James Lick High School

Personal Statements & College Essays

Why They Are Important

  • Allows you to distinguish yourself from other students who may have similar or different credentials (grades, test scores, etc.)
  • Personalizes the process - connects students with their stories
  • Shows admission staff information from your "highlight reel", the most important parts
  • Leaves an impression of your character on the admission staff. This can be both positive and negative. Admission staff is fascinated by student stores; your most ordinary stories may be most memorable
  • Demonstrates language ability - vocabulary, sophistication of sentence structure, creativity in written form, etc. 
  • Serves as an opportunity to share student ideas and how his/her mind works
  • May complement other information (i.e. SAT Critical Reading/Writing scores)
  • Allows admission staff to see what type of perspective a student may add in the school community
  • Reflects a student's personal qualities

Presenting Your "Best Self"

  • Consider the prompt - be sure to address the question
  • Write several Drafts - don't wait until the last minute to write an essay
  • Consider your topic carefully - choose a topic & use unoffensive, appropriate language
  • Use reasonable size font - it's not a contest to see how many words can fit onto a page
  • Be yourself - don't try to get into the mind of the reader and anticipate what they read
  • You may seek out feedback from others, but in the end the essay must be in your own voice

At The End of Each Draft, Ask Yourself

  • What do you want the reader to know about you? Did you convey the information? Did you convey your enthusiasm and passion?
  • What has the reader learned about you through your essays?
  • What kind of impression did you leave with the reader?
  • Is this who you are? Could another person have written this?

Writing Your Personal Statement

The UC Essay Prompts

All freshmen applicants applying to the UCs must answer two essay prompts in a 1,000 words or less. You can allocate the amount of words to answer each question as you please, but it is not recommended to have your answer be less than 250 words.

Prompt 1: 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.

Your response to this prompt should not center around your neighborhood, family, or your school. You can definitely mention it, but ideally, what the UCs want to see is your discussion about your dreams, goals, and aspirations. Remember to talk about the things you have been doing so far to getting closer to reaching these goals and aspirations. No matter how specific or broad your goals and aspirations are, you should talk about how all your achievements and efforts have helped you towards your goals. You want to further this discussion by talking about steps you would take to continue these achievements during your time in college.

An effective way to talk about your world is to discuss about how your world has influenced your dreams and ambitions. If a person like a family member influenced you, talk about how they shaped you. Your description of the person should be brief because the essay is about you and not the person who influenced you. Anytime you talk about your environment or a person, always bring it back to you.

Prompt 2: Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?

This is the self promotion part of the essay which can set you apart from other applicants. They want to see the person beyond the grades and test scores. Think of it this way: If you were to make a movie about yourself, what particular scenes in your life would you include?

The freedom to write as only you can

The personal statement is very different from the AP essay and the SAT writing essay. The AP essay requires logic and evidence, whereas the SAT essay requires a 5 paragraph structure. The personal statement on the other hand gives you freedom to write in your own voice, just as long as you answer the questions. No one else should be writing this essay for you; this is an essay about you, your experiences, your values, your authenticity, and your philosophy. Some risk taking is needed because you are putting yourself out there for others to see.

Don’t let others write your story

Some colleges do take action to verify the authenticity of the personal essays. Colleges have their own verification process; others will employ companies to do a extensive plagiarism check. A non-cohesive story and application will automatically get you disqualified. It is important to be truthful in your essay and as well as every other aspect of your application. I had an admission person from Stanford tell me that they disqualified a student for not mentioning an incident regarding alcohol use during a summer program. That incident was mentioned in one of her recommendation letters, but she failed to mention it in her application. Her mistake had nothing to do with her personal statement, but it does show the no-nonsense take the admission committee have on fraudulent information.

Bragging Rights (see askmssun.com)

Take out a piece of paper or open up a word document, and start preparing your brag sheet.

1.) List and put a short description on everything you  do outside of school. This pertains to all activities starting from freshmen year to things you are anticipating to accomplish by the end of senior year.

Include these following things:

  • Sports
  • Religious activities such as church, mosque, temple
  • Language classes such as Chinese school, Vietnamese school
  • Music, dance, painting, martial arts lessons
  • Volunteer and community service experience
  • Competitions of any kind such as martial arts, spelling bee, chess, dance
  • Awards and other type of recognition by any organization
  • Jobs (this include working under the table)
  • Internships
  • Camps, conferences, and workshops
  • House chores such as caring for siblings for a long duration of time, paying bills, balancing family finances, caring for a family member.

Non-Discrimination Statement

East Side Union High School District prohibits discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying in educational programs, activities, or employment on the basis of actual or perceived ancestry, age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, parental, pregnancy, family or marital status, or association with a person or a group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics. East Side Union High School District requires that school personnel take immediate steps to intervene when safe to do so when he or she witnesses an act of discrimination, harassment, intimidation, or bullying.

Questions or complaints of alleged discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying or title IX equity and compliance concerns should be directed to the Office of the Associate Superintendent of Instructional Services at (408) 347- 5061 or 830 N. Capitol Ave, San Jose, Ca 95133.

Declaración Contra la Discriminación

El Distrito Escolar Unificado de Preparatoria East Side prohíbe la discriminación, el acoso, la intimidación y el abuso en los programas educativos, las actividades o el empleo por causas de ascendencia real o percibida, edad, color de la piel, discapacidad, género, identidad de género o expresión de género, nacionalidad, raza u origen étnico, religión, sexo, orientación sexual, estado de paternidad, embarazo o estado familiar o civil o asociación con una persona o grupo de personas con una o más de estas características reales o percibidas. El Distrito Escolar Unificado de Preparatoria East Side requiere que el personal escolar tome los pasos necesarios inmediatamente para intervenir cuando sea seguro hacerlo en caso de ser testigos de un acto de discriminación, acoso, intimidación o abuso.

Las preguntas o quejas de acusaciones de discriminación, acoso, intimidación y abuso o las preocupaciones sobre la igualdad y el cumplimiento de la ley con relación al artículo IX del Código de Educación deben ser dirigidas a la Oficina del Asistente del Superintendente para los Servicios de Enseñanza al (408) 347-5061 o a la siguiente dirección: 830 N. Capitol Ave, San José, Ca 95133.

Tuyên Bố Không Phân Biệt Đối Xử

(Non-Discrimination Statement)

Học Khu Trung Học East Side nghiêm cấm mọi hành vị kỳ thị, quấy nhiễu, hăm dọa và bắt nạt trong các chương trình giáo dục, các hoạt động hoặc trong công việc không được đặc trên cơ sở về tổ tiên, chủng tộc hoặc sắc tộc, tôn giáo, giới tính, khuynh hướng tình dục, cha mẹ, người mang thai, gia đình, hoặc tình trạng hôn nhân, hoặc liên hệ với một người hoặc một nhóm với nhiều điểm thực tế hoặc đặc điểm về nhận thức. Học Khu Trung Học East Side đòi hỏi nhân viên nhà trường phải tiến hành ngay các biện pháp can thiệp một cách an toàn khi họ chứng kiến các hành vi kỳ thị, quấu rối, hăm dọa hoặc bắt nạt.

Nếu có các câu hỏi hoặc khiếu nạo về sự phân biệt đối xử, sách nhiễu, hăm dọa và bắt nạt hoặc liên quan đến Title IX sự công bằng và tuân thủ các điều này xin qúy vị liên lạc với Văn phòng Phó Tổng Giám Đốc Đặc Trách Giáo Dục tại số điện thoại (408) 347-5061 hoặc địa chỉ 830 N. Capitol Ave, San Jose, CA 95133.