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Oh god, please help/judge me (UC Berkeley Personal Statement)


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Is there anyone else out there that feels adrift in regards to Berkeley's famous "personal history statement" (or any other university's incantation thereof)? Perhaps one of you may be interested in a little reciprocal feedback situation?

Or perhaps there's a voyeur among us who's just interested in knowing others' so-called "personal history"?

In short, is there anyone willing to provide feedback on my aforementioned statement? Even after reading a number of examples, plus having read the prompt somewhere on the order of 1034989 times, I'm stlll not sure I'm doing this right. I've got really thick skin, so I want to be sure to provide as solid a statement as possible (as, I'm sure, do you all). I'm applying for comp lit, but I believe they all (particularly the humanities) use the same prompt.

Pretty please! I'll be so eternally grateful, and I'll provide the most thorough feedback to any sent to me as I can.

-a

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I'm starting to think no one actually knows why everyone wants to get into Berkeley other than "it's the thing to do."   Just a thought.. if you cant easily articulate why you want to attend.. you d

We had a fairly extensive discussion on this recently over on the Literature board, but I think it's best to refer to it by the full name on first mention and appropriate abbreviations each mention th

As someone who was having a lot of trouble with the personal statement as well and just got into NYU Wagner, I have to say the best advice I got was this: "What do you want to talk about? What does yo

I hate these things, but from what I understand, they can only help your application not hurt it for the most part. I am just focusing on my trials and tribulations working towards academic excellence, my non-traditional status and my how my activist experience inspired my passion for my field.

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If the swaps are still going on, I would like to get in on this.

I am also applying to Berkeley, for the Psych PhD program. Not sure what all to put in there.

I certainly have an 'interesting' background that few of my colleagues can relate to - well, not that I would know, I'm not one to make it known to others because I'm not sure how it would be perceived.

I'm from a less fortunate family, not poor, but certainly not well off. This in itself probably isn't all that unique - but low SES is probably something worth mentioning as a barrier, along with the fact that I'm a first generation university student. My 'unique' history starts with some of the often-seen consequences of being from a low SES family. My father's an alcoholic and we've had some pretty rough times over here as a result. He had no problem with us 'doing what we wanted' so at a young age (15) I was pretty into some hard drugs that became a pretty big problem until I was 19 or 20, caused some pretty serious personal issues. I could go on and on with detail but don't at all see the need. I mean, is this the type of stuff they mean when they say "What hardships have you overcome?" or "What obstacles have come up? Show how you've persevered"?

I'd like to think that if this stuff is too personal for casual conversation with colleagues, it's probably too personal for this letter. But I'm certain that it's a legitimate answer to the question "Were you in some way different from the majority of students in your class?"

I could also get into some other stuff...my thesis research was looking at the biological underpinnings of sexual orientation development. I could certainly tie that into my awareness of prejudices placed on others and my own attempts to elucidate true mechanisms behind a needlessly controversial issue.

I don't know...at this point I am just spewing thoughts...any comments?

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Tolman, that definitely sounds like something you should include, but I think the trick might be to focus on the outcomes rather than the obstacles themselves. You could sum up your adolescence as something like 'lacking direction and not encouraged to pursue rigorous academic achievement' or however you think you can be true to yourself without going into details. And then focus on how you managed to find direction and drive without it just being handed to you.

Meanwhile, I'm still stuck on mine...

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Tolman, that definitely sounds like something you should include, but I think the trick might be to focus on the outcomes rather than the obstacles themselves. You could sum up your adolescence as something like 'lacking direction and not encouraged to pursue rigorous academic achievement' or however you think you can be true to yourself without going into details. And then focus on how you managed to find direction and drive without it just being handed to you.

Meanwhile, I'm still stuck on mine...

Thanks...this is helpful. You've posed a nice way of working in the outcome without making it overly personal or opening up the possibility of adcomms stigmatizing me.

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I'm concerned that my personal history statement is not personal enough.. I start by talking about my Jewish heritage and my synagogue's focus on social justice, and then go into how that led me to my interest in promoting equality and human rights, and mention a few projects/internships/jobs i've had in this area. I tell a story about a client of mine who was homeless, when I worked in social services, and how it relates to my interest in improving public policy. (i'm applying for the MPP program.) My worry is that this amounts to a repeat of my resume, and I don't really have any personal barriers I can discuss. Should I mention how my undergrad degree in women's studies and anthropology focused on issues of inequality? do I need to state something specific about how my work with marginalized populations helped me to understand the barriers others face to higher education, or is that too contrived?

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What style are you guys writing this in? I was thinking of mostly reusing bits of my personal statement for the NSF GRFP--which ended up reading like an undergrad admissions essay and is pretty casual and a bit cheeky. I talk about being from a rural area, low income, and my mom's disability.

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Guys,

How many word or what was the lenght off yours PHS?

Thanks

I applied for Psychology and there was no recommended length. Mine was about 1.5 pages single spaced.

I know a few other programs that do (Goldman Public Policy, IIRC) asks for 1.5 - 2 double spaced.

Some general advice - just e-mail the grad admissions advisor. I was in constant contact with the advisor for Psych and he was incredibly nice and accommodating, even taking the time (unexpectedly) to speak with me on the holiday weekend. He gave me advice on my PHS, told me that I should be as personal as possible, it's my opportunity to totally expose myself and show the adcomm exactly where I come from and what I went through to get where I am. So if that helps for people trying to get their PHS together for other programs...well, good :)

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This is a bit of an unrelated question, but as it involves Berkeley I figured I would ask here. Perhaps a silly question, but do you think it's ok to refer to 'UC Berkeley' as just 'Berkeley' in the essays (I'm thinking about word count here). That goes for other schools too I guess, like NYU rather than New York University... just wondering what everyone else is doing.

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This is a bit of an unrelated question, but as it involves Berkeley I figured I would ask here. Perhaps a silly question, but do you think it's ok to refer to 'UC Berkeley' as just 'Berkeley' in the essays (I'm thinking about word count here). That goes for other schools too I guess, like NYU rather than New York University... just wondering what everyone else is doing.

I hope it is, since I referred to it as "Berkeley" with word count in mind. When faculty mentioned the school name in e-mails to me, that's how they referenced it, so I've kind of become accustomed to it. It reads better, too.

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This is a bit of an unrelated question, but as it involves Berkeley I figured I would ask here. Perhaps a silly question, but do you think it's ok to refer to 'UC Berkeley' as just 'Berkeley' in the essays (I'm thinking about word count here). That goes for other schools too I guess, like NYU rather than New York University... just wondering what everyone else is doing.

We had a fairly extensive discussion on this recently over on the Literature board, but I think it's best to refer to it by the full name on first mention and appropriate abbreviations each mention thereafter. University of California Berkeley first, then Berkeley. It's like referencing an author by their full name on the first mention and last name for the rest.

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