50 I Believe Essay Topics

To better train students on how to present their personal opinions on subjective matters, teachers will assign what is known as an “I Believe” or “This I Believe” essay writing assignment.

Designed to provide the reader with insight into the writer’s character, these essays are typically written in first-person point of view. The writer shares their beliefs on a particular topic – ranging from religion and politics to more personal subjects such as love and happiness – and offers supporting arguments for why they hold these beliefs.

The Challenges of Writing “I Believe” Essays

This type of essay prompt is a welcome break from more detail-oriented or researched-based writing assignments for many students. However, “I believe” essay writing assignments aren’t always easy.

It can be challenging for students to articulate their beliefs in a clear and concise way that isn’t argumentative or offensive to the reader. Students may also struggle to explain their reasoning behind these beliefs in a thorough and not overly simplistic way.

Despite these challenges, “I believe” essays can be an excellent opportunity for students to share their thoughts and feelings on important topics and learn more about themselves in the process.

Tips for Writing “I Believe” Essays

If you’re given an “I believe” essay assignment, here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Start by defining what it is that you believe. This may seem like a simple task, but it can be challenging to identify your core beliefs. If you’re struggling, start by jotting down a list of topics that are important to you – from politics and religion to family and friendship.
  • Reflect on why each topic is important to you. Think about the reasoning behind your choices and how these reasons evolved over time. After all, your core beliefs are likely to have changed or grown since you reached adolescence.
  • Determine which of your beliefs are the most important. Focusing on developing thought processes that support your beliefs. For extra help, consider sharing these thoughts with a trusted friend or family member for advice.

By reflecting upon your core beliefs and developing clear arguments to support them, you can craft a powerful “I believe” essay that will truly reflect your thoughts and feelings.

How to Write an “I Believe” Essay

To craft a well-written “I Believe” essay, students must forgo the typical essay structure of introduction, body, and conclusion.

Instead, the essay should be organized around a series of specific beliefs that the writer wishes to share. Each thought should be introduced with a clear thesis statement, followed by supporting arguments and examples.

The conclusion of the essay should wrap up the main points that have been made and leave the reader with a final thought to ponder.

Here is an example of how an “I Believe” essay might be structured:

Thesis: I believe that everyone has the right to love and be loved.

Argument: Everyone deserves to find love and experience happiness in their lives. This should not be limited by race, religion, socioeconomic status, or any other factor.

Example: I saw a video of a man proposing to his girlfriend at Fenway Park. She said yes and the crowd went wild! Now that is love. If they can find it, then so can we all!

Conclusion: Society should not stand in the way of love. Love is the most powerful force in the world, and we should all embrace it.

As you can see, the “I Believe” essay structure allows for a great deal of flexibility. Students can choose to focus on a variety of topics and can organize their essays in different ways. An “I Believe” essay can be an excellent opportunity for students to present their thoughts on important issues under a few simple guidelines. With a bit of planning and organization, this type of essay writing assignment can be a breeze!

What You Shouldn’t Do When Writing an “I Believe” Essay

To ensure that you are writing an “I Believe” essay and not another form of an argumentative or persuasive essay, avoid doing the following:

  • Don’t provide evidence or use statistics to support your position – this is not an essay that calls for research.
  • Don’t attack or criticize the beliefs of others – your goal is to share your own opinions, not to tear down those of others.
  • Don’t go off on tangents – stay focused on the main points you want to make.
  • Don’t speak objectively or in the third person – for example, don’t say “people believe that” or “studies show.”
  • Don’t use filler words and phrases such as “I think,” “I feel,” and “it seems like.”

Use any of these 50 “I Believe” essay topics to help you brainstorm ideas for your essay!

I Believe Essay Topics About Life

  • I believe that life is too short to spend time with people who bring you down.
  • I believe that laughter is the best medicine
  • I believe that we should make time for quiet reflection every day.
  • I believe that the only thing that matters in life is love.
  • I believe that we are all capable of change.
  • I believe that it is never too late to learn and grow.
  • I believe in the power of positive thinking.
  • I believe that we should always be kind, even when it is difficult.
  • I believe that there is no such thing as a coincidence.
  • I believe in the saying “what goes around, comes around.”
  • I believe that we are all responsible for our own happiness.
  • I believe that the best things in life are free.
  • I believe that it is essential to be grateful for what we have.
  • I believe that it is never too late to achieve our dreams.
  • I believe that we should surround ourselves with people who make us better.
  • I believe that you can either love or hate something; there is no in-between.

I Believe Essay Topics About Education & School

  • I believe that education is the key to a bright future
  • I believe that children are our future and should be treasured as such.
  • I believe that there is no such thing as a dumb question.
  • I believe that schools should do more to celebrate diversity.
  • I believe that homework is essential, but it should not be excessive.
  • I believe in the importance of having a strong support system while attending school.
  • I believe that standardized tests are not an accurate measure of a student’s knowledge.
  • I believe that it is vital to find a balance between work and play while in school.
  • I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn how to swim.
  • I believe in the importance of recess and physical activity in students’ lives.
  • I believe that there is no such thing as a bad grade.
  • I believe that teachers deserve more respect and better pay.
  • I believe that it is never too early to learn a foreign language.
  • I believe that education should be free for everyone.

I Believe Essay Topics About Friends & Family

  • I believe that family is the most important thing in life.
  • I believe that friends are the family we choose for ourselves.
  • I believe that it is essential to maintain close relationships with friends and family.
  • I believe that there is no substitute for quality time spent with loved ones.
  • I believe that family is not defined by blood but by love and commitment.
  • I believe that we should spend more time with the people we care about and less time worrying about material things.
  • I believe that it is better to have a few close friends than many superficial ones.
  • I believe that it is healthy for friends to grow apart.
  • I believe that competition between friends is healthy.

I Believe Essay Topics About Money

  • I believe that money cannot buy happiness.
  • I believe that it is essential to be happy with what you have, not what you want.
  • I believe that people are more important than things.
  • I believe that it is okay to splurge on something even if it means going into debt.
  • I believe that it is better to give than to receive.
  • I believe that money can’t buy everything.
  • I believe that the love of money is the root of all evil.
  • I believe in saving for a rainy day.
  • I believe in investing in oneself.
  • I believe in the saying, “money doesn’t grow on trees.”
  • I believe that rich people should be forced to pay more taxes.

These 50 I Believe essay topics are sure to inspire your own original beliefs and help you create a powerful and unique essay. When writing your I Believe essay, be sure to focus on the beliefs that are most important to you and that you feel passionate about discussing. The best I Believe essays are the ones that are personal and reflective, so don’t be afraid to share your own thoughts and experiences.

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32 “This I Believe” Essay

The history of ‘this i believe’.

by Tanya Matthews

This I Believe is an exciting media project that invites individuals from all walks of life to write about and discuss the core beliefs that guide their daily lives. They share these statements in weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered .

The series is based on the 1950’s radio program This I Believe , hosted by acclaimed journalist Edward R. Murrow. Each day, some 39-million Americans gathered by their radios to hear compelling essays from the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller and Harry Truman as well as corporate leaders, cab drivers, scientists and secretaries — anyone able to distill into a few minutes the guiding principles by which they lived. Their words brought comfort and inspiration to a country worried about the Cold War, McCarthyism and racial division.

Eventually, the radio series became a cultural phenomenon. Eighty-five leading newspapers printed a weekly column based on This I Believe . A collection of essays published in 1952 sold 300,000 copies — second only to the Bible that year. The series was translated and broadcast around the globe on the Voice of America. A book of essays translated into Arabic sold 30,000 copies in just three days.

[The NPR series This I Believe can be read and heard here . In addition, the website and organization This I Believe houses thousands of essays written by famous people, such as the ones mentioned above, and everyday people like you and me.]

