personal essay examples

Personal Statement Examples

When you’re applying to college, all of the different steps can feel overwhelming. One of the things students dread most is writing their personal statement. But, by reading personal statement examples and examples of college essays that worked, students can learn what makes a great college essay. Likewise, reading personal essay examples can help you get inspired to write your own!

Personal statement examples show the wide variety of essays that students write. All personal statement examples are unique to each student. However, there is a prevailing theme among them all. In each, the student tells a story that communicates something about themselves, their background, and/or their values. 

In this guide to personal statement examples, we’ll discuss:

  • The meaning of a personal statement essay and personal statement examples.
  • Different personal statement essay prompts.
  • How our personal statement examples vary.
  • How to write a personal statement using these personal essay examples.
  • What makes a personal statement stand out?
  • Tips for writing your best personal essay.

Before we get into the personal statement examples, let’s start by further defining the subject at hand. 

What is a Personal Statement?

To understand personal statement essay examples, you need to answer the question, “what is a personal statement?”

As you’ll see in these personal statement essay examples, the personal statement is an essay of around 500-650 words. This essay serves as the main point of communication between you and the admissions committee. It’s sometimes referred to as a college essay, personal essay, or Common App essay. 

But, beyond its word count and nicknames, what is a personal statement? The personal statement is the cover letter to your college application. It’s your chance to speak to the admissions committee in your own voice. The personal statement lets you show who you are outside of or in addition to your grades, recommendation letters, and extracurriculars. 

Since personal essays are so unique to the individual, there’s no one way to write them. As you’ll see in the personal statement examples, students approach personal essays in many different manners. 

Now that we’ve answered the question “what is a personal statement?”, let’s go over when you’ll need to write a personal statement. 

Do college applications require a Personal Statement?

personal essay examples

We promise the personal statement examples we’ve compiled in this article will be useful. In fact, almost all colleges require you to write a personal statement. However, depending on what application you’re submitting, the personal statement might show up in a different context. That’s why we’re including multiple personal statement essay examples in this guide. 

If you’re applying with the Common Application, you’ll be writing a personal statement essay as part of your application. The personal statement format of the Common App is a 500-650 word essay that answers one of 6 prompts–or it is an essay on “any topic of your choice.” This personal statement format is relatively common. Indeed, many other personal statement examples will be of a similar length, answering similar prompts. 

Of course, different types of applications technically have different essay prompts. But, as you’ll see in the personal statement examples, most of the prompts ask similar things of you as an applicant. In order to write a strong personal essay, you’ll need to spend some time introspecting. 

In this guide, we’ll go over personal statement essay examples from the Common App as well as personal statement essay examples of the Questbridge essay.

Personal Statement vs. Common App Essay

When reading these personal statement examples, you might wonder: what’s the difference between personal statement examples and Common App essay examples?

A personal statement is a broader category of essay that does not have to be affiliated with the Common Application. As you’ll see in the personal essay examples, a personal statement is just an essay that says something about you. The Common App essay is a specific essay that answers one of the Common App prompts. It is submitted to every college you apply to using the Common App. 

Since the Common App is so, well, common, it may be the only personal statement you have to write. However, there are other application portals, like the Coalition Application and Questbridge program. Some schools also have their own application portal, such as ApplyTexas or the UC application. Depending on each application platform, the personal statement formats will vary. Therefore, it’s good to look at personal statement examples from different application types so you can get a feel for how the personal statement formats differ. But, you’ll notice similarities that exist among the personal statement examples, no matter the application platform. 

As we continue this guide on personal statement examples, let’s dive into some personal statement examples prompts. 

Examples of Personal Statement Prompts

personal essay examples

In personal statement examples prompts, you may notice some themes. In general, all personal statement examples will provide students with an opportunity to explain a significant aspect of their personality or upbringing. 

Let’s look at some personal statement examples prompts, starting with one from the Common App: 

Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

And here’s one of the personal statement examples prompts from the UC application:

Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

Pretty similar, right? Both of these personal statement examples prompts ask you to think about an academic subject that you’re interested in and how you’ve interacted with that subject. If you’re someone who spends a lot of time participating in academic or research-based extracurriculars, these personal statement examples prompts might be good for you. Alternately, if all of your extracurriculars are NOT academic—sports, theater, artistic pursuits, a job—this could be a great opportunity for you to elaborate on whatever academic area you’re passionate about. 

