Personal statements que deram certo

Personal statements que deram certo

No processo de preparar a sua aplicação a universidades americanas (e a algumas universidades canadenses), candidatos se deparam com uma tarefa super importante: a de escrever o personal statement, um tipo de carta pessoal diferente de qualquer redação que você provavelmente já escreveu. Essa redação exige não só um excelente domínio do inglês, mas também um alto grau de autoconhecimento. Basicamente, você tem até 650 palavras para mostrar a um comitê de admissões quem você é e o porquê de merecer ser admitido(a) àquela universidade. Questões complexas, né?

Como abordar o personal statement

No personal statement, você tem a oportunidade de contar a sua história de um ponto de vista específico: um momento, uma conversa, um interesse, uma experiência sem a qual você não seria você. Pense em uma ideia central que te permita revelar algo importante sobre os seus valores e como você os exerce em sua vida. Não é exagero dizer que essa redação pode ser um fator decisivo para o seu sucesso na aplicação: quando a competição é acirrada, o que se destaca é justamente a sua história pessoal que o torna diferente dos demais.

Para o personal statement, não há fórmula específica. Você pode ser criativo e até usar um toque de humor, se essa é a sua praia, ou também pode seguir um formato mais tradicional de escrita. O importante é que seu personal statement seja claro e coerente, com uma ideia bem desenvolvida (em vez de uma lista) que agrega (mas não repete) ao que suas notas, atividades extracurriculares e cartas de recomendação já revelam sobre você. Ainda, siga o lema show, don’t tell: em vez de se dar adjetivos como “sou trabalhador” ou “sou dedicado,” conte uma história que demonstre essas suas qualidades com exemplos. Um bom método é abrir a sua redação ilustrando uma cena que sirva de palco para a sua história.

E falando em show, don’t tell… selecionamos aqui quatro exemplos de personal statements de sucesso escritos por nossos alunos, com a versão final e primeira versão de cada. Vale lembrar que o desenvolvimento de um personal statement, assim como de qualquer redação de qualidade, demanda tempo e várias versões (na média, sete!).

Aluna #1 | Aluno #2 | Aluna #3 | Aluno #4

No Aplica!, focamos em cada etapa não só do personal statement, mas também de redações suplementares que são pedidas por cada universidade. Do autoconhecimento ao brainstorming e à revisão dos detalhes, acompanhamos nossos alunos durante todo o processo de criação e produção de redações de qualidade. Para agendar uma conversa de introdução sem compromisso com a gente, verifique a sua elegibilidade aos nossos programas de orientação e se inscreva clicando aqui. E caso já tenha começado a escrever suas redações, você pode adquirir pacotes avulsos de revisão em qualquer época do ano.

Aluna #1 – Dartmouth College, 100% de bolsa

Versão final

Mom’s backyard was always a place of fantasy. There were countless shelves overflowing with buckets of paint and books, dangling wires and tools, and two tables with stained flecks of the most beautiful colors. I will never forget the feeling I had every time I stepped into that scene—one that belonged to dreams and free imagination. I instantly became excited whenever mom invited me to help her out—we both knew that instead of helping I would start venturing with the art myself.

Throughout my life, this messy and creative world was an indispensable part of what I call home—a reflection of having unconventional parents. In pursuit of peacefulness and nature, they had left their jobs in the largest city in Brazil to move to a small village without electricity or many opportunities. Being raised in this environment of curiosity and imagination influenced my values as a young girl and helped me develop an unbreakable connection with art as well as my own artistic practice: painting.

I thought I could never find anything that I belonged to as much as art—but I was wrong. In high school, I discovered in physics a subject as intriguing as painting. It was a way of understanding the functionality of things, predicting behaviors, and answering questions I always had. The possibilities with which physics presented me were endless, and I felt just as captivated by learning about black holes or the aurora borealis as I did when discovering new painting techniques.

Although art was still a passion, by junior year, the idea of researching and teaching Physics became irresistible. However, if I were to attend college in Brazil, I would need to commit to one major, without the opportunity to explore other classes. How would I be able to choose between art, my lifelong companion, and science, my newfound passion?

