How to Write a Winning College Personal Statement: Examples and Critiques

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on May 1, 2014

The personal statement below is an actual student essay, which is 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.

Personal Statement

This Personal Statement is another career-oriented essay, which states why the student is interested in business as a college major. The student is attending an honors program in a small, private university.

When I was thirteen, the thing I wanted most in life was a limited edition, glow-in-the-dark Power Rangers snow globe. The local hobby shop charged an astronomical amount for the snow globe because it was such a rare piece; there were only 100 in the world. As I would later learn, the shop’s individuality in selling Power Rangers paraphernalia to my neighborhood effectively gave it a monopoly over the product, and thus allowed it to inflate its price at will. To my younger, naïve self, that didn’t matter; I was ready to spend whatever was necessary to make sure I obtained this collector’s item. I was just about to squander all of my saved-up money and fulfill my desire when a friend told me about a company called eBay. From that moment my life changed forever.

My eyes were opened when I first logged on to eBay. I found millions of items being sold at the same time from places all over the world. I was simply amazed by the potential that was available for both buyers and sellers. Although I knew that there were a lot of items being traded, I didn’t expect to find such rare commodities as phosphorescent action figures suspended in glass bowls. With little hope in my heart, I sought out the elusive snow globe. Much to my surprise, my search turned up one result. A man in California was selling the exact item I yearned for, and the opening bid was at the quarter of the price that it was being sold for in the local store! I can’t even express in words the ecstasy that I felt. I immediately began to bid on the item, not wanting to waste a second. I was pitted against “Bidder 2” in a battle of wits (not to mention modem speed and wallet size), and he proved to be a worthy opponent. With 10 seconds to go I put in my final bid, hoping that I would “seal the deal.” Sure enough 10 seconds later, eBay informed me that I had won my first auction. “Bidder 2” was history and I was the new owner of the snow globe, and for half the price that I was originally willing to buy it for. A week later my longing came to an end; the missing, blizzardy piece of my heart arrived in the mail. And though the pleasure of owning a Power Rangers snow globe only lasted a fleeting few months, the intrigue for business that eBay had sparked in me continues to blaze today.

Of course, making purchases through eBay wasn’t always easy. As my faith in the company grew after my initial success, eBay became my primary source of acquiring whatever I needed. I found myself buying things all the time at discounted rates and was thrilled with the amount of money I was saving. There was one time, however, when things didn’t go quite as planned. My old cell phone had died, and I wanted to replace it with a new one. I searched for a specific model on eBay and specified that I wanted an unused item. When I found a listing at the right price, I immediately bought the phone. When the package arrived a few days later disappointment pierced my heart like a dart on a bull’s eye. The cell phone arrived used; it was scratched and dirty and not worth the money I spent. For the first time, eBay had failed me. I immediately sprung into action: I contacted the seller, but he claimed that he had sent a brand new phone. I then contacted eBay and told them of the fraud. Within a few days eBay refunded my money at no cost, and my broken heart completely healed.

I have learned from my mistake. After the heart-shattering incident, I promised myself I would research every item and seller before buying anything, and that when I sell anything, I would make sure the transaction is fair for both the buyer and me. I now make the extra effort to explain the conditions of the items I have for sale with great detail to each and every buyer to prevent unwanted surprises and to make sure nobody feels uncomfortable at any stage of the sale. The value of my new attitude has been recently evidenced by my eBay status promotion to Power-Seller (a title granted to those who sell a significant amount of items as well as have high feedback ratings).

At (college name), I hope to continue learning the intricacies of business and commerce I have gleaned from my experience on eBay, with the ultimate goal of helping to make the world a more efficient place. I feel that furthering my education will help me in my goal of creating my own successful business. Keeping my personal experience as a disappointed consumer in mind, I particularly hope to be able to fully understand how to run the finances of a business, while still keeping customers happy. I believe that only (college name) can supply me with the knowledge and skill to achieve my goal: to be able to supply everyone, on their own terms, with their factory-sealed cell phones and Power Rangers snow globes.

Personal Statement Critique

Th above Personal Statement is an experiential essay, which cleverly captures the student’s passion for buying and selling on eBay. The student developed an interest in business early on, and his interest grew through a business venture. By relating a personal experience, the reader becomes interested in the story, yet the focus remains on the actions and decisions made by the student. It is a personal story and it gives you insight into the student’s entrepreneurial spirit, which is perfect for a business school. It is a growth experience, where he learned something important from making a mistake. The opening is attention grabbing, and the writer connects the ending to the opening line. It is a well-written and passionate essay. Not everyone may like the concept of the Power Rangers, but that is not the intent of the essay. The excitement of a 17 year old comes shining through.

Add your own comment
DIY Worksheets
Make puzzles and printables that are educational, personal, and fun!
Matching Lists
Quickly create fun match-up worksheets using your own words.
Word Searches
Use your own word lists to create and print custom word searches.
Crossword Puzzles
Make custom crossword puzzles using your own words and clues.