at home, the lives they led. I think about the people who have lived and worked in these buildings and the memories that have been made within their walls.

Take the local bakery, for instance. I’ve run by there a thousand times in my life, each time soaking up the smell of freshly-baked bread and pastries. The building seems unassuming at first, with a simple glass door and brick façade. But once you step foot inside, you’re immediately hit with the warmth of the staff and patrons. The old photos on the wall and cozy furniture that has been there since the bakery’s opening back in the 1950s—it feels like home(( These are great vivid details.)) . The bakery is everything I value about my neighborhood. It completely represents what kind of neighbor I want to be. Plus, it’s not a bad place for a post-run snack.

Through my runs, I’ve also made connections with those who frequent the sidewalks alongside me. One of the people I see regularly on my runs is Mrs. Carter, an elderly woman who always has a kind word and a smile for everyone she meets. Her white hair is carefully curled, and her face is dimpled with laugh lines from thousands of conversations like ours. She often stops to chat with me, asking how my day is going and sharing stories from her own life. I always look forward to seeing her. She’s like the grandmother I never had. Mrs. Carter inspires me to be a better community member every day(( This kind of reflection brings the focus back to the writer’s personal journey.)) .

Running through my neighborhood is about more than just staying fit. It’s also about being in community with those around me. As I weave through the people on the sidewalk, I feel as though I am weaving myself through their stories, picking up tidbits and adding them to my own narrative. I wouldn’t be who I am today without these runs that have taught me so much. I can’t wait to run across my college campus, admiring my new surroundings and meeting my new neighbors(( I like this gesture to the future—as an AO, I would start to picture this student running through my campus, too!)) .

AO Notes on Running through My Neighborhood

Running essays can get a bad rap in college admissions. But this one overcomes that stereotype. At its core, this essay is about the runner’s relationship to their community. I really appreciate how much care and enthusiasm this writer shows for those around them.

  • Writing: The writer’s voice shines through. They have great vivid descriptions, and we’re really able to envision ourselves in the neighborhood alongside them.
  • Personal meaning: The way the writer describes those they encounter in their neighborhood shows that this isn’t a minor part of their life. Their runs are a big deal. The people they see along the way have greatly shaped who they are.
  • Greater focus on self: Now, there are much worse culprits when it comes to personal essays that focus on people other than the writer. But the writer does toe the line. Their descriptions mostly focus on those around them, and while there is some reflection that connects their own experience to other people, it doesn’t actually take up much space in the essay. To level up, the writer could make this essay more about themself.

Personal Statement Example #11: Musical Installation Art

As a child, I was always drawn to stringed instruments(( The hook could have more punch, but this gets the job done.)) . I would pluck at my dad's old guitars, create makeshift harps with dental floss, and even play around with the banjo and harp in music class. As I got older, I realized that I wanted to focus on making my own instruments. And where better to start than in my dad's scrapyard? The yard sprawled out for almost five acres behind our house. It was a marvel of junk and oddities, with the accumulated garbage from hundreds of junker cars built up in our backyard. I grew up playing there, leading a childhood that most parents would probably see as reckless—rolling tires through narrow alleyways between crushed cars stacked high. But for me, the backyard was an endless playground for my imagination.

It was there that I discovered the joys of welding and soldering. I would rummage through piles of metal and find pieces that I could fashion into something new. My first sculptures were simple, resembling birds or dogs and pieced together from strips of metal. I’d look for similar art everywhere I went, grasping for inspiration. At a fair one weekend, I saw a booth run by an artist who built guitars. After speaking with him about his art, he asked to see a picture of my sculptures. I showed him and explained that I hoped to make my own instruments one day, too. He scuttled to the back of his tent and returned with a gift: a set of thick copper strings. “Try using those,”(( What an endearing story.)) he told me.

My first sculpture instrument was a crude thing—little more than a board of metal with pegs that I used to pull the copper strings tight. But I tightened them, I was in love—spending all night plucking away. At first, the instrument wailed and screeched. String by string, I delicately tuned the wires into sirens. I had created something that played music, and I was so proud.

My experience building the instrument motivated me to enroll in a sculpture class at the local community college. It was there that I learned how to properly solder metal and create more complex structures. For my final project, I made a three-foot-tall, four-stringed metal instrument in the shape of a dragon.

But as I worked, I started to realize that my dragon wasn't going to be beautiful in the traditional sense. Its metal body was jagged and uneven, and the strings were stretched tight across its back in a way that produced discordant, almost abrasive music. I tried to adjust the tuning, but no matter what I did, the music remained harsh and unpleasant.

At first, I was disappointed. I wanted my dragon to be a work of art, something that people would marvel at and love listening to. But as I continued to play with it, I started to see the beauty in the chaos(( This paragraph shows wonderful growth. And as a reader, I’m drawn in trying to imagine what the sculpture actually looks like.)) . The music it produced was like a musical language that I had invented, one that was wild and untamed. It was a reflection of my own creativity and individuality. A discordant collection of notes that sounded like they’d been tuned so as to be atonal. But I didn't care. I was a scrapyard kid, and this dragon played the song of my people: strong, innovative, and beautiful.

The combination of sculpture and music fascinates me. How does the shape of a fabrication affect the kind of sound that the object produces? What sounds do different materials produce? As I’ve learned more about sculpture, I’ve also become interested in installation art that has sound dimensions. I want to capture people’s visual and aural attention to inspire questions about how we navigate the aesthetic world(( It sounds like this topic potentially relates to the student’s future goals. If that’s true, there could be a clearer academic connection here.)) . And I’ll use whatever scraps I can find to make my creations.

AO Notes on Musical Installation Art

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of musical installation art myself, so this topic really held my attention. I appreciate the journey the writer went on to learn that their art may not look like everyone else’s, but it can be just as impactful.

  • Topic: I like this topic not only because it’s not one you see every day but also because it lets the writer reveal a lot about themself and their background. We see where they grew up and who they grew up with, and we also learn about this deeply meaningful personal interest.
  • Writing style: This author has a very distinct writing style. In some ways, the writing style mirrors their art style—abrupt at times, melodic at others.
  • Organization: The first half of this essay doesn’t always match up with the second half. Even though we’re still able to see the writer’s journey as a metal artist and musician, there’s still a bit of streamlining that needs to happen.

Personal Statement Example #12: Ski Patrol

I can never get enough of being in the mountains(( This hook isn’t very compelling, so it could use some more attention.)) . I am a skier through and through. Growing up, I spent countless family vacations on the slopes with my dad and siblings. I love the rush I get speeding down the mountain—I’ve improved so much over my life that I can now handle most runs I come across. But last year, I took my love for skiing to a whole other level by joining ski patrol.

It was mid-December, and my family had decided to take a weekend away to go skiing. Everything was going normally at first. We had a good day on the slopes and wanted to go one more run before calling it a night. We took a moment to rest and watched the person in front of us go. Only seconds after she headed down the mountain, something happened with her ski. She catapulted into a nearby tree. People raced to check on her, while we stayed back and alerted ski patrol.

When ski patrol arrived, I watched in amazement. They moved in such a precise way. They were like a machine—everyone knew exactly what to do when. Thankfully, it was a false alarm and the skier only had a few scratches. But my own life was changed forever. I knew then that I wanted to be a part of this team, to help others in a tangible way and to make a difference on the mountain that had always been my home.

As soon as I could, I applied for the Junior Ski Patrol team. I had to go through a tryout process on the hill, which made me nervous. But it felt good to be surrounded by people who loved skiing as much as I do. Thankfully, I was accepted shortly after; it was one of the best days of my life. Now on Junior Ski Patrol, I have the opportunity to do what I love – skiing – while also making a positive impact on others(( And here we get to the heart of the essay. The writer wants to help others while doing something they love. It’s a noble pursuit!)) . My team shadows the adult Ski Patrol, and we learn a lot of lessons along the way.

On the mountain (and in life), you never know what challenges might arise. One of the most important things I’ve learned from Junior Ski Patrol is to be prepared for anything. I’ve gotten my CPR and first aid certifications so I’m always prepared to administer life-saving care to anyone who might need it. I know how to pack a bag full of enough essentials to survive harsh weather or injuries.

But ski patrol has also taught me so much more than just how to help others. It has shown me how I work best on a team. I’m not naturally a leader, which is something I’ve always felt ashamed about. After learning from our mentors who all fulfill different roles on their adult Ski Patrol team, I realized that I don’t have to be a leader to be a good team member. The quiet collaborators who can follow the lead, take initiative when needed, and do their jobs really well are just as important as the people who are front-and-center(( An important personal insight.)) .

Being on ski patrol as a high school student has been an incredible journey, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such a dedicated team. More importantly, I’m proud of the growth I’ve experienced. I went from a person who just loves skiing to a person who is more confident in herself. I no longer feel unprepared or timid. I know exactly how to keep myself safe and work alongside others. While I don’t want to be a professional Ski Patroller or even go into medicine, I know these lessons will serve me well wherever life takes me(( As an AO, I would have been wondering if being on JSP made them want to study medicine, so I appreciate that they answered it for me!)) . But no matter where I end up, when the mountain calls, you know I’ll answer.

AO Notes on Ski Patrol

In this fun hobby-meets-accomplishment essay, the writer shows us their strengths of care and teamwork. I like the crossover between something that they really enjoy and this impressive accomplishment they have of being on Junior Ski Patrol.

  • Lessons learned: The writer makes it very clear what lessons they learned from Junior Ski Patrol. Lessons don’t always have to be this explicit, but I appreciate how the writer really takes the time to reflect on what they’ve learned.
  • Personal insight: Okay, this point is related to the lessons learned. But it’s important to draw out on its own because personal essays are, of course, personal. This topic easily could have been just about skiing down a mountain or administering first aid on patrol. Instead, the writer kept the focus inward to meet the expectations of a personal essay.
  • What’s at stake?: We do get a good sense of personal meaning. But the writer could do a better job of speaking to the significance of this activity to their life. A good question to ask is, “What’s at stake?” What would I have lost or gained if this story had turned out differently? Asking these questions can also help you figure out what it is that you want an admissions officer to learn from your personal statement.

Personal Statement Example #13: The Regulars

One pump of vanilla syrup. Frothed milk. One espresso shot. Caramel drizzle(( Starting with some version of the following sentence would have been a stronger hook.)) . Like a scientist at her bench, I have methodically repeated these steps four days a week for the past two years. During my time as a Starbucks barista, I’ve learned hundreds of recipes and customizations. I know all the secret menu hacks, and I’ve developed several recipes for friends and family too. I pride myself on speed, quality, and memory. My favorite part of the job is the customer service. As one of the busiest locations in the region, I’ve caffeinated thousands. But it’s my regular customers, those whose orders I know like the back of my hand, who have truly impacted me.

Venti Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew, hold the vanilla syrup. A busy mom of four, Chelsea is always in a hurry. I try to catch her the moment she enters the store so I can get started right away. Her Venti drink fuels her through school dropoffs and pickups, gymnastics lessons, and evening math homework. Throughout my conversations with her, I’ve learned that Chelsea is a scheduling virtuoso. As someone with ADHD(( This paragraph is almost too much about Chelsea, so this sentence is crucial to bring the focus back to the writer.)) , I became so inspired by her ability to juggle so many people and schedules simultaneously. After asking her for advice, she helped me find a time management system that I can keep up with. I have Chelsea to thank for my improved grades.

Grande dark roast, no room for cream. Mr. Williams is a retired businessman who always tips 100%. Mr. Williams is a quiet man, so it took me months to draw any information from him. Instead of using my over-the-top customer service voice, I eventually learned to be myself. When I got him to open up, I discovered that he was a service worker himself before he made it big in business in his sixties. The truth is, Mr. Williams has tipped me hundreds of dollars throughout my time here, which is extra money that will help me pay for college. He’s taught me the value of quiet generosity(( Let’s be honest. Mr. Williams sounds like a cool guy. But Mr. Williams isn’t applying to college—the writer is! I like that we get small glimpses into who the writer is through this paragraph, but there’s still room for more.)) .

Tall soy London Fog. Sweet Darla gave up coffee twenty-five years ago, but she still loves an occasional treat. When Darla enters, I clear my schedule. She always has stories to tell about the eighty years of life she’s lived. Darla is everything I want to be at that age: she’s spunky, opinionated, and hilarious(( Here we learn a lot about the writer through Darla.)) . Sometimes I tell Darla stories of my own. When I explained the dramatic series of events that led to me landing first chair in my symphony, she said she was going to retell it her bridge club. Making Darla laugh so hard will always be one of my proudest moments.

Grande iced matcha. Taylor is my age and goes to my school. When I took her order for the first time, I felt embarrassed that I needed to work to support myself while she could enjoy expensive drinks. But her kindness softened me. As time went on, I learned that she visited Starbucks so much because she wanted to get out of her house, which wasn’t a very happy place. While I have to take on as many shifts as possible, I still have a happy home to return to afterward. Now Taylor comes in near the end of my shift so we can take our drinks and have dinner at my house.

When you work in customer service, customers enter and exit your life like a revolving door. But the regulars, those special people who draw connections from daily but brief interactions, stick with you for life. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for these people, and I would never have met them if it weren’t for my job as a barista. I haven’t just been making drinks these past two years. I’ve been making friends(( The conclusion does a good job tying all these different stories back together. )) .

AO Notes on The Regulars

No one appreciates a good barista story more than a tired admissions officer on their 30th application of the day! I like the personality that comes through in this essay especially. But this is one of those cases where it’s almost too much about other people.