As a college student in 2020, you are faced with turbulent politics, socioeconomic issues, and ethical dilemmas that will challenge you to take a stand and contribute to the local, national, and global conversation around you. The purpose of this writing task is not to persuade you to agree on the same beliefs. Rather, it is to encourage you to begin the much more difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from your own. Fifty years ago, Edward R. Murrow’s project struck such a chord with millions of Americans. It can do so again today…with you.

Video Resources for Generating Ideas

Dan gediman on writing a “this i believe essay”.

Read Cecelia Munoz’s essay “Getting Angry Can Be a Good Thing” referred to in the previous video here .

“This I Believe” Essay with Animation

“This I Believe” Essay Ideas

Prewriting Activity

1) analyze others’ statements.

Consider the following statements, written in response to the question What Have You Learned About Life? Highlight any sentences that resonate with you. Talk about them with a partner or group, explaining why. 1. I’ve learned that when I wave to people in the country, they stop what they are doing and wave back. – Age 9 2. I’ve learned that if you want to cheer yourself up, you should try cheering someone else up. – Age 14 3. I’ve learned that although it’s hard to admit it, I’m secretly glad my parents are strict with me. – Age 15 4. I’ve learned that if someone says something unkind about me, I must live so that no one will believe it. – Age 39 5. I’ve learned that there are people who love you dearly but just don’t know how to show it. – Age 42 6. I’ve learned that you can make someone’s day by simply sending them a little note. – Age 44 7. I’ve learned that the greater a person’s sense of guilt, the greater his or her need to cast blame on others. – Age 46 8. I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. – Age 48 9. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you miss them terribly after they die. – Age 53 10. I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life. – Age 58 11. I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. – Age 62 12. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with kindness, I usually make the right decision. – Age 66 13. I’ve learned that it pays to believe in miracles. And to tell the truth, I’ve seen several. – Age 75 14. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. – Age 82 15. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch—holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. – Age 85 16. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. – Age 92

2) Compose Your Own Statement

Write down a sentence that expresses what YOU have learned about life. Maybe it is similar to one of the statements above; maybe it’s completely different. Whatever it is, write it down.

3) Freewrit e

Now free-write about your sentence. Include at least two examples / experiences that you have had that support why you think this way.

Personal Statement/Philosophy: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Why do you believe in this statement? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Name two experiences that you had that would support the statement: _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ What does this say about yourself or your personality? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ After your life experience, how have you come to the conclusion that this should be your statement? How have your beliefs changed, if at all? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ How has the event effected your relationship with a person, place, or object? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ How does your statement apply to you today? (How you view yourself & society) ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Sample #1: america’s beauty is in its diversity.

written by Alaa El-Saad,  high school student,  as heard on NPR’s Tell Me More (2009)

America is built on the idea of freedom, and there is no exception for Muslim women. I believe in the freedom of religion and speech. But mostly, I believe it’s OK to be different, and to stand up for who and what you are. So I believe in wearing the hijab.

The hijab is a religious head covering, like a scarf. I am Muslim and keeping my head covered is a sign of maturity and respect toward my religion and to Allah’s will. To be honest, I also like to wear it to be different. I don’t usually like to do what everyone else is doing. I want to be an individual, not just part of the crowd. But when I first wore it, I was also afraid of the reaction that I’d get at school.

I decided on my own that sixth grade was the time I should start wearing the hijab. I was scared about what the kids would say or even do to me. I thought they might make fun of me, or even be scared of me and pull off my headscarf. Kids at that age usually like to be all the same, and there’s little or no acceptance for being different.

On the first day of school, I put all those negative thoughts behind my back and walked in with my head held high. I was holding my breath a little, but inside I was also proud to be a Muslim, proud to be wearing the hijab, proud to be different.

I was wrong about everything I thought the kids would say or even do to me. I actually met a lot of people because of wearing my head covering. Most of the kids would come and ask me questions—respectfully—about the hijab, and why I wore it.

I did hear some kid was making fun of me, but there was one girl—she wasn’t even in my class, we never really talked much—and she stood up for me, and I wasn’t even there! I made a lot of new friends that year, friends that I still have until this very day, five years later.

Yes, I’m different, but everyone is different here, in one way or another. This is the beauty of America. I believe in what America is built on: all different religions, races and beliefs. Different everything.

Sample #2: The Essentials to Happiness

written by Alexxandra Schuman, high school student, as heard on The Bob Edwards Show (2013)

As a child, I was generally happy; singing and dancing to my favorite songs; smiling and laughing with my friends and family. But as far back as second grade, I noticed a “darkness,” about me. I didn’t enjoy engaging in many things. I didn’t relate to my peers in elementary school because they appeared so happy, and I didn’t have that ability to achieve happiness so easily.

In middle school things in my life began to get even worse. I began withdrawing from everything I once enjoyed; swimming, tennis, family. I hated going to sleep knowing I had to wake up to another day. I was always tired. Everything was horrible. Finally, midway through eighth grade, I was told I had a chemical imbalance; diagnosed with clinical depression and put on medication. It took months for me to feel the effects of the medication.

When I began to feel happy again, is when I realized that I had to take the responsibility for getting better myself, rather than relying on medication and therapy alone. Aristotle said, “To live happily is an inward power of the soul,” and I believe that this quote describes what I had to do to achieve happiness. Happiness is a journey. Everyone seems to need different things to be happy. But I believe people are blinded from what truly makes one happy.

Growing up, we’re encouraged to be successful in life; but how is success defined? Success and happiness are imagined now as having a lot of money. It is so untrue. Recently I went to Costa Rica and visited the small town of El Roble. I spent the day with a nine-year old girl named Marilyn. She took me to her house to meet her parents. It was obvious that they were not rich; living in a small house with seven children. The house was cluttered but full of life. Those who have decided that success and happiness comes from having money and a big house would be appalled at how utterly happy this family from El Roble is. People say that seeing things like that make you appreciate what you have, but for me, it made me envy them for being so happy without all the things I have.

“The essentials to happiness are something to love, something to do, and something to hope for,” a quote from William Blake sums up what I believe people need to realize to be truly happy in life. People need love; I feel they need their family and their friends more than anything in the world. People need work to do, something to make them feel they are making a difference in the world. People need to know that more good is to come in the future, so they continue to live for “now” instead of constantly worrying about the bad that could come. And most importantly people need to know that happiness is not something that happens overnight. Love and hope is happiness.

Sample #3: Find a Good Frog

written by Delia Motavalli, high school student, as heard on The Bob Edwards Show (2013)

I believe in finding a good frog. It seems that all throughout childhood, we are taught to look for a happily ever after. “And they all lived happily ever after”; isn’t that the conclusion to many children’s films? When I was a kid I always thought of that as magical; but now really it just seems unrealistic. And it teaches us that what we want is a fairytale like they have in the storybooks. We all want to be Cinderella who gets swept off her feet by the hot prince; we want to live in the royal castle, right? But I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing for us to seek. Now I’m not saying I believe in being pessimistic, but I do believe in being realistic; it’s something I got from my mom.

My mother and I always have our best conversations in the rain. We sit in the car, neither of us wanting to brave the rain to get to the house. So we sit. We watch droplets race down the windshield, listen to the rain strike the roof of her little blue Honda, and feel the heater on full-blast rushing at our feet (just the way we like it). I don’t know why, but sitting in the car, we always talk more than normal. There was one rainy day when my mom told me something that is going to stick with me forever. Earlier that day she and my dad had been arguing about something; I can’t remember what. So she said, “Don’t spend your life looking for Prince Charming. Instead, find yourself a really good frog.”

At the time, I found this thought really disheartening. Who wants to think that you’ll never find Prince Charming? You’ll never get to be Cinderella? Another thought that struck my mind: if my mom says there’s no Prince Charming, then what’s my dad? A frog? I asked her, and she replied with, “Of course! If he were Prince Charming, he wouldn’t snore, would be able to cook, and we would never argue. But you know what? He’s a damn good frog.” Of course, being young, I didn’t think of the meaning behind what she was saying. I was too busy thinking of it literally, visualizing my mom as a princess and my dad in frog form.