These personal statement examples prompts are similar. However, that doesn’t mean that you can re-use different personal statements to answer them. For one, that UC prompt has a word limit of 350 words, whereas the Common App prompt is between 500-650 words. 

Here’s another of the UC personal statement examples prompts that is more unique and specific to the UC application:

Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.

Now let’s look to this prompt from the Common App personal statement examples prompts which is pretty singular to the Common App:

Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Both of these personal statement examples prompts encourage you to reflect on yourself and your life. However, they are very different questions that would result in different personal essay formats. 

Now, let’s look more closely at the Common App essay prompts before we look at Common App personal statement examples. 

Common App Essay Prompts 

The Common App essay prompts are the most frequently used personal statement format. As such, many of our personal statement examples are answers to Common App questions. Though schools often have additional short supplemental essays, most accept the Common App personal statement.

There are 7 Common App essay prompts and each should be answered in 500-650 words:

7 Common App Essay Prompts

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

According to Forbes, the most popular of the Common App essay prompts (at least in 2016) is the first one. This prompt inquires about an important aspect of a student’s background, identity, interest, or talent. It is very open-ended. Likewise, you’ll find a lot of personal statement examples that talk about an important aspect of a student’s background. 

One of the least popular of the Common App essay prompts is the third, where you’re asked to reflect on a belief that’s been challenged. This prompt gives you the opportunity to talk about something that has caused you to change, which is a really great subject for an essay. This prompt gives students the opportunity to weave in a lot of strong essay writing tactics: anecdotes (the moment that caused your perspective to change), an easy beginning-middle-end structure, and a window into your beliefs and why you believe them. Plus, if you answer this one of the Common App essay prompts, you’ll be among a minority of students doing so, which is always good when doing college applications! 

The fifth of the Common App essay prompts is quite similar to the third in that it wants you to think about something that caused you to change. In general, all of the Common App personal essay examples will be very open-ended and focused on telling a personal story. Self-reflection and personal growth will be a theme among the prompts. 

Tips for getting started

When writing the Common App personal essay, many people get bogged down in choosing which of the Common App essay prompts to write about. If you feel like you don’t have any college essay ideas, try brainstorming potential answers for each question. Is there a topic that speaks to you, or one answer that came especially easy when you were brainstorming? No one prompt is better than another. Simply put, the best of your college essay ideas is the one you’re passionate about writing and tells something about who you are as a person.

There are lots of places where you can find personal essay examples of Common App essays that worked. There are guides that point out the best personal statement essay examples and why they worked, personal essay examples that feature a student’s “voice and personality,” and personal essay examples that got students into universities like Johns Hopkins and UConn. If you’re looking for more college essay ideas and college essay tips, these personal statement sample essays are a great place to start.

Next, let’s look at the prompts for the Coalition Application personal essay examples.

Coalition Application Essay Prompts

The Coalition Application essay prompts are similar to the Common App essay prompts. Therefore, the personal essay examples that answer those prompts will follow a similar personal statement format. Both types of essays are also 500-650 words.

These are the Coalition Application prompts for this year: 

2024-2025 Coalition Application Prompts

1. Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.

2. What interests or excites you? How does it shape who you are now or who you might become in the future?

3. Describe a time when you had a positive impact on others. What were the challenges? What were the rewards?

4. Has there been a time when an idea or belief of yours was questioned? How did you respond? What did you learn?

5. What success have you achieved or obstacle have you faced? What advice would you give a sibling or friend going through a similar experience?

6. Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

Seems pretty familiar, right? If you read Common App personal essay examples and Coalition App personal essay examples, you may not be able to tell the difference. Remember, when you’re writing an essay, you want to make sure to answer the specific prompt. Don’t submit something that doesn’t answer the question! But, all of the personal essay prompts are intentionally open-ended so that you can speak to yourself and your experiences without too much constraint. 

If you read our personal essay examples, you may not be able to tell from the personal statement format whether they’re from the Common App or the Coalition App. This is normal! If it fits—for example, if you answer the prompt about a challenge you faced for both the Common App and the Coalition App—you could even use the same essay, with a few tweaks, to apply with both applications. However, applying to college isn’t the time to cut corners. Whatever college essay ideas you write about, make sure that you’ve put your heart into them. 