  • Creative take: Not every college essay needs a creative flair. In fact, sometimes going for “unique” structures can detract from an essay. But I like how the writer uses this format to structure the essay.
  • Organization: This essay isn’t one a reader is bound to get lost in. The introduction sets up the essay well, it’s easy to see the connections between the points the writer is conveying, and the conclusion brings the focus back to the writer.
  • More focus on self: While we do learn about the writer in this essay, we also learn a lot about Chelsea, Mr. Williams, Darla, and Taylor. The writer could have pared down the descriptions of other people—or cut one of the examples altogether—to save more room for personal reflection.

“Bad” Personal Statement Examples

These “bad” essays aren’t necessarily bad. They just aren’t very effective personal statements. Specifically, these two essays make some of the biggest college essay mistakes.

Making mistakes, especially when you’ve never written a personal statement before, is to be expected. We’ve included these examples so you can see what those mistakes look like in real-time. Learning from ineffective examples can be just as helpful as learning from the exceptional ones, so grab your pencil and start taking notes.

Our admissions officers have highlighted what’s working and what’s not. They offer helpful commentary and advice for revisions that you can use to assess your own personal statement.

Personal Statement Example #14: The Worst Year

My sophomore year of high school presented me with so many challenges(( This hook definitely gets straight to the point, but it doesn’t draw me in as a reader.)) . I struggled with a lot that year and barely managed to get by. It was the greatest challenge I ever faced.

The year started out like any other but soon went into chaos. My brother suddenly started struggling with drugs and alcohol. Before that, we didn’t know how bad he was hurting. But one night he finally came to us for help because apparently he had been using substances to cope with his emotions. He was scared because he felt like he had reached a breaking point and needed support. My parents didn’t want to help because they thought that he didn’t have a problem but I know my brother and I knew that he didn’t seem like himself. It was so sad to watch him go through that. I tried my best to help him but I was only a kid. I couldn’t really do anything besides tell him I loved him. Eventually my parents decided to get him some help, so he went away for a while and I wrote him letters every week and visited him as much as I could. The treatment he got helped thankfully. He’s doing better now and I am grateful that he is my brother.

But then Covid hit and I couldn’t even leave my house. We thought it would just be a two week vacation to school but it turned into two whole years of my life gone just like that. At the beginning I was stuck in my bedroom while my parents were working their jobs from the living room. Everyone was constantly getting annoyed with each other and driving each other wild. I would be doing a class Zoom in my room and I could hear my parents in a meeting in the living room. I had a hard time not being able to see my friends. I couldn't focus and my grades dropped. Even my teachers didn’t really seem to care. I was sick of staring at black Zoom screens all the time that I even stopped logging on. All of that combined led to me becoming very depressed and anxious. My grades dropped even more because I just couldn’t pay attention or focus enough to do my homework. I ended up getting grades way lower than I ever thought I would that year and I’m so frustrated about it because it felt like I was trying my best but it just wasn’t enough(( Here we see the writer opening up a bit and reflecting on what it was like to go through that experience.)) .

Even once we finally got back in school things didn’t get much better. The pandemic was just too much for my family so my parents ended up getting divorced at the beginning of my junior year. After all we had been through together seeing them separate made me devastated. My dad got an apartment and I had to go back and forth between their houses and pack up all my stuff every time. It was like moving my entire life every weekend. My brother was out of the house by this point so it was just me all by myself. My school was far from my dad’s new place so I’d have a long commute on the weeks I was with him. He was stressed at work and about the divorce and I just ended up feeling so lonely and spending most of my time in my room. My grades got better once online school stopped(( This moment of hope does a lot for moving the essay forward.)) but I had a hard time keeping close relationships with my friends because they didn’t like that I was living far away now and that we couldn’t really hang out anymore.

I couldn’t believe that two years would change so much. Getting through everything really challenged me. But I’m glad to be moving forward with my life.

AO Notes on The Worst Year

This student definitely had a challenging year. It’s clear that they’ve overcome a lot, and I appreciate their willingness to share their struggles. I like that the very last sentence

What this essay does well:

  • Vulnerability: Writing about challenges is never easy, especially when you’re writing to people you don’t know. This writer is bold and unafraid in doing so.

What could be improved on:

  • Not enough positivity: Here’s the thing. You definitely don’t need to be able to spin all of your challenging experiences into positive ones. But the topics you choose to write your college essay about should ultimately conclude on a positive note. You want your college essay to show you in a positive light, so you should choose a topic that lets you find a light, positive, or hopeful resolution.

Personal Statement Example #15: The Strikeout that Changed My Life

The stadium lights shone brightly in my eyes. I stepped up to the plate and drew back my bat. I wiggled my fingers, waiting. The pitcher wound up his arm and threw the ball towards me. My eyes worked overtime to track the ball. I watched as it flew directly towards the center of the plate and made a last-minute curve(( I like this vivid description.)) . It went straight into the catcher’s mitt. “Strike three!” the umpire yelled. That was the time I struck out at the quarter-finals. My team was so close to making it to the championship that we could taste it. It was the bottom of the sixth, and I gave up a valuable chance to score game-winning runs. We ended up losing. I learned a valuable lesson that fateful day. I never wanted to let my team down like that again(( And the writer jumps quickly into the main theme of the essay. Still, the message here could be more specific.)) .

We had advanced through our bracket without much trouble. The other teams were no match for our work ethic and teamwork. We were in perfect sync. As the first baseman, I was ready for any throw that came my way. We were also hitting well. I scored three home runs throughout the course of the tournament. We were a high-functioning machine. But for a machine to work, each cog has to function correctly. When I stepped up to the plate in the sixth inning, I was a broken cog.

After our quarter–final loss, I grieved with my teammates. Then I went off on my own to think. How had I let my team down so badly? How did I not even try to swing at that pitch? It was all my fault. I had to figure out what I had done wrong so I would never make the mistake again. I realized that I had been thinking selfishly. I was concerned about my own performance, my own at-bat averages(( This is a good reflection.)) . I was scared of failing because I didn’t want to be embarrassed. And worrying about all of those things caused me to lose focus and miss my chance to make a difference. Instead, I should have been thinking about how my at-bat would contribute to my team’s overall goal of winning the game.

I returned to where my teammates were congregating, and several of them patted me on the back. The next day, we went over how the game went as a team and talked about how we could improve at our tournament the following weekend. I admitted that I felt like I let the team down. My teammates said that they understood and reassured me that mistakes happen. It wasn’t my failed at-bat alone that lost us the game. Like winning, losing is a team effort. It was a culmination of lots of little issues. At the end of the day, the other team just out-performed us. But we could try hard, practice a lot, and return triumphant next weekend.

Letting my team down was a crushing blow to my self-esteem. I never want to feel like that again, but I know that the experience caused me to grow. Through all of this, I learned that I have to trust myself and my team(( Here we get to the lesson learned.)) . Focusing on myself alone can only get me so far. But focusing on my team can get me to where I want to go. I’m actually thankful that I struck out in that sixth inning because it caused me to learn an important life lesson.

AO Notes on The Strikeout that Changed My Life

This essay on its own definitely isn’t “bad.” As far as essays go, it’s clear, well-written, and organized nicely. But as a college essay, it could be doing more work on the writer’s behalf. See, as an admissions officer, I don’t actually learn that much about the writer from this essay alone. I see that they like baseball, are a good teammate, and can overcome failure. Those are wonderful traits, but they don’t exactly help set this student apart on the admissions committee floor. Instead, the student could make this essay more vulnerable and personal.

  • Writing: The writer uses some great creative writing skills to really set the scene for the readers. In that first paragraph, I really feel like I’m there watching the game.
  • Reflection: Even though the topic could be more significant, the writer does a great job reflecting on the meaning they drew from the experience.
  • Significance: It’s very clear that this topic holds a lot of meaning to the writer. But as a college essay topic, it lacks vulnerability and stakes.

Key Takeaways

Writing a personal statement is a difficult ask, especially when you’ve never even read one before. But now, with these fifteen examples in your back pocket, you’re ready to write your own.

If you’re not sure what steps to take next, hop on over to our guide to writing personal statements for advice. You can also find more extensive guidance on the Essay Academy , a comprehensive college essay writing video course and community.

Happy writing! 🥳

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How to Show Demonstrated Interest

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How to Write Supplemental Essays that Will Impress Admissions Officers

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A guide to writing the best personal statement for your college application (with template and examples!)

Why is boasting about a best friend SO much easier than writing about yourself? Unfortunately, writing about yourself is exactly what a personal statement essay requires you to do–whether it’s for your college admissions application, or for a scholarship application to pay for college . Here’s our guide, to ensure you’re well-equipped to write a killer personal statement!

Student writing personal statement

First off, what’s the purpose of a personal statement?

What topics can i write about, how do i decide what to focus on, in my college essay, okay, i’ve got my personal statement topic. but now i have to actually write it. 😱what do i do .

  • Do you have personal statement examples? 

Now it’s your turn.

Your personal statement should share something about who you are, something that can’t be found in your resume or transcript.

For colleges:

  • It should paint a picture for colleges to understand who we are and what we bring to the table. This is why it’s often better to tell a story, or give examples, rather than just list accomplishments.
  • It should complement the other parts of your application. Consider your college application as a whole. Your personal statement, application short answers, and supporting documentation should together tell a story about who you are. This also means not being super repetitive with your personal statement and your short essays. (For instance, if you have to answer 3 questions AND submit a personal statement, maybe they shouldn’t ALL focus on music.)

For scholarship applications:

  • It should indicate why you’re deserving of the scholarship. This often means making sure your essay relates to the scholarship provider’s goals. (Get more help on writing a killer scholarship essay here , and then make sure you’re applying as efficiently as possible. )
  • It should showcase your strengths. This doesn’t mean it can’t acknowledge any weaknesses, but it surely shouldn’t only focus on negative aspects!

Student writing personal statement draft

It can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. First, figure out what your choices are. Some colleges may have very specific college essay prompts. That said, many students apply using the Common App, which this year offers these 7 topics to choose from : 

  • Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? ( Psst – If you choose this topic, you can sign up for Going Merry and apply for a scholarship bundle : one essay, multiple scholarships! )
  • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  • Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  • Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  • Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

You’ll notice that #7 is a catch-all that allows you to submit any personal statement about anything at all . 

So maybe that doesn’t help you narrow it down. 

Here’s a 3-step solution:

STEP 1. Brainstorm about your life

Dedicate 5-10 minutes each to brainstorming about these 4 sets of questions.

You can do this by yourself (writing down your thoughts), or do this exercise out loud with a friend or family member, and then jot down notes as you’re talking. If you “think out loud” better than you do on paper, brainstorming with someone else may be the way to go! 

(A) What were defining moments in your life?

How did these moments in your life changed you, what did you learn from it, and how has it shaped your future plans? Some topics might include:

  • An accident or injury
  • A best friend you made (or lost)
  • A defining talk with a peer
  • Something new you tried for the first time
  • Revealing a sexual or gender identity, to friends or family
  • Discovering something about your family ( e.g., see Jesus’s story )
  • Moving to a new city
  • Traveling somewhere, or learning about a new culture ( e.g., see Gabby’s story )
  • Your first pet (new responsibilities as a fur mom or dad)

(B) What have you chosen to spend time on?

Remember to focus not just on the what , but also the why – What were your motivations? How did you feel? What have you learned? Some topics on this might include: 

  • The moment you joined band, color guard, or the soccer team. 
  • A time you struggled with that activity – e.g., Maybe you got passed over for captain of the soccer? Or maybe you got an injury and had to sit out on the sidelines? 
  • Maybe a moment you really fell in love with that activity – e.g. Maybe the first time you investigated a story for the school newspaper and realized journalism was your calling?

(C) Whom or what are you inspired by?

How did you find out about this person or thing? Why are you inspired? In what ways are you inspired? Is there anything that inspiration has made you do (e.g. join a club, do an activity or internship on the topic)? Some topics on this might include: 

  • Technology – Maybe a specific App made you inspired to learn to code? 
  • Person in your life – Maybe meeting someone (or knowing someone in your family) has affected you? 
  • A show, movie, book, or podcast that inspired you to look at life differently
  • A dance or song that has made you interested in performing arts

(D) What are you proud of?

Make a list of all the things you’re proud of. These can be milestones, hobbies, qualities, or quirks that are what make you, you. Topics to consider might be:

  • Times you saved the day – like that epic left-handed catch you made on the field
  • Personal qualities – Maybe you’re really funny, or amazingly calm under pressure. What are some examples of times when you showed those qualities?
  • Random life things you’re amazing at – Baking a mean chocolate brownie. Guessing how many gumballs are in a jar. Tell a story when that amazing talent was handy!

Don’t worry if some of your ideas repeat between sections. This is just a way to get ideas flowing! 

College student writing

STEP 2. Shortlist your ideas

Identify your strongest ideas out of the bunch. This should probably be very few (2-4).

STEP 3. Freewrite about your possible essay topics.

Once you’ve brainstormed some ideas and identified 2-4 winners, we agree with Find the Right College – just start freewriting! Start by writing a few sentences or paragraphs about any of your shortlisted topics, and let the words flow. Write for about 15 minutes, on each shortlisted topic. Don’t worry about structure or organization – this is just an exercise so you feel comfortable getting the thoughts out of your head and onto paper. 