But a few years later, I understand the value of my mom’s words. You can’t expect everything to be perfect. Let’s be completely honest; if you wait your whole life for your prince with flowing hair, statuesque features, and a white horse, you’re going to be lonely. I think that the point of finding a good frog is you accept something that’s great, flaws and all. It’s so easy to be picky. You can find the one tiny thing that’s wrong, and that one tiny thing is what you can’t get your mind off of. But in life, we can’t afford to wait years in vain for perfection. So I think that a good frog, an amazing frog, the best frog you can find is what we’re really looking for in this world. Don’t laze through life waiting for a happily ever after, because I don’t think you’ll be very happy with the outcome.

Examples from the ‘This I Believe’ Website

Be Cool to the Pizza Dude by Sarah Adams

They Lived Their Faith by Charles Henry Parrish

Returning to What’s Natural by Amelia Baxter-Stoltzfus

The Birthright of Human Dignity by Will Thomas

Remembering All The Boys by Elvia Bautista

I Am Still The Greatest by Muhammad Ali

A Goal Of Service To Humankind by Anthony Fauci

My Life Is Better by Abraham

Give Me a Waffle by Brenda

The Little Things by Sophie Crossley

You can also browse thousands more This I Believe essays by theme .

Prefer to Listen to Get Inspiration?

Check out This I Believe’s Podcast Series

4) Drafting

Assignment guidelines + suggestions and tips for drafting.

1. While the examples you’ve been given can serve as a model, it is essential that each of you write about a personal belief or philosophy that you feel strongly about. 2. Tell a story. Personal experiences are the corner stone of a good essay. Your story doesn’t have to be a heart breaker or even a major event, but it must be something that has affected how you think, feel, and act. List your personal experiences that you intend to use as evidence below: 3. Be concise. Avoid repetition. This essay should be between 500 – 650 words. When read aloud, it should take roughly four minutes. 4. Name your belief. It is essential that you can name your belief in a sentence or two. Focus on one belief only. This is your thesis. Write it here: 5. Be positive. Avoid preaching or persuading. You aren’t trying to change the way others think or act. Write about what you believe, not what you don’t believe. 6. Use the first person. Speak for yourself. Avoid using we or you. 7. Let your voice shine. Use language that sounds like you. Read it aloud as your revise. Keep making changes until your essay sounds like you and captures the essence of your belief.

5) Peer Review

Once you have written your first draft, arrange for your essay to be edited by a peer, using the following Peer-Editing Checklist: Writer’s Name: ________________________________________________ Peer Editor’s Name: ________________________________________________ Use your PENCIL or PEN (NOT red or green) to make corrections. Remember, this essay is a work in progress. You are not done writing! Look for ways to improve what you’ve already written. Tick each step if it has been completed. _____ 1. Read the paper backwards, one sentence at a time. Check for spelling errors. Use a dictionary, a friend, or a spell checker to find the correct spelling. _____ 2. Check for capitalized proper nouns and the first word of each sentence. _____ 3. Skip a line between each paragraph. _____ 4. Every sentence should have end punctuation. _____ 5. Check commas. Are they only used for compound sentences, a list of items, an introductory word or phrase, direct address, setting off interruptions, separating adjectives, or in dates? Do you need to add commas? Make sure you do not have commas separating complete sentences (i.e. comma splice errors that create run-on sentences). _____ 6. Apostrophes are used only for contractions and to show ownership. _____ 7. The use of more complex punctuation (dashes, hyphens, semi-colons, parentheses, etc.) is done correctly. _____ 8. Have you used commonly mixed pairs of words correctly? Check these: they’re/their/there, your/you’re, it’s/its, a/an, to/too/two, are/our/hour, and others. _____ 9. Read the paper backwards one sentence at a time. Check for sentence fragments and run-ons and correct them. _____ 10. Did you stay in present tense (such as is, am, do, take, know, etc.) or past tense (such as was, were, did, took, knew, etc.) throughout the entire essay? _____ 11. Did you stay in first person (I, me, my, we, us, our) or third person (he, him, she, her, they, them, their) throughout the entire essay? _____ 12. Was there adequate use of specific details and sensory details? Were the details clear and relevant to the statement? _____ 13. Is the overall purpose/philosophy clear? _____ 14. Does the conclusion make you go, “Wow!” “Cool!” “I never thought about it that way,” or any other similar reaction? Other suggestions for the overall content of the piece: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

possible grading rubric for This I Believe essay

This I Believe by Tanya Matthews is licensed by CC-BY-SA

“This I Believe” Essay Copyright © 2020 by Liza Long; Amy Minervini; and Joel Gladd is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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This I Believe

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Celebrating Four Years Of 'This I Believe'

April 27, 2009 • During its four-year run on NPR, This I Believe engaged listeners in a discussion of the core beliefs that guide their daily lives. We heard from people of all walks of life — the very young and the very old, the famous and the previously unknown.

Saying Thanks To My Ghosts

April 26, 2009 • Novelist Amy Tan hasn't always believed in ghosts, but as a writer she's had too many inspirations that she can't fully explain. Now, Tan embraces her belief in ghosts and the messages of joy, love and peace they bring her.

Life Is An Act Of Literary Creation

April 23, 2009 • Mexican-American novelist Luis Urrea used to think that simply being a good observer would make his writing better. But over time, he's come to believe that being a good writer and a good person comes from paying attention to the world around him.

The Art Of Being A Neighbor

April 12, 2009 • A few years ago, Eve Birch was broke and living alone in a dilapidated mountain shack. But a community of people befriended her, shared what little they had with her and showed Birch the value of neighbors uniting to help one another.

I Am Still The Greatest

Muhammad Ali John Lair/Muhammad Ali Center hide caption

I Am Still The Greatest

April 6, 2009 • To be the "Greatest of All Time," boxing legend Muhammad Ali says you have to believe in yourself. It's a lesson his parents taught him and it has helped him in fighting Parkinson's disease.

Dancing To Connect To A Global Tribe

March 29, 2009 • Matt Harding has been to 70 countries to dance — badly — in front of a camera, and videos of his travels have become an Internet sensation. Harding believes interacting with so many different people challenges him to understand what unites humanity.

My Father Deserves Spectacular Results

March 26, 2009 • Environmental activist Van Jones is a special adviser to the Obama administration. He says his dad, who died last year, would have gotten a kick out of seeing Obama become president. But his dad had high standards, and there is much more work to be done.

The Beatles Live On

March 15, 2009 • Macklin Levine was born more than 25 years after the Fab Four broke up, but at 12, she has a deep appreciation for Beatles music. "As old as the songs are, you can learn a lot about yourself from the lyrics," she says. And the Beatles help her remember her Dad, too.

Finding Freedom In Forgiveness

March 5, 2009 • Jennifer Thompson-Cannino was certain that Ronald Cotton was the man who raped her in 1984. But she was wrong. After Cotton spent 11 years in jail, DNA evidence proved his innocence. Now, the two have a friendship based on their belief in forgiveness.

Work Is A Blessing

March 1, 2009 • When he was 12, Russel Honore got his first job helping a neighbor milk 65 dairy cows twice a day. Fifty years later, the retired Army lieutenant general believes hard work helps build character, strengthen communities and promote freedom.

Seeing Beyond Our Differences

February 26, 2009 • Scientist Sheri White says that despite differences in size, shape and color, all humans are 99.9 percent biologically identical. White believes we should embrace our similarities and honor the differences that make each of us unique.

Historical Archives

Reflections on race: essays from the archives.

February 23, 2009 • Dan Gediman, executive producer of NPR's This I Believe, explores the archives of the original series hosted by Edward R. Murrow in the 1950s. He says the essays shed light on the realities of segregation at the dawn of the civil rights movement.

Gediman explores the 'This I Believe' archives.

The magic of letters.

