Personal Statement （个人陈述）作为申请中的一项重要材料，一定程度上决定了招生官对你的“第一印象”。
专注于文书研究的平台Admitsee曾发布过一份调查，通过汇总整理539 份斯坦福大学录取文书和 393 份哈佛大学录取文书后发现：
I sat on my parents’ bed weeping with my head resting on my knees. “Why did you have to do that to me? Why did you have to show me the house and then take it away from me?” Hopelessly, I found myself praying to God realizing it was my last resort.
For years, my family and I found ourselves moving from country to country in hopes of a better future. Factors, such as war and lack of academic opportunities, led my parents to pack their bags and embark on a new journey for our family around the world. Our arduous journey first began in Kuçovë, Albania, then Athens, Greece, and then eventually, Boston, Massachusetts. Throughout those years, although my family always had a roof over our heads, I never had a place I could call “home.”
That night that I prayed to God, my mind raced back to the night I was clicking the delete button on my e-mails, but suddenly stopped when I came upon a listing of the house. It was September 22, 2007 —eight years exactly to the day that my family and I had moved to the United States. Instantly, I knew that it was fate that was bringing this house to me. I remembered visiting that yellow house the next day with my parents and falling in love with it. However, I also remembered the heartbreaking phone call I received later on that week saying that the owners had chosen another family’s offer.
A week after I had prayed to God, I had given up any hopes of my family buying the house. One day after school, I unlocked the door to our one-bedroom apartment and walked over to the telephone only to see it flashing a red light. I clicked PLAY and unexpectedly heard the voice of our real estate agent. “Eda!” she said joyfully. “The deal fell through with the other family—the house is yours! Call me back immediately to get started on the papers.” For a moment, I stood agape and kept replaying the words in my head. Was this really happening to me? Was my dream of owning a home finally coming true?
Over the month of November, I spent my days going to school and immediately rushing home to make phone calls. Although my parents were not fluent enough in English to communicate with the bank and real estate agent, I knew that I was not going to allow this obstacle to hinder my dream of helping to purchase a home for my family. Thus, unlike a typical thirteen-year-old girl’s conversations, my phone calls did not involve the mention of makeup, shoes, or boys. Instead, my conversations were composed of terms, such as “fixed-rate mortgages,” “preapprovals,” and “down payments.” Nevertheless, I was determined to help purchase this home after thirteen years of feeling embarrassed from living in a one-bedroom apartment. No longer was I going to experience feelings of humiliation from not being able to host sleepovers with my friends or from not being able to gossip with girls in school about who had the prettiest room color.
I had been homeless for the first thirteen years of my life. Although I will never be able to fully repay my parents for all of their sacrifices, the least I could do was to help find them a home that they could call their own—and that year, I did. To me, a home means more than the general conception of “four walls and a roof.” A home is a place filled with memories and laughter from my family. No matter where my future may lead me, I know that if at times I feel alone, I will always have a yellow home with my family inside waiting for me.
What we love about Eda’s essay is its refreshing vulnerability. Too many college essays are “too” picture-perfect. Eda doesn’t censor the truth, even if admitting her inner thoughts may potentially paint her in a negative light. For example, she starts the entire essay with a scene of her weeping on her parents’ bed, blaming them for her misfortune. By being so honest, Eda showcases her genuine growth and maturity over time.
Her personal voice is also strong throughout the essay. When she talks about falling in love with “that yellow house,” an image of said house is automatically conjured up in our minds. When she speaks of the heartbreak she experienced upon learning “that yellow house” was sold to another family, we felt pain in our hearts too. Her deliberate choice to “PLAY” the voicemail she received for us and include her subsequent internal thoughts further pulls us into reliving her journey with her.
Yet, she goes beyond merely telling us of her journey. She highlights just how atypical her journey has been. Instead of enjoying phone conversations about makeup or shoes, she is talking to agents about fix-rate mortgages and down payments… all at the age of 13. Though she does not explicitly state this (she doesn’t need to): it is clear that Eda has had to grow up fast, becoming a stronger individual as a result.
Her understanding of the word “home” evolves from a physical roof over her head to a more abstract one. Home is wherever her “memories and laughter” exist. In the end, she comes to terms with the sacrifices her parents have made. Learning to be proud of her upbringing showcases Eda’s evolution.
Eda is someone who will overcome whatever challenges thrown her way, making her a strong college applicant.
I was thoroughly confused. I thought I had procured the complete solution to this elaborate chess puzzle. What am I missing? A knight fork, a bishop move? Am I in check? After a quick glance at the left side of the board, I slapped my hand on my head as I suddenly realized what my chess coach was telling me. My queen was sitting unused, positioned all the way on the other side of the board, and I had no idea. If I were to sacrifice my queen, the opposing rook would be forced to capture it, allowing me to finish the game in style with the illustrious “smothered mate.”
If you begin to look at the whole chessboard, then these puzzles will become a breeze for you.
Ever since that chess lesson, those words have stuck. Indeed, my chess skills improved swiftly as my rating flew over the 1000 Elo threshold in a matter of months. However, those words did not merely pertain to chess. Looking at the whole picture became a foundational skill that I have utilized throughout my life in school and other endeavors. I particularly remember making use of it on the soccer field.
