Personal/Reflective Essay

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Personal/Reflective Essay
The personal statement is more than just a mandatory part of your college application; it's your one chance to explain to college admissions readers why you are a good fit for their school. This is where you become more than just another name — it's where you become an individual, and where you can share your personality, your goals, your experiences, and where you can explain any opportunities or obstacles that have affected your academic record.
Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

Writing Format:

The personal statement is a preview to the kind of writing you'll be doing in college and on college placement exams.

  • Unknown Audience: You will be writing for a community of strangers.

  • Writer-Determined Topic: You will pick the topic for your response.

  • Dig Deeper: Analysis and reflection are key.

Answer the writing prompt in a 500-word essay (approximately two full pages). Use Times New Roman, size 12 font, and double-spaced. Pages must have 1-inch margins (top, bottom, left, and right). Your essay must have a title.

Ask Yourself:

  • What one word best describes my family, my community, or my school?

  • What opportunities have been available to me in my community or at my school?

  • What is the major issue confronting my family, school or community and what has been my role in addressing it?

  • How have I changed as a result of addressing this major issue, and what impact has that change had on my dreams and aspirations?

  • Why did I choose to do what I did to address this issue?

  • What personal quality helped me accomplish this?


Look at the prompt, and write down a quick answer to each of the "Ask Yourself" questions. When you are finished, consider your answers. What was the most compelling information you came up with in your answers?

Your Writing Process

Look at the process below. Do you follow all these steps when you write? If not, try to follow them as you're working on your personal statement.

  1. Brainstorm using levels of questions (see “Ask Yourself Questions” on page 1). (5 pts)

  2. Write a first draft.

  3. Get feedback from a non-family college graduate. Give reader plenty of time to respond. Adult must sign and date first draft. (10 pts)

  4. Revise for organization, clarity and meaning.

  5. Proofread your close-to-final draft to ensure there are no errors. Please spell-check.

  6. Final Draft must be turned in on due date. (35 pts)


FINAL Draft Due Date: _________________
Late work WILL NOT be accepted!

PLAGIARISM will not receive ANY credit

Sample Introductions:

Here are some sample introductory paragraphs. You're the judge--which one is strongest?

1. On September 16, 1990 I experienced the worst feeling of my life the feeling of incompetence. It was a feeling of indescribable disbelief. My mother, my only parent, fell down the stairs of our home. It was then that I knew that I had to become a doctor to help people who were suffering like my mother. By attending your college, I will be able to fulfill my dream and to give back to my community through medicine.

2. My father divorced us when I was in seventh grade. At that time, I was going through what my mother called my "difficult stage" because my world revolved around school, friends and boys, and "family" was often put on the back burner. I was unprepared for the resulting family crisis; my father, the man who nurtured my passion for art, literature and my love of languages, would no longer be a part of my life. At the time, I thought that I could not go on. Now I realize that my father's rejection, while extremely painful, gave me a resiliency and strength of character that I did not previously know I possessed.

3. It was once said that "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," and that is a motto that I have lived by for all of my seventeen years on this earth. It is a motto that I have based all of my academic endeavors on. It literally came into effect one Wednesday morning earlier this year. I got called into the House One Principal's office at our school. I walked towards the office a little pondered. I had never been called into that office before, because that principal only handled the math and science departments of the entire school. I doubted that the principal even knew me. When I entered the office I was greeted by a group of familiar faces that I knew from my physics class. Our principal told us to have a seat and relax. The reason that we were called in was that there was going to be a Science Competition happening that Saturday and the school really wanted us to enter into it. The principal said that she knew it was short notice, but based on our performances in all our science classes she knew that we could pull it off. She stated that we were some of the only high school juniors and seniors who had completed and gone beyond the required science courses. (I personally had already taken a semester of both Physics and Physiology that year, and two of the other girls that were in there with me had already completed AP Biology.)

Structuring Your Personal Statement

A typical two-page personal statement will consist of the following:

1. An introductory paragraph that provides your essay’s controlling theme.

2. 3-4 body paragraphs that develop your theme through examples and detailed experiences and build upon each other. The final body paragraph will contain your most valuable information.

3. A conclusion that widens the lens and wraps up your essay without summarizing or repeating what has already been written.

Sample Essay


Seventeen years ago, I came bounding into a world of love and laughter. I was the first child, the first grandchild, the first niece, and the primary focus of my entire extended family. Although they were not married, my parents were young and energetic and had every good intention for their new baby girl. I grew up with opportunities for intellectual and spiritual growth, secure in the knowledge that I was loved, free from fear, and confident that my world was close to perfect. And I was the center of a world that had meaning only in terms of its effect on me-- what I could see from a height of three feet and what I could comprehend with the intellect and emotions of a child. This state of innocence persisted through my early teens, but changed dramatically in the spring of my sophomore year of high school. My beloved father was dying of AIDS.

First Body Paragraph

Topic/Transition Sentence:

From the moment my parents told me, I confronted emotions and issues that many adults have never faced.

Development of ideas related to the topic sentence (values and philosophies)

Death of a parent, and AIDS specifically, forced my view of the world and my sense of responsibility to take a dramatic turn. I had already accepted my father's homosexuality and had watched through the years as he experienced both prejudice and acceptance related to his sexual preference. However, in this case I did not have the benefit of time to understand my father's illness since he decided not to tell me until he had developed full-blown AIDS. My role in the relationship was suddenly reversed.