February 15, 2009 • Chameli Waiba was raised in a village in Nepal and didn't attend school as a child. When she finally learned to read as an adult, Waiba discovered the power words could have to change her life, as well as the lives of others in her rural community.

How To Survive Life's Tests

February 9, 2009 • Kendra Jones assigned her students to write This I Believe essays and decided that she owed it to them to write one of her own. Jones believes toughness, steeliness and even meanness have helped her throughout her life.

Our Awareness Controls Human Destiny

February 8, 2009 • In an essay from 1951 for the original This I Believe series, Margaret Mead says she can't separate the beliefs she has as a person from the beliefs she has as an anthropologist. She says that humans have a responsibility for the entire planet.

A Hope For Bettering Humanity

February 1, 2009 • In an essay from 1953 for the original This I Believe series, Sir Charles Galton Darwin, the grandson of naturalist Charles Darwin, drew on his study of science to say he believed the future of humanity depended on the practice of eugenics.

Listening Is Powerful Medicine

February 1, 2009 • It took a scolding from an elderly patient to get Dr. Alicia Conill to look up from her charts and stop to listen. Conill came to understand the value of listening in the treatment process — especially when she herself became the patient.

America's Beauty Is In Its Diversity

January 29, 2009 • In sixth grade, Alaa El-Saad decided to start wearing the hijab , a religious head covering for Muslim women. Despite some trepidation, she found her classmates supported her choice. Now El-Saad believes being different is part of being American.

Thirty Things I Believe

January 18, 2009 • When Tarak McLain's kindergarten group celebrated their 100th day of class, some kids brought 100 nuts or cotton balls. Tarak brought a list of 100 things he believes. Now a first-grader, Tarak shares his top beliefs about God, life, nature and war.

Inviting The World To Dinner

January 12, 2009 • Every Sunday for 30 years, Jim Haynes has welcomed complete strangers into his Paris home for dinner. By introducing people to each other and encouraging them to make personal connections, Haynes believes he can foster greater tolerance in the world.

Pathways Of Desire

January 4, 2009 • Gina Parosa believes in letting her kids, pets and livestock make their own paths in life. But she also realizes that as a farmer and parent, she sometimes has to step in and set good boundaries — while still being flexible enough to change them.

This Is Home

January 1, 2009 • Majora Carter believes you don't have to move out of your old neighborhood to live in a better one. Carter was raised in the South Bronx and spent years trying to leave. But when the city proposed a waste facility there, she was inspired to fight for her community.

Health Is A Human Right

December 21, 2008 • As an infectious disease specialist, Dr. Paul Farmer has traveled the planet to organize and provide medical treatment for people living in poverty. He believes good health care is vital but just the first step in creating a world free of all human suffering.

Home — Essay Samples — Life — Personal Beliefs — This I Believe: Exploring Core Values and Personal Convictions


This I Believe: Exploring Core Values and Personal Convictions

  • Categories: Personal Beliefs Values of Life

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Published: Sep 5, 2023

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Personal reflections on beliefs, fostering connection and empathy, inspiring thought and contemplation, unity amidst diversity.

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i believe personal essay


This I Believe Essay

i believe personal essay

In the realm of personal expression and introspection, the “This I Believe” essay stands as a testament to the power of individual beliefs and narratives. Rooted in the context of personal experiences and convictions, these essays provide a platform for individuals to articulate their core principles, values, and perspectives. Through the use of various literary devices and elements , authors craft narratives that illuminate their unique outlook on life. In this article, we will delve into the definition of a This I Believe essay, present a step-by-step guide on how to craft one, address common questions, and explore the essence of this expressive form.

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What is a This I Believe Essay?

A This I Believe essay is a written composition that encapsulates an individual’s personal beliefs, values, and philosophies. Often reflective and intimate in nature, these essays offer readers insight into the author’s subjective understanding of the world. They provide an opportunity to explore the depth of one’s convictions, making use of various literary devices and characteristics to convey a sense of authenticity and sincerity. Through the exploration of individual experiences and convictions, these essays aim to connect with readers on a personal and emotional level.

How to Write a This I Believe Essay

Step 1: choose your core belief.

At the heart of your essay lies your core belief. Choose a belief that holds personal significance and represents your worldview. This belief should be something you feel passionately about and can articulate convincingly.

Step 2: Develop a Compelling Context

Create a context for your belief by providing background information. Explain why this belief is important to you and how it has shaped your experiences and outlook on life. A relatable context will engage your readers and make your essay more relatable.

Step 3: Employ Effective Literary Devices

Incorporate literary devices to enhance the impact of your essay. Metaphors, similes, and anecdotes can help convey your belief in a vivid and relatable manner. Consider how these devices can strengthen your narrative and connect with your audience emotionally.

Step 4: Craft a Strong Conclusion

Summarize your belief and its significance in your life, reinforcing the message you want to leave with your readers. Reflect on the journey you’ve taken them on and inspire them to reflect on their own beliefs.

Can I write about a commonly held belief?

Absolutely. While it’s important to maintain authenticity, even exploring a cliché belief can be powerful when you provide a fresh perspective or personal context. Your unique experiences and reflections make your essay stand out.

Can I use proper nouns in my essay?

Yes, proper nouns can add specificity and authenticity to your essay. Mentioning specific places, people, or events can help ground your beliefs in real-world experiences.

How can I make my essay more impactful?

Focus on using strong verbs to convey emotions and actions. Instead of saying “I felt sad,” consider saying “I crumbled under the weight of sorrow.” This adds depth to your writing and engages the reader’s senses.

In the realm of personal expression, the This I Believe essay shines as a vehicle for exploring one’s deepest convictions. By carefully selecting beliefs, weaving context, employing literary devices, and crafting strong conclusions, authors can create narratives that resonate with readers on a profound level. Through the power of words, these essays bridge the gap between individual experiences and universal truths, reminding us of the strength and diversity of human beliefs. So, take the plunge into introspection and share your beliefs with the world through the art of the This I Believe essay.


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Crafting Beliefs into Words: Top ‘I Believe’ Essay Ideas


Table of contents

  • 1 70 I Believe Topics for Essays
  • 2 This I Believe Essay Examples
  • 3 Final Words

This article will explore a wide range of thought-provoking This I Believe essay topics that can inspire meaningful and reflective essays. They cover various aspects of life, values, beliefs, and personal experiences. What I believe essay is a unique form of personal essay that focuses on a single core belief of the writer.

  • The article lists 70 thought-provoking topics that cover a wide range of subjects, including kindness, empathy, family, diversity, resilience, honesty, music, forgiveness, education, and many more.
  • These topics are designed to inspire writers to find the theme that resonates most deeply with them.
  • To provide insight into the style and content of these essays, examples from the project are shared.

70 I Believe Topics for Essays

Delving into the realm of personal reflection and expression, “I Believe” essays stand as a cornerstone for introspection and sharing the essence of one’s ethos. It is rather a popular task for students. Thus, This I Believe winner essays are a powerful medium to express your deeply held convictions, values, and experiences.

