Writing Personal Statements
What is personal statement?
The personal statement (also known as a statement of purpose) is an essential piece of your application to graduate or professional school. It usually consists of a brief history about yourself while addressing your academic and career goals. It offers the admissions committee to hear your “voice” and portray relevant experiences that showcase your strengths and preparation.
How to I get started?
- Use clear organization and the mechanics of an academic essay by including a strong opening or thesis, details to support your claims, and a clear summarization.
- Read each prompt carefully and make every effort to understand and respond to it.
- Remember that this isn’t a research paper, it’s a personal essay—using clear, easy to understand language is more important than trying to sound “academic.” The committee is trying to get to know YOU so be as authentic as you can.
What should I write about?
Here are some questions to help you shape your composition (allow yourself some time to free write and get your ideas flowing):
- What are your career goals?
- When did you originally become interested in the field?
- What people or life events shaped or influenced your goals?
- How have you learned about and explored the field?
- What work or volunteer experiences contributed to your knowledge?
- Are there gaps or discrepancies that should be explained?
- Have you overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships?
- What personal characteristics enhance your performance?
- What skills and traits do you bring to the program?
- Why are you interested in “x” school?
What are some other writing tips?
Be selective and don’t bore the reader with too much detail
Capture attention but do not use quotes.
Show the committee that you have thought carefully about your application and have specific experiences and reasons why you are applying to this particular program .
For example, medical school applicants saying they are good at science or statements such as “I like working with people.”
Readers may have differing opinions from yours—such as religion and politics.
See how it flows; remember that admission committees will read many of these, so make yours compelling and easy to read.
DO NOT rely upon spell-check. Have others review your statement.
- Your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect initially. Seek feedback and be prepared to edit .
- Useful resources include professors, friends, family, professionals you have worked with.
- You can also connect with the Hacherl Research & Writing Studio , located in Wilson Library’s Learning Commons area.
We are here to help!
As you develop your personal statement, remember that we are here to help! Ensure that your resume will earn you an interview by scheduling an appointment with a graduate school advisor or requesting written feedback via email.
Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short. Henry David Thoreau
Western washington university | wwu.
- Cost & scholarships
- Admission requirements
- Essay prompts
Want to see your chances of admission at Western Washington University | WWU?
We take every aspect of your personal profile into consideration when calculating your admissions chances.
Western Washington University | WWU’s 2023-24 Essay Prompts
Additional info essay.
Describe any special circumstances that created challenges or opportunities for you while in high school and what you learned from those experiences. This might include personal or academic challenges, being the first person in your family to pursue college, inconsistent grade trends, a grade point average or test scores that you feel do not reflect your potential, or anything else you feel the Admissions Committee should know about you and your ability to succeed in college.
College of Interdisciplinary Studies Essay
Describe your educational goals, academic interests, and the reason you are applying to Fairhaven College. The best length for the essay is whatever length it takes you to respond to the prompt in its entirety. If the essay you used for your Western application addresses these components, you can upload the same essay.
Help the Admissions Committee learn about you beyond what we can see in your academics and activity list by expanding on one of the prompts below. Your response will be reviewed for both admission and scholarship purposes.
Your essay must be your own work. Please do not use another writer‘s work, or make use of Artificial Intelligence software (Chat GPT, Bard, etc.) to write your essay. If plagiarism or use of AI is suspected or determined, your application may be deemed incomplete or withdrawn from consideration.
Most essays are about 500 words, but this is only a recommendation, not a firm limit. Feel free to take what space is necessary for you to tell your story. You can find tips for writing a strong application essay on our website.
Please select one of the essay prompts and provide your response. Provide your essay response below. Note: If you feel you have already addressed this in your Common App Personal Essay, please copy the relevant section of your essay into the essay box below.
Describe one or more activities you have been involved in that have been particularly meaningful. What does your involvement say about the communities, identities or causes that are important to you?
Share a meaningful experience and how this has helped shape you in your preparation for college. This could be related to your passions, commitments, leadership experience, family, or cultural background.
Admissions essay - topic of your choice. If you have written another essay that captures what you want the Admissions Committee to know about you, feel free to share it here.
What will first-time readers think of your college essay?
Writing a personal statement.
