A conversation about the
UC Personal Statement
Destination College Advising Corps
A Good Personal Statement….
• -Is thoughtful and honest
A strong personal statement is reflective; it demonstrates
that you have thought about and gained a clear
perspective on your experiences and what you want in
your future. The focus of the essay is YOU--your
achievements, your obstacles, your goals, your values.
• -Strives for depth, not breadth
A reader will be much more interested in how your
experience demonstrates the theme of your essay, not
the number of accomplishments you can list.
A Good Personal Statement….
• -Follows the conventions of good writing
A good essay uses appropriate grammar and syntax,
uses precise and vivid language, and does not
contain any spelling errors.
• -Answers the question!
You should examine the essay question and write an
essay that explicitly addresses that question. If you
are asked to describe a moment in your life, then
your reader will expect you to use vivid language that
will enable the reader to visualize your
accomplishment and share your sense of success.
A Good Personal Statement…
• -Benefits from several drafts and feedback from
Revising is not editing; revising is the act of "re-
seeing" and of looking for those parts that would
benefit from more explication language, or even
deleting parts that simply don‘t work. Similarly,
feedback from others can help you identify those
parts of the essay that work well or don't.
• Demonstrates your knowledge of the major or
Readers will want to know that you have done your
homework. Engineering is a major to discuss.
A Good Personal Statement…
• -Transforms blemishes into positives
It's okay to have flaws! If your essay theme is "overcoming
obstacles" and you earned a poor grade in a class, it is
important for your reader to know this was an example of
your perseverance. The reader does not want to hear
complaints about poor grades or circumstances, but rather
wants to know how you have overcome them.
• Exudes confidence--you will be successful no matter what
Colleges and universities want to admit the best students, and
the best students are those who can demonstrate their ability
to pursue their goals regardless of where they are admitted.
Think of this as quiet confidence--the kind that reveals itself
through your description of lifelong interests, sustained
commitment, and/or perseverance in the face of adversity.
It is the process of gathering all of your ideas and getting
them on paper without editing them. Ask yourself the
following questions, and write out your answers.
• What are my strengths?
• What are my weaknesses?
• What is special about me?
• What kind of person am I?
• What do I care about?
• Why is (BLANK) more important to me than (BLANK)? (Fill
in the blanks.)
• What is it like growing up in (BLANK)?
• What is it like going to school at (BLANK)?
That should get you started!
• Discussion based on:
Three years ago the world I lived in was a vastly different one. School was nearly
nonexistent in my delusional perception of what was important. Instead, I shifted my focus to my
friends who, like me at the time, were care-free of the consequences of our choices. To sum up
my past self, I was a juvenile delinquent. Every day was the same tedious routine. I’d walk to
school listening to punk music and spend the next eight hours conversing with my friends. After
school hours were spent with my friends referred to as the “Cigarette Kids” by some, and for a
good reason. We would usually sit around and watch television or simply just sit around. When
we got the chance we would mix things up and find a location to smoke, vandalize or find another
mischievous form of entertainment. I usually returned home to an angry and disappointed
mother, but what did it matter? I had my friends.
Luckily, my uncle Arturo expressed his concern for me. One summer day we sat down
and discussed everything: my grades, my father, my friends, and most importantly, my future. He
stressed that in the long run my friends did not matter. What mattered was the work I put into
my education as it plays a vital role in the world beyond high school. Like me he pissed away
years of school for his friends. But he attained redemption through years of hard work and now
works in a field in which he thoroughly enjoys. It seems very far fetched that I would make a
sudden change in lifestyle over an uncle, but he acted as a father figure. I have not had a father
figure in my life. His influence from then on has been extremely strong to the point that I am
overridden by guilt every time I become lazy or procrastinate. It has become my wish to make
him and anyone that is highly involved in my life proud of me.
Prompt 1 (con’t)
From my sophomore year on I have spent much of my time focused on my
work and with my studious best friend Eduardo. It took two years to repair the
damage. I had to retake English 9, Spanish 1 and make up for Earth Science. Even after
reparations I still cannot take all the courses that I wish. But setting aside the damage
leftover, my life has been pleasingly productive. These days I’d rather be out on the
tennis court or practicing my clarinet than just sitting around or watching television.
My mother takes pride in my accomplishments thus far and wishes that I continue my
education by taking the best opportunities presented to me. And to aid me in that
pursuit is my Uncle and his wife who have expressed an interest in what I am to
As I look back I cringe at how much was lost that year, but I take comfort in
that I did not give up the golden opportunity. I’m a totally different man now while
Cigarette Kids are still the same, and I am glad to no longer be associated with them
socially or mentally. That being said, I am eager to finally bury the past and look onto
what is to come. I have always been interested in Computer Science, which is why it is
my wish to receive a good education at a university in which I am deserving of. It is my
chance to make myself and my family proud.
I have been told that I'm very ambitious sometimes it can get me in trouble.
Other times it creates memories that I can look back on and say “I did that” with a
smile on my face. One particular scenario where my ambition got some adults mad at
me, but paid off in the end was when I raised $1400 for a charity. As a Key Club officer,
it's my duty to look for events that can help raise money for Pediatric Trauma
Prevention (an organization that fights to prevent the loss of life caused by everyday
accidents). I considered holding a charity dance. Teenagers love to dance especially
when they know that there won't be any parent supervision. I mentioned all of this to
my fellow Key Club officers and every single one of them loved the idea, so me and my
partner got straight to work. However, before I'm allowed to plan an event, Key Club
policy requires approval from Kiwanis (the adult branch of Key Club). They were afraid
of the risk that comes with holding a dance for hundreds of kids. They didn't allow us
to promote this as an official Key Club event, which made it extremely difficult to tap
into our Key Club connections in order to advertise. But that didn't stop us. We knew
how much potential there was with holding a dance; so we went through with the
dance but paid for it with money out of our own pocket and had to use our own
resources to publicize. The end result was a studio packed with 700 people and a
cashbox with $1400 that was later donated to Pediatric Trauma Prevention. Not being
discouraged by lack of support from Kiwanis actually helped me quite a bit in the end.
After holding the charity dance with no help from Key Club and Kiwanis whatsoever, I
had more faith in my leadership abilities and started to follow my instincts more when
it comes to pursuing original ideas.