Below, we present 70 thought-provoking I believe essay ideas that cover a wide spectrum of subjects. Explore the following list and find the topic that resonates most with you:

  • The Power of Kindness: Small acts of kindness can transform lives.
  • The Importance of Empathy: Understanding others’ feelings fosters deeper connections and mutual respect.
  • Finding Joy in Small Moments: Cherishing little things brings happiness in everyday life.
  • Overcoming Fear: Facing fears leads to growth, courage, and new opportunities.
  • The Value of Family: Families provide love and support and shape our foundational values.
  • The Beauty of Diversity: Diversity enriches experiences, promoting learning and cultural appreciation.
  • The Impact of a Smile: A simple smile can brighten days and bridge connections.
  • The Strength of Resilience: Overcoming challenges builds strength and fosters personal growth.
  • Honesty in Relationships: Truthfulness is the foundation of trust and strong relationships.
  • The Influence of Music: Music transcends barriers, evoking emotions and connecting people.
  • The Freedom of Forgiveness: Forgiving liberates from grudges, bringing peace and reconciliation.
  • The Significance of Education: Education empowers, enlightens, and opens doors to opportunities.
  • The Magic of Nature: Nature’s wonders inspire awe, offering peace and rejuvenation.
  • Pursuit of Dreams: Chasing dreams adds purpose and excitement to life’s journey.
  • The Role of Hope: Hope provides strength during adversity and motivates progress.
  • The Wisdom of Age: Age brings wisdom, insights, and valuable life lessons.
  • Overcoming Adversity: Facing hardships head-on builds character and resilience.
  • The Gift of Giving: Giving enriches the giver’s soul more than the receiver’s.
  • Embracing Change: Change, though challenging, is essential for growth and progress.
  • The Power of Imagination: Imagination fuels creativity, innovation, and endless possibilities.
  • Finding Purpose in Life: Discovering life’s purpose brings direction, fulfillment, and satisfaction.
  • The Strength of Vulnerability: Embracing vulnerability leads to authenticity and deeper connections.
  • The Healing Power of Laughter: Laughter heals, reduces stress, and promotes emotional connection.
  • Self-Discovery: Understanding oneself is key to personal growth and happiness.
  • The Importance of Self-Care: Prioritizing self-care is essential for wellbeing and balance.
  • Learning from Mistakes: Mistakes are valuable lessons that guide future success.
  • Embracing Creativity: Creativity expresses individuality and drives innovation.
  • The Joy of Travel: Travel broadens horizons, fosters understanding, and creates memories.
  • The Impact of Gratitude: Gratitude cultivates positivity and appreciation for life’s blessings.
  • The Beauty of Solitude: Solitude offers peace, reflection, and rejuvenation for the soul.
  • The Value of Friendship: Friends provide support, joy, and a sense of belonging.
  • The Courage to Be Authentic: Authenticity requires courage but leads to genuine self-expression.
  • The Gift of Time: Time is a precious, non-renewable resource to be cherished.
  • The Power of Second Chances: Second chances offer opportunities for growth and redemption.
  • The Importance of Mindfulness: Mindfulness encourages living fully in the present moment.
  • The Influence of Role Models: Role models inspire and guide through their actions and values.
  • The Joy of Giving Back: Giving back to the community brings fulfillment and joy.
  • Embracing Diversity: Celebrating diversity leads to a richer, more inclusive world.
  • The Strength of Community: Communities provide support, strength, and a sense of belonging.
  • The Value of Perseverance: Perseverance through challenges leads to success and achievement.
  • The Magic of Serendipity: Unexpected, fortunate discoveries add surprise and delight to life.
  • The Significance of Humility: Humility grounds us and fosters genuine human connections.
  • The Beauty of Simplicity: Simplicity brings clarity, focus, and appreciation for the essentials.
  • The Importance of Compassion: Compassion creates empathy and understanding in relationships.
  • The Wisdom of Experience: Experience teaches invaluable lessons and enriches decision-making.
  • Overcoming Prejudice: Challenging prejudices leads to a more inclusive, fair society.
  • The Healing Power of Art: Art heals, expresses emotions, and transcends cultural boundaries.
  • The Influence of Literature: Literature expands minds, stirs imagination, and reflects societies.
  • The Freedom of Expression: Expressing oneself is fundamental to individuality and democracy.
  • The Impact of Technology: Technology revolutionizes lives but requires mindful usage.
  • The Joy of Parenting: Parenting, while challenging, is immensely rewarding and transformative.
  • The Role of Faith: Faith provides comfort, guidance, and a sense of belonging.
  • The Value of Honesty: Honesty builds trust and is key to ethical living.
  • The Strength of Patience: Patience leads to better outcomes and less stress.
  • The Beauty of Cultural Exchange: Cultural exchange enhances understanding and enriches lives.
  • The Importance of Environmental Stewardship: Protecting the environment ensures a sustainable future for all.
  • The Power of Respecting Differences: Respecting differences fosters harmony and mutual respect.
  • The Impact of Small Acts of Kindness: Small kindnesses can have a huge impact on others.
  • The Significance of Dreams: Dreams inspire and guide us towards our goals.
  • The Joy of Learning: Learning keeps the mind active and expands horizons.
  • The Influence of Family Traditions: Traditions strengthen family bonds and connect generations.
  • The Freedom of Choice: Making choices empowers and shapes our life paths.
  • The Role of Acceptance: Acceptance leads to inner peace and harmonious relationships.
  • The Value of Integrity: Integrity is the cornerstone of character and trustworthiness.
  • The Strength of Optimism: Optimism brightens perspectives and overcomes challenges.
  • The Beauty of Sunsets: Sunsets remind us of nature’s beauty and life’s transience.
  • The Importance of Mental Health: Mental health is vital for overall wellbeing and happiness.
  • The Healing Power of Love: Love heals, comforts, and forms the basis of relationships.
  • The Influence of Role Models: Role models shape lives through inspiration and example.
  • The Power of Self-Reflection: Reflecting on oneself leads to growth and self-awareness.

These topics encompass a wide array of beliefs and experiences, offering you the opportunity to explore your own convictions and share them with others through the art of the “I Believe” essay.

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This I Believe Essay Examples

How to write a This I believe essay? To better understand the This I believe statements format and get inspired, you can read some exemplary essays from the project. This project, initiated by Edward R. Murrow in the 1950s and revived by National Public Radio (NPR), encourages individuals to share their personal beliefs in concise essays. Here are a few This I believe ideas to provide insight into the style and content:

“The Courage to Be Yourself” by Laura Yoo:

In this essay, Laura Yoo shares her belief in the importance of being true to oneself and embracing individuality. She reflects on her experiences as an immigrant and how her journey led her to appreciate the courage it takes to stay authentic.

“The Power of Music” by Michelle Barrios:

Michelle Barrios explores her deep connection with music and how it has been a source of comfort, inspiration, and healing throughout her life. She believes in the transformative power of melodies and lyrics.

“The Gift of Gratitude” by Sarah Adams:

Sarah Adams discusses the significance of gratitude in her life. She believes acknowledging and expressing gratitude for even the smallest blessings can lead to a more fulfilling and content existence.

These examples showcase the diversity of topics and personal experiences that “I Believe” essays can encompass. Each essay offers a unique perspective, emphasizing the power of personal beliefs and reflections.

Final Words

At long last, This I Believe essays allow people to express their deepest beliefs and share their personal philosophy with a larger audience. Remember that the most compelling I believe statements about life come from the heart, drawing on your unique life experiences and values. As demonstrated by the examples from the “This I Believe” project, these essays have the potential to inspire, provoke thought, and connect people through the power of shared beliefs. So, pick a topic that resonates with you, and let your beliefs shape your words, creating a meaningful essay that can touch the hearts and minds of others.

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'This I Believe' Essay Writing

Presented in five consecutive standard-period classes, students are invited to contribute to the This I Believe essay-writing project by writing and submitting a statement of personal belief.  This is a challenging, intimate statement on one’s beliefs and one’s own daily life philosophy, considering moments when belief was formed, tested, or changed.  Written by Jarvis Reed.

Overview:  Presented in five consecutive standard-period classes, students are invited to contribute to the This I Believe essay-writing project by writing and submitting a statement of personal belief.  This is a challenging, intimate statement on one's beliefs and one's own daily life philosophy, considering moments when belief was formed, tested, or changed.  Written by Jarvis Reed.

AFNR.HS.10.5.c  Communicate using strategies that ensure clarity, logic, purpose, and rofessionalism in formal or informal settings.

AFNR.HS.20.1.d  Examine and practice public speaking.

Learning Goal: 

Students will increase written and oral communication skills by thinking critically and articulating in writing a personal foundational belief in 350-500 words stated in the affirmative and then presenting this essay to their class.

