Overcoming adversity personal statement examples

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Admission essay excerpt:

Tired, alone, and waiting for the next paycheck: this is how I spent my first two years out of high school.  When I moved to the United States, I was fresh out of high school and I wanted to get the best education I could.  My parents didn’t have the funds to send me to college, but I was fortunate that they had supported me all my life and they gave me all of the funds they could to help me start a new life in America.  It was one of the most challenging times in my life, because I wasn’t just leaving Samoa, but I was also leaving the security of my family, the support of my parents, and the place I had called home since birth.  In America, I had no relatives or friends and I didn’t have much funds to get by, much less continue my education.


I.  Introduction
A.  Tired, alone, and waiting for the next paycheck
B.  Fresh out of high school, making the move to the US
C.  Parents couldn’t afford to send me to college.
D.  It was the most challenging time in my life, moving away from Samoa, my family, my parents.
E.  It was as though I had nothing.

II.  A brand new start
A.  One of the most difficult things for me was to view my difficult circumstances as a new and exciting chapter in my life.
B.  Although I was certain that it was a new chapter, it seemed more challenging than exciting.
C.  I worked 7 days a week, had little rest, and most of my money was just enough to support myself and my family back in Samoa.
D.  It was difficult saving money for my schooling and even if I had the money, I didn’t have the time.
E.  Recently, I was given a promotion, and I have spent some time working out a plan and saving up money to go to school.
F.  Now, I feel that I am ready to go back to school and with my new position I have a workable schedule to pursue my studies.

III.  Finding direction
A.  While I did have a difficult time, it was also my experiences during this period that helped me decide what career I want to pursue.
B.  I have realized that the only “limitations” that we face are those that we impose upon ourselves.
C.  It has made me realize that no matter what our life experiences have dealt us, we have the choice to decide how life will unfold.
D.  This is why I want to be in a position where I can truly help others, to help them achieve their goals and aspirations in life.
E.  Currently working as a children’s counselor
F.  Helping people deal with issues of self-esteem, personal relationships
G.  I feel that _________ University can give me the education, training, and experience necessary to help me achieve my goals of giving back to the community, helping those in need, and helping them achieve their highest aspirations.

Exploding UC Berkeley admissions myths

This transcript is based on Cal Berkeley’s video on myths that pervade the application process: for more info, please visit http://berkeley.edu/ This transcript was produced by this site based on the Fair use exception for educational/public awareness purposes.


Welcome to UC Berkeley. Today we’re busting myths about the application process. You’ll hear from staff, faculty, and students. They’ll tell you whats’ fact and what’s fiction about applying to Berkeley and how you can make your application competitive.

Walter Robinson: We would like students to picture themselves at Berkeley with the understanding that Berkeley is an engine of social mobility. It’s here to serve citizens from the state, from the nation, and from the world. We are building a global community of leaders that we hope that will go out and hold up the Berkeley tradition and the Berkeley legacy of being agents of social change.

One of the myths I’ve heard is that no one reads the admissions applications.

Susan Pendo: So one of the myths at UC Berkeley is that no one really reads you application and that’s absolutely not true.

Roxanne Winston: One thing that I would say about the application process is that it’s easier that people think. You think “Oh, I’m applying to Berkeley. It’s the hardest school to get into.” The reality is that people here in Berkeley, in the admissions office, actually care about every individual student that applies. So they take the time to read your essays, read your personal statements to figure out who you are, who the person applying, so they can admit a diverse, like interesting group to UC Berkeley.

The myth I heard about the application process was it was all about grades.

Georgia Webb: There is a myth that admission to Berkeley is all about grades and test scores. And yes, grades and test scores are very important. However, we look at the whole person. Achievement can be found in different areas of your life. And we are interested in how you have achieved in other ways.

We don’t use weights or any kind of complex calculations. What we do is a holistic review. We look at the entire application, including the personal statement, and we make a holistic evaluation based on all of that information. We spend a lot of time and care training 100 plus readers to be able to evaluate and assess all the information in your application.