It will also allow you to see which of the topics seems to have the most “legs” — often, you’ll notice that your best topic will:

  • Be the easiest to write about (those 15 minutes flew by!)
  • Lead you to tell at least one interesting story
  • Feel like it genuinely reveals something important about who you are
  • Not be captured easily by other parts of your application (you’ll need a full 500 words to really be able to tackle this meaty topic)

Student reviewing personal statement template

Well, let’s start here: What makes a personal statement good or even great ?

Here are some things to keep in mind: 

1. Get personal.

Remember the “personal” in personal statement. We all have a story to tell, and we all have a different journey that led us to where we are today. We might think “someone already wrote about this” or we might think our story isn’t unique, but IT IS.

2. Speak like you.

Write your personal statement in a genuine tone that reflects who you are . There’s no right or wrong tone – just make sure your tone represents YOU. This means, in particular, not using big words just to show off. Often, this just seems like you’re trying to hard. (Or, even worse, you accidentally use the word incorrectly!)

3. Think about your audience.

Who will you be writing your personal statement for? What message do you want to convey? If it’s for to the college admissions committee, how do you show you’ll align well with the culture of the school? If it’s for a scholarship provider, how do you show you support their mission?

4. Hit the big three: Story, Implication, Connection to college/major.

Most successful college essays do at least 3 things: 

  • Mention at least one anecdote or story. (“Show, don’t tell.”)
  • Explain why that anecdote or story is important to who you are.
  • End (or begin) by connecting this information, to why you are applying to this specific college. This may include information about the major (why you think their department/program is great), or more general information about what attracts you to the school (e.g., location, sports, extracurricular activities, Greek life). Get specific so the school knows you’re really interested in them! This is the one piece of your personal statement that probably shouldn’t be cut & paste.

Here’s an example of how to use that personal essay template:

  • Story: When I was 11, my family traveled to Italy and visited museums — one specific painting made me fall in love with art. ( 1-2 paragraphs )
  • Why important: After that trip, I did lots of art and studied lots of art. Mention specific extracurriculars. ( 3 paragraphs )
  • Why this college: I want to apply to X college because of its excellent art program, which I can also complement by joining Y and Z clubs. Since it’s in New York, it’ll also offer my the opportunity to visit the countless art museums like MOMA. ( 1 paragraph )

5. Hit the length.

Make sure you keep within the required length. Normally if you aim for 500 words, you’re golden. Some college or scholarship applications will allow you to write up to 600 or 650 words.

6. Edit your work.

Once you’ve written your personal statement, step away from it. There was a time when we used to rely on pencil and paper to write down all of our ideas and information (including first-draft college essays). Now, we mainly rely on screens, so our eyes grow tired, causing us to miss typos and grammar mistakes.

So save that document in an easy-to-find folder on your computer. Then stepping away from your computer and taking a break helps relax your mind and body and then refocus when you come back to edit the document.

( Psst – If you’re applying for scholarships with Going Merry, we’ve got built-in spellcheck, and we allow you to save essays in your documents folder, so no work will get lost! )

We can’t stress this one enough: Don’t submit your personal statement without checking your spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, etc.! All the grammar things! Your personal statement reflects who you are, from the topic you choose to the style you write it in, so impress colleges (or scholarship providers) with excellent structure and great grammar!

7. Then, ask someone else to edit it too.

We recommend asking a friend, counselor, or parent to read your personal statement before you submit the document. One more set of eyes will really help you get a second opinion on the tone, writing quality, and overall representation of who you are in your personal statement.

8. Be brave, and hit that “submit” button on your personal statement!

Finally, when everything is completed, click submit! Don’t hold back!

9. Remember, personal statements for your college app, can also be reused as scholarship essays.

Get double-use out of your personal statement. Going Merry is your home for all things scholarships–fill out a profile, get matched to eligible scholarships, and apply. You can even save essays so that you can easily upload the same one for multiple scholarship applications. (We were inspired by the Common App to make applying for scholarships easier.)

Register for an account here , get the full lowdown on how it works , or just sign up for the newsletter below (to get 20 scholarship opportunities delivered to our inbox each each week!).

High school student writing personal statement

Do you have personal statement examples ? 

Oh yes we do. First, here are some excerpts of personal statements from members of our very own Going Merry team!

Charlie Maynard, Going Merry CEO – wrote about what matters most to him and why, for his grad school application.

  • The open paragraph read: “Being open to new ideas and able to take advantage of opportunities is what is most important to me. The most extraordinary times in my life have come as a result of moments when I’ve seized opportunities. This has been evident in my educational life, my travels around the world and my professional career.”
  • This anchored the main topic of his essay. He then went on to explain examples.

Charlotte Lau, Going Merry Head of Growth – wrote for her college Common App personal statement:

“As a child, I was never close with my father, though we were always on good terms. He made me laugh and taught me all the things that made me into a young tomboy: what an RBI is, how to correctly hook a fish when I feel it biting, what to bring on a camping trip. But whenever I was upset, he wouldn’t know how to comfort me. He is a man of jokes and words, not of comforting motions.

But as I grew older and I too became infatuated with words—albeit in written form—our topics of conversation became more diverse and often more profound. We continued to watch sports games together, but during commercials, we’d have epistemological and ethical discussions more fitting for a philosophy class than a chat during a Knicks’ time-out. During these talks, my father would insert stories about his youth. They’d always be transitory or anecdotal, told as if they were beside the point. Still, I’d eagerly commit them to memory, and, over time, I began to get a sense of who my father was—and, in turn, who I am.”

Now, here are some excerpts from other sample personal statements:

These 3 are college essays about personal characteristics:

Essay 1: Humorous essay about getting a D and learning a lesson

“Getting a D probably isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s not something anyone wants to see, let alone put, on a college application. It came back to me, scrawled in red, on the first big history test of the year. The one the teacher had assured us was a third of our grade. I could already see my chances of a four-year college going up in smoke and my school year hadn’t even started yet.

What happened? I’m not a D student. I’ll get the occasional C as well as the occasional A. D’s are out of character for me, and enough of a stomach punch to really get my attention. The short version is, I didn’t study, and I don’t remember precisely why. There is always a reason not to study, isn’t there? I didn’t study and I went into a test woefully unprepared and got beaten up.

I had two options here. I could accept that I was in fact a D student despite what I had thought. Or I could study hard for the next test and try to bring my grade up by the force of the average.”

Essay 2: Why a talent (in this case, one at football) is also a responsibility

“Talent is not remarkable. It’s usually the first thing anyone compliments. “You’re so talented.” It doesn’t mean what they think it means. It doesn’t mean I worked hard. It means I was lucky, or blessed, or anything else you want to call it.

I have talent. I’ve known since I was old enough to hold a football. The game just makes intuitive sense to me. The pathways of the players, both my team and the others, where the ball has to go, and what I’m doing. In the silence before a snap, I’m already playing out what is going to happen, watching the holes in my lines, tracing the route of my receivers. […]

It is far too easy to view talent as an excuse. For me, it is a motivator. For my talent, I will accept nothing less than a dream that only a tiny percentage of people ever get to experience. To get there, I’m willing to work hard and wring every last accomplishment from myself.

Talent is a responsibility. Because you had nothing to do with acquiring it, you are compelled to achieve every last bit you can with it. While I had grown used to thinking varsity would be it, that was not the case. Now, I can focus on the goal while I accomplish the steps.”

Essay 3: On living with depression

“Before I was diagnosed, I had been told it was a normal part of growing up. I was told that teens are moody. I would grow out of it. I couldn’t imagine anyone growing out of what I was feeling. I couldn’t imagine anyone surviving.

Diagnosis and medication have saved my life, allowing me to see the world as people without my brain chemistry would. […] what I found was a place of tiny kindnesses.

It might sound bad—as though kindness can only exist in the smallest forms. This is not what I mean. There are extraordinary people out there who devote their lives to doing very large, very important things for others. I’m not talking about them, partially because they are extraordinary. They are not the norm.

What is normal are the tiny kindnesses. These do not cost a person much of anything. A slice of time, a moment of openness, and little else. They are a smile when you’re feeling down, a comforting hand on the shoulder, a moment to talk.”

And here are 3 college personal statements, about what drove their interest in their intended major: 

Essay 4: On why this applicant wants to study music

“My great-great-uncle Giacomo Ferrari was born in 1912 in Neverland, NY, the youngest of four sons. His parents had emigrated from Italy with his two eldest brothers in the early 1900s in search of a better life in America. Their struggles as immigrants are in themselves inspiring, but the challenges they faced are undoubtedly similar to those that many other immigrant families had to overcome; because of this, the actions that my relatives embarked upon are that much more extraordinary. Giacomo’s oldest brother Antonio, my great-grandfather, decided to take a correspondence course in violin, and to teach his youngest brother Giacomo how to play as well. Giacomo Ferrari eventually became an accomplished violinist and started a free “Lunchtime Strings” program for all the elementary schools in the Neverland area, giving free violin lessons and monthly concerts.

As a native English speaker who has had the privilege of studying viola and violin with trained, private teachers, I can only imagine the perseverance it took for my great-grandfather and great-great uncle to learn an instrument like the violin out of booklets and lessons that were not even written in their native language. Their passion and dedication to learning something new, something not part of their lives as blue-collar, immigrant workers, and their desire to share it with others, has inspired me as a musician and a person. It is this spirit that has motivated me to pursue an MA at Composition at the University of XXX.”

Essay 5: On why this applicant wants to be an allergy specialist

“Suddenly I started scratching my neck, feeling the hives that had started to form. I rushed to the restroom to throw up because my throat was itchy and I felt a weight on my chest. I was experiencing anaphylactic shock, which prevented me from taking anything but shallow breaths. I was fighting the one thing that is meant to protect me and keep me alive – my own body.

[…] After that incident, I began to fear. I became scared of death, eating, and even my own body. As I grew older, I became paranoid about checking food labels and I avoided eating if I didn’t know what was in the food. I knew what could happen if I ate one wrong thing, and I wasn’t willing to risk it for a snack. Ultimately, that fear turned into resentment; I resented my body for making me an outsider.

In the years that followed, this experience and my regular visits to my allergy specialist inspired me to become an allergy specialist. Even though I was probably only ten at the time, I wanted to find a way to help kids like me. I wanted to find a solution so that nobody would have to feel the way I did; nobody deserved to feel that pain, fear, and resentment. As I learned more about the medical world, I became more fascinated with the body’s immune responses, specifically, how a body reacts to allergens.”

Essay 6 : On why this applicant wants to study medicine  

“My passion for teaching others and sharing knowledge emanates from my curiosity and love for learning. My shadowing experiences in particular have stimulated my curiosity and desire to learn more about the world around me. How does platelet rich plasma stimulate tissue growth? How does diabetes affect the proximal convoluted tubule? My questions never stopped. I wanted to know everything and it felt very satisfying to apply my knowledge to clinical problems. distinct concepts together to form a coherent picture truly attracts me to medicine.

It is hard to separate science from medicine; in fact, medicine is science. However, medicine is also about people—their feelings, struggles and concerns. Humans are not pre-programmed robots that all face the same problems. Humans deserve sensitive and understanding physicians. Humans deserve doctors who are infinitely curious, constantly questioning new advents in medicine. They deserve someone who loves the challenge of problem solving and coming up with innovative individualized solutions. I want to be that physician. I want to be able to approach each case as a unique entity and incorporate my strengths into providing personalized care for my patients. Until that time, I may be found Friday mornings in the operating room, peering over shoulders, dreaming about the day I get to hold the drill.”

Students writing personal statements

You made it this far. Now, it’s time to write your personal statement!

Ready to reuse your personal statement for scholarship applications? Sign up for Going Merry today for free to keep track of your scholarship applications and essays. We’re your one-stop shop for scholarship searches and applications.

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Writing the Personal Statement

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This handout provides information about writing personal statements for academic and other positions.

The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories:

1. The general, comprehensive personal statement:

This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms.

2. The response to very specific questions:

Often, business and graduate school applications ask specific questions, and your statement should respond specifically to the question being asked. Some business school applications favor multiple essays, typically asking for responses to three or more questions.

Questions to ask yourself before you write:

  • What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story?
  • What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
  • When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
  • How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
  • If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre LSAT or GRE scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
  • Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
  • What personal characteristics (for example, integrity, compassion, and/or persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
  • What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
  • Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession or field than other applicants?
  • What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?

General advice

Answer the questions that are asked

  • If you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar.
  • Don't be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It is important to answer each question being asked, and if slightly different answers are needed, you should write separate statements. In every case, be sure your answer fits the question being asked.

Tell a story

  • Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is to bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourself memorable.

Be specific

  • Don't, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to become a lawyer, engineer, or whatever should be logical, the result of specific experience that is described in your statement. Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story.

Find an angle

  • If you're like most people, your life story lacks drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle or a "hook" is vital.

Concentrate on your opening paragraph

  • The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement.

Tell what you know

  • The middle section of your essay might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as some of your knowledge of the field. Too many people graduate with little or no knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the profession or field they hope to enter. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information. Refer to experiences (work, research, etc.), classes, conversations with people in the field, books you've read, seminars you've attended, or any other source of specific information about the career you want and why you're suited to it. Since you will have to select what you include in your statement, the choices you make are often an indication of your judgment.

Don't include some subjects

  • There are certain things best left out of personal statements. For example, references to experiences or accomplishments in high school or earlier are generally not a good idea. Don't mention potentially controversial subjects (for example, controversial religious or political issues).

Do some research, if needed

  • If a school wants to know why you're applying to it rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention.