Photo by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash


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i believe personal essay

  • Religion & Spirituality
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John Langan

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What I Believe: 22 Personal Essays

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What I Believe: 22 Personal Essays Paperback – November 6, 2023

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  • Reading age 12 years and up
  • Print length 224 pages
  • Language English
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Publisher Townsend Press
  • Publication date November 6, 2023
  • ISBN-10 1591948010
  • ISBN-13 978-1591948018
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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Townsend Press (November 6, 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1591948010
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1591948018
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 12 years and up
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 11.1 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • #2,059 in Religious Faith

About the author

John langan.

John Langan has taught reading and writing at Atlantic Cape Community College near Atlantic City, New Jersey, for over twenty-five years. The author of a popular series of college textbooks on both writing and reading, John enjoys the challenge of developing materials that teach skills in an especially clear and lively way. Before teaching, he earned advanced degrees in writing at Rutgers University and in reading at Rowan University. He also spent a year writing fiction that, he says, "is now at the back of a drawer waiting to be discovered and acclaimed posthumously." While in school, he supported himself by working as a truck driver, a machinist, a battery assembler, a hospital attendant, and an apple packer. John now lives with his wife, Judith Nadell, near Philadelphia. In addition to his wife and Philly sports teams, his passions include reading and turning on nonreaders to the pleasure and power of books. Through Townsend Press, his educational publishing company, he has developed the nonprofit "Townsend Library"--a collection more than thirty new and classic stories that appeal to readers of any age.

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i believe personal essay

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223 Belief Essay Ideas, Topics, & Examples

Looking for belief essay ideas? Being a subject of numerous philosophical debates, the concept of belief is worth exploring.

🏆 Best Belief Essay Examples

⭐ personal belief essay topics, 💡 most interesting belief topics to write about, 📑 simple & easy belief essay titles, 📌 top belief topics to write about, 👍 exciting belief essay ideas, ❓ belief system research questions.

In your belief essay, you might want to focus of various philosophical approaches to the concept. Another idea is to compare religious and secular belief systems. One more option is to talk about your strongest personal beliefs and practices. Whether you have to write a high-school or a college assignment, our article will be helpful. Here you’ll find everything you might need to write a belief essay. Best personal belief essay topics and examples written by A+ students are collected below.