Before you begin, take time to think about the following key concepts you'll be writing about.
Tell a Story
As you explore these questions, look for a single concept that best defines who you are and/or where you are going. The unifying theme you choose is important: It will help you organize your ideas, select supporting evidence for claims of what you have achieved, and provide a roadmap for your readers. It will also convey to the readers how you see and understand yourself.
You might begin by asking yourself:
- “What are the qualities, values, goals, experiences, and activities that best define who I am?”
- “What individuals, experiences and challenges that have influenced my thinking and career goals?”
- “What are the most important things for the committee to know?”
- “What do I hope to achieve and why I believe my goals are worth working toward?”
Your Personal History
- Family and friends – those who influenced your values, ideas, interests, and goals
- Education - special programs, influential classes and/or professors, and independent research projects; informal experiences, such as books or lectures that have had an impact on your thinking and/or career choices
- Work experiences and internships – those that enabled you to develop/discover leadership abilities, introduced you to new ways of thinking about the world, taught you new skills
- Travel – opportunities to learn new perspectives, new ways of doing things; experiences that have made you aware of challenges and/or problems that you would like to help solve
- Community service – activities that put you in touch with people who are different from you, that enabled you to assume new responsibilities, that gave you a vision of what might be achieved
- Political activities – experiences that instilled an appreciation of the democratic process or, conversely, alerted you to the problems our society faces
- Talents – the importance of music, art, writing, sports, etc. to your life
Before You Begin
Read the assignment carefully and be sure you clearly understand what you are asked to write about.
Get to Know Your Audience
Review the application materials carefully. They often provide information about who will be reading your application as well as guidance on how you should think about your audience. Committee members may or may not have in-depth knowledge of your field.
If you are applying for a specialized fellowship, you can probably assume that readers will have some technical knowledge of your field. If, on the other hand, you are applying for a general scholarship – i.e. one that is open to students from a broad range of fields, you should explain briefly the points that would not necessarily be understood by a general audience.
A personal statement should flow naturally. That does not mean, however, that it should, in its final form, lack any organizational structure.
As one final step before you begin to write, you might sketch out a basic outline – i.e. a logical progression of ideas that you want to include. In the process of writing, you are likely to discover a better arrangement, and, as that happens, follow your instincts.
The initial outline can serve as a check that important ideas and critical points are not lost in the creative process. It should not, however, undermine the creativity, originality, or inspiration that accompanies the writing process. Let your personality – including a sense of humor – emerge.
Writing the Personal Statement
A few pointers to keep in mind as you write and, further down the line, as your re-write and revise your essay:
- Be yourself. Speak with your own voice, sharing your own ideas about your own goals. Ask others to read your essay and give you feedback, but preserve your own voice.
- Think in terms of telling a story: make your writing fresh and engaging.
- Write clearly, simply, and concisely. Write clearly and honestly about yourself and your aspirations.
- Open the essay with a strong paragraph that provides a framework and introduces critical elements that you intend to explore in the main body of the essay. Find a way to catch the readers’ attention.
In the main body of the essay
- Describe your experience in your field of study and convey your knowledge of the field.
- Refer to classes, conversations with experts, books you have read, seminars you have attended, experiences you have had.
- Make a convincing argument that you know something about the career you have chosen.
- Do not overstate your achievements. Be prepared to acknowledge your role as part of a team.
- Focus on a few, well-chosen examples, and use these to develop your ideas. Depth is better than breadth. Select experiences that have been most important, those that have shaped your development and defined the direction you have chosen.
- Be current. Concentrate on where you are now and where you are going.
- Address weaknesses in your resume by providing honest explanations – for example, feel free to explain that you had financial responsibilities that prevented you from participating in community service or assuming leadership positions.
- Avoid obvious clichés.
Once finished with the essay:
- Proofread and ask others to proofread. -Check spelling and grammar.
- Does the essay flow naturally? Is it organized? Logical?
- Does the main theme come through clearly? Is it powerful? Convincing?
- Have you provided relevant examples and explained them appropriately?
When choosing a major, you may find it helpful to know your strengths, interests, and personal values. Knowing your aptitudes enables you to choose a major that will likely be a good fit. Below you will find some activities designed to help you reflect on what is important to you. If you are feeling unsure about this process, consider meeting with an Academic Advisor or a Career Counselor .
