Sample Personal Statement Essay
Theme: Finding the Silver Lining
Essay Prompt: 1 or 2
- Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
- The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
Can a beauty turn into a beast? In my first year of high school, my classmates would praise my porcelain skin and lovely face. My smile was like sweets, spreading dopamine to others. During breaks, girls would ask me to accompany them to grab snacks, and boys surrounded me asking for academic help. After class, we would play badminton, and I even joined the cheerleading team. Feeling like the center of my group, I savored school life.
Alas! Perhaps Maleficent envied my beauty and put a curse on me. When I awoke one fateful day in tenth grade, the surrounding areas of my eyes and jaw were covered with a painful rash. I didn’t want to go to class, as I feared tarnishing the impression my friends had of me. I couldn’t even look in the mirror: I didn’t recognize the horrid reflection!
The sorceress’s power was so strong that the medicines prescribed to combat my diagnosed Atopic Dermatitis (AD) proved useless. Rashes covered my whole body within months. The itch made sleeping impossible; I lived in a zombie-like state. My skin resembled a hundred-year-old tree bark, and when I shook my arms, scurf fell like snowflakes. I felt helpless and disappointed, not only with my physical condition, but also with my friends’ attitudes. They promptly ignored me, except to flash disgusted glances. I was alone, walking in the dark hallway listening to girls’ ringing laughter in the classrooms. The popular girl had turned into a monster.
After that semester, my skin condition became so severe that I required hospitalization. The AD had turned into Erythroderma, and doctors wanted to inject me with medicines that would cause lifelong reliance and have harmful effects on my kidneys and liver. I refused, unwilling to put my long-term health at risk for short-term alleviation of symptoms. Instead, I decided to only take the anti-inflammatory treatment while exercising, as my background in alternative medicine had led me to believe that allergies often stem from weak immune systems.
At first, I could only do gentle exercise like hiking. Every time I sweated, the itch felt like millions of ants running through my body. I had to grit my teeth and divert my attention to resist the impulse to scratch. The biggest motivator that steadied my faith in persistence is the last line of Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind”: If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? When I came across that line one afternoon, it was imprinted in my heart. I would repeat those words like a mantra when hope seemed dim. Determined to become healthy again, I continued exercising and finally witnessed miracles. The itch gradually diminished and I perspired more, which meant that toxins were being expelled. Then, I worked my exercise up to badminton and tennis. I am now fully recovered, with no recurrences.
However, when I went in for a routine hospital check-up, I noticed countless allergy patients in the waiting room. Eager to help, on weekends I started heading to the hospital to give them skincare handbooks and creams. Most importantly, I shared my recovery story to assure them that nothing is insurmountable. I also set up a social media platform to reach more people. In forums, patients’ parents could share their pains, solutions, preferred creams, and medical tips. Seeing their thankful notes and happy faces, I realized the worthiness of my experience.
This experience taught me that no matter how difficult adversity seems, confidence, persistence, bravery, and hope can direct me to light. No matter how powerful Maleficent is, good always trumps evil. This experience also helped me realize the importance of making social contributions, and I hope to found my own charity for helping AD patients in the future. Now when I look in the mirror, not only do I see a beautiful reflection, but I also see an altruistic, fierce, modern-day Princess smiling back at me.
This essay shows how a student, Claire, made the most out of a horrible skin condition. Rather than simply recount a series of objective events, Claire infuses her essay with allusions to Western literature and culture as well as her raw, unfiltered feelings toward the occurrences in her life to show her resilient spirit in the face of adversity.
The essay starts off with an allusion to the beloved fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. Claire immediately paints a picture for the reader—through use of figurative language and a simple recounting of examples—of what her life was like before the skin condition arose. The next paragraph continues by starting off with an allusion to another fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty, and describes the day when she woke up to find her once-prized skin peeling off. Claire again combines figurative language with her emotions to paint a vivid picture of her symptoms as well as her feelings toward her skin condition, making the experience more visual and visceral for the reader.
Claire then expounds upon the most important part of the essay—how she fought physical pain and the mockery of others to work toward improving her skin condition. Once she found a formula that worked, she altruistically wished to share this knowledge with others. She started speaking to those afflicted with the same condition at hospitals and on online forums, and even started her own social media platform for discussions on treatments. It is important that Claire not only triumphed over her own unfortunate scenario, but that she had the goodwill to help others in a similar situation. She lastly expresses her desire to one day found a charity to address this rare skin disorder, hinting at a noble, other-oriented long-term goal.
The essay does a great job of showing a pretty girl’s transformation into a “monster” who lost all confidence, and who then used her resilience to regain her physical beauty and to fight for the benefit of others. The essay starts with a description of how others saw Claire as beautiful thanks to her fair, flawless skin. Going full-circle, it ends with a description of how Claire sees her new self in the mirror. Rather than only focusing on the superficial like she did in the introduction, Claire now sees her positive character traits (i.e., her generosity, her strength) in her reflection and smiles back, clearly proud of who she has become.