An Exceptional Personal Statement

Another example of an applicant who was admitted to their dream school and stood out with a wonderfully sincere and powerful Personal Statement. We will keep sharing exceptional examples of how to do the process -- these matter so much.

-- Mike

I sat, pondering both the murky nature of the grey slush on the floor and my own murky future as my university applications sat on an admission officer’s desk somewhere.

Then I took an elbow to the face.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry!” Looking up, I beheld a kind smile squeezed between the passengers sardined in the aisle of the bus. Her name was Belle, and that cloudy afternoon I learned that she—like me—wrote mystery novels and that she had a learning disability that prevented her from reading lengthy texts.

In the months following I watched as friend after friend received their acceptances to outstanding universities. I was nervous about what made me one of the last to be accepted; my grades were much the same as theirs. “What was wrong with me” I often pondered, “how am I different?” As for Belle, we chatted occasionally when we arrived early to school and at lunch in a maintenance corridor that no one ever visited. Mostly I listened. I heard about how her disability made even basic assignments difficult, how she worried about her father’s health, and how the boy in her drama class was harassing her—I confronted a vice principal personally to ensure that this was stopped. When my nervousness about my applications really got to me one day, I asked her. “Do you ever think that maybe you’re not all that?” She responded “Well, I’m not all that.”

Coming from a family that puts a great deal of emphasis on success and prestige, I could barely comprehend her response, so I asked her why she thought that. To which she responded, “I have a learning disability. I’m only in grade nine, and I’m barely passing my courses so I’m probably not going to be all that. It’s not a condemnation. I just probably wasn’t born to be great. Most aren’t.” After that, we just stared at each other for a moment, and then she began to recite this poem:

"Tis true my form is something odd, But blaming me is blaming God;
Could I create myself anew
I would not fail in pleasing you.
If I could reach from pole to pole
Or grasp the ocean with a span,
I would be measured by the soul;
The mind's the standard of the man."

After she finished, we sat in the empty hallway, staring ahead at the wall, both pensive. At that time, I only had a vague idea of what she was trying to say.

By June my acceptances finally came, and I faced a dilemma of whether to leave my girlfriend for an Ivy League school or to stay and attend our local college. My family was vocal that they wanted the Ivy league and truthfully, I did too. Belle, however, decided the issue with only one wise sentence: “If it’s meant to be, what you leave behind will return to you.” With that my decision was made.

After the year ended I lost touch with Belle, but once in a while I would look her up. Eventually, I stopped searching. The night before I took my last exam, I saw a documentary about Joseph Merrick, a deformed man universally known as “The Elephant Man” who spent his life as an exhibition. The documentary ended with a recitation of Belle’s poem to me. This reminded me to look her up, at which point I found her Facebook profile only to see that it was covered with people saying their farewells. From what I could piece together she died of cancer. That night was spent crying in the hallway outside my apartment.

I left Belle behind, and she did not return to me, but her words did. I was blessed by her brief presence in my life. At fourteen, she had an uncommon grace and maturity that I at twenty two could not possibly approach. Sometime that night I came to understand her poem and her message to me of striking a balance between striving and humility, letting go of one’s own anxieties, and accepting one’s own limitations. I don’t yet live up to that standard of hers—few could in this world—but I do remind myself of it daily in the hopes that one day I will truly demonstrate her uncommon grace in my every action.