As my interest in both grew, so did the pressure to pick only one field. I had the sensation I needed to fit in a box, limit who I was and detach myself from what truly made me happy. My parents told me I was too artistic to be in science, and my teachers could  not  understand why I would do something other than STEM. At school, people who enjoyed art hated sciences, while STEM-oriented classmates wanted nothing to do with humanities. I felt a harrowing loneliness—the most exciting parts of who I was and the potential of who I could be were being limited by others. I felt frustrated that no one I knew had a similar aspiration to combine distinct interests as I had.

But then, everything changed: on the same day that I painted one of my favorite pieces, Innocent Green Eyes, I taught my first physics class. Not only was I able to perfectly combine my passions seamlessly, but I realized that I had been waltzing between the two while my identity actually lied in their intersection. To abandon one of them would mean to let part of myself fade away forever.

After that day, I stopped trying to define who I am. I stopped trying to limit myself. I began to see that behind both of my interests exists a genuine and unstoppable intellectual curiosity, expressed both in understanding natural phenomena and exploring beauty and emotions on the canvas. In the end, the most important part of the equation is not what my interests are, but rather the process of discovery that they can engender. Now, I wish to continue sharing this unique perspective of the world with others.

In the future, I would like to become a college professor. By having an encouraging and inspiring academic environment, I envision my classroom to be just like mom’s studio: a place that is not focused on results itself (or even on forming artists perse) but on free imagination, intellectual curiosity, and the possibility of discovery in the process.

Primeira versão

10 years ago, my mom used to have an improvised art studio on the back porch of our house – it was really messy and the things were almost falling off the table and shelves. It was her favorite spot, she used to spend almost her whole day in there. I was always so happy when she asked me to be there, helping her – or pretending to so. My dad had a small table he used to draw the architecture projects he sometimes had. I used to love sneaking his special pens to draw – I thought he did not know.

Art was always something I was encouraged to pursue: my parents gave me their proudest smiles when I showed them my child’s pieces. I spend years drawing tirelessly, feeling happy and alive for seeing that shine in their eyes. As the years passed by, however, art became a child’s thing I wanted distance from. Following my brother’s steps, I began to stand out in STEM and to paint less and less. I had the highest grades of the class, math medals and was even part of a math scientific project. Even though I knew my parents were truly happy for me, it did not take long for me to realize something was missing – I missed that shine in their eyes.

I quickly started painting more than I ever did. The painting began to make me feel proud of myself, and I naturally decided I wanted to feel this for the rest of my life. At first, I wanted to be a fashion designer, but some years after I decided I wanted to be, like my father, an architect. I started to study to get in FAU-USP, the same college my father dreamed about studying in his time. It was a great dream and I had my entire life planned. However, in one of my online classes, a teacher presented physics in a much more interesting way than in high school – physics was not about only mathematical formulas anymore, but about understanding the functionality of things.

I was suddenly facing a new problem: how I would tell my parents I wanted STEM instead of art? Oddly enough, Dad was considerably sad but still supportive. However, I rapidly realized I had a bigger issue: what role would art play in my life now? This question challenged the whole identity I built for myself over the years: the family legacy art represents, the happiness art used to bring me and my entire perception of what surrounds me. For 10 years, I painted women and faces using pencils, watercolor, and crayons. Art was a world of options in which I spent more than five hours working on a single draw, analyzing faces and expressions. Art changed my perception of beauty, art helped me to feel more confident about myself. Art brought the strongest feeling of empathy and comprehension to me.

But it was not enough: I discovered a curiosity growing inside of me. I wanted to understand how the aurora borealis happens or black holes are formed. I wanted to know predictions, how things happen and why they happen. I wanted to know how to explain for the 6-years-old me, obsessed with drawing fashion women, the physics behind gravity.

Those two things, even though at first looked completely disconnected from each other, suddenly began to feel like who I am: the combination. The same curiosity I expressed for physics and natural phenomenons, I expressed for beaut and people and their expressions. And, more than ever, I realized I can be fascinated by black holes and, at the same time, about how colors mix with water in my drawings. The misunderstanding of my parents about STEM was not so ever something to keep me away from it anymore, but an opportunity to talk and explain things like the Earth’s magnetic field.

