Personal Statements


The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories:

The general, comprehensive personal statement:
This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms.

The response to very specific questions:
Often, business and specific schools within a college ask specific questions, and your statement should respond specifically to the question being asked. Some business school applications favor multiple essays, typically asking for responses to three or more questions.

Questions to ask yourself before you write:

  • What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story?
  • What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
  • When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
  • How have you learned about this college—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people?
  • If you have worked a lot during high school, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre SAT or ACT scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
  • Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
  • What personal characteristics (for example, integrity, compassion, and/or persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success at your chosen college? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
  • What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
  • Why might you be a stronger candidate for this school—and more successful and effective than other applicants?
  • What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?


Applications require you to write the CEEB code (school identification number) for John F. Kennedy Catholic High School AND any classes you are taking (or have taken) that could/do earn college credit. Write down the CEEB codes on the correct lines.

John F. Kennedy Catholic High School: 481116

Seattle University (Honors Chemistry, Great Ideas, Honors Public Policy/Social Justice--12th): 4695

University of Washington (UW 131, UW World Languages, UW Math): 4854

Highline Community College: 4348

General Advice

Answer the questions that are asked

  • If you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar.
  • Don't be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It is important to answer each question being asked, and if slightly different answers are needed, you should write separate statements. In every case, be sure your answer fits the question being asked.

Tell a story

  • Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is to bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourself memorable.

Be specific

  • Don't, for example, state that the school has a strong reputation or an idyllic setting (they already know that). Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story.

Find an angle

  • If you're like most people, your life story lacks drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle or a "hook" is vital.

Concentrate on your opening paragraph

  • The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement.

Tell what you know

  • The middle section of your essay might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as some of your knowledge of the field. Be as specific as you can and authentic—folks want honesty.

Don't include some subjects

  • There are certain things best left out of personal statements. For example, references to experiences or accomplishments earlier than high school are generally not a good idea. Don't mention potentially controversial subjects (for example, controversial religious or political issues).

Do some research, if needed

  • If a school wants to know why you're applying to it rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention.

Write well and correctly

  • Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits.

Avoid clichés

  • Avoid clichés like the plague and even though your teachers will tell you a thousand times, avoid them!!


Personal statement (500-650 words)

The personal statement is our means of getting to know you and your means of creating a context for your academic performance. When you write your personal statement, tell us about those aspects of your life that may not be apparent from your academic record.

Choose one of the two topics below:

Discuss how your family's experience or cultural history enriched you or presented you with opportunities or challenges in pursuing your educational goals.

— OR —

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

Short response (250 words)

Describe an experience of cultural difference, positive or negative, you have had or observed. What did you learn from it?

Tip: You may define culture broadly; for example, it may include ethnicity, customs, values and ideas, all of which contribute to experiences which students can share with others in college. As you reply to this question, reflect on what you have learned — about yourself and society — from an experience of cultural difference.


Personal statement questions

Using about 100 words or less for each question, please address your experience in each of the following categories, keeping in mind how you can contribute to the future community of excellence at Washington State University or Eastern Washington University.

Leadership/group contributions: Describe examples of your leadership experience and share how you have significantly influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time. Consider responsibilities you have taken for initiatives taken in or out of school.

Knowledge or creativity in a field: Describe any of your special interests and how you have developed knowledge in these areas. Give examples of your creativity: the ability to see alternatives; take diverse perspectives; come up with many, varied, or original ideas; or willingness to try new things.

Dealing with adversity: Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to address this challenge. Include whether you turned to anyone in facing that challenge, the role that person played, and what you learned about yourself.

Community service: Explain what you have done to make your community a better place to live. Give examples of specific projects in which you have been involved over time.

Handling systemic challenges: Describe your experiences facing or witnessing discrimination. Tell us how you responded, what you learned from those experiences, and how they have prepared you to contribute to the WSU or EWU community.

Goals/task commitment: Articulate the goals you have established for yourself and your efforts to accomplish these. Give at least one specific example that demonstrates your work ethic/diligence.


We believe potential is measured by more than grades and test scores. Help us get to know you- what you’re good at, what inspires you, what you stand for, and why Western is the right place for you to continue your education. Please note: the number of questions you respond to is up to you.

• If you are interested in a particular academic area, tell us why. Do you have a dream job in mind? If so, we’d love to hear about it.

• Tell us how culture- either your own or your experience with others- has affected your outlook on the world. How have you contributed to a multicultural community and/or how will you promote multiculturalism at Western or in your career? (Required for applicants who wish to be considered for the Multicultural Achievement Program/MAP Scholarship).

• What do you want to make sure the Admissions Committee knows about you? (Explanation of academic record, passions/interests, memorable experiences, defining moments, etc.)


Each of these colleges uses the Common Application. The Common Application Essay Topics are:

Please write an essay of 250 – 500 words on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed below, and attach it to your application before submission. Please indicate your topic by checking the appropriate box. This personal essay helps us become acquainted with you as a person and student, apart from courses, grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will also demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself. NOTE: Your Common Application essay should be the same for all colleges. Do not customize it in any way for individual colleges. Colleges that want customized essay responses will ask for them on a supplement form.

_ _ Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

_ _ Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.

_ _ Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

_ _ Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

_ _ A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.

_ _ Topic of your choice.

Additional Information: Please attach a separate sheet if you wish to provide details of circumstances or qualifications not reflected in the application.

FINALLY (whew)—remember, private schools OFTEN have “supplemental” sheets and you’ll want to triple check to make sure you complete these as well!