We’re sharing exceptional personal statements from last year’s applicants in hopes of illustrating that a good personal statement can cover a wide range of topics, but ultimately, showcases the student’s character, curiosity, and voice. These statements, written by students now enrolled at Emory University, were selected for a multitude of reasons, and we asked our admission staff to share what made each statement stand out.
This is one of a 5-part series on application writing; read Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, and Part 5 here.
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.
I am a dancer. It’s something I’ve only learned recently, but it’s my reality. My story is not one of the typical dancer: I was not the student who couldn’t sit still or pay attention in class, only to find focus and expression through movement. That just isn’t my story. I’ve always been able to sit still, stay engaged, and absorb what my teachers threw at me: I was a “good student”. I would sit at my desk, listen and learn, then go home and do my homework. But, the entire time I embodied that “good student”, I felt like something was missing. It wasn’t physical health—I stayed active and had a healthy diet. But, there was a disconnect between my mind and body. For the longest time, I felt like I lived from the neck up. I love to learn —I always have—but before dance, I was only focused on learning with my head.
At the beginning of my junior year I picked up dance. It started on a bit of a whim: I liked watching and I thought learning some moves would help me impress girls. So, I grabbed a like-minded friend and started attending classes. Once I began, I was surprised by how much I liked it. I had discovered something in it that I hadn’t been expecting; I found that I was learning with my entire body. Not to mention that at the same time, I was learning about my body itself—how it worked and moved, every little muscle and bone. My friend eventually quit, but I kept attending class, and began to add more and more classes to my schedule. I dove deep into dance and took every opportunity that I could find to learn. Dancing was like returning to my childhood, like learning to take those first steps. I was learning how my body moved, how to challenge and develop it, and how to interact with other people through a new language. It challenged me in a completely new way and I’ve loved every second of it.
Dance has changed my life. Through it, I’ve met people who challenge my beliefs about how the world works and how we all learn. It’s shown me many different paths and ways to navigate through life. I’ve found role models in my teachers who engage me mentally and physically and push me to grow; teachers who I am lucky enough to also call my friends. I’ve found a global and local community of hardworking, intelligent, and skilled people who are always hungry to learn; a community where everyone is accepted, because dance transcends everything—race, class, gender, religion, even language. And for the first time, I’ve found a community where I am fully supported and accepted; a feeling, it seems, that I had never experienced before. Through all of this, I have found a part of my identity and I am proud to call myself a dancer because of it.
Feedback from Admission Staff
As we read applications, each student has a team of admission staff assigned to their file to review it and assess the student’s potential. The staff responsible for this student’s file had this to say about the personal statement:
One of the first things that stood out to me about this essay was the consistent voice. I felt as though this student was talking to me in a way that felt very natural to them about something that was important to them personally.
The second thing that stood out to me was that, after I finished the essay, I understood why it was so important to this student to write about dancing. No matter how well written an essay is, if I can’t understand why a student felt it was important to write about the topic they selected, I feel as if an important component of the story was missing.
The third thing that stood out to me was the greater context provided. I got to see this student not only realize that they loved dancing, but also how they were different before and after that realization. All of these aspects together helped me feel as if I got a truly authentic glimpse into this student’s life and way of thinking.
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