Next, let’s look at a slightly different personal statement format for our personal essay examples: the UC personal insight questions. 

UC Personal Insight Questions

personal essay examples

Unlike the previous two personal statement formats, the UC personal insight questions are shorter personal essay examples, and you answer more than one. The UC system does not take the Common App. So, you’ll have to answer these prompts if you want to apply to any of the University of California schools. 

These are the UC personal insight questions:

UC Personal Insight Questions

1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.

2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.

3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.

5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?

6. Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom.

7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

8. Beyond what has already been shared in your application, what do you believe makes you a strong candidate for admissions to the University of California?

The UC personal statement format is different from the Common App and the Coalition App. Since these questions are only answered in 350 words, you’ll need to be more narrow in the scope of your essay. Pick a specific anecdote or topic, and write concisely about it. 

For this personal statement format, you also get to answer four different questions. This means that each question can showcase a different part of who you are. This can relieve some pressure that students face. Instead of feeling like you have to encapsulate your most important values and stories in one long essay, you get four chances to talk about different parts of your life. 

We don’t have any specific UC personal essay examples in this guide. But, we do have more resources specific to UC schools—read our “resources” section at the end of the article for more. 

Questbridge Personal Essay

The Questbridge personal essay is also a different personal statement format than the other personal essay examples. For one, it’s 800 words instead of the Common and Coalition Apps’ 500-650, and there’s only one prompt. 

The Questbridge Prompt

We are interested in learning more about the context in which you have grown up, formed your aspirations, and accomplished your successes. Please describe how the most influential factors and challenges in your life have shaped you into the person you are today.

This prompt is open-ended. It allows you to talk about whatever aspects of your life that you feel are the most meaningful and relevant to who you are. 

Questbridge is also different from other applications because it’s not just an application portal, it’s a scholarship. The Questbridge College Match program matches low-income students with top colleges for a full ride scholarship. It’s very competitive and as such you shouldn’t shy away from telling meaningful, personal stories in your application. Think deeply: what has shaped you into the person you are today? 

Questbridge provides its own resources to help students with these essays. This worksheet for brainstorming helps you narrow down a topic and themes, and they also provide personal essay examples. 

Additionally, we’ve included Questbridge personal essay examples in this guide—keep reading to find out why they worked. 

How to write a personal statement?

personal essay examples

So while reading great personal essay examples is important, you’re probably wondering how to write a personal statement.


The first step of how to write a personal statement is brainstorming. Think about parts of your life and identity that have influenced you. What is your favorite subject in school, and why? How do you feel about your family’s religion or traditions? Have you ever had a job that taught you something—about budgeting, politics, growing up? Write about something you’re passionate about as this will allow the admissions committee to get to know you better. 

Free Write

The second step of how to write a personal statement is to free write. Don’t edit and don’t overthink. Just set a timer and try to answer a Common App prompt. Or simply write a story about your life that you care about. Any and all pre-writing is going to be helpful. 

Outlining Your Ideas

The third step of how to write a personal statement is actually outlining your essay. What’s the hook at the beginning that grabs the reader? What anecdotes or details will you include in the middle? What do you want the reader to know about you by the end? If you know where you want to end up, you’ll have an easier time getting there. 

Begin Writing

The fourth step of how to write a personal statement is to actually write! Again, don’t worry about editing (or length) too much at this stage. Just work on getting an essay written. Most importantly, do this long before the application deadline. You’ll want sufficient time for the next step of how to write a personal statement…

Revise! Wait a week, and then read your essay again. Are any parts clunky? Is there anything that doesn’t seem clear? Send your essay to a friend, family member, or college counselor for an outside look. We can guarantee that all of our personal essay examples underwent some revision. Remember, writing is rewriting. 

Let’s look at another important aspect of how to write a personal statement: planning. 

Planning your personal essay for college

One big step of planning your personal essay is reading personal essay examples! Before you start writing your personal essay, read personal essay examples. This will allow you to get a feel for the personal statement format and what makes these essays persuasive. You can also get a good sense of common themes of personal essays from personal essay examples.

Other than reading personal essay examples, an important step of planning how to write a personal statement is introspection. As this Forbes writer put it, “Whatever you write, it’s about you.” Even if you’re answering a short question about your intended major or favorite movie, those things still tell college admissions who you are. In a longer personal statement, you’ll want to make sure to connect your experiences and anecdotes back to what they have taught you or how you’ve grown because of them. 