Write well and correctly

  • Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits.

Avoid clichés

  • A medical school applicant who writes that he is good at science and wants to help other people is not exactly expressing an original thought. Stay away from often-repeated or tired statements.

For more information on writing a personal statement, see the personal statement vidcast .

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How to Write a Personal Statement for a Scholarship + Examples

What’s covered:, what is the purpose of the scholarship personal statement, what to include in your personal statement, personal statement example: breakdown + analysis, how to make sure your writing is effective.

Either before or after you’ve gotten into your dream school, you’ll have to figure out how to pay for it. For most students, this involves a combination of financial aid, parent contributions, self-contributions, student loans, and scholarships/grants. Because scholarships are money out of someone else’s pocket that you never have to pay back, they are a great place to start!

Scholarships come in two forms: merit-based and need-based. Need-based scholarships are also often called grants. These designations tell you whether an organization looks at your financial situation when deciding about your scholarship.

Additionally, different scholarships fall under different categories based on the mission of the organization or person providing the scholarship’s financing. These missions typically emphasize different things like academic achievement, specific career goals, community service, leadership, family background, skill in the arts, or having overcome hardship. As you select scholarships to apply for and complete your applications, you should keep these missions in mind.

No matter what type of scholarship you are applying for, you will be asked to provide the review committee with standard materials. This includes your transcript, GPA, and resume/extracurriculars, but also, importantly, your personal statement. A scholarship personal statement is a bit different from your normal college essay, so we’ve put together this guide and some examples to help you get started!

The purpose of your personal statement is to help a review committee learn more about your personality, values, goals, and what makes you special. Ultimately, like with your college essays, you are trying to humanize your profile beyond your transcript, GPA, and test scores.

College essays all have one goal in mind (which is why you can apply to multiple schools at once through applications like the Common App or Coalition App): convince admissions officers that you would be a valuable addition to the university environment. The goal of your scholarship personal statement is different and differs more from one scholarship to the next. Rather than convincing various review committees that you are a generally good candidate for extra funding for college, you need to convince each review committee that your values have historically aligned with their organization’s mission and will continue to align with their organization’s mission.

Common missions amongst those who give scholarships include:

  • Providing opportunities for students with career ambitions in a particular field
  • Helping students who have experienced unexpected hardship
  • Supporting students who show outstanding academic achievement
  • Funding the arts through investing in young artists with strong technical skill
  • Supporting the development of civic-minded community service leaders of the future
  • Providing opportunities for historically underrepresented ethnic communities 

If a specific mission like this is outlined on an organization’s website or in the promotional material for its scholarship, the purpose of your personal statement is to show how you exemplify that mission.

Some scholarships ask for your personal statement to be guided by a prompt, while others leave things open for interpretation. When you are provided a prompt, it is obvious what you must do: answer the prompt. When you are not provided a prompt, you want to write a personal statement that is essentially a small-scale autobiography where you position yourself as a good investment. In either case, you should identify a focus or theme for what you are trying to say about yourself so that your application does not get lost in the shuffle.

Prompts include questions like:

  • Why do you deserve this scholarship?
  • How have you shown your commitment to (leadership/community service/diversity) in your community?
  • When did you overcome adversity?
  • Why is attending college important to you?

If you are provided a prompt, develop a theme for your response that showcases both your values and your achievements. This will help your essay feel focused and will subsequently help the review committee to remember which candidate you were as they deliberate.

Themes include things like:

  • I deserve this community service scholarship because my compassion for intergenerational trauma has inspired me to volunteer with a local after-school program. I didn’t just sympathize. I did something about my sympathy because that’s the type of person I am. Within the program, I have identified avenues for improvement and worked alongside full-time staff to develop new strategies for increasing attendance.
  • I overcame adversity when my mother had to have a major surgery two months after giving birth to my younger brother. I was just a kid but was thrown into a situation where I had to raise another kid. It was hard, but I’m the kind of person who tries to grow from hard times and, through my experience taking care of a baby, I learned the importance of listening to body language and nonverbal cues to understand the needs of others (baby and nonbaby, alike).

Without a prompt, clarity can be harder to achieve. That said, it is of the utmost importance that you find a focus. First, think about both your goals and your values.

Types of goals include:

  • Career goals
  • Goals for personal growth
  • The type of friend you want to be
  • The change you want to make in the world

Values could include:

  • Authenticity
  • And many more!

After you write out your goals/values, write out your achievements to see what goals/values you have “proof” of your commitment to. Your essay will ultimately be an exploration of your goal/value, what you have done about your goal/value in the past, and what you aspire to in the future.

You might be tempted to reflect on areas for improvement, but scholarships care about you living out your values. It is not enough to aspire to be exemplary in leadership, community service, or your academic field. For scholarships, you have to already be exemplary.

Finally, keep in mind that the review committee likely already has a copy of your extracurricular activities and involvement. Pick one or two accomplishments, then strive for depth, not breadth as you explore them.

My interest in the field of neuroscience began at a young age.  When I was twelve years old, my sister developed a condition called Pseudotumor Cerebri following multiple concussions during a basketball game.  It took the doctors over six months to make a proper diagnosis, followed by three years of treatment before she recovered.  During this time, my love for neuroscience was sparked as I began to research her condition and, then, other neurocognitive conditions.  Later, my love of neuroscience was amplified when my mother began to suffer from brain-related health issues.  My mother had been a practicing attorney in Dallas for over twenty years.  She was a determined litigator who relentlessly tried difficult cases that changed people’s lives.  Now, she suffers from a cognitive impairment and is no longer able to practice law.  Oftentimes, she has headaches, she gets “cloudy,” her executive functioning slows down, she feels overwhelmed, and she forgets things.  My mother has gone from being the strong, confident, emotional and financial caretaker of our family to needing significant help on a daily basis. Once again, with this illness came a lot of research on my part — research that encouraged me to pursue my dreams of exploring neuroscience.

Due to my experiences with my mother and sister when I was in middle school, I knew that I wanted to make a difference in the field of neuroscience.  I also knew that, to obtain this goal, I needed to maintain superior grades in school while also pursuing opportunities outside of school to further my education.  In school, I was able to maintain superior grades to the point where I am currently valedictorian in a class of 567 students.  In addition, in school, I challenged myself by taking 16 Advanced Placement classes and 19 Honors classes.  Two of the most beneficial classes were AP Capstone Seminar and AP Capstone Research.  AP Capstone Seminar and AP Capstone Research are research-oriented classes where students are given the opportunity to pursue whatever track their research takes them down.  As a junior in AP Capstone Seminar, I researched the effects of harmful pesticide use on the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children.  This year, as a senior in AP Capstone Research, I am learning about the effects of medical marijuana on the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).  

Outside of school, I furthered my education through taking advantage of the Duke TiP summer program. Duke TiP is a summer program run by Duke University where students who score extremely well on the SAT as middle schoolers are able to take college classes at different universities throughout the summers of their middle school and high school years.  I took advantage of this opportunity twice.  First, I went to Trinity University in San Antonio to expand my horizons and learn more about debate.  However, once I was done exploring, I decided I wanted to go into neuroscience.  This led me to take an Abnormal Psychology class at Duke University’s West Campus.  This class opened my eyes to the interaction between neuroscience and mental health, mental illness, and personality.  Years later, I am currently continuing my education outside of school as an intern at the University of Texas Dallas Center for Brain Health.  Through this internship, I have been able to see different aspects of neuroscience including brain pattern testing, virtual reality therapy, and longitudinal research studies.  With this background, I have positioned myself to be accepted by top neuroscience programs throughout the nation.  So far, I have been accepted to the neuroscience department of University of Southern California, the University of Virginia, the University of Texas, and Southern Methodist University, as well as the chemistry department at University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.  

It is with this passion for neuroscience driven by my family and passion for education driven by internal motivation that I will set out to conquer my career objectives.  My educational aspirations consist of acquiring a bachelor’s degree in a biological or health science that would assist me in pursuing a medical career as a neuroscience researcher.  I decided to attain a career as a researcher since my passion has always been assisting others and trying to improve their quality of life.  After obtaining my Masters and my PhD, I plan to become a professor at a prestigious university and continue performing lab research on cognitive disorders.  I am particularly interested in disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  In the lab, I hope to find different therapies and medications to help treat the 3.5 million people around the world suffering from ASD.  Furthermore, I want to contribute back to underserved populations that struggle because they do not have as much access to medical assistance as other privileged groups.  As such, I hope to do a part of my research in less developed or developing Spanish-speaking countries. This will also allow me to pursue my love of Spanish while pursuing my love of neuroscience.  I think that following such a career path will provide me the opportunity to learn about the medical needs of the autistic community and improve their quality of health.  Furthermore, I hope to train a new generation of students to strive to research and make comparable discoveries.  Whether it be through virtual reality labs or new drug discoveries, I believe that research leads to innovation which leads to a brighter future. 

This student does a great job of making themself appear competent and dedicated to the field of neuroscience. This is primarily because they provided tangible evidence of how they have pursued their dedication in the past—through their AP Capstone courses, their Abnormal Psychology class at Duke TiP, and their internship at UTD. There is no doubt in the mind of a reader that this student is high-achieving. 

This student also engages successfully with a past-future trajectory, where they end with a vision of how they will continue to use neuroscience in the future. This helps the review committee see what they are investing in and the ways that their money will go to good use.

This student has two major areas for improvement. As we have said, the purpose of a personal statement is for a student to humanize themself to a review committee. This student struggles to depict themself separately from their academic achievements. A solution to this would be for the student to establish a theme towards the beginning of their essay that relates to both their values as a human and their achievements.

At the beginning of the essay, the student explores how their interest in neuroscience began. They explain their interest through the following sentences: “During this time, my love for neuroscience was sparked as I began to research her condition and, then, other neurocognitive conditions” and “Once again, with this illness came a lot of research on my part — research that encouraged me to pursue my dreams of exploring neuroscience.” The student made the great decision to tell the backstory of their interest, but they described their research in very mundane and redundant terms. Instead, they could have focused on their value of intellectual curiosity as a magnetic force that encouraged them to research their mother and sister’s ailments. Curiosity, then, could serve as a value-related thematic throughline to taking AP Capstone classes, taking college courses during the summer that weren’t required, and interning before even graduating high school.

A second area for improvement would be avoiding statistics. As the student identifies their valedictorian status and the number of AP classes they have taken, they might turn away certain personalities on a review committee by appearing braggy. Even further, these statistics are a waste of space. The review committee already has access to this information. These words distract from the major theme of the essay and would have been better used to humanize the student.

Throughout my academic career, I have been an avid scholar, constantly pushing myself towards ambitious goals. I held and continue to hold myself to a high standard, enrolling myself in rigorous curriculum, including Honors and Advanced Placement courses to stretch my mental potential. During my junior year of high school, I took four AP tests, two on the same day, and earned the AP Scholar with Honor Award. Additionally, I received the Letter of Commendation for the PSAT/NMSQT, and qualified for Rotary Top 100 Students both my freshman and senior year, a sign of my commitment to my studies. However, school has not been all about having the best GPA for me; beyond the numbers, I have a deep drive to learn which motivates me to do well academically. I truly enjoy learning new things, whether it be a new essay style or a math theorem. I always give each class my best effort and try my hardest on every assignment. My teachers have noticed this as well, and I have received school Lancer Awards and Student of the Month recognitions as a result. It is a major goal of mine to continue to aspire towards a high level of achievement regarding future educational and occupational endeavors; I plan on continuing this level of dedication throughout my educational career and implementing the skills I have learned and will learn into my college experience and beyond.

This fall, I will begin attending the University of California Los Angeles as an English major. I chose this major because I am fascinated by written language, especially its ability to convey powerful messages and emotions. I also enjoy delving into the works of other authors to analyze specific components of their writing to discover the meaning behind their words. In particular, I cannot wait to begin in-depth literary criticism and learn new stylistic techniques to add more depth to my writing. Furthermore, I recently went to UCLA’s Bruin Day, an event for incoming freshmen, where I was exposed to many different extracurriculars, some of which really piqued my interest. I plan on joining the Writing Success Program, where I can help students receive free writing help, and Mock Trial, where I can debate issues with peers in front of a real judge. The latter, combined with a strong writing background from my undergraduate English studies will be extremely beneficial because I plan to apply to law school after my undergraduate degree. As of now, my career goal is to become a civil rights lawyer, to stand up for those who are discriminated against and protect minority groups to proliferate equality.

As a lawyer, I wish to utilize legislation to ameliorate the plight of the millions of Americans who feel prejudice and help them receive equity in the workplace, society, and so on. Though this seems a daunting task, I feel that my work ethic and past experience will give me the jumpstart I need to establish myself as a successful lawyer and give a voice to those who are often unheard in today’s legal system. I have been a Girl Scout for over a decade and continually participate in community service for the homeless, elderly, veterans, and more. My most recent project was the Gold Award, which I conducted in the Fullerton School District. I facilitated over ten workshops where junior high students taught elementary pupils STEM principles such as density and aerodynamics via creative activities like building aluminum boats and paper airplanes. I also work at Kumon, a tutoring center, where I teach students to advance their academic success. I love my job, and helping students from local schools reach their potential fills me with much pride.