Aluno #2 – Dartmouth College, 70% de bolsa

Versão final

February 14th, 2011: first day of 6th grade. Our first period was Literature, where we were supposed to learn a bit about famous Brazilian writers and test our understanding of their texts with Mrs. Ivana, our teacher.

At least it was what we thought.

We were sitting in class when suddenly, a giant-bearded man peacefully walked in. He looked like he was in his early 20’s, but his thick round glasses definitely made him appear older. Our curiosity increased as he moved closer to the main desk, with his ripped jeans, muddy Timberland shoes, and a blue plaid shirt two times his size, while carrying an old Dell laptop.  

– Good Morning class! – said the strange man as he interjected our silence, with a soft enthusiasm in his voice – My name is Edgard and I will be your new Literature teacher – he announced while writing his name on the whiteboard.

At first, his manners were very similar to those of Mrs. Ivana. He talked in the same slow pace, and did the same group dynamics exercise as she did in her first class with us – consisting of the students introducing themselves with their names and a characteristic about their personality.

Minutes afterwards, however, Edgard showed me that he was more than a regular teacher. 

– OK guys – he said – your coursebook says that we need to study newspaper articles, and it also suggests us to write one. Well, I think we, as a class, have the capacity to do more. What do you think about creating our own school newspaper?  

The whole class got excited. For a 6th grader living in a considerably small city in the south of Brazil – with about 100,000 inhabitants – in which the downtown area is composed of only one street, and the Shopping Center is more like a corridor filled with stores than an actual Shopping Center, initiatives such as a school newspaper are only seen in American

movies, not in my school. For people here, unfortunately, dreams and expectations are as big as the town itself, and this reflects our education, as teachers and students are used to doing only what is expected of them. So, more important than the newspaper exercise itself was the message Edgard was sending to us: “you always have the capacity to do more. So if everyone is following the exact same pattern, don’t allow this to limit yourself – create your own rules!” This new mindset hit me so strongly that it made me change my behavior drastically. 

Since then, I stopped seeing the lack of resources in my environment as barriers, but rather as opportunities. The fact that we didn’t have a volunteer organization dedicated to education where I could make a real change in the public school system was a call for me to create my own. Not having many artistic and academic events at school, such as concerts and speeches, was a trigger to start the Student Council and run as its first president. These projects made me not only  come upon new passions that I would have otherwise never discovered, such as government and education, but also a more conscious leader, since I learned how I should – and eventually shouldn’t – talk to people in order to motivate them, guide a debate between polarized groups, and even maximize the gains of a project with a limited budget.  

When I heard the news that Edgard was leaving my school in the middle of 6th grade, I literally cried for a whole week. It was too soon and, at the time, I felt that he had given up on me. However, now I face it differently, as I know that he unconsciously presented me with a mission: to awake the same will to go beyond expectations in others, as he awoke in me.

Primeira versão

February 14th, first day of 6th grade. Our first period was Literature, where we were supposed to learn a bit about famous Brazilian writers and test our understanding of their texts.

At least it was what we thought.

We were sitting in class when suddenly, a young man with a giant beard peacefully walked in. Our curiosity increased as he moved closer to the main desk, with his ripped jeans, dark brown muddy Timberland shoes, old red Bazinga t-shirt (at the time I didn’t know what that meant), and blue coat – this one being the regular uniform used by employees at school, full of pockets and which on him was two times his size, while carrying a bunch of books with many post-its inside and a laptop. The evidence was clear enough…

– Good Morning class! My name is Edgard and I will be your new Literature teacher!

The first moments with a new teacher are always the same: they introduce themselves, saying what they did before arriving at the school, and what they most like about the subject they teach. Soon after, they do a quick group dynamics exercise in which the students also introduce themselves and say a characteristic about their personality. Teachers love those kind of things: they are great ice breakers. However, spending more time with Edgard made me realize that he actually wasn’t a regular teacher. He was so full of new projects and motivated to make them work. It was like he was always trying to find a way to go further in every activity it was intended for him or expected to do with us.

