Examples of Awesome Personal Statements
Article Type: Tasty Bits
Write your own awesome personal statement with our COLLEGE APPLICATION ESSAY LAB, which will guide you through the process, providing tips and even more examples along the way.
Before you start, check out our own sample essays—or scroll down for the Best of the Web. Whether you're an athlete, a minority, or no one special (or, uh, probably some combination), we've got you covered.
No One Special
Some are surprising and some are clever, but they're all good examples of a "hook," not the kind with the pointy mustache but something that writers use to grab their reader's attention and make them want to keep reading.
Grab Them with the First Line
Stanford Magazine compiled the following list of great opening lines written by hopeful Stanford applicants.
Essays That Worked
Connecticut College posts a list of college essays “that worked.”
More Essays that Worked
Hamilton College provides access to some of their favorite application essays.
Other Resources for College Essay Writing
Writing the Personal Statement
The Purdue Online Writing lab offers a guide to writing all kinds of personal statements.
UC Berkeley Has a Say
Check out the University of California at Berkeley’s guide to writing the personal statement.
Application Tips: Tackling the Personal Essay
Abc.com provides some good tips on approaching the personal essay.
10 Tips for Writing the College Application Essay
The famous U.S. News & World Report offers some writing advice.
The Elements of Style
Flip through this famous guide to writing by William Strunk, Jr. that many students and teachers use. Read the 1918 version for free online.
Get Your Writing On
Some great handbooks on writing by writing guru Andrea Lunsford.
A Guide to Grammar and Writing
A cool interactive guide to grammar.
The University of Chicago’s guide to grammar.
(By Digital Vision)
Give meaning to your personal experiences by describing what qualities and skills you gained or implemented because of particular experiences.
Captivate, characterize and convince. Whether you are applying for graduate school, scholarships or a specific major, those are the three main tasks you should accomplish in your personal statement.
Captivate your reader with an enticing storyline; characterize your identity and unique qualities; convince the audience of your strengths by using specific examples.
Crafting a persuasive personal statement requires creativity and attentive revisions, but by following the advice below, your story can make you a diamond amongst stones.
RELATED:Who reads your college applications anyway?
RELATED:What ‘The Big Bang Theory’ teaches us about grad school
Define who you are
Using a small number of words, you must answer this question: Why should the application committee be interested in you? Give meaning to your personal experiences by describing what qualities (integrity, compassion, perseverance) and skills (leadership, communication, analytical) you gained or implemented because of those experiences.
Use a personal thesis — your individual philosophy or values — as a guiding thread throughout your essay. Reflect on what is important to you.
Here are some other ideas to help you brainstorm:
• What unique traits, skills or experiences do you possess?
• Explain your short- and long-term goals. What have you done and what will you do to work toward those goals?
• Describe any obstacles that you have overcome (concerning family, finances, academics, disability).
• Professional experiences including work and internships.
• On-campus involvement including classes, clubs, events, volunteering, leadership and teamwork.
• Life experiences including interactions or conversations you’ve had with others that have changed or influence you.
• Why will studying this major, attending this program or receiving this scholarship make you better person/leader/student?
Use clear organization and smooth transitions
Make an outline before you start writing and after you finish your first draft. Below is a sample outline. Keep in mind that there are many possible variations.
• Hook: interesting experience that created or deepened your interest in your field of study
• Short and long-term goals
• Specific example of an internship experience (and what it demonstrates about your personality and your interest the field)
• Specific example of an on-campus organization experience
(and what it demonstrates about your personality and your interest the field)
• If applying to graduate school: specific details about your interest in the program (Do your research and find reasons why you’re attracted to the program; don’t brown nose by showering their program with compliments — show how it matches your interests)
• Purposeful conclusion
• Graduate or major program: state how you are a good match for their program and how your attendance will benefit their program
• Scholarships: state how you will use or benefit from this scholarship money
• Be passionate: “What have you learned about the field and yourself that reinforced your conviction that you’re well suited for this field?” (Some advice fromPurdue OWL.)
• Value quality over quantity: Your personal statement should not be a list of accomplishments or a recitation of your resume. Choose a few specific examples that demonstrate the qualities you want to convey.
• Tell a story: An example of an intriguing personal narrative comes from Vince Gotera of the University of Northern Iowa.
• Use words from the prompt: Background, goals, ambitions and so on. Your readers will be looking for these key words.
• Be sincere and confident, but don’t exaggerate or brag: “Choose me because I’m better than everyone else” is not a commendable description. Emphasize what makes you special and believe what you say.
• Let someone else read it: Visit your university writing center and ask friends, family or professors to provide feedback on your essay.
• Never complain or make excuses.
• Do not list high school achievements (unless you are a freshman).
• Avoid controversial topics, including religion and politics.
• Avoid cliches.
• Avoid using quotes: You only have a limited amount of words to express who you are; why would the committee want to read someone else’s words? Instead, restate the value that your favorite quote embodies in your own words, and add your own personal twist.
End with a powerful conclusion
Your conclusion functions as a bookend to the introduction, so try to incorporate elements from your personal thesis. Transition gracefully into your final statements, and end memorably with an emotional impact. Captivate, characterize and convince.
Diane Kollman is one of Uloop’s Student Writers from Ohio State University. For more college news, interviews and advice, check out Uloop.com.
Diane Kollman, Kansas State, Ohio State University, personal statement, the application, uloop, University of Northern Iowa, COLLEGE CHOICE