Both being a Girl Scout and working at Kumon have inspired me to help those in need, contributing significantly to my desire to become a lawyer and aid others. My extracurriculars have allowed me to gain a new perspective on both learning and teaching, and have solidified my will to help the less fortunate. In college, I hope to continue to gain knowledge and further develop my leadership skills, amassing qualities that will help me assist others. I plan to join multiple community service clubs, such as UCLA’s local outreach programs that directly aid residents of Los Angeles. I want to help my fellow pupils as well, and plan on volunteering at peer tutoring and peer editing programs on campus. After college, during my career, I want to use legal tactics to assist the underdog and take a chance on those who are often overlooked for opportunities. I wish to represent those that are scared to seek out help or cannot afford it. Rather than battling conflict with additional conflict, I want to implement peaceful but strong, efficient tactics that will help make my state, country, and eventually the world more welcoming to people of all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. These goals are close to my heart and therefore I will be as diligent as I am passionate about them. My perseverance and love for learning and community service drive my ambition in both education and life as a whole, and the drive to make the world a better place is one that I will carry with me for my entire life.

This student emphasizes two values in this essay: hard work and community service. These are values that go together nicely, and definitely make sense with this student’s end goal of becoming a civil rights lawyer! That said, some changes could be made to the way the student presents their values that would make their personal statement more convincing and engaging.

Structurally, instead of using a past-future trajectory, this student starts by explaining their academic achievements, then explains their career goals, then explains their history of community service, then explains their future desires for community service. This structure loses the reader. Instead, the student should have started with either the past or the future. 

This could look like 1) identifying their career goals, 2) explaining that hard work and a commitment to community service are necessary to get there, and 3) explaining that they aren’t worried because of their past commitment to hard work and community service. Or it could look like 1) providing examples of their hard work and community service in the past, then 2) explaining how those values will help them achieve their career goals.

Additionally, like with our other example, this student shows a heavy investment in statistics and spouting off accomplishments. This can be unappealing. Unfortunately, even when the student recognizes that they are doing this, writing “beyond the numbers, I have a deep drive to learn which motivates me to do well academically. I truly enjoy learning new things, whether it be a new essay style or a math theorem,” they continue on to cite their achievements, writing “My teachers have noticed this as well, and I have received school Lancer Awards and Student of the Month recognitions as a result.” They say they are going beyond the numbers, but they don’t go beyond the awards. They don’t look inward. One way to fix this would be to make community service the theme around which the essay operates, supplementing with statistics in ways that advance the image of the student as dedicated to community service.

Finally, this student would be more successful if they varied their sentence structure. While a small-scale autobiography can be good, if organized, every sentence should not begin with ‘I.’ The essay still needs to be engaging or the review committee might stop reading.

Feedback is ultimately any writer’s best source of improvement! To get your personal statement edited for free, use our Peer Review Essay Tool . With this tool, other students can tell you if your scholarship essay is effective and help you improve your essay so that you can have the best chances of gaining those extra funds!

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College Personal Statement Examples + Template

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Updated on February 9th, 2024

Writing a college personal statement is a daunting task for students. Many students struggle with what amounts to some light boasting. Plus, it isn’t uncommon for them to have trouble writing about themselves, even if their self-awareness is high.

However, being able to write an enticing personal statement is often necessary. College and scholarship applications may require one, so it’s an unavoidable part of the admissions process sometimes.

Luckily, writing a standout college personal statement doesn’t have to be a challenge. Here’s a look at what a college personal statement is, what it needs to include, what a personal statement layout should look like, and example essays that can help students turn a great personal statement into an amazing one.

personal statement example for college

  • 1 WHAT IS A COLLEGE PERSONAL STATEMENT?
  • 2 WHAT IS A PERSONAL STATEMENT FOR?
  • 3 HOW TO WRITE A STANDOUT COLLEGE PERSONAL STATEMENT
  • 4.1 Related Video: Scholarship Personal Statement: How to Write a Winning Statement
  • 5.1 BRAINSTORMING IDEAS
  • 5.2 PARE DOWN THE LIST
  • 5.3 DO A (REALLY) ROUGH DRAFT
  • 5.4 FOCUS ON THE BEST AND WHIP IT INTO SHAPE
  • 5.5 SUBMIT THE ESSAY
  • 6.1 Personal Statement Style and Structural Format
  • 6.2.1 INTRODUCTION
  • 6.2.2 SUPPORTING PARAGRAPHS
  • 6.2.3 CLOSING
  • 7.1 Personal Statement Example #1
  • 7.2 Personal Statement Example #2
  • 7.3 More Places to Find Personal Statement Samples:

WHAT IS A COLLEGE PERSONAL STATEMENT?

A college personal statement is essentially an essay. It’s a platform for students to share information and valuable insights about themselves, giving college admissions committees useful details that may lead them to admit a student.

WHAT IS A PERSONAL STATEMENT FOR?

The goal of a personal statement for the college admissions process is for students to discuss something about who they are that isn’t covered in other parts of their college or scholarship application.

A scholarship, college application, or  Common App  personal statement has the same relationship to applications as cover letters do with resumes. It’s a chance for students to showcase their personalities, discuss their motivations, and cover other intriguing details that aren’t captured in other parts of their submissions.

Essentially, students can choose a personal statement topic that covers any informational gaps and complements the other portions of their applications. Students just need to make sure that what they’re discussing aligns with any outlined requirements, as some schools do limit the topics they want students to cover.

Writing a standout college personal statement doesn’t have to be a challenge. Here’s a look at how to create an amazing one.

HOW TO WRITE A STANDOUT COLLEGE PERSONAL STATEMENT

When your student writes their personal statement, they need to use a storytelling approach. It’s best to convey the message as a narrative rather than just create a list of achievements. That makes the essay more compelling and ensures that your student provides an appropriate amount of context that frames their accomplishments in a meaningful way.

Additionally, it should complement the rest of the application. The goal shouldn’t be to regurgitate what’s covered elsewhere. Instead, the essay should present new information and valuable insights that don’t fit anywhere else.

For scholarships, the best personal statement also needs to discuss why the student is deserving. Usually, this means aligning the message with the organization. Considering the organization’s goals and mission before choosing what to highlight is always wise.

Finally, your student needs to focus on their personal growth and strengths. While acknowledging their weaknesses and challenges they’ve encountered isn’t strictly off-limits, your student needs to figure out in which areas they shine and concentrate on those aspects of their experience or personality.

If you and your student want to learn more about finding scholarships to help reduce the cost of college,  sign up for our free college scholarship webinar ! Head over to  https://thescholarshipsystem.com/freewebinar  to reserve your spot today .

student working on their own personal statement

CHOOSING THE BEST TOPIC

Often, students struggle with figuring out where to start with their college personal statement. However, they may receive assistance from the institution.

Some colleges and scholarship committees provide a list of topics students can use. In these cases, your student needs to consider which one (or ones) allows them to showcase the best of what they have to offer.

For example, students can choose from seven topics for the  Common App essays . Each one supports a different kind of potential narrative, so your student needs to determine which one creates the best opportunity for them to stand out. Worst case, the Common App has a catch-all topic where students can discuss a subject of their choosing. If your student has something specific in mind that doesn’t fit in the other topics, they can opt to use that option.

Related Video: Scholarship Personal Statement: How to Write a Winning Statement

FIGURING OUT WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT ON COLLEGE APPLICATIONS

Deciding what to write a personal statement about, even after a topic is chosen, takes a bit of work. Luckily, students can use a simple process to make a decision.

BRAINSTORMING IDEAS

Students should take a few minutes to consider each available prompt. They can think about what experiences of their life may apply and then jot down a few notes.

In many cases, your student should focus on defining moments in their life. Any event that had a significant impact could be a great option.

However, your student may prefer to talk about their passions. This can include any endeavor that they’ve dedicated themselves to, whether that be music, sports, volunteering, or nearly anything else.

At times, writing about a person, organization, or innovation that inspires them can also be an appropriate direction. Similarly, discussing their proudest moments may also work.

PARE DOWN THE LIST

With their notes in hand, your student needs to narrow down their options. Ideally, they should choose two to four topics that resonate with them more than the others.

When they feel strongly about a subject, writing about it may be easier. As a result, creating the essay is a less daunting task, and the words may flow more freely since they’re personally excited about the topic.

DO A (REALLY) ROUGH DRAFT

After they’ve figured out which topics stand out in their eyes, it’s time to create a few rough drafts. Your student can free-write these initial essays, allowing their ideas to flow without being concerned about grammar, punctuation, or other writing mechanics.

The goal is to see which topics have the most potential. The personal statement layout, overall organization, and writing mechanics can come later.

Along the way, your student can’t be afraid to get personal and use their own voice. After all, it’s a college personal statement; it’s supposed to talk about their story. Anecdotes are powerful additions to these personal statements, too, so it’s wise to include examples.

The only outside consideration should be the audience. Your student needs to keep the potential reader (the college admissions officers or scholarship committee members) in mind. What would entice them to keep reading? Does the essay speak to something important to them?

Ultimately, the goal is to get personal but also provide information that helps the student stand out in the minds of those reading their scholarship or college application. By choosing a topic that will connect with the audience, it’s far easier to catch their attention.

FOCUS ON THE BEST AND WHIP IT INTO SHAPE

After creating the drafts, your student needs to choose the best essay and refine it. This includes making sure they hit the required word count as well as handling any organization and editing that needs to be addressed.

Once the word count is hit, stepping away from the essay for a moment can be wise. It’s hard for people to edit their own work, so having your student come back to it after a break can make it a bit easier.

Additionally, having someone else review the essay is a smart decision. Fresh eyes may catch something your student missed.

Another excellent technique is to feed the essay into text-to-speech software. That allows your student to listen to the essay, and they may hear something that doesn’t sound right that they would miss if they just read the text.

SUBMIT THE ESSAY

Once the review process is over, it’s time to add the college personal statement to the application. While many students have a bit of anxiety about hitting the submit button, it’s a necessity. Have your student take a deep breath and go for it.

After submitting the essay, students need to avoid stressing about it any longer. Once the submission is sent in, students typically can’t change any part of the content. Since that’s the case, revisiting what they wrote and questioning their writing decisions isn’t overly helpful. The only exception is if they want to rework the essay for another application, as that makes revisiting and refining the content a second time a potential necessity.

college application

PERSONAL STATEMENT STYLE AND STRUCTURE

In most cases, a college personal statement is going to follow a standard college essay format.

Typically, a five-paragraph structure is sufficient, particularly if the total word count is relatively low (500 to 750 words). However, if the required word count is lower (250 to 400 words), even fewer paragraphs may be appropriate. Similarly, if the required number of words is higher, additional paragraphs could be appropriate.

Personal Statement Style and Structural Format

When it comes to the stylistic and structural setup of the essay, students should typically use 11-point or 12-point font sizes, sticking with classic fonts like Calibri or Arial. Those are easy to read and not overly large, making them suitable in most situations.

As for the text color, students should stick with classic black. Again, this supports readability, as it’s generally comfortable on the eyes.

Also, it’s best to leave page margins at their standard size. Reducing them eliminates whitespace, which can make the document appear unbalanced or overly crowded. Plus, the margins give readers a place to grip the paper without covering text if they happen to print the essay before reviewing it.

If your student is wondering if they can include italics or bold text, that may depend on a few factors. If students have to paste the content of their essay into a field on an online form, that type of formatting may not stick. Additionally, overuse of italics or bold can make a personal statement look too busy. As a result, it’s best to only use those options sparingly, if at all.

Personal Statement Template

Overall, a personal statement template follows the format below:

  • Introduction
  • Supporting Paragraph
  • Second Supporting Paragraph
  • Third Supporting Paragraph

With that personal statement format, students can cover enough information without going overboard.

However, if the word count is lower, they can typically cut out one or two supporting paragraphs and use the remaining structure. And for higher word counts, adding more supporting paragraphs usually does the trick.

INTRODUCTION

The introduction is an essay’s hook, making it one of the most critical parts of the personal statement for university format. It draws the reader in, giving them an idea of what they’ll discover by reading the essay and making them interested in learning more.

For good personal statement examples, you might begin with a quote, question, or action. Anything that sparks curiosity can be ideal, so your student can be a bit creative here.

The introduction in personal statements also includes a topic sentence. This lets the reader know what the personal statement essay is going to discuss. This can be any sentence in the introduction paragraph, but making it the last one is often the best approach, as it allows the sentences before it to paint a picture and capture the reader’s attention first. Plus, it serves as a solid segue for the upcoming supporting paragraph, creating better flow overall.

SUPPORTING PARAGRAPHS

Each supporting paragraph in the personal statement layout needs to focus on a single point, event, moment, or idea. Your student needs to use a transition sentence to shift from the paragraph before the one they’re working on, then present details that support the subtopic the paragraph covers.

When a new idea is being introduced, it’s time for a new paragraph. Overall, around three supporting paragraphs is a solid goal. However, more or less may be used depending on word count requirements and how many subtopics are presented to support the main idea in the essay.

Something critical to note is that providing valuable insights is the goal when writing a supporting paragraph. If the content is lackluster, then rethinking the subtopic is usually a smart move. That way, this critical part of a student’s college application is as compelling as possible, making it more likely that college admissions (or scholarship) committee members will ultimately be impressed.

A closing wraps up the essay. It restates the main topic, summarizes what was discussed, and provides the reader with an important tidbit. This could be an intriguing thought, a powerful insight, or a story’s conclusion.

The goal is to leave a lasting impression, so your student needs to determine how they can best stick in the reader’s mind after they put down the essay. Being a little creative isn’t a bad idea, as a unique ending can help students make a powerful impression.

write a personal statement about your personal journey

PERSONAL STATEMENT EXAMPLES

Sometimes, having a few personal statement examples for college can help your student figure out how to approach their own best personal statement examples and essays. It gives them ideas about what works well, and that can make writing their own statement feel less intimidating.

