Personal Statement # 3

An Artful Explanation

Weaknesses in your file always need to be explained. But they rarely need to be the focus of your personal statement.  Read this great example, then see my comments afterward.

Often in my life I feel I have trouble finding the intangible line between confidence and arrogance. It's like trying to make a peanut butter sandwich:  if you spread the peanut butter too thin, you have something not worth having, but if you spread it too thick, you know you will regret it. I value a lot of different things in life, and in my attempts at mastering them I have usually been pretty successful. This success has produced a definite level of confidence in my own abilities, but too often I have suddenly felt the arrogance sticking to the roof of my mouth. This wouldn't be so bad but often times it makes it hard to smile.

When I was in junior high we had a very competitive block in basketball. One day we all decided that we would have a two-on-two tournament the next Friday to decide who was truly the best and to crush some over-inflated egos -- not mine, I was sure. People began to talk trash on Monday; all week long you could hear the taunts and the heckling. We dared each other to try this or that, threatened each other with monster stuffs and amazing dunks in the faces of our opponents.

Finally Friday came. The tournament lasted for about three hours, peppered with constant complaints, arguments, and threatened fist fights. To my own disbelief, we lost -- by one point! For the rest of the night I rationalized our loss by creating stories of how they must have cheated, accented by remarks about the character blemishes of their mothers. I just kept saying that we were still the best and it didn't matter that we had lost. By the end of the night no one was speaking to me, not even my partner in the competition. I finally snuck off and went home. All the way, I could feel myself choking on my excess.

That night I learned about hurting people, and hurting myself through arrogant behavior. I lost some respect from my friends that night, and it took me a while to be forgiven. But I learned that when you know you are wrong, sometimes it is best just to be quiet, and let others enjoy their moment. After that night, I was less verbal about my opinion of myself, especially when my "superiority" was not self-evident.

Over time, I thought that I had learned not to be arrogant, after all; my junior high friends still hung out with me, I had won "best sense of humor" as my senior superlative, and I was on my way to CAROLINA with the blessings of friends and family. It wasn't until my second year of college that I saw that silence is not the opposite of arrogance.

The first semester of my sophomore year I was pledging a fraternity, and subjected myself to all kinds of hardships and ills. I often turned in assignments late and with shoddy work. I didn't seriously think my grades would suffer; I figured I had done pretty well my first year, and by now I knew how to play the game. Even when I got poor grades, I didn't worry. The ordeal was over, I had survived the pledge process, and it would all be downhill from here. The second semester, I was majoring in Kappa Alpha Psi, not Business Administration. My D+ in Managerial Science, a statistical nightmare course, was a rude awakening. Suddenly I had to learn not only to be quiet about how cool I was, but to actually reevaluate my abilities and face my limitations. I decided never to chill again but to learn how to keep all of my priorities in balance. This has resulted in a constantly improving GPA my last 3 semesters.

Although I still get some peanut butter stuck to the roof of my mouth, I seem to be finding a more fluid balance with my own self confidence. This year in my Soc. 22 class my teacher has called upon us to answer questions on different historical facts. There was a core group of about four of us in a sixty person class who were the know-it-all fact gurus. We knew the date of Plessy vs. Ferguson and who founded the UNIA. But when my teacher asked "How does the black dilemma of assimilation vs. accommodation tie in with the Native American experience in the U. S.?" the responding pool narrowed to me. I was able to synergize all of these different historical atoms into one congruent molecule.

The following week, a girl from my class let me borrow two dollars in a bar. She said, "You know, I am only doing this because you are one sharp brother!" I felt then that I must be getting better at being confident without being arrogant. The two dollar cooler was extremely satisfying; it felt like a victory toast for the man I am learning to become -- one who is confident in his abilities but not arrogant with his character.

The main purpose of this personal statement was to explain how my client's sophomore year had substantially lowered his gpa.  Yet the story is so artfully told that this central fact never becomes the focus of the essay.  

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