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U. of Wash. -- Transfer Application Essay (Personal Statement)


garrett 1 / 2  
Feb 13, 2009   #1
So I need some help trimming this down. It's recommended length is 750-1000 words. I'm fine with 1500 words, but this is about 2750 words. I don't want to leave details out, because ... well, it's one hell of a life I've lived, but I don't want to fill it with anything unnecessary or irrelevant.

Please help me out!
Post comments, whatever needs to be removed/edited/shortened, and I'll be greatly appreciative!

Thanks in advance,
Garrett

PS:
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)

When I was young, I was always told that I was very intelligent, and I did amazingly well (academically) throughout my first years in elementary school. In 5th grade, I began to take advanced math courses, which propelled me to complete AP Statistics and Calculus in tenth grade. In high school I took interest in foreign languages, but I was growing alienated with my peers. I was bullied during my childhood, but in high school I began to react explosively. I was filled with anger and hatred, amazed by the ignorance of my peers and stunned by how authority figures misunderstood me. I began to feel alone, and had few true friends. I started to get in trouble, growing closer to the druggies and rebels who seemed to understand me. My attitude soon caused me to slack on homework and get terrible grades. I stopped caring about school, but through all my delinquency and felonious capers, I never lost my desire to make something of myself - I just was constantly held back by my own actions. When I finally chose to do Running Start at Whatcom Community College, I didn't do well and ended up withdrawing from my second quarter. I was kicked out of my house and then dropped completely out of high school. Shortly after, a drug dealer called Jack tried to mug me. As he waved his gun in my face, I denied him the money I was carrying. He was completely perplexed; he couldn't fathom what would bring me to say no when I had a gun in my face. Even though I was able to keep my money, this incident made me realize that I had no real future unless I changed. After getting charged with a felony, I knew I needed change. I knew there was a happier future along a more reformed path, and so I changed directions. I dropped drugs like a hot potato, realizing that the time for action was right then, while I still had the opportunity.

I moved back in with my parents thereafter. I quit my fast-food job, and began to work at a local small business. The owner, Jeff, taught me about the future consequences of one's actions. He showed me the value of hard work; a high school dropout himself, it was the second business he's owned. He taught me that no matter how hard it may be, it is important to surround myself with people who share the same work ethic and integrity that I did. He helped me become confident with my desire to succeed, and helped me emotionally separate from the friends of mine who held me back. And when it came down to it, the hardest part of all of it was leaving the culture of my friends. I saw that they were headed down a different path than me, and if I didn't stick to mine, I might never have found my way back. I began to change my ways and focus on what I really valued.

I got my GED that summer, and then re-enrolled at Ferndale High School, to get some first year prerequisites done at Whatcom Community College while getting my high school diploma. When I spoke to people I met about my close friend Sam, who had always stayed drug-free, I realized how many people respected him for his life choices. I realized that I could respect myself if I did the same, and that I actually could change the path I was on.

While there's no way I will ever forget the suffering I put myself through, there's also no way I will ever forget the lessons I learned. While I could easily whine about how hard it was to overcome my setbacks in the past, that's not how I view it. I learned firsthand about a completely different lifestyle that everyone in my childhood assumed that I would avoid merely because I was "smart". I began to learn how to study, getting a GPA of 3.45 in my first quarter back at WCC.

My journey has opened my eyes to the humanity of all people (even Jack) and my experiences have taught me more about life than any classroom ever could have. It has taught me how important willpower is in overcoming obstacles. My mistakes have revealed me the world as it truly is. I began to understand human behaviors far better than my peers, and I quickly realized that the path I choose matters very much. All things considered, I know education and hard work is the path for me.

I see a career as the true challenge - how far I can go, how hard I can push myself and how much I can accomplish. I see it as an endless game in which I can continually improve my standing. I don't want there to be a limit to where I can go - I want to be able to push myself forever upwards. I want to prove to myself and all of my peers that even through my juvenile delinquency, I have never lost my ability to interact with the mainstream, and have begun to prove myself though my actions, performance, and self-reform.

I want to use my intelligence to analyze data and make decisions, and after I spent time studying my career options, I decided to change from linguistics to business and economics. I view linguistics as being too restrictive. I realized that a career in Business Administration would interest me forever. I want to be able to use my passion for excellence in a career, and I want to be able to use my human understanding to help manage workers and guide people to find their own desire for excellence (and work towards that.) I want to be able to lead, and while I know being placed in a leadership position will take time, I know that I will be there eventually. I see working as part of a company's administration as something that will always challenge and interest me. I see it as a never ending game, one that will never have a cap on potential and one that will never become repetitive or boring.

I chose Economics as my second choice major because it is a developing field that takes into account many aspects of human society. It requires knowledge and understanding of both economic theory and human behavior, and I believe that I can use the field to investigate better ways of punishing criminals , while developing theories to help rehabilitate criminals. I do not believe imprisonment is the proper cure for every crime (as exemplified by our nation having the highest prison recidivism in the world), and I believe that the field of Economics can help the mainstream understand the underlying causes of criminal behavior, and consequently lead to the development of better counseling and treatments that will help the offenders both know why their actions were viewed as wrong, and what they can do to avoid putting themselves in those situations again.