Miguel Hernandez: So, three components of the application are gonna be your courses, your grades, and for freshmen applicants, your test scores. So as far as courses are concerned, you need to check the UC website to make sure that you’re eligible. For grades, you’re gonna need to submit all grades that you’ve received up into the point of application. We don’t favor one test over the other but all applicants must submit two essays to subject test. For those taking the ACT, they have to take the written portion. Okay. A few other things you’re gonna include in your application are activities demonstrating leadership, awards and honors, community service and employment. These things are gonna give us a bigger perspective of who you are.

Bridget Wilson: My advice to students would be to make sure that you list all of the information in detail including the position that you’ve held in that activity in any leadership, and the number of hours and the amount of time that you spent doing that activity per year whether it’s during the summer or during the school year.

Michele Lakrith: We’re looking for information that would demonstrate the students’ academic potential. Perhaps, an extraordinary talent. A student who has succeeded in spite of some unusual circumstance or any other information that will help us understand the full academic program and the context of which the student has achieved.

Richie Richards: As a transferee student, I found out that what Berkeley was looking for was not necessarily what was in my GPA or in my test scores per se, but what they were looking for was what I did for my community.

Stephanie Bergtanole: I often here from students both in the classroom and in the admissions office that they are not good enough for Cal, they are not Berkeley material. My advice is have the courage to compete in our applicant pool in their selections in the admissions office.

Christie Richards: I got to UC Berkeley because I checked off the box. Honestly, I wasn’t gonna apply. I wasn’t planning on it. I thought my ACT scores are way too low but my mom said, just check off the box and see what happens and I checked it off. And I think my personal essay was really what got me into the application process.

Joshua Cella: When it comes to the application, I would definitely suggest spending a lot of time on your personal statement. It’s the one thing on your application that you can really make stand out and you can kind of let the admissions department know who you really are versus just numbers and scores.

In the personal statement, we’re looking for the evidence of more in different types of achievement beyond the grades and the test scores. The personal statement completes the application. It goes beyond a list. It expands on those qualities that are your strengths. When writing the personal statement, reflect on whether or not the reader has been given a complete picture of you. What is it that you like your reader to know about your achievements? What can you expend upon relative to your talents, your leadership, the special academic programs, work experience, community service? And when you set to write your personal statements, reflect upon your life, and what makes you shine. What makes you a star in your world? And share that with the reader.

David Moore: One of the challenges that I found about the application process was the personal statement. And one thing I found that was helpful form me was the personal statement writing workshops that were held by community college professors and the UC Berkeley representatives that came out to the community college.

My personal statement was really personal and I think that’s what got me here because I opened myself up in the process and told them who I was, what I wanted to be, and that’s what got me here.

The myth I heard was the campus is large and impersonal.

Jonathan Poullard: Cal is large but there are thousands of ways to make the campus smaller and make it more meaningful to you as a student. And one of those ways is to be involved in one of our 700 plus student organizations, to be engaged in intramurals, compete with your peers, do research, do a study abroad, be engaged in one of the fraternities or sororities on the campus. The bottom line is this: Make Cal your own experience by getting engaged and being involved.

Bob Jacobson: Berkeley is the best place to study just about anything. That’s one of the nice things about the campus and that it has programs in all sorts of things that are full of exciting people doing all sorts of stuff. So pretty much regardless of what it is that you want to study, you can come here and just completely immerse yourself in it.

Andrew Person: I would have to say it was all the people here in campus that really attracted me. Everybody on campus was really welcoming. The student body was really diversified. Academic in Berkeley was a top-caliber school. And it’s a fun school.

Oscar Mairena: One of the best things about coming in Berkeley, I would definitely say, is the history of Berkeley. As a campus, it’s just so rich of so many cultures and so many people. And, like you’re walking on Telegraph and you’re walking down a historical street. You’re walking in on campus. You’re walking around Southern Lane’s prowl. Everything is just like so much rich history to every spot that you stood in on this campus.

