Personal Narrative/College Essay Writing Assignment: College Essay/Personal Statement The essay you are about to begin essentially serves two functions as part of the
course curriculum. It’s a pragmatic endeavor in the hope that many of you—especially
seniors—will use the essay for one or more of your college applications. On the other
hand, it is also another attempt at writing a personal narrative essay as we’ve thoroughly
discussed the stylistic features and purposes of this type of writing. There are a variety of
options for this assignment, all of which have validity as part of the unit, regardless of
whether or not you submit your essay to a college.
This type of essay is perhaps the most daunting; you are asked to create an honest, vivid
approximation of yourself on paper in a manner that engages your reader and provides a
deeper understanding of you as an individual. You will read and hear many examples of
other students’ attempts at personal statements. We will also survey tips, advice, and
opinions from guidance and admission counselors, and others familiar with the nuances
of the college admissions process. You will have ample opportunity to reflect on yourself
as a person, and tap into creative thoughts to find the right voice for your audience.
Below is a list of choices for writing the college essay in this class. I’ve divided the
prompts into categories in the hope that you will address a prompt that fits the school(s)
where you expect to apply. There is an alternative essay for those who have already
written their college essay, those applying solely to a California State University,
community college or junior college, as well as anyone who is unsure about which other
prompt to select.
This essay should be between 500-600 words, depending on the prompt you choose. The
essay must be typed in 12-point font and double-spaced.
Note that these responses are relatively short. This type of writing requires focus, specificity, and exceptionally thoughtful reflection. Use everything we’ve practiced thus far regarding specific detail, description, writing lean prose, organization and structure. Remember, you are trying to construct a vivid, three-dimensional portrait of yourself in eloquent, convincing language.
Start with what you know; focus on what’s important to you, including changes/events/relationships that have been truly meaningful to you. The subject of this
essay is you, period.
Prompts: 1. University of Illinois prompts (see page 3)—choose one of the prompts and
write a 600-word response.
2. Common Application—choose one of the prompts listed below and address it in a
Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
Topic of your choice.
3. Program/Department Specific—address the prompt below in a 500-word
a. Briefly state your reason for wanting to attend _______ and how you came to select your major.
4. Prompt of your choice (school specific).
5. Statement of Personal Philosophy—system of thought/values to which you adhere described and/or illuminated in 500 words.
Personal Statement Questions on the 2011-12 Undergraduate Application
The University of Illinois has approved new prompts for the Personal Statement of the
2011-2012 application for undergraduate admission.
Applicants will now be asked to respond to two prompts instead of three, using a
maximum of 1,000 words total. The first prompt for transfer students remains the same as
last year. The Additional Comments box that follows the Personal Statement has been
expanded to 500 words to accommodate information students aren’t able to address