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Personal statement for UW app; "How on earth did I get here?"

Mr Graves 1 / 1  
Feb 17, 2009   #1
The suggested length is 750-1000 words. Mine has close to 1,500. Is that bad? Anyway, here it is and thank you for taking the time to help give me some criticism!

For the statement, the prompts:
Academic Elements (required)
* Academic History
* Your Major and/or Career Goals
* Are you prepared to enter your intended major at this time?
* How will the UW help you attain your academic, career, and/or personal goals?
Personal Elements (required)
* Cultural Understanding
* Educational Challenges / Personal Hardships (if applicable)
* Experiential Learning (if applicable)

Personal Statement for the University of Washington

Red and blue rotating lights swept through the darkness of the night in the outside world from which I was no longer free to be a part of. As I sat and waited fearfully in the back of a Washington State Trooper patrol car, it wasn't so much the discomfort of the hard plastic seats and the cold metal of the overly tightened handcuffs that was on my mind (although these things were certainly hard to ignore). What was on my mind was a simple question; "How on earth did I get here?"

Let's go back a bit. When I was very young, it seemed that nothing could bring me down. I had a lot going for me as a child. I had a loving and stable family atmosphere that nurtured my growth and development. I excelled greatly both academically and socially at school. I was involved in intramural activities such as basketball, track, chess club, and safety patrol. K-5th grade was a triumph for me.

Just before turning twelve and entering into the 6th grade, the beginning processes of what would become a bitter custody battle between my Mother and Father for my older brother and I began. My brother and I were uprooted from our familiar hometown of Vancouver Washington and thrust into a totally new environment in the Camas school district, just about 10 miles from Vancouver. The transition was excruciating for me. This time marked the beginning phases of psychological and emotional troubles that I still struggle with today. For the next several years, I went back and forth between the homes of my Mother and Father. This was dictated by losses and victories throughout the painful procedures of such the terrible thing that a custody battle is. Finally it was settled that my Mother was to have full custody of me. At this time I was fifteen years of age. My Father was bitter and somehow blamed me. He moved away and we did not speak again until I was twenty-two.

My relationship with my Mother had by this time become estranged. I was diagnosed with Long-term depression and anxiety disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Social Anxiety. I underwent counseling and went on medication for a short while, but these things didn't seem to have much of an effect. The only element in my life at the time that could bring me solace was being alone in my room and writing songs on my guitar. I had a hard time concentrating in high school but managed to have some amount of success through my junior year and seemed to be on track for graduation. Half-way through my senior year, tensions between my parents (Mother and Step-Father) and I came to a breaking point. At the age of eighteen I left home and moved in with a fellow musician who had his own apartment. With no one to discipline me, and a lack of ability for self discipline, I soon found myself a high school dropout. I spent my time smoking marijuana and working toward my dream of becoming a professional musician.

Now back to the beginning of my story. I'm almost twenty years old, sitting handcuffed in the back of a patrol car. I had been smoking pot with some friends and decided to drive to my girlfriend's place at two in the morning. Unaware that one of my headlights was out, I started my car. Shortly after embarking on my trip I was pulled over by a State Trooper. I guess the dazed look on my face as well as the not so subtle scent emanating from my vehicle was a dead giveaway.

I spent a night in jail and the experience was a shock, like being splashed with a bucket of ice-cold water. My negative choices were catching up with me. I was at a fork in the road and I had a decision to make; did I want to continue down my current path? Or was it time to work hard in doing my very best to discover and live out my true potential? I chose the latter.

It was at this time that I turned things around in my life and began on a path that has lead me to where I am today. I made amends with my broken personal relationships including both family and friends. I went out and found a humble full-time job in order to save and plan for my next move. I thought about how I could apply the skills I had acquired as an active musician to a new career. Audio engineering seemed a good bet.

I worked hard and applied to the Art Institute of Seattle. Being accepted into the audio production program at AIS along with the idea of finally making it out of my hometown to come up to the great city of Seattle filled me with joy! I was finally on a good positive track and picking up steam.

At AIS, I experienced a great amount of success. I quickly networked and found an industry related job, as well as several prestigious internships at famous local recording studios and live music venues. Although this was great for the first year or so, I soon realized that the atmosphere and lifestyle of the music industry was not for me. What I longed for was a real education, not just an occupational credential. Although no one in my family has graduated college, I thought to myself, why can't I be the first? Even though I had come miles from where I had been, sitting in that patrol car on that cold and dark night, I knew that there were even greater things to come for me. I did not want to limit myself. I made the difficult decision to withdraw from AIS in order to begin working on my AA transfer degree at SCCC with the dream of transferring into the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. I'm very happy with my choice.