  • Omnism: Belief in All Religions The practice of omnism has been in here for a while, but the definition of the term is quite young. In Japan, an omnism religion is called Kokyo was formed in the 1800s, and the […]
  • “Confessions of Faith” Written by Cecil Rhodes In particular, the author argues that the citizens of the British Empire have a right to rule different regions of the world.
  • Cultural Belief System: Experiences and Traditions In most communities, the belief systems form the basis for validity of governance systems in the community as well as the acceptable laws governing behavior in the society.
  • Kant’s Categorical Imperative vs. Kierkegaard’s Notion of Faith The reason of why Kant’s ideas are preferable to me is that the categorical imperative allows to define what actions are obligatory and which ones should be forbidden and to choose the way that is […]
  • Faith and Materialism in Matthew 6:24-30 Due to simplicity, readers do not have to refer or infer to the original text in Greek or to the bible dictionary to get the meaning of the complex words in the text.
  • Ecologies of Faith in the Digital Age and Surviving and Thriving in Seminary Therefore, based on this powerful technique, I believe that embracing the concept of spiritual growth through the use of the online platform will enable me to learn from the online community as well as to […]
  • “The Ethics of Belief” by William K. Clifford On religious beliefs, Clifford advises that belief matters are private and that people have the right to choose whichever religion to believe.
  • The Faith Concept and Types The concept of faith, types of faith and the criticism of faith are the key areas explored in this paper. The most common type of faith in the world is the religious faith.
  • The Importance of Perseverance and Self-Belief Of course, I was fluent in Spanish, which was my native language, but I faced a problem in the USA – I needed to learn English to feel comfortable and free.
  • Christian Faith and Scientific Disciplines It is believed that the introduction of philosophical naturalism to scientific thinking led to the development of the natural sciences. In contrast to the natural sciences, the social sciences focus on particular people and communities […]
  • Religion in Moliere’s Tartuffe: True Faith Versus Hypocrisy Notably, he uses religion as the major instrument of his influence as it is easy to become a mentor and guide through the hazards of the world.
  • Christian Ministry and Personal Faith Moreover, should we want to focus on the Christian Ministry, and any other ministry for that matter, I think we have to get back to the basic teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, and this […]
  • Human Experience and Development Of Religious Belief In an analysis of the role of the human experience in the development of religious beliefs, it is necessary also to note that the relation between human experience and religion is the exact background to […]
  • “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” by Gettier In addition, the article reveals that the concepts of ‘the right to be sure that’ and ‘has adequate evidence for’ only work if the element of ‘justified true belief’ is not introduced in an analysis.
  • Mary Rowlandson’s Strong Faith, Captivity and Restoration Her strong faith helped her to endure her captivity and ultimately be restored to her family. Rowlandson’s faith in God gave her the strength to endure this difficult situation.
  • Relationship Between Psychology and Christian Faith Truly, I have realized that sincerity is found in Jesus discipleship and the study of persona, but the varying aspects guiding the honesty are the belief in Christ and analytical thinking.
  • The Circle of Life: Belief of Native Americans He shows the weakest and frailest infants being at the base of the hill while the oldest were on the top.
  • Critique of Health-Belief Model by R. Davidhizar The primary objective of concept analysis is to examine the main idea critically to identify the themes of the design. The concept of health-related behavior is used in the field of breast cancer to enlighten […]
  • Faith and the Future: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam Jews can gloat and say that they are the chosen people but this is not a wise decision to make because they will be threatened on all side and in fact since two thousand years […]
  • Health Belief Model: Description and Concepts The concept is based on a person’s sufficient motivation to affect an issue, the existence of a threat, and the realization that the benefits are worth the cost.
  • Adam’s Apples: Testing of Faith Adam, on the other hand, is skeptical and eager to confront the vicar, seeking to prove that Ivan’s miserable life is a sign of God’s hatred.
  • Change in Belief System Their life experiences, friends, and exposure to reality are some of the factors that contribute to such shifts in belief and attitude towards diverse occurrences in life.
  • Without Faith, There Can Be No True Virtue? It relates to the author of integrity and the dishonest virtue that occurs where there is no faith in God even if the qualities of an individual are the best.
  • Ethics and Faith in the Movie “Crimes and Misdemeanors” In this motion picture, he seems to support the defeat of the religious as seen through the death of the most religious person in the story – Ben.
  • Faith Integration in the Hebrew 11 Passage The examples of people leading by their example and convincing others to accept the Christian faith as the [path to salvation are incredibly inspiring, which is why the specified part of the Scripture has a […]
  • Human Belief in Myths and Legends However, suppose one understands the meaning and the reasons for their creation, which in most cases are similar regardless of the area of origin of the legend.
  • The “Dynamics of Faith” Book by Paul Tillich Relying on the study of Dynamics of Faith, Paul Tillich would analyze the “dynamics of faith” present in The Plague’s Fr.
  • God’s Healing Is Not Influenced by Level of Faith For example, in response to the courage that the woman with the flow of blood demonstrated, Jesus said that the faith she had made her whole.
  • The Relationship Between Faith and Charity The word church in the Apostles’ Creed, similarly to the Bible, refers to the people of God, the holy society made up of individuals who profess faith in the Father, the Son, and the Holy […]
  • The Role of Faith in the US-Middle East Foreign Policy Moreover, the belief that the US was the nation assigned the role of fulfilling God’s promise to his people and the whole of humanity encouraged them to contribute to the well-being of settlers and natives […]
  • Reason and Faith in Christianity It should be stressed that the two entities of theological justification are seen to be reason and faith. People must have both the right justification and faith in order to believe, as those are the […]
  • Faith Integration: 1 Peter 5:1-4 The Bible verse can be applied to corporations that may take advantage of vulnerable consumers. Such an approach is detrimental to the consumers and the organizations.
  • Pascal’s Wager: Belief in God as a Rational Choice It is one of the favorite tools of religious preachers who try to appeal to famous names and a kind of logic to convince people to enter their faith. The second argument against Pascal’s wager […]
  • Evangelism in Daily Life: Sharing the Christian Faith The main Bible statement for Evangelism is “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”.
  • How Christianity Faith Influenced Mathematics Christianity displays God to have qualities of order due to the fashion and timeline of creation. Divisive interpretations between Christianity and science challenge the interconnectivity of both fields.
  • “Midsommar” and Sublime Nature of the Belief The work’s title hints at the central theme that follows the plot’s narrative the power of belief in the higher force in the world.
  • Faith and Transformational Teaching The authors say that being deeply and comprehensively trained in the field being taught is the path to success as a teacher.
  • Perception of Faith: Perspective and Science I became kinder, more righteous, and wiser as I began to deepen my understanding of the Nature of things. I first noticed the influence of the gospel when I had to make a difficult decision.
  • The “Your Grown-Up Faith” Book by Kenneth Parker The author shows the importance of the spiritual path in avoiding the traps of pseudo-spirituality and mysticism. The Youth’s Way is a challenging stage of doubts and searches for a place in the world and […]
  • The Jewish Belief of Heaven and Hell in Comparison to New Testament The Old Testament Sheol is both the plan of dead souls in the direct and the state of the fallen soul in the figurative sense.
  • Shintoism as a Faith Indigenous to the Japanese Currently, no central authority exists in Shinto, and practitioners employ a diverse number of ways to practice their faith Though the exact date of the creation of Shinto is not known, the variation of the […]
  • Personal Reflection on Integrating Faith and Work The relevance of a Christian’s positive view of the sociocultural practices of other people is biblically supported by the story of creation.
  • Augustine on Instructing Beginners in Faith The main thesis of this book is how to provide relevant instructions to the new converts. Therefore, improvements should be made to help in addressing the situation in most of the Christian conventions.
  • Aspects of Belief of Jainism When learning about religions and philosophies, I find that origins or backgrounds are essential in interpreting the context and content of a religion.
  • Christian Faith: Influence on Learning He discusses science and how humans are the products of the world they are endowed with feeling and thought, which are beyond natural.
  • “Faith and Learning” by David Dockery The main feature of this perception of the literary text is that the reader should not look for the secret meaning of the writer.
  • Preaching: Communicating Faith in Age of Skepticism Keller provides six approaches to preach Jesus from all of Scripture that are appropriate to both the message and the context of a given chapter to assist avoid these pitfalls.
  • “Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism” Book by Tim Keller In his book, Timothy Keller underlines the centrality of the gospel as one of the major means to connect an individual and the Church and establish fair and effective relationships.
  • Faith and Other Areas of Human Development From my point of view, there is undoubtedly a certain kind of connection between the development of faith and other areas of human development.
  • Evolutionary Ethics vs. Belief in God In addition, the disadvantage of the evolutionary theory is that moral and ethical norms cannot be determined only to a biological degree.
  • Spiritual Formation Reflection: Integrating Faith and Learning This strengthened understanding of the mutual necessity of faith and learning in becoming closer to God is a crucial result of this course for me.
  • Philosophy of Religion: Approaches to Faith and Church The epistemology in this work is not based on avid socialism but a specific definition of concepts and their application to religion.
  • Integrating Faith While Caring for Pediatric Patients: The Concept of Health The key points that the paper discusses are the need to care for patients, the desire to offer emotional support to them, the responsibility of personal sacrifice, and the call to be committed to the […]
  • The Experience of Faith The major concern in religion is that the relationship between faith and spirituality is a frequently debated subject among all Christians.
  • “The Ethics of Belief” by Clifford and “The Will to Believe” by James Belief in God is a momentous decision, and the benefits of yielding to religious faith outweigh the potential risks of error.
  • Faith and Justice in the City. Seek for Justice It is crucial to have the same law and the same treatment to a foreign person and for a native-born, as equal treatment is one of the main aspects of justice, promoted in the Bible.
  • How Faith Leaders Are Divided Over Equality Act The Vatican refuses to bless same-sex marriages saying that this is not in accordance with the canons of the Roman Catholic Church since marriage is a union of a man and a woman.
  • Public Health Theories. Health Belief Model For example, it is difficult to understand the relationship between perceived severity of HIV and perceived benefits of engaging in positive sexual health behaviors.
  • Discussion of Miracle and Faith in Medicine Thus, one of the most interesting concepts tackled in the topic readings is the evaluation of scientism as a means of explaining the phenomena of death, illness, and morality.
  • Identity Formation: Faith Overview As a result, I made a commitment and took the responsibility for my decisions, which was a long process. Undoubtedly, my faith was helpful in the process of my identity formation in other areas as […]
  • Islamic Belief Is Comprehensive The central theme of Islam as carried in all beliefs is peaceful co-existence and respect for other people’s religion.
  • Spiritual Growth: The Sense of Spirituality and Faith In the read story, the author mentioned two basic methods of development, which consist in the sense of spirituality and faith.
