Writing essays and Personal Statements

I have written several articles on crafting your personal statements. Scroll down for UK and Canada.


1a) Mark Montgomery has an excellent series on the new common app essay topics. 



1b) www.internationalcounselor.org has a series of posts dedicated to the personal statements (UK) and the essay in USA. There is a five part series on preparing your essay:

1c) All College Application essays provides supplimentary essays questions to a variety of colleges with some helpful hints. They also have $5.99 app for iphone and andriod. Price seems kind of steep, but I guess to have over 700 college essay prompts in one place, this may be worth it. 

1d) The Wall Street Journal asked deans of admission to write responses to their own essay questions:

2) UC Berkeley maintains a great step by step approach to the UC essays. It includes sample openings, bodies and entire essays with commentary. Also check out the UC website and UC Notes for great advice. California Colleges offers more advice.

3) Connecticut College has a nice selection of 12 sample essays that work. Hee is an older version with more essays. 

3b) Essays that matter from Tufts

3c) Essays that worked from Johns Hopkins

4) Tips on writing the essay from Bates College. Great stuff.

5) More great stuff: Parke Mouthe’s oft quoted essay for US News and World Report. Also read his interview here.

6) The Boston Globe ran a great article last winter exploring the purpose of the essay.

7) University of California has a long video on the personal statement.


8. Collegeboard has some great sample essays with critiques. They have a step by step guide organized as follows:

9. Insight into the short answer.

10. The big list of Essay questions from 2010



10 Opening Lines from Stanford Admission Essays

  1. I change my name each time I place an order at Starbucks.
  2. When I was in the eighth grade I couldn’t read.
  3. While traveling through the daily path of life, have you ever stumbled upon a hidden pocket of the universe?
  4. I have old hands.
  5. I was paralyzed from the waist down. I would try to move my leg or even shift an ankle but I never got a response. This was the first time thoughts of death ever cross my mind.
  6. I almost didn’t live through September 11th, 2001.
  7. The spaghetti burbled and slushed around the pan, and as I stirred it, the noises it gave off began to sound increasingly like bodily functions.
  8. I have been surfing Lake Michigan since I was 3 years old.
  9. I stand on the riverbank surveying this rippled range like some riparian cowboy -instead of chaps, I wear vinyl, thigh-high waders and a lasso of measuring tape and twine is slung over my arm.
  10. I had never seen anyone get so excited about mitochondria.



I have made a screen cast of completing your personal statement:

In the screen cast you may wish to pause to read some of the longer slides (these are actual personal statements with commentary).

I mention lots of helpful sites on one screen.

Actual samples of essays:

How to guides and advice:

  • •Very cool running commentary on the process.

Aside from the above, originally posted in the international counselor, check out feedback from admission tutors:


The University of British Columbia requires a personal profile. Need some insight? Try

Queens university requires all students complete a Personal Statement of Experience.

Other institutions, such as the University of Western Ontario or the University of Toronto, the Application Supplement is only required if a student is applying to certain faculties. Learn more here

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