But make no mistake: rather than Googling “what is an example of a good personal statement,” it’s far better to read our already-vetted personal essay examples. 

Personal Statement Format

personal essay examples

When reading our personal essay examples, keep in mind the personal statement format. For longer essays, this format will be pretty similar each time. For shorter essays, you have a little bit more leeway because you have less space, but keep the format in mind.

Personal Statement Format


Open with a hook to draw in your reader. This could be an anecdote, quote, song lyric, or just a really engaging statement. The hook should hint to what the rest of the essay will be about.

Central claim

This should come at some point in your first paragraph. What is your essay about? You don’t need to be super detailed, but you should give the reader an idea of what this personal essay will be about. Is it about what your extracurriculars taught you about community? Is it the moment you realized you didn’t want to be a doctor like your mom? Or is it how your upbringing in a desert area influenced your desire to work in sustainability? Whatever your main claim is, state it from the beginning. 


The next 2-3 paragraphs are the body of your essay. In the body, work on showing, not telling. For example, don’t just say, “Now, sustainability was the most important thing in my life.” Instead, “Now, instead of driving to school every day, I rode my bike, or took a bus. And every pizza box was painstakingly scraped and placed in the recycling bin.”

A good personal essay format is often chronological: it provides a clear way to structure your work that moves from beginning to end. If the hook is one influential conversation with your teacher that changed what you believed, the next two paragraphs could describe what happened next with your thoughts. 

Most importantly, describe some kind of change or progression. 


Your conclusion should restate the main thesis or topic of your essay and look towards the future. What did what you talked about in your essay teach you? How will it affect you as a soon-to-be college student? 

The personal statement format will be truncated with shorter essays, like the UC personal essay examples. Worry less about including whole anecdotes and more about using vivid descriptions for the points you want to get across. You should still try to hook your reader at the beginning, but do so with one line rather than a whole story.

Now that we’ve gone over the personal statement format, let’s take a closer look at how you start a personal statement before we dive into our personal essay examples. 

How to start a personal statement?

As we’ve mentioned, for the standard personal statement format, you want to start with a hook. 

A hook can be many different things. It can just be an engaging phrase, something that makes the reader want to keep reading, such as the following:  

  • “I never knew that last Thanksgiving would be the last time I saw my childhood home.”
  • “After 10 years of animosity, I can finally say that I understand my mother.” 
  • “The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen was on an old chalkboard in a dingy 10th grade classroom.” 

A hook can also be an anecdote. Put the reader right in the middle of a scene, and tell the story from there.

Remember, this part of the personal statement format is one of the most important. If you start and end your essay in a strong and memorable way, that’s what your reader will take with them. Keep this in mind as you’re reading the personal essay examples. All of these personal essay examples have compelling hooks—take note of each one and think about what makes it successful.

Personal Essay Examples #1

personal essay examples

The first of our personal statement examples for college is about how the student’s upbringing influenced their desire to study politics and human rights. The student showcases their outstanding academic work and demonstrates the values that matter to them. 

Personal Essay Examples #1

Hundreds of thousands were fleeing the country, its endless violence, and its senseless injustices. I was born in the midst of a war-torn Colombia in 1993. My mother and I were caught up in this cascade of refugee emigrants. In this way, failed political and legal human rights systems served as a foundation for my upbringing — an upbringing that has shaped my motivations, academic pursuits, and aspirations for a future in public service. I had experienced many obstacles from the outset, but none as impactful as growing up as an undocumented refugee in Florida, U.S. Having left both family and nation behind, from an early age, I witnessed the sufferings that come as a result of failed human rights protection systems. These pains began to catalyze an eager desire within me to prepare myself to be able to protect the most vulnerable and underrepresented.  

In the U.S., my mother always instilled in me the belief that I could do anything if I worked hard enough. She would always tell me, “todo es possible, si te esfuerzas.” Her words motivated me to keep overcoming and nourished within me a zeal for learning. I applied her words in my academics and on the football field, and I began to see the fruits of that labor. During those moments I felt grateful for how life was molding me, but I felt an even stronger gratitude for my Christian upbringing. It was this spirituality, imparted unto me by my mother, that grounded me in what I  consider to be the most important quality of all: Integrity. With time, I understood the importance of this project. My aim for social service and social justice, if not intertwined with integrity, would be, in my opinion, for naught.  