While at SCCC I made one of the best decisions of my life; I decided to get involved with Student Leadership. This experience has placed me amidst the most diverse and motivated group of people I've ever been exposed to. Aside from the leadership skills I've gained and the personal growth that has come with being involved with campus activities, I value most the opportunity I've been provided with to interact and learn from a multitude of amazing and interesting cultures. Yet another fantastic benefit is that I've made a great amount of progress in managing my anxiety and fear of public speaking. I have the privilege of serving the student body as the Executive of Communications on the SCCC Associated Student Council. In this position, I chair the Communications Committee and report to the ASC on a weekly basis. These are things that I never imagined I'd be capable of, but through leadership training I have learned that indeed I am capable!

If admitted to the University of Washington, I would major in Asian Languages and Literature with a Chinese concentration. Of direct value to my course work and preferred major at the UW is my active involvement as a member of the Taiwanese Student Association. SCCC doesn't offer Mandarin Chinese courses, but joining the TSA has been an effective alternative. My independent studies of Mandarin have been helped along by the kindness of the Taiwanese students who have been willing to be my conversation partner. My immersion in both the language and culture of Taiwan has been both enlightening and fun!

The University of Washington is my top transfer choice. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the UW is a prestigious institution of higher learning from which I would be very proud to earn a degree. Secondly, due to my financial situation it is in my best interest to attend an in-state university.

My personal goal is to graduate with honors from the UW. With determination and hard work I know I'm capable of achieving this. Having earned my degree, I would start out by getting a good job teaching English abroad, preferably in Taiwan or China. In this setting I could hone my foreign language skills and gain valuable experience. Eventually I would even hope to attain a graduate degree from the UW in order to become a high school teacher or possibly an International student advisor. I'm happy to believe that there are so many wonderful possibilities ahead for me, things that would have only seemed impossible just a few years ago. Given the opportunity, I feel I could make great contributions to the Campus community of the University of Washington.

Thank you so much for your consideration,

Mike Graves

shine lee 1 / 36  
Feb 17, 2009   #2
wow, I've never read any essay longer than yours. It makes me exhausted to read ^^ sorry
The first problem is that your essay is too long. Normally, good essay is about 700>900 words. The ad-coms usually read a lot of essay like this everyday so when they read a too long essay, I'm sure that they will not be pleased no matter what how good your essay is.

The second problem is that your essay is full of unnecessary things. Remember your essay should review one aspect of your life or two.. But you shouldn't write everything about your life: your history, your relationship, blah blah.. Reading your essay makes me think that you write 3 or 4 essays, not 1.

So first, you should reread your essay and shorten it. It's the best thing you could do right now.
Sorry if I sound too harsh! It's just my opinion
Good luck!
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Feb 17, 2009   #3
The good news: you have a very, very interesting and well-written narrative essay here. You tell a solid story of a person who fell on hard times but who decided to turn his life around. Great job.

The bad news: "Mine has close to 1,500. Is that bad?" Yes. Yes it is. If you had gone over the maximum word count by, say, 75-100 words, the ad reviewer might not have noticed, but an extra 500 words in a paper meant to be 1000 is going to be noticeable right away. In fact the reviewer will probably notice this even before he starts reading. So, his very first impression of you will be that you are someone incapable of following simple instructions, which is not a very good first impression to make on the person responsible for deciding whether or not you get into the university.

So, you need to cut down the length of the essay ruthlessly. I would suggest you focus mainly on the material in the first half of the essay, in which you talk about your troubled relationship with your parents. You need to mention a bit of this background to explain how you ended up in the cop car, but you can probably condense a lot of it. Really, in these sorts of essays, it is good to focus as much as possible on the positive aspects of you. Your troubles with your parents, while interesting, don't really give the admissions officers a reason to think you would be a good student. So, only mention enough to support the narrative idea that you have turned your life around.

Good luck.
Noob in writing 5 / 25  
Feb 17, 2009   #4
Good essay. My suggestion is to try to focus more specificly on one point thus try to cut down the length a little bit. You can definately write more than what they suggest you to write, but don't overdo too much.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,334 129  
Feb 17, 2009   #5
What if you took away the first two paragraphs, and worked the point of it into the paragraph which is now # 5. Like, "One night when I was almost 20 years old, I found myself sitting in the back of a police car..."

It's a very well written essay, and hard to find where to cut it down without making it excruciating for you!

Good luck!

OP Mr Graves 1 / 1  
Feb 17, 2009   #6
Thank you to all of you who have thus far given me feedback. Keep it coming!


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