We would like each and everyone of you to picture yourself at Berkeley.

Things That May Piss off College Admissions Officers

Going to college can be considered a gift.  Not all people have the drive or the resources to attend post-secondary school, and those that do still have to get through the admission process.  If you are planning to go to college, one of the biggest obstacles in your way is getting the admission committee to accept your application.  As such, you probably wouldn’t want to upset the admissions officers, or get on their bad side.  Here are a few things to avoid when dealing with your application and the admission committee:

Sending too many letters of recommendation

Some applicants tend to send a bunch of letters of recommendation, thinking that more recommendation letters will help convince the admissions officers to accept them.  Most schools ask for a specific number of recommendation letters for each applicant, usually around two or three letters.  Exceeding the number of required letters will only hurt you.  Make sure that you get letters from people whom you think will give you the best, recommendations and send those along with your application package.  As much as possible, try not to exceed the maximum.(1)

Trying to be too poetic on your letters and essays

Take a look at a bunch of personal statement examples, and you will find that most authors steer clear from sounding too wordy or poetic.  You admission essays and letters to the admission committee should be of excellent quality, but that doesn’t mean that you should try to be poetic or extremely literary.  Trying to make your letters and essays too poetic may can backfire.  Admission committees are used to reading essays and letters, and they know when applicants are trying too hard.  Study and emulate the language use of personal statement examples.  Keep your objective in mind and the content within the context of your college application.(2)

Be sure to take full advantage of good examples of personal statement, because they can help you compose a concise, comprehensible, and compelling letter or essay.  You may even want to compare your essay to an example of personal statement online to see how you measure up to the standards.

Sending a thick file, aside from the transcript

Admission committees already have enough papers to look through.  Sending a thick file with information that is either irrelevant or unnecessary will only add to the work and stress of the admissions officers.  Your application package should only be composed of what the admission committee actually requires from you.  Keep it simple and avoid swamping admissions officers with unneeded files and papers.(3)

(1)  http://mather.harvard.edu/law/MatherLaw/application/recommendations.php
(2) http://www.businessweek.com/bschools/content/jun2008/bs20080619_275093_page_2.htm
(3)  http://www.princeton.edu/admission/applyingforadmission/requirements/

SWOT Analysis for Choosing the Best Course for You

It can be difficult to choose which course to take up in college.  There are so many considerations to keep in mind, such as your interests, skills, background, and your aspirations.  What’s worse is that choosing the wrong course may result in wasted years, because this may not be the one that can fully develop your abilities and your character.  For this reason, it’s important to take some time to reflect and analyze your situation, and the SWOT test is the perfect tool for the job.  Writers of personal statement examples have done this test to help write about their goals in their admission essay and get accepted to their chosen courses.

Examples of personal statements: Evaluating yourself through strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats

The acronym “S.W.O.T.” stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  When you take a SWOT test, you analyze these four factors in an attempt to make key decisions and to form a strategy.  SWOT analysis is normally used for business ventures or projects, but you can also benefit from this to help you choose which college course would best fit your personality and your character.  Evaluate yourself by making a list.(1)  Make sure that you do so within the context of your college course, your career possibilities, and the school that you will be attending.

Personal statement examples: Getting a list of available courses that best match your skills, personality, and goals

Now that you have conducted your SWOT analysis, the next step is to take the process one step further by assessing which courses fit in with your skills, personality and goals.  There are two main ways in which you can mix and match your SWOT test results and the possible courses available.(2)  The first and more obvious way of choosing a course is to find one that fits best with your strengths and downplays your weaknesses.  On the other hand, you may want to take on the challenge of choosing a course that will develop your weaknesses.  You may want to lean toward courses that actually interest you, because when it comes down to sleepless nights trying to complete your assignments and projects, that interest may be the only thing that keeps you going.