My life experiences brought about my interest in political theory. Notably, in analyzing how the philosophical interwove into the pragmatic fabric of the defenseless, using the case of the vulnerable populations that I belonged to as a lens. Research that, due to my desire to have my IB  Independent Essay embody that of undergraduate-level work, I had begun even before arriving on campus. For two years, I dedicated a significant amount of time to construct ideological models that would allow for political institutions to practice their vocation with integrity and virtue, devoid of corruption. The intent of working on what my advisor called “one of the thorniest dilemmas in political theory and the history of political thought,” was no accident.

I knew that the work was difficult. Yet, I have realized that nothing worth its merit is ever easy. In culminating my essay, I  was elated by its success. My approach and philosophy on politics, law, human rights, and what I  wish to continue studying, reflects this very work. It is about helping others, the right way.  Because, ultimately, I believe that sustainable political and legal practices arise from axiomatic virtue in action.  

What I wish to be, and whom I want to protect and serve, has everything to do with what my family and I had lacked. Someone that would have stood up for us. As a victim, refugee, and survivor,  my tribulations are my sense of purpose. They fuel me to stand up for others. Though I still believe that I can do all things, I also understand my limits and that, as much as I desire to, I cannot change the whole world. Notwithstanding, I feel an obligation to make the most significant difference that  I can for those in need. I believe that in acquiring the knowledge that a bachelor’s degree in politics can offer, I will be better equipped to address the social injustices prevalent around the world and do my part to construct, alongside my colleagues, a better tomorrow.

Personal Statement Sample Essay #2

personal essay examples

Next in our personal statement examples for college is an essay about a belief that a student is questioning: Catholicism. The student has to wrestle with their family’s staunch belief to figure out what they truly care about, and then muster the courage to tell their family. This essay follows this student’s struggle, and reflects on the challenge of having an unorthodox belief. 

Personal Statement #2

My journey of questioning the Catholic beliefs that my family members hold close to their hearts has been incredibly intimate and thought-provoking. For many years, I felt as if I had to manifest into the religious person I was not, merely to keep my parents content, and this demoralized me for a large portion of my life. Having to hear Bible verses in a church I was forced to sit in every Sunday and trying to find the validity in these stories is what my time in mass truly consisted of. Why can’t I bring myself to believe that these stories are true, when everyone sitting here is able to? 

Growing up in a hispanic household in which the statement “Gracias a Dios que…” (translation: “Thank God that…”) is expressed everyday, even in the most simplest occurrences, caused me to continue contemplating the veracity of these beliefs as I matured. Thoughts would course through my mind about the reasons why we were thanking God when he did not hand anything to us himself and my parents were working hard for everything that we had. Even when it came to our health, this statement would be reiterated. Trips to medical offices and recovering from illnesses were filled with this statement, and it aggravated me to witness this spiritual being getting the credit for a doctor’s knowledge and actions. Even more questions that I wouldn’t dare to ask kept consuming my thoughts, the biggest one being, “Am I wrong for believing that my family should not be thanking God?” 

One of the most significant aspects of my journey is the day I discovered that my grandfather is also an atheist, as it brought relief upon seeing that I was not alone in doubting the beliefs that my family members hold. However, once the conversation turned to speak about how wrong he was, this feeling of relief quickly brought out my underlying fear that my parents would view me negatively if they knew that I was not the dutiful and religious daughter they believed I was. I also didn’t remember the last time I had spoken to my grandfather, and a feeling of solitude washed over me once again. 

The denouement of my journey arrived when I determined that I did not believe in a god and was no longer afraid of not being accepted by my parents for this. I built the courage to inform them that I do not share the beliefs they hold dear to their hearts. When I realized that I did not have to believe in a god in order to be a good person, my fear of not being accepted went away, as I began to accept myself. 

The most ironic aspect of this journey is the amount of times my family has told me that I am wrong for being an atheist, when I have never told them that they are wrong for being Catholics. I may not partake in their beliefs, but I will always respect the fact that they have them. This journey has been crucial to my personal growth and has shaped me into a very accepting person. One of the biggest factors that has diverted me from having a desire to be part of a religious community is how exclusive they tend to be. It is not only the conceptual aspect of religion that I do not believe in, but also the way many humans have interpreted it and used it to justify discriminatory acts throughout history. 