I've always wanted to go to the UW, so when I learned that the Business School and Department of Economics had very well-respected programs, I was excited. My two best friends, Sam and Ryan attend UW, and I want to go as well because they were always good influences and emotionally supportive. Having them close would provide me with support as I finally make the move away from home, and also provide me with a great resource for any questions I had about the UW. Since Sam is enrolled in the business program, I would also know someone right off the bat whom I could go to for help.

All in all, the move away from my previous lifestyle was long and strenuous. The consequences of my actions were harsher than I ever imagined, yet I will never let them hold me back. I will forever work to improve myself, to become more accepting and knowledgeable, and to help others. I will never give up or accept obstacles as unconquerable. I've become who I want to be, and I will always strive to succeed. I know what I am capable of, and I want achieve my full potential.

EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Feb 13, 2009   #2
Well, you certainly have lived an interesting life. Now, to cut this down to size, go through and cut out anything that portrays you in a negative light (i.e. most of the most interesting stuff). If you feel the need to explain some of the negatives that the admissions people might find out about, that's fine, but do you really need to belabor, for instance, the repeated drug use / weed dealing? Or keep mentioning that you hung out with people that society would consider bad influences? In these sorts of essays, you are essentially selling yourself, and these details do nothing to make you a more attractive applicant to the university. Otherwise, you've written a solid personal essay.
OP garrett 1 / 2  
Feb 14, 2009   #3
I've edited out 800 words, and now I'm working to reword the content (or at least provide adequate explanation) that makes me look like a bad person. I'll repost a bit further on :)

Thanks!

btw, my college GPA is about ~3.7 for the two years since I decided to reform, and I believe that shows my change from my high school grades (3.2 9th grade, 2.8 10th, 2.1 11th, dropout senior year).

Is there anything more I should say about that, or should I let my grades speak for themselves?
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Feb 14, 2009   #4
A 3.7 GPA is respectable. If you feel the need to give mitigating details about your high school grades, you could mention how high your GPA is now, but I'm guessing that the application reviewers will mostly only look at your last two years worth of grades anyway, so you should be okay letting your transcripts speak for themselves. BTW, the overall gist of your narrative, that you have reformed yourself after drifting into a sinful, dissolute lifestyle, is actually fairly good. People love tales of moral redemption. Just try to focus less on the old dissolute lifestyle and more on the new morally redeemed one. :-)
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,335 129  
Feb 14, 2009   #5
I love your writing style! It's no wonder that you don't want to follow their recommendation about word count. I used to be like that, too. I especially like, "through all my delinquency and felonious capers"... that is some good writing!

Now kill your darlings. In other posts, I've mentioned Stephen King's On Writing, his book about how to write well. He tells us that 2nd draft = 1st draft minus 10% as your refinement process of editing. King, like you, is good with words, so he hates to revise for conciseness. He calls it "killing your darlings."

Do not let your talent with words be your downfall! If they ask you to do it in 1,000 words, do it in 1,000 words. If they ask for 500, comply. Whatever hoop they give you to jump through, do it, because you are lucky to be so good with words. I bet you could convey this story in 10 words if you really had to, just like zooming out with a camera. Jump through their hoop. But keep that material for your autobiography.
OP garrett 1 / 2  
Feb 15, 2009   #6
Thanks for the replies and compliments! It's means a lot to me.

I've got the essay down to a "Final" draft that I may edit one more time.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,335 129  
Feb 16, 2009   #7
My mistakes have revealed to me the world as it truly is.

I want to prove to myself and all of my peers that even through my juvenile delinquency, I have never lost my ability to interact with the mainstream, and have begun to prove myself though my actions, performance, and self-reform.

I want to use my intelligence to analyze data and make decisions. andAfter some time considering my career options, I decided to change from linguistics to business and economics.

It requires knowledge and understanding of both economic theory and human behavior, and I believe that I can use the field to investigate better ways of punishing criminals, while developing theories to help rehabilitate them.

This is perfect, as you are a prime example of an intelligent thoughtful person who had traveled some time on the "wrong path" and then found your way back!

...and I believe that the field of Economics can help the mainstream understand the underlying causes of criminal behavior, and consequently lead to the development of better counseling and treatments that will help the offenders both know why their actions were viewed as wrong, and what they can do to avoid putting themselves in those situations again.

Again, this is great. Not only did you get yourself out, but now you're reaching back to give a hand to others in your previous situation. Just the fact of your shining example of what can be done, makes you perfect for your chosen field!

I've become who I want to be, and I will always strive to succeed. I know what I am capable of, and I want to achieve my full potential.

Maybe you could insert one small sentence at the end here, like ,"..and the University of Washington is the perfect next step". something like that for a good strong finish.

I'm pretty sure they'll know they're very lucky to have you as a student after reading this.

Good luck!

:)
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Feb 16, 2009   #8
Great second draft. Make sure you use tenses consistently, though -- you tend to drift between two different ones in the same sentence, as in the following examples I corrected for you:

"it is important to surround myself with people who share the same work ethic and integrity that I do ."

"I wanted to use my intelligence to analyze data and make decisions, and after I spent time studying my career options, I decided to change from linguistics to business and economics."

"and also provide me with a great resource for any questions I have about the UW"


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