Activity: Write your own personal mission statement
Write down words that are important to you. Try to complete the statements “I am…” and “I value…” For example, you might select words like creative, empathetic, discovery, independence, or knowledge . You may also consider questions such as:
- What motivates me?
- What are my goals (personal, educational, or professional)?
Next, use the words to formulate a brief personal mission statement. An example might read: I strive for knowledge and independence through discovery and creativity . Now that you have written your personal mission statement refer to it while you explore majors! ask yourself: how does this major align with my core values ?
For a more guided self-assessment, check out this FREE resource:
- See how your My Next Move results correspond to majors at Western !
Want some more help?
- During your first and second years, take a variety of subjects to earn GUR and elective credits. Exploring new subjects will help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, and new interests.
- Ask your family, friends, and supervisors what characteristics and skills they see in you. How might these relate to a major or career?
- Visit the Academic Advising & Student Achievement Center and meet with an advisor who can help guide you through the declaration process, look at timelines to graduation, and possible future quarter schedules.
- Visit the Career Services Center and take a career-related assessment to connect your interests and personality preferences to potential majors and careers. Then meet with a Career Counselor to discuss your results.
Major Application Short Answer Essay Questions
The Major Application Short Answer Essay Questions * provide students interested in applying to WWU's psychology or human development majors an opportunity to convey who they are and how their individual lived experiences, values, and goals align with their intended major.
Please respond to both prompts with no more than 250 words each (overall word limit of 500 words; exceeding 250 words per prompt will result in application points lost):
- In the Department of Psychology, we encourage and educate majors to apply psychological science to address societal needs and problems. What societal issues motivate you to pursue a degree in psychology? How and why? Please provide at least one specific example.
- Review the Psychology Department Values Statement and reflect on your own goals and values. In your own words, describe specific ways your participation in the major would contribute to creating this learning community for all members of the psychology program. These specific examples should derive from your upbringing, lived experiences, goals, personal values, and/or interests.
*These prompts must be submitted before your new major application can be evaluated. The application portal will open at the beginning of fall, winter, and spring quarter.
Can't access the Short Answer Essay Questions? Self-enroll in our Psychology Interest Canvas course
Curious about the Department of Psychology's DEI commitment? Check out our DEI Initiatives Webpage
Writing Tips to Consider
-Before crafting your response, reflect on your individual lived experience, strengths, academic history, etc.
-Address the prompts directly
-Think and write deeply, with full transparency
-Provide specific examples when possible
-Make sure who you are and how your goals/values align are crystal clear in your responses; consider what makes you a good fit in the Psychology Department
Remember: Quality of writing is not being evaluated; however, please use spell check and write in complete sentences to make sure your ideas come across as clearly as possible. Plagiarism of any kind is not tolerated.
Looking for Essay Response Support?
The WWU Hacherl Research & Writing Studio is ready to support your major application essay response writing process with a variety of connection options:
Daily Studio Hours : https://library.wwu.edu/rws Request an Appointment : https://wwu.libcal.com/appointments/rws Online Chat : https://askus.library.wwu.edu/chat/widget/9c7774dae5b758529d82f5bc433029ca Submit a Draft : https://library.wwu.edu/node/2341
Essay responses are the #1 way you can influence and improve your major application outcome.
Winter '24 Major Application
Available Friday 1/12 @ 8:30AM through Friday 1/26 @ 11:59PM
Apply in THREE easy steps:
Step #1: Submit a Major Application Webform
Step #2: Complete the Major + Graduation Requirement Review that matches your intended major
Step #3: Submit responses to the Major Application Essay Questions
Currently enrolled in PSY 203 as a transfer student?
Optional Step #4: Submit a Major Application Exception
Interested in how many students have been previously accepted? Past acceptance rates and data can be found here.
WWU Honors College
A community of students who want to expand their college experience with an interdisciplinary focus.
Fall 2024 Application
The 2024 WWU Honors College Application deadline has passed but the Honors application remains open. Late applications will be reviewed after all on-time applications.
Priority Deadline for Fall 2024: December 13, 2023 at 11:59 PM (Pacific Time).