Everyone in this world should be accepted for who they are, as long as they do not harm others. Being an atheist and dealing with the backlash of my family telling me that I am wrong has only led me to be even more passionate about the things I stand for. I implore that no one should put others down for being their true selves.

Examples of Personal Essays #3

personal essay examples

The last of our personal statement examples for college is a Questbridge essay. As mentioned above, the Questbridge essay is for a full-ride scholarship, and so this personal statement format has only one prompt and an 800-word limit. This essay uses vivid description and metaphor to show how something that seems very casual—Costco pizza night—came to represent the sacrifices the student’s parents made to support their family. Questbridge essays often discuss challenges and adversity. Read this last essay of our personal statement examples for college for an example of what makes a great college essay.

Essay #3: Questbridge Essay

I love Costco pizza. 

While I now know that this cheesy, greasy gift from God isn’t good for my arteries, that’s not why I feel so strongly about a Costco staple. 

My fondness stems from the lessons learned in between bites of tangy tomato sauce. 

Sprinting through the towers of bulk foods and between sample carts of Kirkland Signature pizza rolls, Costco was my Garden of Eden. While my parents stocked up on toilet paper and excessive amounts of Madeline Petites, my brother and I raced to the food court and secured our rightful spot in line among the sea of families. The enormous signs towered over us as we scanned the menu for our manna: a ten dollar, eighteen-inch pizza. 

We made our pilgrimage to Costco every Sunday as a family, and it was the only day we were all together. Gathered around the classic red table, we sat on the benches and feasted as if it were the Last Supper. In my eight-year-old eyes, it felt like it was. The recession of 2008 crashed down on us. Papi spent every waking moment in Atlanta, working as a sous chef at the Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead. Mami worked a regular nine to five Monday through Friday, but with school over at three pm, she was rarely home by then. 

Every weekday after school was the same routine. I wrestled with the front door, attempting to pry it open as my little brother sat on the ground, entranced by the wiggling worms. Together, we tackled our work, keeping each other company in the otherwise empty house. Friday came, and so did excitement at seeing my parents for more than eight hours. Romeo Santos crooned as my mother cleaned on Saturday mornings, and cartoons blared from the television. I was one day closer to entering the promised land: Costco. 

Before she even let go, I flung myself from my mother’s arms and onto the grey linoleum floors. My father slid ten dollars into my hand and winked at me, already aware of my intentions. I raced to the endless line while my brother secured our side table. Pressed up against the smudged glass, we watched, transfixed as gloved hands twirled the dough. My family had front row seats to the greatest show every Sunday. 

Surrounding the 18-inch masterpiece, we dug in immediately, burning our tongues on the scorching cheese. We laughed about the ‘locos’ that visited Mami’s job, and Papi recounted stories about famous people who dined at the hotel. Being able to finally spend time with my entire family brought me the greatest joy. Yet, while these memories are plentiful and endearing, they didn’t shape me into who I am today. It was the difficult conversations. It was over pizza that my father told us he had gotten a second job at Belk because one wasn’t enough. As tomato sauce rolled down my chin, my parents spoke in hushed voices about ‘mortgage’ and ‘loans’: words I couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Yet, it was at those glossy, red tables where my parents reminded me of their endless love and sacrifice. 

My parents gave up their dream home and countless hours of sleep so that I could attend a reputable high school. My home was empty after school because they worked overtime. As we chewed the last bites and headed out the door, my father would always tell me, “Mija, I don’t want you to be like me, working like a donkey for nothing. I hope you aren’t embarrassed of me.” It was then that, I wish I had the courage to tell him that he made me proud. I wish I had the courage now to thank them for everything. 

Pizza Sundays at Costco were more than a simple meal. They created the person I am today. I learned about the sacrifices my parents made, and the obstacles they faced that I couldn’t even begin to wrap my mind around. They were like the crust, sturdy and unfailing: the foundation and support system that I still rely on. Like the cheese, they were flexible and durable; they never collapsed under pressure and kept us together. They were essential like sauce is to a pizza; without them, there would be no family. Just like every pie, they too had been tossed around and molded, beaten but not destroyed. 

I love my parents. 

While they raised me and gave me weekly pizza dinners, that’s not why I feel so strongly about who they are. 