I clearly remember one day when he proposed that we create a student newspaper for our school. “OK guys”, he said, “your coursebook says that we need to study newspaper articles, and it suggests us to write one. Well, I think we, as a class, have the capacity to do more. What do you think about creating our own school newspaper?”. 

The whole class got excited. For a 6th grader, living in a considerably small city in the south of Brazil – in which the downtown area is composed of only one street, and its Shopping Center is more like a corridor filled with stores than actually a Shopping Center – initiatives such as a school newspaper were only seen in American movies, not in MY school. Nevertheless, for me the activity wasn’t the most important part, but the message behind it: “you always have the capacity to do more, so if everyone is following the exactly same pattern, don’t allow this to limit yourself – create your own rules!” This new mindset hit me so strongly that it made me change my behavior drastically.

Since then, I stopped waiting for opportunities to come and instead created my own, specially during High School, when I changed to a bigger academic institution. Creating Student Council, promoting speeches and concerts in school, managing new advanced classes.  If I couldn’t find an organization involved with education where I could volunteer and make a real change in public schools? I created my own too. These projects made me develop my leaderships skills, as I had to organize and motivate people with different backgrounds and expectations toward the same goal. Also, they made me realize that there are so many people in my with great potential to do good for others – they just needed a mentor, like the one I had through teacher Edgard.  When I heard the news that he was leaving my school in the middle of 6th grade, I literally cried for a whole week. It was too soon, and for a moment, I felt rejected by him. However, at the same time, I knew that I had a mission: to awake the same feelings that my teacher awoke in me. He left the school before he could finish the newspaper with us, but I took on that responsibility, finished it by myself and published it anyway: it was my way to show that we can always take one step further.

Aluna #3 – Georgetown University, 100% de bolsa

Versão final

Flying – the eternal envy that humans feel every time they see a bird in the sky, because birds are able to do something we never will. Humans have been able to build the wheel, the airplane, go to the moon, but life has never allowed us to fly. Maybe that’s because we have learned to belong to places and people.

Although, one day, we realized we could go and face a world full of possibilities and challenges. The brave ones left their lives to begin a new one, and since then they continued to fly. The ones who fly have a saying, which is, “to do is to be”, said by Kant. This means that the only way in which we can fully live is when we see different places, when we dare our minds to think something new, and when we fly.

Flying is my identity. Flying to other countries, flying among philosophy, flying to the future. My only limit is “to be or not to be”.

My luck (or possibly fate) started when I got lost in a spice market during my first exchange program. I was fifteen at the time in Schwetzingen, Germany. The market was full of Arabs that only knew one word in German, verkauf, which means “for sale”. These immigrants, who had also left their beloved homes for a wonderful and uncertain future in Germany, were the only ones around.

At that moment, when I barely knew the local language and was completely lost, I realized how small I was compared to a ginormous world. That subtle moment of fear changed my life completely.

While experiencing the frenzy of the Arabic negotiations, I had realized that everything I had learned may have no meaning for the reality of those people in the market. For example, ethics on economics does not come only from Adam Smith or Aristotle; in reality, the Arabic market was a symbiosis of different ethical references, which gathered modern and former concepts to form its own. It made me wonder if Karl Marx would have had the same importance on the debates of the eastern countries as he has had in Brazil, and whether or not Lenin was a Communist or communist. After some minutes just admiring this completely different world, I remembered I had to find my way out.

Half an hour later and after asking a lot of people for information, I found my house. This could have been just a cool story to tell my friends, but Philosophy taught me to observe, and I realized those thirty minutes would influence my next thirty years. Getting lost has made me realize I need to travel to discover all the wonderfulness hidden in the world. 

I travel to not be afraid of expressing myself, because as Dostoyevsky taught me: “to go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s.” Also, to listen to others, because with dialogue humans can create amazing things. 