Regular Deadline for Fall 2024 : February 13, 2024 at 11:59 PM (Pacific Time).
All on-time, complete applications received by the priority deadline will be reviewed for a final decision or rolled into regular admissions review by early February. All on-time, complete applications by the regular deadline will receive a final decision no later than mid-March.
The Honors College at WWU uses rolling admissions to evaluate and admit students as applications are received. While uncommon, we may fill our cohort prior to the regular admissions deadline, so it is advised to apply early.
Please note: To prevent the application portal from automatically timing out during your submission process, it is highly encouraged to have both the personal essay and writing sample prepared prior to opening your application portal.
Students New to Western:
- The Common App takes 24 hours after submission to appear in our system, so students will not have access to the Honors application until then.
- Complete the Honors application for new students linked below. The login will be the same account you used to submit your WWU application.
Current Western Students:
CURRENT Western students are those who are ACTIVELY enrolled in classes at Western at the time they apply. Do not use the Current Student Application form if you are not registered for classes at Western yet.
- Students applying for Fall quarters follow the Priority and Regular Admission Deadlines listed above.
Required Honors Application Materials
Submit a sample of your best, analytical academic written work. Honors is interested in a student's ability to analyze issues, books, and so on, to frame and develop an argument. The writing sample should be an academic writing piece that provides an analysis or logical reasoning response for the committee to review. Most commonly these kinds of papers come from English and history classes. Although we do not need to see the graded work, we do ask that you refrain from updating your writing sample and submit your original work for the committee’s review.
Submit a personal essay answering both of the below prompts in a single document. This may be written as a single essay, in which the word count does not exceed 600 words. Or you may answer the prompts separately (but in the same document) keeping to a 300-word limit per prompt.
- At WWU Honors, our motto is to cultivate community by striving compassionately for knowledge. How do you see yourself upholding these community values while at Western and beyond?
- The Honors College curriculum is a combination of interdisciplinary study (the First-Year Sequence and Senior Seminars) and disciplinary study (Colloquia). Our courses unite around common conceptual pursuits, such as the nature of justice, power, and love; the processes by which humans make decisions and determine values; and the relationships between individuals and the communities they inhabit. Reflecting on your lived experiences, in what ways will/should these types of discussions contribute to your college experience and your future goals?
Letter(s) of recommendation from a teacher or counselor are highly recommended but not required.
The Honors admissions team has access and will review all materials you submit to WWU - including letters of recommendation submitted with your general application. With that in mind, it is more beneficial for you to submit different letters of recommendation than the ones you have already sent to WWU.
Letters of recommendation can also be submitted by emailing them to [email protected] .
Apply for 2024
Summer and Fall quarter applications are open. The priority deadline is March 1.
Requirements and Application Tips
- Transfer Students
- How to Apply
- Guaranteed Transfer Admission
- Requirements and Application Tips
- Transfer Course Equivalency Guide
- AP IB and Cambridge International Credit
- General University Requirements
- Transfer Scholarships
Minimum requirements for transfer admission include a 2.00 cumulative transferable GPA and a 2.00 in the quarters prior to application review and enrollment. Because the number of qualified applicants exceeds the number of available enrollment spaces, meeting minimum requirements does not guarantee admission.
Get Ready to Transfer
- Review our Programs of Study for major-specific prerequisites and entrance requirements.
- Visit our Transfer Course Equivalency Guide to determine what you may be able to complete at your current college or university.
- Review the application checklist .
Admission to the University does not imply admission to a major or enrollment in specific courses. Many Western majors have a separate application process and/or selective admissions requirements, including completion of prerequisite coursework, elevated GPA, audition or portfolio review.
Art requires a portfolio
College of Business and Economics programs (excluding Economics) require an application
Design requires a portfolio
Early Childhood Education requires an application
Elementary Education requires an application
Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies requires additional application materials
Human Services requires an application
Industrial Design requires a portfolio
Music requires an audition
Secondary Education requires an application (post-baccalaureate applicants only)
Special Education requires an application
We’re looking for applicants who are academically prepared and will actively contribute to our campus community. That’s why we use a holistic approach when we review your application.
