How to Write a Winning College Personal Statement: Example Essay and Critiques
The personal statement below is an actual student essay, which are printed in its entirety. Following each essay is a critique to determine if the essay lived up to the standards of a winning personal statement. Keep in mind that the remarks in the critiques are subjective; readers are free to disagree.
The student who wrote this Personal Statement below is a dual citizen, born and raised until the age of 11 in England. The student is interested in a career as a writer, but he also has a stated interest in drama. He is attending a large public university in a state different from his own.
English children are taught by their mums that “Good children should be seen and not heard.” Growing up in England, I was always a proper little gentleman, even though my parents introduced me at a relatively young age to theater, an art form in which people must be both seen and heard. Nonetheless, somewhere in my child’s mind, I knew that I wanted to be involved in the magic that is theater.
Fast forward. Having moved to America at the age of eleven, I was trying to adapt to a culturally foreign lifestyle: No afternoon tea, no one to play cricket with, but sunshine instead of rain! I remember sitting in classes, always wanting to participate, but holding back, remembering what I had been taught back home. When I was encouraged to read the part of an American rancher in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, I saw an entire class mesmerized by my reading, detailing Steinbeck’s theme of one’s struggle to identify one’s place in the universe. They could not imagine how I had changed my voice from a British accent, to that of a Western rancher. From that point on, and throughout high school, I became an integral part of the drama program.
In addition to performing in theater, I also enjoy attending it. A few months ago, I went to a performance of the musical, Passing Strange. The experience was life altering. A line in a song by Stew, writer of Passing Strange, states, “Life is a mistake that only art can correct.” Hearing this touched my soul, and clinched my future for me. I realized that I no longer wanted to be a professional actor, but I yearned to put my own stamp on the artistic world, through things that I create, rather than acting out someone else’s words. My direction became clear: I want to be a writer.
My first real writing opportunity came in July 2008, when I returned to _____________, a performing arts summer program. ____________ recently introduced a contest for student-written, 10-minute plays. I got to work, writing draft after draft of what eventually became The Death of James [the name of the play has been changed], a play about how the decisions we make deeply impact our lives. I submitted the play, and it was selected as one of five to be performed by campers, and directed by the authors. Just when I thought that this was life’s perfect moment, I learned that __________ Publishing Company was publishing my play in a book of anthologies. I am still over the moon.
While this is an accomplishment I am very proud of, I realize that I still have many years of learning and developing my art ahead of me. I am hoping to hone my writing skills by attending the (college name). I wish to embark upon a journey that I know has many challenges and all types of surprises. If it is true that “Life is a mistake that only art can correct,” then I am very anxious to begin making my contribution.
Personal Statement Critique
The jargon from England is endearing, and that is definitely part of the charm of this essay. It is interesting for the reader to hear about different cultural practices. The imagery is vivid and descriptive. It is obvious that the student has a passion for writing and theater. The essay clearly conveys the writer’s intention in pursuing his craft. The student tells the reader about his play, which received recognition from a publishing company, but it is not boastful in any way. It is a very passionate and effective essay.
One possible improvement to the essay is that if you are going to mention the school’s name in the essay, you can state in detail why that particular university meets your needs. For example, you can mention a particular department, a professor’s name, or a production group or school newspaper you intend to join when you get on campus.
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