I began to dream of taking trips to transport my mind to the completely unexplored, and from there live out concepts that I had previously only read in books. Challenging my mind to think with other’s perspectives has been my passion since I got lost in Germany, and until I found myself reading Schopenhauer, I realized I needed a break from Philosophy; the way I started facing life and behaving had gotten pretty dark with the influence of this Polish.

After two years of working on social projects in Brazil, understanding Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his “social contract” within my community, and realizing that Niccolò Machiavelli was right when he said “the endings justify the means,” I decided I was ready for philosophy again, so I found Plato. Studying him has made me question myself, and wonder “where do I want to go?” The future is uncertain, but I am sure that I will keep flying. 

Primeira versão

Fly, the eternal envy that humans feel every time they see a bird in the sky. We have been able to conquer a million things, but fly, flying life has never allowed us. Maybe because we have learnt to belong to places and people.

But a certain day, we realized we could go and face a world, full of possibilities and monsters. Then, the brave ones left their reality to explore a hypothetical one, and started flying. Life of the ones who want to fly is paradoxical, it is the necessity of exploring something new, while wishing to belong somewhere. Although, on the end of the day, we remember that “to be is to do”, Kant, and we realize the we need to experience before we land. 

Verkauf, Verkauf. My luck or fate, started when I got lost in Schwetzingen, Germany. I was in a market, full of arabs that only knew one word in German, verkauf, which is “for sale”. These syrians who had also left their forever beloved homes for a wonderful and uncertain future in Germany, were the only ones around.     

At that moment, when I was alone, barely knowing the local language, and completely lost, I had realized how small I was compared to a ginormous world. This subtle moment of fear has changed my life completely. While experiencing the frenzy of those arabic type of negotiations, I have gotten to realize that ethics on economics does not come only from Adam Smith or Aristotle, on reality the arabic market was a antitheses and symbiosis of different concepts. I also wondered if Karl Marx would have had the same importance on their debates as he has had on mine. Which led me to think if Lenin was Communist or communist? After some minutes just admiring this completely different world, I remembered I had to find my way out.

Half an hour later and after asking a lot of people for information, I found my house. This could have been just a cool history to tell my friends, but Philosophy has taught me to observe, and those thirty minutes will be influencing the next thirty years. Getting lost opened my mind and inspired me to travel. Travel to be able to express myself, because I feel the necessity to share my ideas, “to go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s”, Dostoyevsky. With debate we achieve brilliant new theories, and I want to be surrounded by them to the rest of my life. 

Taking a trip is not only changing places, it is to transport and integrate body and mind to the completely unexplored, and from there live concepts that were only read in books. Travelling on philosophy had been my passion since I got lost, until I found myself reading Schopenhauer, and I realized I needed a time away from it, things had gotten pretty dark with this polish. 

This encounter happened two years after my exchange program, but I could not handle stay away from philosophers, so I found Plato. Studying him has made me question myself, and wonder “where do I want to be?”. After two years working on social projects in Brazil, understanding the “social contract” within my community and realizing that “the endings justifies the means” I had decided to fly. This flight was the biggest adventure of my life, I had the opportunity to live one year in the USA, and I came back to Brazil as a whole new women.

Fly, this is it. This is my identity, it is flying to another countries, inside philosophy, to try to find something and also lose what I thought I knew. Fly to the future, where my only limit is “to be or not to be”. 

Aluno #4 – Babson College, 100% de bolsa

Versão final

I remember a family lunch on a Sunday afternoon in 2008 where I courageously affirmed to all my relatives that one day I’d become the richest man on earth. That statement was followed by laughter coming from every one of them as I stood there struggling to find the comedy behind those words; they were very real to me, but apparently not to them. I imagined myself wearing a suit, working at my own company, drinking coffee behind my desk, and rushing to mid-day flights on my way to important meetings. Having that busy, orderly lifestyle excited me, and it didn’t matter what other people thought, I was determined to make it happen.