While academic achievement is the most significant factor in the review process, the Admissions Committee considers many factors when making an admission decision. Our comprehensive review process also considers clarity of academic goals, completion of major prerequisites and related experiences, number of transfer credits and distribution of current students, contributions to and/or experiences with multiculturalism, special talent, personal circumstances, and space availability.
How to Strengthen Your Application for Admission
- Complete college-level math and English before submitting your application for admission.
- Familiarize yourself with the requirements for your intended major and complete as many prerequisites as possible prior to transfer.
- Complete courses that fulfill Western's General University Requirements (GUR) whenever possible. (Note: Students who plan to transfer with a Direct Transfer Agreement (DTA) Associate's Degree from a Washington State community college generally have all their GUR fulfilled.)
- Help the Admissions Committee understand you better by submitting an essay that addresses your academic goals, related experiences, and any academic or personal challenges you have overcome.
- Students applying with fewer than 40 completed transferable quarter (27 semester) credits must meet first-year admission requirements and should demonstrate strong academic achievement in high school.
Writing Your Essay
While your academic performance is very important in the admission decision, we believe that ability, potential and success are not measured exclusively by grades. Your essay response helps round out the picture of who you are and helps the Admissions Committee better understand your potential for academic success and what you hope to gain from your Western experience.
Transfer Essay Prompts
A response to the first essay prompt is required for most students, and you may respond to more than one if applicable. (Note: students with a college-level GPA of 3.0 or higher are encouraged, though not required, to submit an essay.) The number of questions to which you respond is up to you.
Tell us about your educational and/or professional goals. What are you interested in studying and why? Describe any steps you've taken to prepare for your intended major, related life skills, enrichment activities, future plans, etc. In addition, feel free to address what makes Western Washington University a good match for your interests.
The optional essays provide an opportunity for you to share your interests as well as describe any special circumstances that created challenges and what you learned from those experiences.
- Western benefits from a student body whose interests and passions extend beyond the classroom. What interests or significant activities enrich your life?
- Describe any special circumstances or hurdles that have challenged you personally or academically, and steps you have taken to move beyond those challenges.
- Spend time reflecting before you start your application so you can compose a well-written essay that reflects you and your goals before you apply. The best college essays are those that make the reader feel like they know you, so write with authenticity.
- Don't be shy. Applying to college is great practice for eventually applying for jobs in the "real world," where you are expected to "sell" yourself. Have you made a positive difference in the lives of others, whether in your family, community, or school? Tell us about it.
- Express your pride and appreciation for cultural diversity and inclusion of all identities. Enthusiasm for and experience within diverse environments will be key to your success here at Western and beyond.
- Proofread! The content of your essay is important, but so is the quality. Ask a professor, parent or friend to read through your essay, or visit the writing center at your current college. They can catch errors and provide feedback that helps you present yourself well.
Transfer personal statement
All applicants must write a personal statement and submit it with the transfer application for admission. The personal statement should be a comprehensive narrative essay outlining significant aspects of your academic and personal history, particularly those that provide context for your academic achievements and educational choices. Quality of writing and depth of content contribute toward a meaningful and relevant personal statement.
You should address the following topics in your personal statement. Within each subtopic, such as Academic History, write only about what is meaningful to your life and experience. Do not feel compelled to address each and every question.
- Tell us about your college career to date, describing your performance, educational path and choices.
- Explain any situations that may have had a significant positive or negative impact on your academic progress or curricular choices. If you transferred multiple times, had a significant break in your education or changed career paths, explain.
- What are the specific reasons you wish to leave your most recent college/university or program of study?
Your major & career goals
- Tell us about your intended major and career aspirations.
- Explain your plans to prepare for the major. What prerequisite courses do you expect to complete before transferring? What led you to choose this major? If you are still undecided, why? What type of career are you most likely to pursue after finishing your education?
- How will the UW help you attain your academic, career and personal goals?
- If you selected a competitive major, you have the option of selecting a second-choice major in the event you are not admitted to your first-choice major. Please address major or career goals for your second-choice major, if applicable.
Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the University of Washington.
Optional elements (include if applicable)
Educational challenges/personal hardships.
Describe any personal or imposed challenges or hardships you have overcome in pursuing your education. For example: serious illness; disability; first generation in your family to attend college; significant financial hardship or responsibilities associated with balancing work, family and school.
