Winter Break Podcast: A Favorite Personal Statement
Spivey Consulting Law School Admissions Advice
Published at : 03 Jan 2021
In this podcast, Spivey Consulting's Anna Hicks reads one of her favorite personal statements of all time. Please note that this essay includes mention of illicit drugs, abuse, and violence.
The full text of the personal statement is included below. Please note that all names have been changed for anonymity, and this essay is shared with permission from the applicant. Thanks for listening, and happy holidays.
I was eight-years-old when my older sister Maria handed me an envelope, put me on a city bus, and told me to bring it to my mother and not to look inside. Of course, I looked. Then I panicked. The envelope was full of heroin.
I ran to my other sister Jenny’s house—I am one of five siblings, with four sisters all between 10 and 15 years older than me—and asked her what to do. My first instinct had been to go to the police, as I had been taught in school, but I didn’t want my mom to get into trouble. Jenny calmed me down, then put me back on the bus, alone, and told me to do as I was told.
When I got to my mom’s house, she wasn’t home. Instead, I was greeted by her boyfriend, Charlie, who was furious that I’d made him wait for the drugs and became violent and abusive. When my mom got home, she was angry that I’d made Charlie angry, and more abuse followed. This was always how things happened between the three of us—I’d accidentally make Charlie mad, and that would make my mom mad. They both became violent when they were angry. When this dynamic became too much, I would show up at one of my older sister’s houses, but sooner or later I would be sent back to my mother. My father, for his part, had died of an overdose when I was four years old. I don’t remember him. My earliest memory is the day he died—the ambulance lights, the EMTs, then bits and pieces of the funeral.
At sixteen, I’d finally had enough. After a particularly violent outburst, I ran to my sister’s house, called the police, and reported Charlie for assault. My mother arrived in a rage, demanding I drop the charges. When I refused, she disowned me. I remember her eyes darkening, her face hardening. She told me, “I have no son.” That was the last time I saw her—three years later, she died.
After that night, I moved onto the couch in my sister Maria’s living room along with her husband and three children, then dropped out of high school so I could work full-time and pay rent. On my eighteenth birthday, I signed a lease for my own apartment, and I set out on my own. I got my GED and enrolled in community college, but my work schedule, constantly changing, made it difficult to ever consistently attend my classes. Professors sometimes gave assignments that required me to buy materials I couldn’t afford, or travel somewhere I wasn’t able to. When they asked me why I didn’t complete the assignment, I was too ashamed to explain why or to ask for help. I ended up leaving school after just two months.
The turning point for me came when I moved in with a new roommate and her three-year-old son Sammy. I care for children deeply, and Sammy grew to see me as a parent figure. I remember one day taking him to the park—I taught him how to swing, and we rolled down a hill, laughing and grass-stained at the bottom before sprinting back up to do it again. I ended up carrying him the six blocks home, his head on my shoulder as he slept in my arms. I knew then that I never wanted to raise my voice in anger towards Sammy, or hurt him in any way. I knew I could be different from my family—that I did not just have to be the product of my circumstances.
Over time, I managed to get some success in taking college courses, and it started to build on itself. I took it one step at a time, and before I knew it, I had finished my bachelor’s degree. This step had once seemed impossible to me, but now it was a reality. Today, anything seems possible. Just a few years ago, my world was so closed off, but now I have a wonderful support system of friendships, and my future seems limitless. After growing up in deeply unfair circumstances, I developed a strong sense of fairness, and I hope to take that into law school and into a career as a lawyer. As a child, I never would have imagined myself where I am today, but I know now that I have the ability to achieve my dreams, and becoming a lawyer is the next step in that pursuit.
When I was a kid living in La Habra, I sometimes spent my days collecting cans from dumpsters and bringing them to a recycling center, earning 90 cents per pound. Sometimes, I would earn enough to buy a massive Mexican bread cookie from the local bakery. A couple of years ago, I went back to my old neighborhood, seeing it all with new eyes. I stopped into the bakery and bought one of those bread cookies, but it seemed so much tinier than I remembered. I wasn’t sure if the cookie had gotten smaller, or if I had just gotten bigger. In so many ways, the neighborhood seemed just the same. It was me, I realized, who had changed.