Considering there are very few options to succeed economically and professionally in my hometown of Guararapes, a small city in the countryside of Brazil, the path to reach these goals seemed unclear and overwhelming. As my friends appeared destined to enroll in certain majors, I remained on the fence about making my decision. Nothing stood out as the perfect fit right out of the gate. I saw myself as a rebel who was not satisfied with filling the cliche expectations of becoming one more doctor or lawyer just because doing so was the safer bet. I wanted to be different from everybody and make a real difference.

It was only around junior year that the entrepreneurial spirit awoke inside me. During my summer break, I was given the opportunity to attend a business course in Vancouver, Canada, and by the time I came back, things had changed. My previous interest in managing a company became a passion, and the aspirations of impacting other people’s lives became a plan. Being abroad made me aware of the great things I could achieve when going back home.

My English speaking background served me well in coming up with the unique experience of managing a businesslike project by creating a Community English School for kids from 7 to 12 years old. Throughout the whole process of evaluating ideas, contacting school counselors, teaching English, searching for volunteers and dealing with the inevitable struggles of a first-timer, I found myself immersed in joy and curiosity, becoming ever thirstier for exploring an area of my interest and further utilizing the knowledge I’m provided with to cause change.

I am now driven and certain that my passion resides in being an entrepreneur. This certainty comes not only from gut feeling, but also from experience. By creating and managing a promising social project, I found joy in handling tasks that other people would find boring, threatening or exposing, and being able to notice the chain of happiness caused by my actions while doing what I love sounds like something straight out of a movie to me.

By making a difference to even one of the 68 children currently participating in the project I feel like all of the time and effort I put into developing this idea has paid off, and that is the philosophy I want to bring with me to the business field. I don’t see myself as just a go-getter – I am someone who looks to be an active part of the community, an influential opportunity creator and an inspirer. I want to create something new, improve social services, make my knowledge useful to the world. I was born to contribute in a large scale and have my voice be heard. 

I still have the stubborn, ambitious mindset of my 8-year-old self, but I am now certain that the objective that keeps me going is a tad bit different from my first major goal. The wealth I pursue now is that which I can only gain by learning from and sharing with those around me.

Primeira versão

Along my childhood, during family reunions and weekly Sunday lunch gathers, I would courageously affirm to all my relatives that one day I’d become the richest man on the face of the earth. That statement was always followed by laughter coming from every one of them as I stood there struggling to find the comedy behind those words; they were very real to me, but apparently not to them. I imagined myself on a suit, working at my own company, drinking coffee behind my desk, and rushing to mid-day flights on my way to important meetings; having that crazy, busy lifestyle excited me, and it didn’t matter what other people thought, I was determined to make it happen.

At first, the path to reach these goals seemed unclear and overwhelming. As my friends appeared destined to enroll in a certain major, I stood on the fence about making my decision. It felt too early to tell what was going to make my dreams materialize, and nothing stood out as the perfect fit right out of the gate; I saw myself as a rebel who was not satisfied with just fitting into the available options, I wanted to be different from everybody and be better than the average human being. That was the way I resorted to evolve everyday regardless of the imposed conditions and be whomever I wanted.

Amongst the complexity of a self-defining moment, during my junior year, an opportunity emerged to take a month long business oriented course in Vancouver, Canada, which I couldn’t refuse. The timing was impeccable, as, during this period of pursuit for my true passion, I found in business and entrepreneurship something that could take me to where I had dreamed of as a kid, and one that lit an everlasting fire of curiosity inside me. This trip symbolized the birth of my entrepreneurial spirit, and would, eventually, motivate the foundation of a social oriented project that created a company-like environment, giving me a hands on experience of my lifelong passion.

The interests I had developed over the course of my life about managerial thinking were at an all-time high, and I felt the need to take advantage of them for the benefit of disfavored people. All of a sudden, I became very aware of the problems in my community, and began to utilize the business perspective of facing social problems, providing services, to find a solution.

My English speaking ability served me well in coming up with a useful and unique way of contributing to my city’s educational system by creating a Community English School for kids from 7 to 12 years old. Throughout the whole process of evaluating ideas, contacting school counselors, teaching English, and handling with the inevitable problems, I found myself immersed in joy and curiosity, confirming my already fixed idea of being the owner of a service providing company.

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