End Sentence

Where I had once been the only child of my single father, I was now the parent to the debilitated child.

Second Body Paragraph

Topic/Transition Sentence

By the summer of my junior year, I had rearranged the structure of my life; as my father's illness progressed and he became increasingly incapacitated, he depended on me a great deal.

Development of ideas related to the topic sentence (evidence of responsibility)

Each morning before school I took him to the hospital where he received blood transfusions or chemotherapy to treat the lymphoma that was destroying his body. After school, I raced home to complete my homework so that I could later go to his apartment. There I cooked meals, cleaned up, and administered his oral and intravenous medications. Working with IVs became second nature to me. I found myself familiar with the names of drugs like Cytovene, used to treat CMV, Neupogen, to raise one's white blood cell count, and literally countless others. I came home each night after midnight, yet the fatigue I felt hardly touched me; I was no longer seeing through my own eyes, but through my dad's. I felt his pain when he was too sick to get out of bed. And I hurt for him when people stared at his bald head, a result of chemotherapy, or the pencil-thin legs that held up his 6'5" frame. I saw the end he was facing, the gradual debilitation the disease caused, the disappointment he endured when people were cruel and the joy he experienced when others were kind.

End sentence

I saw his fear, and it entered my life.

Third Body Paragraph

Topic/Transition sentence

My father died on July 28, 1995.

Development of ideas related to the topic sentence (accomplishment)

In the last year of his life, I was given the greatest gift I will ever receive: the gift of deep experience. I am now able to recognize the adversity that accompanies any good in life. My father taught me about loyalty, love and strength. But most importantly, he gave me the opportunity to see through his eyes, triggering a compassion in me and a sense of responsibility to those I love and the world around me that I might not have otherwise discovered.

End sentence

Not a day will ever go by when I won't miss my father, but I am so grateful for the blessing of his life.


Widen the lens beyond the topic at hand and tie up the essay

With this compassion and experience comes an even greater responsibility. Luke 12:48 tell us "To whom much is given, of him will much be required." As I move forward in my life, it is my hope that I can begin to see other people from two vantage points: theirs and mine. By doing this, I will begin to understand that with my every position or emotion there may be someone else standing at an equally valid, yet possibly opposite point. And that life, for them, has a different hue.

Feedback Questions for Adult Reviewer

Use the following questions as a guide for your readers.

Overall Impression
1. After reading my essay, what three words would you use to describe me?

2. After reading the essay, what do you think its overall theme is?

3. In what way (or where) is the essay most persuasive?

4. In what way (or where) is it least persuasive?

Structure and Organization
5. Is the essay organized in a logical fashion?

6. Are the transitions between paragraphs fluid and logical?

7. Do the paragraphs build upon one another, and move from smaller issues to more significant ones?

Grammar and Syntax
8. Are there grammar errors? If so, what are they?

9. Are the words used appropriate?

10. What other comments/suggestions do you have that will strengthen my essay?

6+1 Trait ® Writing Rubric

Name: _______________________________

Description: 6+1 Trait ® is the property of Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. Used by permission.






This paper is clear and focused. It holds the reader's attention. Relevant details and quotes enrich the central theme.

The writer is beginning to define the topic, even though development is still basic or general.

As yet, the paper has no clear sense of purpose or central theme. To extract meaning from the text, the reader must make inferences based on sketchy or missing details.


The organization enhances and showcases the central idea or theme. The order, structure, or presentation of information is compelling and moves the reader through the text.

The organizational structure is strong enough to move the reader through the text without too much confusion.

The writing lacks a clear sense of direction. Ideas, details, or events seem strung together in a loose or random fashion; there is no identifiable internal structure.


The writer speaks directly to the reader in a way that is individual, compelling, and engaging. The writer crafts the writing with an awareness and respect for the audience and the purpose for writing.

The writer seems sincere but not fully engaged or involved. The result is pleasant or even personable, but not compelling.

The writer seems indifferent, uninvolved, or distanced from the topic and/or the audience.

Word Choice

Words convey the intended message in a precise, interesting, and natural way. The words are powerful and engaging.

The language is functional, even if it lacks much energy. It is easy to figure out the writer's meaning on a general level.

The writer struggles with a limited vocabulary, searching for words to convey meaning.

Sentence Fluency

The writing has an easy flow, rhythm, and cadence. Sentences are well built, with strong and varied structure that invites expressive oral reading.

The text hums along with a steady beat, but tends to be more pleasant or businesslike than musical, more mechanical than fluid.

The reader has to practice quite a bit in order to give this paper a fair interpretive reading.


The writer demonstrates a good grasp of standard writing conventions (e.g., spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, usage, paragraphing) and uses conventions effectively to enhance readability. Errors tend to be so few that just minor touchups would get this piece ready to publish.

The writer shows reasonable control over a limited range of standard writing conventions. Conventions are sometimes handled well and enhance readability; at other times, errors are distracting and impair readability.

Errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, usage, and grammar and/or paragraphing repeatedly distract the reader and make the text difficult to read.


The form and presentation of the text enhances the ability for the reader to understand and connect with the message. It is pleasing to the eye.

The writer's message is understandable in this format.

The reader receives a garbled message due to problems relating to the presentation of the text.

Total Points: __________________

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