Examples of personal statement: Deciding which course can offer the best potential for growth and career gain

Another important consideration when choosing your course is to analyze which courses will provide you with the education, training, and experience you need for personal growth and a successful career.  You may already have some practical experience in a career field that you want to pursue, so it would only make sense to choose a course that can help you in that field.  Ultimately, your goal is to find a course that will help you make the best out of your talents and skills to prepare you for your career and your future in general.(3)

(1)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SWOT_analysis
(2) http://www.cedu.niu.edu/aboutus/strategicPlanning/docs/knpeSWOT_Jan08.pdf
(3)  http://www.das.psu.edu/dairy/teams/planning

How Not to Get Stuck on the Admissions Wait List

So you’ve applied to a number of colleges, but your first pick has told you that you are on their waiting list.  What should you do?  Getting on that list can be rather frustrating when all you want is to get accepted to your favorite school. Still, you should try to look at the bright side–at least you still have a chance.  The best thing for you to do is try and maximize your chance of getting off that list and into college.  Here’s how:

Be persistent but not annoying

One of the first steps toward getting accepted is to show that you are interested and that you actually do want to get admitted.(1)  Give the admission office a call to get an update on your situation and to ask if there is anything more that you can do.  Some schools will accept letters of appeal, while others strictly urge you not to send any letters of intent unless it is by their request. You may also want to let the college know about any new developments that might help your chances, such scoring higher in SAT or doing a better personal statement example.  Just remember that there is a fine line between being persistent and being annoying, and you certainly don’t want to annoy the admission committee that processes hundreds of applications and personal statement examples.(2)

Let the school know that it’s your first choice

Another way of boosting your chances to get accepted is to let the school know that it is your first choice.  You can do this by writing the school a letter, restating your interest.  Try to focus on why you want to go to the school and what makes the school a great educational institution.  Get some ideas from good examples of personal statement online.  For instance, you can say that it is a reputable business course or has a unique curriculum that you will greatly benefit from.  When writing letters like this, it’s important to avoid sucking up or sounding desperate.  Try to be objective and honest the same a way a winning personal statement example would be written.(3)

Prove that you can pay

Finally, you can also try to get off the wait list by proving that you can pay.  Some schools put applicants on the wait list because they have financial issues, such as international students who don’t have a job or anyone who can provide them financial aid.  It is important to prove to these schools that you are willing to do what it takes to pay for your tuition and other costs.  If you are at a loss to find ways to pay for your tuition, you may want to consider grants, scholarships, or loans.

(1)  http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/2008/04/16/how-to-get-off-the-wait-list-and-into-college.html
(2)  http://collegeapps.about.com/od/theartofgettingaccepted/tp/wait-list-getting-off.htm
(3)  http://admissions.tc.umn.edu/PDFs/09-10_Appeal_Waitlist.pdf

Top 3 Ways to Screw Up your Personal Statement Essay

The personal statement or college admission essay is probably one of the most essential admission requirements that you will submit to the schools that you will apply to.  Not only can you use the such essays to showcase your writing skills, but it is also a chance for you to introduce yourself, your character, and your personality to the admission committee.(1)  If you want to write an excellent admission essay, then you should know what mistakes to avoid.  Here are top three fatal mistakes as seen in some bad examples of personal statements:

Writing a full-length biography of your life

The admission committee doesn’t want to know about your entire life, from birth to the present.  You have to keep your goal in mind, when writing your admission essays, that is, to introduce yourself and state why you want to go to the school you are applying to.  Based on some examples of personal statements, you can see how writers specifies how can do well in the school.(2)  Even if you have a very interesting biography, you have to make sure that the experiences and instances that you talk about are relevant to the topic at hand.