It’s the lessons they taught me that propel me to serve my community and lift others up. They embody true passion, sacrifice, and love and influence me to strive for greatness in my academic endeavors and relationships. They are the ultimate example to me.

What makes a personal statement stand out?

personal essay examples

What makes a great college essay? As you probably noticed in those personal statement examples, self-reflection is vital when it comes to writing a standout personal essay. Most importantly, be yourself! Reading personal statement sample essays for college is important to getting started, however, it’s not everything. You’ll need to consider your unique experiences, perspectives, and future goals in order to write your most meaningful personal essay. Write about a subject you are genuinely passionate about. 

Don’t be afraid to take some risks

The personal statement format we provided is just a guideline—there is no perfect personal statement format that will always work. However, don’t do anything too crazy—like rhyming the whole time or submitting 100 words for a 500 word essay. But, remember that we learn the rules of the personal statement format so that we can break them. As long as the essay is grammatically correct, interesting, and true to who you are, you can get creative. Look for creative personal statement sample essays for inspiration. 

Add your why

Don’t just make statements—explain why those statements matter. You can see this in all of the personal essay examples we shared. If something was meaningful to you, explain why. If you want to study a specific subject, explain why. When in doubt, answer why. You can see this demonstrated in the personal statement sample essays above: all of these personal essay examples explain why a student has a specific value or career goal.

Spelling and grammar

Make sure your spelling and grammar are perfect. Nothing kills an essay faster than a typo, and with all of the various spell-check tools available today, there is no excuse. To catch any typos or confusing phrases, read your essay out loud. Anything you stumble on or can’t say in one breath is probably worth revisiting. Look to the personal statement sample essays for guidance.

Additional Personal Statement Tips

personal essay examples

There are never too many college essay tips to make applying to college less overwhelming. So, to write an essay that impresses college admissions, in addition to reading college essays that worked and strong examples of college essays, here are some things that you can do: 

Additional Personal Statement Essay Tips

  1. Check if the schools you’re applying to have a different personal statement format, or look for any other personal statement requirements besides the Common App. 
  2. Start working in advance—reading guides like this one on personal statement sample essays is a great start. But, reading other materials on college essay tips and applying to college will help you feel more confident when the college admissions process actually begins. 
  3. Don’t just stop at these personal statement sample essays—read more examples of college essays that aren’t necessarily personal statement sample essays. Learning how to write a great supplemental essay, an essay focused on career or academics, or a personal statement sample essay in the UK are all valuable lessons. These New York Times-recognized personal statement sample essays about money and class are also exceptional—keep reading personal statement sample essays to help you craft your own!
  4. We’ve got a whole tab on different types of essay guides and Common App essay prompts, like the transfer essay. For more college essay ideas and college essay tips, check out those resources. 

And, speaking of CollegeAdvisor resources and college essay tips… 

Other CollegeAdvisor Essay Resources to Explore 

Here are more resources from CollegeAdvisor on how to ace your essays when applying to college: 

CollegeAdvisor Essay-Writing Resources

  1. Check out this webinar on how to write about your extracurriculars in your college essays. It can be hard to write about extracurriculars without falling into cliches or overdone sports metaphors—watch this webinar to learn more!
  2. This webinar explains how to translate your personal interests into a future major. Thinking about how to connect your interests to your future major is very helpful for essay writing, especially for the many “why major” supplemental essays you may have to write! 
  3. Looking at college-specific personal statement sample essays and supplemental essays can be very helpful—especially with an analysis of why they worked. UChicago’s essays are notorious for being unique and outlandish—read some of these personal statement sample essays to spark your creativity

Personal Statement Examples – Final Takeaways

We hope that after reading this guide on personal essay examples you feel more prepared to write great college essays. Our personal statement examples for college span many different topics and represent great storytelling across the board.

This guide on personal statement examples showcased college essays that worked, and answered questions like, “what is a personal statement?” “what are the differences between personal statements on different application platforms?” and “how do I structure my personal statement?”

By reading examples of college essays that worked, we hope that you have a better understanding of the personal statement format, as well as how to impress college admissions with stellar storytelling, structure, and grammar. 

Remember: the biggest thing that college admissions officers are looking for is to learn more about you. So, consider what makes you unique, and start writing!

personal essay examples

This article about personal essay examples was written by advisor, Rachel Kahn. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how can support you in the college application process.