However, as students review personal statement examples, they need to make sure they don’t align their essay too closely to what someone else has written. Many committees do check a student’s college application for plagiarism. Plus, if the committee has also read the example, it can make your student’s essay feel familiar, and not in a good way. That may hurt their chances of securing admission or landing the scholarship, so it’s always best to be original.

Here are some college personal statement example essays to check out for inspiration.

Personal Statement Example #1

As I laid my fingers on the ivory with my heart racing, I looked out and all I could see were people with gray hair staring back at me. I was terrified and shaking. All I could think of was, “What if I screw up?” One of my biggest fears was playing piano in front of people. When I was asked to play for residents at the Brooke Assisted Living facility, I was scared out of my mind, but I built up the courage to do it and I was so proud of myself. I was not going to let my anxiety get the best of me. My grandfather introduced me to playing the piano when I was nine years old. It took many years of lessons to accomplish what I’ve learned and this skill has taught me discipline and perseverance. 

To be honest, school has never come easy. In addition to being challenged by my struggles with anxiety since second grade, my confidence and courage to succeed were halted when I entered high school. I began falling behind in my advanced classes. I couldn’t focus during tests. My strategies for studying were not working. Mentally, I was not in a good place. Thankfully, with the support of my school counselor, my English teacher, and my parents, I was able to get the help that I needed and learned new ways to cope with this hurdle. After receiving counseling, testing accommodations, and new strategies for studying, I began feeling more positive about myself, improved my grades which resulted in making the honor roll, and experienced a lot less anxiety. This allowed me to begin focusing more on my career goals and I felt much more confident about pursuing a college education. 

Growing up in a small town, I have a wide variety of experiences that have helped me grow as a person and will follow me throughout life. My father introduced me to hunting when I was eight years old. I grew to love it and it has taught me a lot about patience, persistence, and the importance of bonding. People in my life have always told me I have natural athletic abilities. Sports I have participated in throughout my life include gymnastics, softball, volleyball, cross country, and snowboarding. Being an athlete has taught me a great deal about sportsmanship, teamwork, dedication, as well as dealing with disappointments and celebrating achievements. Other volunteer activities I have done include helping at sports camps, bell ringing for Salvation Army, mentor for student orientations, a helper at church events, participated in school fundraisers, and many years babysitting. All of these experiences taught me a great deal about building relationships, improving communication skills, and learning to be adaptable, selfless, and caring. 

Since I was a little girl, I have always had a love for animals. In my heart, I always knew that I wanted to work with them in some capacity when I grew up. Another dream of mine is that I’ve always wanted to attend Michigan State University (MSU), following in the footsteps of my mother. After hours of research on career fields in veterinary medicine and matching my values and strengths with a compatible career, I feel that my passion is to become a veterinarian nurse. I was thrilled to learn that my values align well with what is necessary to work in this field. Compassion, honesty, and integrity are just a few that I strive to work towards and will help me become a successful Vet Nurse. Since MSU is the only college in my home state of Michigan that offers a Bachelor’s Degree Program in this field, I plan to work very hard at making this dream come to fruition. I know that with hard work, dedication and commitment, I will make it happen.

In conclusion, I plan to pursue my dreams with a goal of graduating college debt-free. Applying for scholarships is part of my plan to help ease the burden of student loans, which will allow me to spend more time on my education. I will use all scholarship awards to secure a phenomenal education, make the most of college and to give back to my community by offering a helping hand, as well as monetary donations to animal shelters in need.

Personal Statement Example #2

What do you want to be when you grow up? Ever since the first time you pretended to be an astronaut in a cardboard box or nursed your stuffed animal with a bandaid, you were most likely asked this question. You drew pictures of yourself as a firefighter in a helmet. You envisioned performing in front of thousands of people on stage like Taylor Swift. Creativity and imagination filled your small mind; the possibilities were endless, right? 

However, as you grew up, that childlike sense of possibility for the future transformed into something else. This question was asked countless times on your first day of high school and by your grandparents at Thanksgiving dinner. You began receiving mail from colleges and filling out surveys about your life goals. Creativity became “being realistic,” and imagination turned into “settling so you can make a living”. Your possibilities were too endless, or you didn’t even know where to start. 

That is the position I was in the night I sat cross-legged on my closet floor in front of my prayer wall. It was near the end of my junior year, and like almost everyone in my class, I could see college coming full speed in my direction. I pulled out a notebook paper with flower doodles around the edges, my pencil moving faster than my mind. 

As I finished the last sentence and pinned it onto the wall, my eyes skimmed over my scribbles: “Dear Heavenly Father, I know that you have such amazing plans for my life. Please reveal them to me, God. Do you want me to be a writer? A singer? A speaker? Do you want me to go into ministry? Would you please reveal these answers to me? Whatever you tell me, I will listen. Reveal your wonderful plans for me, Oh Lord.” I placed my hand onto the smooth paper, closing my eyes, not even realizing I could do it all .

I am a writer. Ever since I was a child, I have loved crafting words into sentences of vivid colors and descriptions that create a story. I remember a “Meet the Author” day at school where writers of children’s books came in and shared their stories. One author, in particular, shared the escape she felt as she woke up every morning before sunset with a cup of hot chocolate to fill more pages in her book. That was the moment I realized this is what I want to do. 

I am a singer. My first performance was in a local talent show when I was five years old; from that moment on, the stage felt like my home. This solo was followed by countless choir concerts, musical theatre performances, voice lessons, and a vision of a future ahead of me filled with auditions, costumes, and standing ovations. 

I am a speaker. While my friends dreaded giving presentations in front of our class in school, I found comfort in it. I loved using my words to impact others. I began joining organizations that allowed me to use speaking skills, such as Girl Scouts, Forensics, and poetry recitation competitions. As time went on, I fell in love with motivational speaking. Using my words to inspire others became a reality that I could easily see myself doing as I grew up. 

I am a writer, a singer, and a speaker. But most importantly, I am a child of God who loves to serve others. And the best part is that I can be all of these things at the same time. I can use my writing skills to create blogs and books to spread the good news of the Gospel. I can put my passion for singing and performance into church worship teams. I can show my love for public speaking through leading lessons and bible studies, with the hope of bringing others to Christ. There is a college major that will allow me to do all of these things, pursuing what I love and serving the Lord simultaneously: Youth Ministry. 

After graduating high school, I plan to major in Youth Ministry at Colorado Christian University with minors in creative writing and musical theatre. To me, youth ministry is more than just teaching children bible verses; it’s putting all of my talents together to serve the Father. My life goal is to use my degree to be everything I have wanted since I was a child: A daughter of Christ who writes, sings, and speaks for His glory.

A few weeks ago, I sat on my closet floor, staring at the countless papers on my prayer wall. One, with hopeful scribbles and floral doodles, caught my attention. A soft smile spread onto my face as I reread my words and realized I am all of these beautiful things in one. Since then, when someone asks me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I no longer hesitate. All my favorite parts of myself can be used to serve the Lord; I don’t have to choose just one. Now, as I apply for scholarships and prepare for college next year, I feel incredibly grateful for that night in front of my prayer wall. The night I created a guiding map for my future without even realizing it. The night I wrote a simple note to God.

More Places to Find Personal Statement Samples:

While the two personal statement example essays above can inspire any student preparing to write their own, there are many other places to find samples. If your student wants to check out more examples to get a better grip on the personal statement layout and how to write compelling content, here are a few resources that can get them moving in the right direction:

  • 16 Winning Personal Statement Examples (And Why They Work)
  • Set Yourself Apart | Personal Statement Examples
  • WSGC Personal Statement Introduction
  • Example – CGPS-Personal-Statements

Ultimately, a college personal statement should tell a cohesive story, sharing a detail that the college admissions committee or scholarship committee otherwise wouldn’t learn. It’s a powerful tool for students, so taking some time to write the best personal essay possible is a great idea.

Learn how I won $126k in external scholarships by registering for my webinar.

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How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement [With Examples]

personal statement example for college

James is senior content marketing manager at BridgeU. He writes and directs content for BridgeU's university partners and our community of international schools

What are the big challenges students should be aware of before writing their UCAS Personal Statement?

  • The essential ingredients for writing a great Personal Statement
  • How to write the UCAS Personal Statement [with examples]

Final hints & tips to help your students

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The UCAS Personal Statement can sometimes be a student’s only chance to impress a UK university. Read our in-depth guide to helping your students plan & write a winning application.

There are hundreds of articles out there on how to write a UCAS Personal Statement that will grab the attention of a UK university admissions officer.  

But if you’re working with students to help them perfect their Personal Statement in time for the  relevant UCAS deadlines , we can sum up the secret to success in three words.

Planning, structure and story. 

The UCAS Personal Statement is a student’s chance to talk about why they want to study for a particular degree, course or subject discipline at a UK university. 

As they set about writing a personal statement, students need to demonstrate the drive, ambition, relevant skills and notable achievements that make them a  suitable candidate for the universities they have chosen to apply to . 

But the UCAS Personal Statement requires students to write a lot about themselves in a relatively short space of time. That’s why lots of planning, a tight structure and a compelling story are essential if a student’s Personal Statement is to truly excel. 

As important deadlines for UK university applications grow closer, we at BridgeU have put together a guide, outlining some of the strategies and techniques to help your students to write a personal statement which is both engaging and truly individual.

Handpicked Related Content

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 .

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.

Time pressure

Unfortunately, the Personal Statement (and other aspects of university preparation) comes during the busiest year of the student’s academic life so far.

Students, and indeed teachers and counsellors, must undertake the planning and writing of the personal statement whilst juggling other commitments, classes and deadlines, not to mention revision and open day visits!

Because there is already a lot of academic pressure on students in their final year of secondary school, finding the time and headspace for the personal statement can be hard, and can mean it gets pushed to the last minute. The risks of leaving it to the last minute are fairly obvious – the application will seem rushed and the necessary thought and planning won’t go into  making the personal statement the best it can be . 

Sticking closely to the Personal Statement format

The character limit which UCAS sets for the personal statement is very strict – up to 4,000 characters of text. This means that students have to express themselves in a clear and concise way; it’s also important that they don’t feel the need to fill the available space needlessly.  Planning and redrafting of a personal statement is essential .

Making it stand out

This is arguably the greatest challenge facing students – making sure that their statement sets them apart from everyone else who is competing for a place on any given course; in 2022 alone, UCAS received applications from 683,650 applicants (+1.6k on 2021) students. In addition, UCAS uses its own dedicated team and purpose built software to check every application for plagiarism, so it’s crucial that students craft a truly  original personal statement which is entirely their own work .

The essential ingredients for writing a great UCAS Personal Statement 

We’ve already mentioned our three watch words for writing a high quality Personal Statement.

Planning. Structure. Story. 

Let’s dig deeper into these three essential components in more detail.

Watch: How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement with University of Essex

Planning a ucas personal statement.

It might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s vital that students plan their Personal Statement before they start writing it. Specifically, the planning phase could include: 

  • Students thoroughly researching the UK university courses they plan on applying to. 
  • Deciding on what relevant material to include in their Personal Statement (we’ll cover this in more detail later on). 
  • Writing an unedited first draft where they just get their thoughts and ideas down on paper. 

Structuring a UCAS Personal Statement

As we’ve discussed, the UCAS Personal Statement requires students to be extremely disciplined – they will be required to condense a lot of information into a relatively short written statement. This means that, after they’ve written a rough first draft, they need to think carefully about how they structure the final statement. 

A stand out Personal Statement will need a tight structure, with an introduction and a conclusion that make an impact and really help to tell a story about who your student is, and why they are drawn to studying this particular degree. 

This brings us nicely to our third and final ingredient…

Telling a story with a Personal Statement

The UCAS Personal Statement is a student’s opportunity to show a university who they are and how their life experiences have shaped their academic interests and goals. 

So a good Personal Statement needs to offer a compelling narrative, and that means making sure that a student’s writing is well-structured, and that every sentence and paragraph is serving the statement’s ultimate purpose –  to convince a university that your student deserves a place on their subject of choice. 

How to help your students start their UCAS Personal Statement

In order to ensure that a personal statement is delivered on time and to an appropriate standard, it’s essential to plan thoroughly before writing it. Here are some questions you can ask your students before they start writing:

How can you demonstrate a formative interest in your subject?

It may sound obvious but, in order for any UCAS personal statement to have the necessary structure and clarity, students need to think hard about why they want to study their chosen subject. Ask them to think about their responses to the following questions:

What inspired you to study your chosen subject?

Example answer:  My desire to understand the nature of reality has inspired me to apply for Physics and Philosophy

Was there a formative moment when your perspective on this subject changed, or when you decided you wanted to study this subject in more detail?

Example answer:  My interest in philosophy was awakened when I questioned my childhood religious beliefs; reading Blackburn’s “Think”, convinced me to scrutinise my assumptions about the world, and to ensure I could justify my beliefs.

Can you point to any role models, leading thinkers, or notable literature which has in turn affected your thinking and/or inspired you?

Example answer :  The search for a theory of everything currently being conducted by physicists is of particular interest to me and in “The Grand Design” Hawking proposes a collection of string theories, dubbed M-theory, as the explanation of why the universe is the way it is.