Talking about just dreams and not real experiences

Another mistake that people often commit on their college admission essay is focusing too much on their dreams and aspirations.  While some personal statement examples mention dreams and aspirations, you should also talk about the experiences that you have actually been through.  Talk about how some of the challenges and opportunities you have faced in the past have prepared you for college.  After explaining a little about your real experiences, you can then go into how you plan to use your college education to reach your future goals and aspirations.(2)

Making bad connections between experiences and goals

It is a good idea to link your experiences to your future goals, but it is important that you avoid making a bad connection. By reading examples of personal statement online, you can see how writers mention experiences that don’t actually coincide with their future plans.  When making relating your experiences with your aspirations, try to make your essay flow.  A good idea would be to briefly describe an experience, then go into how this forged certain values and virtues into your character, and then describe how such virtues and values are essential for your college life and your future in general.(3)

(1)  http://www.depauw.edu/admission/documents/college-essay.pdf
(2)  http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/application.html
(3) http://www.yale.edu/yalecol/academics/fellowships/application/essays.html

Four reasons NOT to attend Harvard University


Harvard University is one of the most reputable and well-known educational institutions in the world.  Year after year, students apply to Harvard, hoping to get into the prestigious and historical university.  While a minority of the applicants get accepted into the school, there is a large number of Harvard applicants who get rejected.  All is not lost if you are one of the people who did not get into Harvard.  Aside from the fact that you can still go to one of the many other great schools around the world, here are some other reasons why you shouldn’t go to Harvard University:

Infamous Harvard graduates

Harvard has produced some of the most influential people in the world, including numerous Nobel  laureates, a range of Pulitzer Prize winners, and no less than eight US Presidents.(1)  Aside from some of these role model figures, however, some Harvard alumni have gained fame through their not-so-admirable feats.  Theodore Kaczynski, for example, received his Harvard undergraduate degree only to go on and become the world-famous Unabomber.  Kaczynski’s neo-Luddite philosophy ultimately resulted in him carrying out numerous bombings on airliners and universities around the country.(2)  Isoroku Yamamoto, who studied in Harvard from 1919 to 1921, later became the commander-in-chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II.  Yamamoto played a crucial role in planning and executing the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway.(3)  Some other infamous Harvard alumni include Charles K. Lee, who embezzled over $100,000 from a charity for children with leukemia, and Ernst Hanfstaengl, who became a close friend and confidant of Adolf Hitler.(4,5)

A Harvard education in exchange for an arm and a leg

Another reason you may not want to attend Harvard is because the school’s tuition cost too much.  Sure you’re getting premium education, but does that mean you have to sell off your arm, leg, and both kidneys to pay for tuition?  In 2007, the school had a tuition increase of about 3.9%, bringing the tuition to over $31,000.(6)  In February, 2009, the school announced a 3.5% increase on tuition for the 2009-2010 school year, which means that the tuition would cost over $33,500.(7)  Before you break your bank, you may want to look into other, more affordable academic institutions.

Snobbish student body

Harvard is full of snobbish and spoiled rich kids who can be quite arrogant.  Aside from the annoying name-dropping, you will probably also have to deal with a bunch of high-brow peers who act as though something is stuck up their behinds.  You can probably find a few friends you can get along with, but, for the most part, you’ll probably be dealing with a bunch of brats who are used to getting their way – even if it means having to step over you.

Just want to graduate

Yes, we all know that Harvard has produced a bunch of graduates who have helped to change the world, inspire world peace, or make some great change that has affected the lives of many.  Not everyone is planning to be on the list of the 100 most influential people though.  If all you want is an education, then you may want to settle for a different school.  All of the hype about making the world a better place may just not be your thing.  Next time you feel bad about not studying in Harvard University, take a quick peek back at this list and rest assured in the fact that Harvard has its downsides too.

(1)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Harvard_University_people
(2)  http://edition.cnn.com/US/9604/03/unabomber/index.html
(3)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isoroku_Yamamoto
(4)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chas_Lee
(5)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Hanfstaengl
(6)  http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2007/03.22/03-tuition.html
(7)  http://www.news.harvard.edu/r/tuition.html