Community or volunteer service
Describe your community or volunteer service, including leadership, awards or increased levels of responsibility.
Describe your involvement in research, artistic endeavors and work (paid or volunteer) as it has contributed to your academic, career or personal goals.
Do you have a compelling academic or personal need to attend the Seattle campus of the UW at this time? Is there anything else you would like us to know?
Content, as well as form, spelling, grammar and punctuation, will be considered. Suggested length is 750-1000 words.
- Online application: You should write your statement first in a word processing program (such as Word) or a text editor, and then copy/paste it into the text box provided on the application. All line breaks remain. However, some formatting may be be lost, such as bold, italics and underlines. This will not affect the evaluation of your application.
- PDF application (spring applicants only): Type or write your statement on 8.5’’ x 11’’ white paper. Double-space your lines, and use only one side of each sheet. Print your name, the words “Personal Statement” and the date at the top of each page, and attach the pages to your application.
Tell us who you are
Share those aspects of your life that are not apparent from your transcripts. In providing the context for your academic achievements and choices, describe your passions and commitments, your goals, a personal challenge faced, a hardship overcome or the cultural awareness you’ve gained. Tell us your story. Be concise, but tell the whole story.
Personal statements too often include sentences such as “I’ve always wanted to be a Husky” or “My whole family attended the UW.” Although this may be important to you personally, such reasons are not particularly valuable to the Admissions staff because they do not tell us anything distinctive about your experiences and ultimate goals.
Write like a college student
Your personal statement should reflect the experience and maturity of someone who has already attended college. It should reflect your understanding of the components of an undergraduate education, such as general education and the major. We want to read how, specifically, your academic and personal experiences fit into your academic, career and personal goals.
Keep in mind
- We want to know about your intended major and career aspirations, and we want to know your plan to get there.
- You have the option of selecting a second-choice major. If you do, be sure to address it in your personal statement.
- The UW strives to create a community of students richly diverse in cultural backgrounds, experiences, values and viewpoints.
All writing in the application, including your essay/personal statement and short responses, must be your own work. Do not use another writer’s work and do not use artificial intelligence software (ChatGPT, Bard, etc.) to assist or write your statement.
Connect with us:
© 2024 University of Washington | Seattle, WA
Art of the Essay: Writing the Body
Course number, course description.
This is an advanced level course in the art of essay writing--what some call the "personal essay" and others call "creative nonfiction." The etymological roots of the word "essay" mean simply to try, to make an attempt. In our essays we will be making honest attempts to say clearly and creatively what it is swirling around inside us.
Essayist Scott Russell Sanders says: Unlike novelists and playwrights, who lurk behind the scenes while distracting our attention with the puppet show of imaginary characters, unlike scholars and journalists, who quote the opinions of others and shelter behind the hedges of neutrality, the essayist has nowhere to hide. While the poet can lean back on a several-thousand-year-old legacy of ecstatic speech, the essayist inherits a much briefer and skimpier tradition. The poet is allowed to quit after a few lines, but the essayist must hold our attention over pages and pages. It is a brash and foolhardy form . . . which relies on the tricks of anecdote, conjecture, memory, and wit to enthrall us.
This course will challenge each of us to push the boundaries of the personal essay form, focusing particularly on "writing the body," surely a potentially brash and foolhardy topic if there ever was one. And perhaps something vital and necessary, close to the skin, something we rarely take the time to explore in words. What is the body? Our bodies? Mine? Yours? What are the connections between body and mind? Body and soul? Body and the food we eat, the liquids we drink, or the air we breathe? What is the history of our bodies? How do family and culture shape the ways we see and feel about our bodies? What do scars, moles, creases, hair, bones, pain, diseases say about who we are? What can we mean by producing a "body" of writing? Each of us will explore these questions and more and write and share three full revised and finished personal essays, each of them illuminations on the rich and intriguing possibilities in writing the body.
Books: Alice Wong, ed. Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century Kathryn Schulz, ed. The Best American Essays 2021
Requirements for Credit: Faithful attendance and participation in the work, writing workshops, and discussions of the class. Completion and quality of reflections, writing exercises, and essays, three longer essays revised, finished, and shared.
FAIR 201A and FAIR 202A, and 300-level writing course.