Asking your students to think about the “why” behind their chosen subject discipline is a useful first step in helping them to organise their overall statement. Next, they need to be able to demonstrate evidence of their suitability for a course or degree. 

How have you demonstrated the skills and aptitudes necessary for your chosen course?

Encourage students to think about times where they have demonstrated the necessary skills to really stand out. It’s helpful to think about times when they have utilised these skills both inside and outside the classroom. Ask students to consider their responses to the following questions. 

Can you demonstrate critical and independent thinking around your chosen subject discipline?

Example answer :  Currently I am studying Maths and Economics in addition to Geography. Economics has been a valuable tool, providing the nuts and bolts to economic processes, and my geography has provided a spatial and temporal element.

Are you able to demonstrate skills and competencies which will be necessary for university study?

These include qualities such as teamwork, time management and the ability to organise workload responsibly.

Example answer:  This year I was selected to be captain of the 1st XV rugby team and Captain of Swimming which will allow me to further develop my leadership, teamwork and organisational skills.

How have your extracurricular activities helped prepare you for university?

Students may believe that their interests outside the classroom aren’t relevant to their university application. So encourage them to think about how their other interests can demonstrate the subject-related skills that universities are looking for in an application. Ask students to think about any of the following activities, and how they might be related back to the subject they are applying for.

  • Clubs/societies, or volunteering work which they can use to illustrate attributes such as teamwork, an interest in community service and the ability to manage their time proactively.
  • Have they been elected/nominated as a team captain, or the head of a particular club or society, which highlights leadership skills and an ability to project manage?
  • Can they point to any awards or prizes they may have won, whether it’s taking up a musical instrument, playing a sport, or participating in theatre/performing arts?
  • Have they achieved grades or qualifications as part of their extracurricular activities? These can only help to demonstrate aptitude and hard work. 

How to write the UCAS Personal Statement [with examples] 

If sufficient planning has gone into the personal statement, then your students should be ready to go!

In this next section, we’ll break down the individual components of the UCAS Personal Statement and share some useful examples.

These examples come from a Personal Statement in support of an application to study Environmental Science at a UK university. 

Watch: King’s College London explain what they’re looking for in a UCAS Personal Statement

Introduction.

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, 

Another valuable experience was when my class spent a week at a beach called ‘Pacuare’ in order to help prevent the eggs of the endangered leatherback turtle from being stolen by poachers who go on to sell them like chicken eggs. We all gained teamwork experience, which was needed in order to hide the eggs silently without scaring the mother turtles, as well as making it more difficult for the poachers to find them. 

When the poachers set fire to one of the sustainable huts where we were staying, not only did I gain self-awareness about the critical situation of the world and its ecosystems, I also matured and became even more motivated to study environmental sciences at university.

This is a particularly striking example of using extracurricular activities to showcase a student’s wider passion for the degree subject they want to study. 

Not only does this Personal Statement have a story about volunteering to save an endangered species, it also illustrates this applicants’ wider worldview, and helps to explain their motivation for wanting to study Environmental Science. 

Concluding the UCAS Personal Statement

The conclusion to a UCAS Personal Statement will have to be concise, and will need to tie all of a student’s academic and extracurricular achievements. After all, a compelling story will need a great ending. 

Remember that students need to be mindful of the character limit of a Personal Statement, so a conclusion need only be the length of a small paragraph, or even a couple of sentences. 

“ After having many varied experiences, I truly think I can contribute to university in a positive way, and would love to study in England where I believe I would gain more skills and education doing a first degree than in any other country.  “

A good Personal Statement conclusion will end with an affirmation of how the student thinks they can contribute to university life, and why they believe the institution in question should accept them. Because the student in this example has a such a rich and varied international background, they also discuss the appeal of studying at university in England. 

It’s worth taking a quick look at a few other examples of how other students have chosen to conclude their Personal Statement. 

Medicine (Imperial College, London) 

Interest in Medicine aside, other enthusiasms of mine include languages, philosophy, and mythology. It is curiously fitting that in ancient Greek lore, healing was but one of the many arts Apollo presided over, alongside archery and music.   I firmly believe that a doctor should explore the world outside the field of  Medicine, and it is with such experiences that I hope to better empathise and connect with the patients I will care for in my medical career. 

You’ll notice that this example very specifically ties the students’ academic and extracurricular activities together, and ties the Personal Statement back to their values and beliefs. 

Economic History with Economics (London School of Economics)

The highlight of my extra-curricular activities has been my visit to Shanghai with the Lord Mayor’s trade delegation in September 2012. I was selected to give a speech at this world trade conference due to my interest in economic and social history. […] I particularly enjoyed the seminar format, and look forward to experiencing more of this at university. My keen interest and desire to further my knowledge of history and economics, I believe, would make the course ideal for me.

By contrast, this conclusion ties a memorable experience back to the specifics of how the student will be taught at the London School of Economics – specifically, the appeal of learning in seminar format! 

There’s no magic formula for concluding a Personal Statement. But you’ll see that what all of these examples have in common is that they tie a student’s personal and academic experiences together – and tell a university something about their aspirations for the future.

Watch: Bournemouth University explain how to structure a UCAS Personal Statement

personal statement example for college

Know the audience

It can be easy for students to forget that the person reading a personal statement is invariably an expert in their field. This is why an ability to convey passion and think critically about their chosen subject is essential for a personal statement to stand out. Admissions tutors will also look for students who can structure their writing (more on this below). 

Students should be themselves

Remember that many students are competing for places on a university degree against fierce competition. And don’t forget that UCAS has the means to spot plagiarism. So students need to create a truly honest and individual account of who they are, what they have achieved and, perhaps most importantly, why they are driven to study this particular subject.

Proof-read (then proof-read again!)

Time pressures mean that students can easily make mistakes with their Personal Statements. As the deadline grows closer, it’s vital that they are constantly checking and rechecking their writing and to ensure that shows them in the best possible light. 

Meanwhile, when it comes to giving feedback to students writing their Personal Statements, make sure you’re as honest and positive as possible in the days and weeks leading up to submission day. 

And make sure they remember the three key ingredients of writing a successful Personal Statement. 

Planning, structure and story! 

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StandOut CV

Resume personal statement examples

Andrew Fennell photo

If you want to secure job interview, you need a strong personal statement at the top of your resume.

Your resume personal statement is a short paragraph which sits at the very top of your resume – and it’s aim is to summarize the benefits of hiring you and encourage employers to read your resume in full.

In this guide I have included 17 resume personal statement examples from a range of professions and experience levels, plus a detailed guide of how to write your own personal statement that will get you noticed by employers

Resume templates 

17 resume personal statement examples

To start this guide, I have included 10 examples of good personal statements, to give you an idea of how a personal statement should look , and what should be included.

Note: personal statements are generally used by junior candidates – if you are experienced, check out our resume summary examples instead.

College graduate resume personal statement (no experience)

College graduate no experience resume personal statement

Although this college graduate has no paid work experience , they compensate for it by showcasing all of the skills and knowledge the have gained during their studies, and demonstrating how they apply their knowledge in academic and personal projects.

When you have little or no experience, it’s important to draw out transferable workplace skills from your studies and extracurricular work, to showcase them to employers.

resume builder

College graduate resume personal statement (part time freelance experience)

Graduate with part time freelance experience CV personal statement

This candidate has graduated college with a degree in biochemistry but actually wants to start a career in marketing after providing some digital freelance services to fund their studies.

In this case, they haven’t made much mention of their studies because they aren’t relevant to the marketing agencies they are applying to. Instead they have focused their personal statement around their freelance work and passion for the digital field – although they still mention the fact they are degree educated to prove their academic success.

High school leaver resume personal statement (no experience)

High school leaver no experience resume personal statement

This candidate is 16 years old and has no work experience whatsoever, but they compensate for this by detailing their academic achievements that relate to the roles they are applying for (maths and literacy are important requirements in finance and accountancy roles).

They also add some info on their extracurricular activities and high school work-placements, to strengthen this student resume further.

Top tips for writing a resume personal statement

  • Thoroughly research the jobs and companies you are planning to apply for to identify the type of candidate they are looking for – try to reflect that in your personal statement
  • Don’t be afraid to brag a little – include some of your most impressive achievements from education, work or personal life
  • Focus on describing the benefits an employer will get from hiring you. Will you help them to get more customers? Improve their workplace? Save them time and money?
  • If you have no work experience, demonstrate transferable workplace skills from your education, projects, or even hobbies

High school leaver resume personal statement (part time experience)

High school leaver part time experience resume personal statement

Although this person has only just left high school, they have also undertaken some part-time work in a call center alongside their studies.

To make the most of this experience, they have combined their academic achievements with their workplace exposure in this personal statement.

By highlighting their future studies, summer programme involvement, work experience and expressing their ambitions to progress within sales, this candidate really makes an appealing case for hiring them.

College leaver resume personal statement (no experience)

College leaver no experience resume personal statement

This candidate has left college with good grades, but does not yet have any work experience.

To compensate for the lack of workplace exposure, they have made their honor results prominent and highlighted skills and experience which would benefit the employers they are targeting.

Any recruiter reading this summary can quickly understand that this candidate has great academic achievements, a passion for IT and finance and the ability to transfer their skills into an office environment.

College student resume personal statement (freelance experience)

College graduate freelance experience resume personal statement

As this student has picked up a small amount of freelance writing work during their studies, they have made sure to brag about it in their personal statement.

They give details on their relevant studies to show the skills they are learning, and boost this further by highlighting the fact that they have been applying these skills in a real-life work setting by providing freelance services.

They also include key action verbs that recruiters will be looking for , such as creative writing, working to deadlines, and producing copy.

Academic resume personal statement

Academic CV personal statement

Aside from junior candidates, the only other people who might use a personal statement, are academic professionals; as their resume’s tend to be more longer and detailed than other professions.

This candidate provides a high level overview of their field of study, length of experience, and the roles they have held within colleges.

High school leaver resume personal statement with sports experience

High school leaver sports focussed resume personal statement

Although this person has no work experience, they are still able to show employers the value of hiring them by selling their other achievements and explaining how they could benefit an organization.

They expand on their sports club involvement to demonstrate their teamwork, leadership skills, communication and motivation, which are all important traits in the workplace, and will be looked upon favourably by recruiters and hiring managers.

They also draw upon their future plans to study business studies at college and take a part time job, to further prove their ambition and dedication.

History graduate resume personal statement

History graduate CV personal statement

This history graduate proves their aptitude for both academic achievement and workplace aptitude by showcasing valuable skills from their degree and voluntary work.

They do this by breaking down the key requirements for each and showing how their skills could be beneficial for future employers, such as listening, communication, and crisis management.

They also describe how their ability to balance studies alongside voluntary work has not only boosted their knowledge and skills, but also given excellent time management and organizational skills – which are vital assets to any employer.

Law graduate resume personal statement

Law graduate resume personal statement

This legal graduate makes the most from their college work placements by using it to bulk out the contents of their resume personal statement.

They include their degree to show they have the necessary qualifications for legal roles, which is crucial, but more importantly, they showcase how they applied their legal skills within a real-life work setting.

They give a brief overview of the types of legal professionals they have been working alongside and the type of work they have been carrying out – this is all it takes to get the attention of recruiters and show employers they have what it takes to fulfil roles in the legal sector.

Medical student resume personal statement

Medical student resume personal statement

This medical student proves their fit for the role by showcasing the key skills they have gained from their studies and their work experience placements.

In just these few sentences, they are able to highlight the vast amount of experience they have across different disciplines in the industry, something which is particularly important in the medical sector.

As they have not graduated yet and are still studying, they have provided proof of their most recent grades. This can give the recruiter some indication as to the type of grade they could be graduating with in the near future.

Masters student resume personal statement

Masters student CV personal statement

This masters student has started by specifying their area of study, in this case, accounting, and given details about the specific areas of finance they are most interested in. This can hint towards their career goals and passions.

They have then carefully listed some of the key areas of accounting and finance that they are proficient in. For example, business finance, advanced corporate finance and statistics.

They have also outlined some of the transferable skills needed for accounting roles that employers will be looking out for, such as communication, attention to detail and analytical skills.

Finance student resume personal statement

Finance student CV personal statement

As this finance student has recently undertaken some relevant work experience, they’ve made sure to shout about this in their personal summary.

But more than this, they have included a list of some of the important finance skills they gained as a result of this work experience – for example, financial reporting, processing invoices and month-end reconciliations.

Plus, through power words and phrases such as ‘prevent loss’ and ‘improve upon accuracy and efficiency’, they have also showcased how they can apply these skills in a workplace setting to benefit the potential employer.

Internship resume personal statement

Internship resume personal statement

This digital marketing professional has started their personal summary by outlining their most relevant qualifications and work experience, most notably their freelance role as a content manager.

They have also provided examples of some of the key marketing skills that potential employers might be looking for, including very detailed examples of the platforms and tools they are proficient in – for example, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest.

They have then closed their statement by giving a detailed description of the type of role or opportunity they are looking for. In this case, an in-house position in a marketing company.

College graduate career changer personal statement

College graduate career changer resume personal statement

Switching careers as a college graduate can be tough. Especially when it comes to writing a personal statement that will attract employers in your new chosen field.

This candidate is looking to move from history teaching into journalism, so they have created a statement which briefly mentions their current workplace, but mainly focuses on highlighting transferable skills which are relevant to journalism. They achieve this by discussing the writing skills they use in their current role, and mentioning their hobby of writing – including some publications they have been featured in for extra brownie points.