Now, I’m no Arnold Schwarzenegger. Weighing in at a monstrous 125 pounds and standing 5 foot 8 inches, my opponents made it a habit to tackle me to the ground. Once again, I found myself face to face with the defender, and before I knew it, I crumbled to the ground, left isolated and dispossessed. Laying dazed on the pitch, my mind flashed back to the chessboard. It occurred to me that soccer, much like chess, relies on the proper position of the many pieces that combine to create a finished strategy. The “whole picture” of soccer is not just how fast or strong one is or how many tackles you put in; that is only one element of the puzzle. The intelligence and creativity needed in a playmaker is also an essential part of a well-rounded soccer team. I realized that my most significant advantage would always be my in-depth understanding of the game of soccer—where to pass the ball, when to make a run, if the ball should be in the air or driven. I picked myself off the ground, and when that same defender came barreling towards me again, I was zoned in, oblivious to the noise around me. I chipped the ball into the open space right behind him, knowing my teammate would run into the space without even looking. From then on, I continued to hone my skills through intense practice to become the best playmaker I could be, working in conjunction with my faster and stronger teammates to become a well-balanced, unified team.
Through chess and soccer, I have discovered that every piece in a puzzle has a purpose. This new perspective has enhanced my ability to stop, stand back, and analyze the whole picture in the many dimensions of my life. In my scientific studies, it was not enough to examine just one C. reinhardtii cell, but it was necessary to zoom out the microscope to capture all of the thousand cells to truly understand quorum sensing and its consequences. In my studies of music, it was not enough to listen to the melody of the finale of Beethoven’s 9th symphony, but one must realize that the true beauty of the composition lies in the whole orchestra handing off this simple melody to every instrument. All these facets—music, research, soccer, chess—are not only completed puzzles but also parts of a greater whole: my life. Every aspect of myself matters as much as the other. As high school comes to an end, the pieces on my board are set, and I only have success in mind.
Dante’s essay makes it clear to the reader that he is very curious and has many interests by showing more than telling. He thoughtfully connects the lessons he’s learned from chess to his performance on the soccer field and does a great job of focusing on what he learned as opposed to a blow-by-blow recount of the entire chess match or soccer game. The reader is also able to see that Dante can apply what he learns in one subject to another, which is essential to succeeding academically at Hopkins. Our admissions committee can read this essay and find clear evidence that Dante’s way of thinking would help him thrive in our interdisciplinary curriculum.
“How prone to doubt, how cautious are the wise!”
I’m not a philosopher; eloquence eludes me, the meaning of life is unquestioned, and thinking, beyond what is required to carry out a potential, is postponed to a more leisurely time. I’ve experienced doubt, and proceeded with caution; and in my experience, I’ve learned to discard unnecessary thought and conventional wisdom in favor of progress. Philosophy amounts to nothing unless it results in action.
“You’re kidding.” Scanning my schedule, my classmate shakes her head. “Why didn’t you take Dual Credit?” During Junior year, my high school began to incentivize Dual Credit courses with a GPA multiplier. Advertised to be less demanding than an AP class, Dual Credit was extolled as the wise man’s curriculum. So, mustering all the wisdom I had, I took 6 AP classes, and frankly, I enjoyed their depth. When it comes to education, I’m not cautious – and I’m prone to doubt. I just act. If I want chemistry, then I get chemistry; if I’m intrigued by psychology, then I pursue psychology. There is no point in pondering the inevitable; I am determined to take educational opportunities. I’ll judge the difficulty for myself after I complete it.
The practice of prioritizing action has proved useful in my pursuits. In ninth grade, I could have doubted my capability; instead I ran for office in the school’s health club and earned a position in the eleventh grade. That year, there was a debate amongst the members over meeting schedules: if the Technology Students Association meeting coincided with ours, how would we attract new members? As the club officers weighed the costs and benefits amongst themselves, I left the meeting and signed up for the technology club, discussed an agreement, and voted for the technology club to move its meetings to the second half of lunch before scheduling the Health club meetings for the first half. Did it require thinking? No. Eloquence? Hardly. Contrary to the anticipated speeches and club-based patriotism, it only took clear action and a request to solve the conflict. Attendance increased, and as a bonus, I enjoyed a continued membership with both organizations.
Beyond the sphere of public education, doubt-free determination facilitated my impact in the community. I am seventeen; I cannot vote in the upcoming elections. However, that does not mean I will hesitate to make a mark with my city. Small actions, from teaching addition to a church member’s kindergartener to tutoring three classmates for the SAT, matter in the long run. Can a teenage end world hunger? Doubtful; but by pulling weeds from the community garden, I can further progress one step at a time.
Not all actions end successfully. However, between cautious wisdom and failure, I choose action. I don’t fancy myself as wise; I’m not prone to doubt, nor am I perpetually cautious. I simply pursue my goal. As the wiser Homer has taught America, when torn between success and potential peril, one must simply “D’oh.”
In reading through this personal statement, there are a few key themes which come through. First, the approach to learning is positive, thoughtful, and reflective. Particularly in the opening section, the love of learning which centers on the course material and not so much the course name is evident. Additionally, the openness to learning across a variety of academic disciplines comes through in the narrative. Learning new and different disciplines is a hallmark of the liberal arts experience and the author demonstrates this expertly.
Another theme in this essay is the use of knowledge to make change. The author illustrates a personal will, perhaps gumption, to improve the community in a meaningful way. While it may be perceived as small, the ability to create change in a community is important to its evolution. Being an engaged community citizen manifests itself nicely in this essay by being supported throughout the rest narrative and the application.
Lastly, a willingness to take risks is evident throughout the narrative and exciting to read about. To go boldly forward towards a new community means taking big risks, and it is apparent that the author is ready to dive in here at Emory. In the end, what avails is the author’s confidence to fail forwards, which is an invaluable mindset to have when entering your first year of college. Stepping back, we’ve learned a lot about this student through their writing—maybe most importantly—how their personal qualities align nicely with Emory’s mission and community values.