Business management graduate personal statement

Business management graduate CV personal statement

This business management proves their ability to work within a junior business management position by swiftly highlighting their impressive degree (to ensure it is not missed) and summarizing some of the real-life experience they have gained in management during their college placements and volunteering. They do not let their lack of paid work experience, stop them demonstrating their valuable skills.

PhD graduate

PhD graduate CV personal statement

PhD graduate roles attract a lot of competition, so it’s important that your resume contains a personal statement that will quickly impress and attract recruiters.

This candidate provides a short-but-comprehensive overview of their academic achievements, whilst demonstrating their exceptional level of knowledge in research, languages and publication writing.

By highlighting a number of skills and abilities that are in high-demand in the academic workplace, this resume is very likely to get noticed and land interviews.

How to write a personal statement for your resume

Now that you’ve seen what a personal statement should look like and the type of content it should contain, follow this detailed guide to one for your own resume – and start racking those interviews up.

Guide contents

What is a resume personal statement?

Resume personal statement or resume summary, personal statement format, what to include in a resume personal statement.

  • Personal statement mistakes

How to write persuasively

A personal statement is a short paragraph at the top of your resume which gives employers an overview of your education, skills and experience

It’s purpose is to capture the attention of busy recruiters and hiring managers when your resume is first opened – encouraging them to read the rest of it.

You achieve this by writing a tailored summary of yourself that explains your suitability for the roles you are applying for at a very high level, and matches your target job descriptions .

Personal statement basics

One question candidates often ask me is , “what is the difference between a personal statement and a resume summary?”

To be honest, they are almost the same – they are both introductory paragraphs that sit at the top of your resume… but there are 2 main differences:

A personal statement tends to be used more by junior candidates (college graduates, high school leavers etc.) and is relatively long and detailed.

A resume summary tends to be favoured by more experienced candidates , and is shorter in length than a personal statement.

Personal statement vs summary

Note: If you are an experienced candidate, you may want to switch over to my resume writing guide , or example resume summaries page.

To ensure you grab recruiters’ attention with your personal statement, lay it out in the following way.

Positioning

You need to ensure that your personal statement sits at the very top of your resume, and all of it should be totally visible to readers, without the need to scroll down the page.

Do this by reducing the top page margin and minimizing the space taken up by your contact details.

CV page margins

This will ensure that your whole personal statement can be seen, as soon as your resume is opened.

We have a resume template which can help you to get this right.

Size/length

Your personal statement needs to contain enough detail to provide an introduction to your skills and knowledge, but not so much detail that it bores readers.

To strike the right balance, anything between 8-15 lines of text is perfect – and sentences should be sharp and to-the-point.

As with the whole of your resume , your personal statement should be written in a simple clean font at around size 10-12 to ensure that it can be read easily by all recruiters and employers.

Keep the text color simple, ensuring that it contrasts the background (black on white is best) and break it into 2 or even 3 paragraphs for a pleasant reading experience.

It should also be written in a punchy persuasive tone, to help you sell yourself and increase your chances of landing interviews , I cover how to do this in detail further down the guide.

Quick tip: A poorly written resume will fail to impress recruiters and employers. Use our quick-and-easy Resume Builder to create a winning resume in minutes with professional resume templates and pre-written content for every industry.

Once you have the style and format of your personal statement perfected, you need to fill it with compelling content that tells recruiters that your resume is worth reading.

Here’s what needs to go into your personal statement…

Before you start writing your personal statement, it’s crucial that you research your target roles to find out exactly what your new potential employers are looking for in a candidate.

Run a search for your target jobs on one of the major job websites, look through plenty of adverts and make a list of the candidate requirements that frequently appear.

Tailoring CV profile

This research will show you exactly what to include in your personal statement in order to impress the recruiters who will be reading it.

Education and qualifications are an important aspect of your personal statement, especially if you are a junior candidate.

You should highlight your highest and most relevant qualifications, whether that is a degree or your GED. You could potentially go into some more detail around modules, papers etc. if they are relevant to the roles you are applying for.

It’s important that you discuss the experience you have gained in your personal statement, to give readers an idea of the work you are comfortable undertaking.

This can of course be direct employed work experience, but it doesn’t have to be.

You can also include:

  • High school/college work placements
  • Voluntary work
  • Personal projects
  • Hobbies/interests

As with all aspects of your resume , the content should be tailored to match the requirements of your target roles.

Whilst discussing your experience, you should touch upon skills used, industries worked in, types of companies worked for, and people you have worked with.

Where possible, try to show the impact your actions have made. E.g.  A customer service agent helps to make sales for their employer.

Any industry-specific knowledge you have that will be useful to your new potential employers should be made prominent within your personal statement.

For example

  • Knowledge of financial regulations will be important for accountancy roles
  • Knowledge of IT operating systems will be important for IT roles
  • Knowledge of the national curriculum will be important for teachers

You should also include some information about the types of roles you are applying for, and why you are doing so. Try to show your interest and passion for the field you are hoping to enter, because employers want to hire people who have genuine motivation and drive in their work.

This is especially true if you don’t have much work experience, as you need something else to compensate for it.

Resume personal statement mistakes

The things that you omit from your personal statement can be just as important as the things you include.

Try to keep the following out of your personal statement..

Irrelevant info

Any information that doesn’t fall into the requirements of your target roles can be cut out of your personal statement. For example, if you were a professional athlete 6 years ago, that’s great – but it won’t be relevant if you’re applying to advertising internships, so leave it out.

Generic clichés

Poor resume profile

If you are describing yourself as a “ dynamic team player with high levels of motivation and enthusiasm” you aren’t doing yourself any favours.

These cliché terms are vastly overused and don’t provide readers with any factual details about you – so keep them to a minimum.

Stick to solid facts like education, skills , experience, achievements and knowledge.

If you really want to ensure that your personal statement makes a big impact, you need to write in a persuasive manner.

So, how do you so this?

Well, you need to brag a little – but not too much

It’s about selling yourself and appearing confident, without overstepping the mark and appearing arrogant.

For example, instead of writing.

“Marketing graduate with an interest in entering the digital field”

Be creative and excite the reader by livening the sentence up like this,

“Marketing graduate with highest exam results in class and a passion for embarking on a long and successful career within digital”

The second sentence is a much more interesting, makes the candidate appear more confident, throws in some achievements, and shows off a wider range of writing skills.

Quick tip: A poorly written resume will fail to impress recruiters and employers. Use our quick-and-easy Resume Builder to create a winning resume in minutes with professional templates and pre-written content for every industry.

Your own personal statement will be totally unique to yourself, but by using the above guidelines you will be able to create one which shows recruiters everything they need.

Remember to keep the length between 10-20 lines and only include the most relevant information for your target roles.

You can also check our college graduate resume example , our best resume templates , or our library of example resumes from all industries.

Good luck with the job hunt!

IMAGES

  1. College Personal Statement Example

    personal statement example for college

  2. 10 Best Personal Statement Examples (How to Write)

    personal statement example for college

  3. 💌 Examples of good personal statements for college. 12 Outstanding

    personal statement example for college

  4. How To Write A Successful Personal Statement For College Admission

    personal statement example for college

  5. Writing a Strong Personal Statement for College: Tips and Ideas

    personal statement example for college

  6. How to Write a Personal Statement for University

    personal statement example for college

COMMENTS

  1. 12 Outstanding Personal Statement Examples

    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. Flashback.

  2. How to Write a Personal Statement (Tips + Essay Examples)

    In a great personal statement, we should be able to get a sense of what fulfills, motivates, or excites the author. These can be things like humor, beauty, community, and autonomy, just to name a few. So when you read back through your essay, you should be able to detect at least 4-5 different values throughout.

  3. How to Write a Personal Statement for College (15+ Examples)

    Example #6. This personal statement explores a candidate's love of fashion: " I nervously stand from behind my desk, ready for my turn. Eyes glare at me from all sides as the teacher beckons me to begin. I dread group introductions, the first days of school, or any icebreaker exercise because of this moment.

  4. 10 Personal Statement Essay Examples That Worked

    Personal Statement Examples. Essay 1: Summer Program. Essay 2: Being Bangladeshi-American. Essay 3: Why Medicine. Essay 4: Love of Writing. Essay 5: Starting a Fire. Essay 6: Dedicating a Track. Essay 7: Body Image and Eating Disorders. Essay 8: Becoming a Coach.

  5. College Personal Statement Examples and Writing Tips

    1. Personal statements give broad, comprehensive insights into your personal and academic background. Ultimately, your academic, personal, and even professional background can be the determining factor in your admission to any college program. But there's a big difference between a personal statement and resume or CV. 2.

  6. How to Write a Personal Statement

    Insert a quote from a well-known person. Challenge the reader with a common misconception. Use an anecdote, which is a short story that can be true or imaginary. Credibility is crucial when writing a personal statement as part of your college application process. If you choose a statistic, quote, or misconception for your hook, make sure it ...

  7. Personal Statement Examples

    Personal Statement Example #3: The Value of a Great Ending. The third of our personal statement examples is by a student who got into the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Southern California. The writer talks about how being on the swim team helped them cultivate confidence.

  8. How to Write an Amazing Personal Statement (Includes Examples!)

    5. Use an authentic voice. Your personal statement reflects who you are, so you should use a tone that represents you. That means you shouldn't try to sound like someone else, and you shouldn't use fancy words just to show off. This isn't an academic paper, so you don't have to adopt a super formal tone.

  9. How to Write a Personal Statement That Wows Colleges

    Tips for Writing a Personal Statement for College. 1. Approach this as a creative writing assignment. Personal statements are difficult for many students because they've never had to do this type of writing. High schoolers are used to writing academic reports or analytical papers, but not creative storytelling pieces.

  10. How to Write a Personal Statement (with Tips and Examples)

    Personal Statement Examples (for College and University) Let's look at some of the best personal statements that have worked for successful candidates in the real world. Harvard Personal Statement Example. Love. For a word describing such a powerful emotion, it is always in the air. The word "love" has become so pervasive in everyday ...

  11. Personal Statement Format + Examples

    Showcase your Values, Skills, Qualities, and Insights. The personal statement is one of the primary ways a college gets to know who you are, through seeing the values, skills, qualities, and insights you'll bring to that community. Both montage and narrative offer you a chance to demonstrate those aspects to your reader.

  12. How to Write Your Personal Statement

    A personal statement is a short essay of around 500-1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you're applying. To write a successful personal statement for a graduate school application, don't just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to ...

  13. Examples

    You may also select "Sample Statement" in the Media Box above for a PDF sample. Statement #1. My interest in science dates back to my years in high school, where I excelled in physics, chemistry, and math. When I was a senior, I took a first-year calculus course at a local college (such an advanced-level class was not available in high school ...

  14. How to Start a Personal Statement

    College Personal Statement Examples Example of Personal Statement for College: Hook #1. My life is as simple as a Rubik's Cube: a child's toy that can be solved in 20 moves or less IF and only if enough knowledge is gained. In this personal statement introduction, this student intrigues the reader by comparing their life to a toy.

  15. 15 Amazing Personal Statement Examples (2024 Update)

    We've compiled 15 personal statement examples for you to read. Former admissions officers have graded them to help you write your own personal statement. ... This is an artistic and beautiful approach to showing admissions how the writer may use their college education. Personal Statement Example #4: Chekov's Wig. At the age of six, I starred ...

  16. How to write the best personal statement, with examples

    Now, here are some excerpts from other sample personal statements: These 3 are college essays about personal characteristics: Essay 1: Humorous essay about getting a D and learning a lesson "Getting a D probably isn't the worst thing in the world, but it's not something anyone wants to see, let alone put, on a college application.

  17. The Personal Statement

    The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories: 1. The general, comprehensive personal statement: This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms. 2.

  18. How to Write a Personal Statement for a Scholarship + Examples

    Personal Statement Example: Breakdown + Analysis. Example 1. My interest in the field of neuroscience began at a young age. When I was twelve years old, my sister developed a condition called Pseudotumor Cerebri following multiple concussions during a basketball game.

  19. How To Write a Good Personal Statement (With Examples)

    Include information that describes more about you than the details in your transcript. 5. Identify your plans for the future. Part of your personal statement can include future goals and ambitions. Explain what can happen if you gain acceptance to the university of your choice or you receive the job you want.

  20. 16 Winning Personal Statement Examples (And Why They Work)

    Here are 16 personal statement examples—both school and career—to help you create your own: 1. Personal statement example for graduate school. A personal statement for graduate school differs greatly from one to further your professional career. It is usually an essay, rather than a brief paragraph. Here is an example of a personal ...

  21. College Personal Statement Examples

    In most cases, a college personal statement is going to follow a standard college essay format. Typically, a five-paragraph structure is sufficient, particularly if the total word count is relatively low (500 to 750 words). However, if the required word count is lower (250 to 400 words), even fewer paragraphs may be appropriate.

  22. How to start a personal statement: The attention grabber

    2. Write about why you want to study that course. Think about why you want to study the course and how you can demonstrate this in your written statement: 'Your interest in the course is the biggest thing. Start with a short sentence that captures the reason why you're interested in studying the area you're applying for and that ...

  23. How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement [With Examples]

    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.

  24. 17 resume personal statement examples 2024

    Resume templates 17 resume personal statement examples. To start this guide, I have included 10 examples of good personal statements, to give you an idea of how a personal statement should look, and what should be included.. Note: personal statements are generally used by junior candidates - if you are experienced, check out our resume summary examples instead.