  • Religious Belief and Buying Behavior The main categories to be assessed are religious affiliation and religious dedication in respect to Hinduism and Islam. According to the research, religious affiliation and religiosity play a vital part in shopping conduct.
  • Faith and Gods in Ancient Civilizations Thus, it was important for the people of Ancient Greece, Rome, and China to have faith and praise the gods they chose.
  • Role of Faith in Social Work The first lesson of this book is that social work should be multifaceted to meet the specific needs of people, and it should consider the opportunities that every person has.
  • Faith Integration and Strategic Management At the Adult and Teen Challenge Ohio organization, which seeks to offer support and encouragement to women struggling with substance addiction, the focus on the search of a spiritual core as the key source of […]
  • Faith Integration: Opportunities and Threats Adult & Teen Challenge Ohio presently operates in Columbus, OH, yet the organization may expand in the future to embrace larger markets and address the needs of a more diverse range of clients. It is […]
  • Analytical Processing, Religion Belief & Science In order to test validity of the difference, it may be necessary to conduct an investigation on analytical processing skills of individuals in science and in religion.
  • Health Belief and Precautionary Adoption Process Models The agreement to change depends on the susceptibility of the risk. The study established that the construct of risk perception among the parents played a crucial role in determining the completion of the vaccination process.
  • Health Care Provider and Faith Diversity in Health Care The universal Christian community believes in the power of prayer in healing and the clergy offer prayers and spiritual nourishment to the sick.
  • Faith Diversity: Healing Prospects Muslims believe in the effect of the evil eye, jinns or magic, and it is this effect that results in illnesses with a supernatural cause.
  • Reason, Motivations, and Belief for Conducting Cyber Attack The end is beneficial to the threat source and detrimental to other users. In fact, activities of cyber attackers make the Internet both a blessing and a curse.
  • An Ethical Dilemma – Religious Belief Versus Medical Practice In the first step, the ethical dilemma is between the principle of beneficence in the treatment of meningitis and the principle of autonomy with respect to the decision of the parents.
  • Religion: The Canons as a Standards to Measure One’s Faith The authority of God in the New Testament cannot be exclusively attributed in the writing of the twenty-seven books that make up the New Testament as is the case with the Old Testament or Hebrew […]
  • Religion: Christians’ Belief in God So, in essence, he might take such turbulent times as a test of faith since the belief in the existence of God lies within the affirmation that God is in all things that we encounter.
  • Modality of Family Faith and Meanings and Relationships in Family Life The theme of this study is to investigate two broad categories of modalities of faith in family life: first, what they value or seek, and how they relate to God or to others and the […]
  • Acting in Good Faith: Contract and Agency Law To start with the validity of the contract should be analyzed; and in this case, the two contracting parties had agreed mutually to reduce the amount to a nominal amount of $150.
  • “Strength in the Unfeigned Faith” To the extent of questioning the incarnation of Jesus Christ, I become skeptical in basing my belief on the knowledge of this world.
  • Christian Faith and Work With Service Members In their article, Kick and McNitt discuss the importance of faith in providing help to the military members, veterans, and their families.
  • Faith-Based Organization Services as the Best Means to Prevent HIV and AIDS in Southern Cameroons The HIV/AIDS issue was complicated by the fact that at the moment of this research, there was no cure and the only way of addressing the infection spread was through prevention and ensuring that people […]
  • Belief and Evidence Between Religion and Science Therefore, they base their hopes on the belief that all will be well with them, and they will wake up to continue with their daily activities.
  • “Faith-Sharing” by Fox and Morris The three concepts that I have learned from the text include the meaning of faith, the motivation for faith sharing, and the appreciation of the meaning of faith sharing.
  • “Ferguson and Faith” by Leah Francis In this way, the religious activists may raise public awareness about the topical social issues in relation to the spiritual dimensions of human life, and engage people “in conversation about the theological imperative” in the […]
  • Four Apostles’ by Albrecht Dürer: Protestant Faith Protestantism emerged in Europe at the beginning of the 16th century as the opposition to the Roman Catholic Church and based on the belief in personal faith and the connection to God.
  • Spiritual Belief Is the Integral Parts of Human Beings In other words, the fact of the existence of the universe proves the idea of God responsible for the creation of such ideal objects and things.
  • Reason and Religious Belief. An introduction to The Philosophy of Religion’ by M. Peterson The chapter reveals that God is imperceptible to the senses of a man, and unconditionally pervades all the reality known to man. Therefore, it is challenging to reconcile the concept of God with evil and […]
  • The Chinese Belief on Death and Dying These distinctions are visible due to several cultures act of subjecting to an influencing experience of death in the African perspective, the keeping with the nature of the Bible or its times, the people from […]
  • Discovering Faith: The Search for Truth and Certainty The author starts his article with “truthseekers” using reason and faith as tools to find the truth. As opposed to both extremes- Fundamentalist Protestantism and Christian apologetic- Taylor argues that it is wrong to ridicule […]
  • Creationism as a Religious Belief The evolutionary scientists believe that the positions taken by creation scientists on the origin of the earth and life forms are irreconcilable to theirs.
  • Aquinas and Faith: Theological Theories Aquinas asserts that true faith should believe in what has been revealed by God The agreement that characterizes faith is being wholehearted and not timid. Through revelation one accepts the propositions in faith that God […]
  • Martin Buber: Two Types of Faith The first type of faith is expressed in the continuity of the nation which one is born in and he is a member.
  • Voluntaristic Faith: Readings by Clifford and James Faith, according to the readings of Clifford and James is a strong belief inscribed in the mind of an individual that that what they think is right.
  • Ethics of Belief: Term Discussion For instance, in the above example of taking your friends to a restaurant, you have to follow epistemic norm and the moral norm almost becomes obligatory.
  • ”The Believers”: An Analysis of Belief & Faith Thus faith involves a process and belief is only a part of the process by way in which you acquire faith faith being the ultimate expression of belief.
  • Martin Luther: Justification by Faith Alone The basis of the doctrine of justification by faith is the doctrine of grace as undeserved favor of God to fallen humanity.
  • Islamic Faith and Ritual Practice In the Islamic faith, rituals, known in their religion as ibadat, meaning acts of obedience, service, and worship to God, form the foundation on which the whole faith is anchored.
  • Vedic Hinduism, Classical Hinduism, and Buddhism: A Uniting Belief Systems The difference between Vedic and Classical Hinduism is fundamentally approach towards life rather than beliefs or reformation and the progression from the former to latter is not clear in terms of time.
  • Ethics and Combination of Religious Faith, Ethical and Aesthetic Beliefs It is essentially described by the existence of pleasure and in living an aesthetic life to the maximum one has to aim at maximizing the given pleasures.
  • Islam: a Restatement of Israeli Faith He did not have formal training or wisdom to have made any editorializing or modification to the word of God hence Muslims believe that the Koran is the pure and unadulterated word of God as […]
  • Cherokee Indian Belief: Gateway to Modern Civilization The Cherokee learned the art of combat war from the Europeans and they used the same tactics later on to attack their neighbors in the frontiers.
  • The Christian Faith in Geisler’s and Feinberg’s “Introduction to Philosophy: A Christian Perspective” In spite of all this reason vs.revelation debate, there is an underlying determination that is made apparent in the book: this is the determination to overcome any kind of rationalist thought or idea and discount […]
  • Islam: Connection of Belief With a Traditional Life Knowledge of the bases of Muslim doctrine is rather variously at various layers of the population and in the different countries of traditional distribution of Islam.
  • The Conditions in Formulating a Reasonable Belief 2 Both ideas make sense, and the goal of this review is to compare the opinions of James and Clifford to strengthen an understanding of the connection between beliefs, evidence, and sentiments.
  • Faith and Critical Reason Issues My understanding of faith is close to the definition suggested by Tilley, who argues that faith is the relationship between the person who has faith and that “which one has faith in”.
  • Mahāyāna Awakening of Faith and Chinese Culture To support this argument, it is possible to read through the Awakening and note the parts that might have been influenced by the situation in China at the time.
  • Cardiac Surgery vs. Faith Healing However, I believe that it is our duty as true Christians to forego any other interventions, including operations, since it has already been proven that it is wrong to go against God’s will.
  • Core Values in Personal Belief System These are my core values and include happiness, family, friends, pleasure and financial security and stability. In conclusion, I agree that values are important to my life.
  • Belief Systems in Generation X and Millennials As the purpose of the project consists in analyzing various belief systems pursued by Generation X and Millennials, it is purposeful to represent photos, statistics, and graphs uncovering the percentage characteristics in terms of the […]
  • Reformation Theology as the Source of Religious Faith The three major teachings from Martin Luther regarding reforming the church include the fact that faith in God’s gift of forgiveness is very essential and is the only way through which individuals could win salvation […]
  • Faith Development in Adolescents I believe my input was valuable for the patient and her faith development as she carved some of the spiritual pillars that would be helpful in her adulthood.
  • Religious Belief and Academic Content It should adapt to the overall situation and change the nature of the speeches to reflect that the people’s righteousness was the cause of the good times and that their perseverance would help them overcome […]
  • Faith and Excellent Systematic Knowledge In the context of a specific parish, one will need to encourage the promotion of parishioners’ education to ensure that they are aware of the key market principles.
  • Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith is one of his writings that discusses religion that is close to the author.
  • Philosophical Views: Faith vs. Science It is important to look at some of the philosophical views and philosophers that supported the concept of faith, science or both.
  • Morality, Faith, and Dignity in Modern Youth The blistering evolution of society combined with the appearance of new opportunities resulted in the significant deterioration of moral and values which determine the nature of human actions.
  • Mindfulness in a Faith-Based Education Setting The College’s overall strategy for the following years is to continue promoting education in faith to form the staff around the Lasallian values, improve their appreciation of these values, use the Lasallian principles as a […]
  • Testing a Person for His Faith and Devotion to God Suffering is usually perceived as a negative experience since it is commonly believed that it is a punishment for the sinner.
  • The Faith and Ethics Course: Attaining Ethical Maturity In Christian context, the Bible is the principle guide to ethical conduct and all actions should be in conformity to it.
  • Faith and Ethics Role in Religion We will discuss two of the characteristics of the ethics of Jesus, that is, His new concept of love and the value of the individual person and how they can be incorporated in our own […]
  • Christian Faith: Ancient Religion For example, ity teaches that Jesus is the son of God, he is the way to salvation, and he was sent by God to save the world from sin.
  • Islamic Faith: Teachings and Practices Ahmed elaborates that Muslims in Middle East, India and Pakistan are keen and aware of the distinctions between the two factions.
  • Religious Studies: The Rahman Discussion and His Faith in Islam Yes, Rahman believes in the teachings of the Quran because they are the basis of all his writing. He cites from the Quran that this day will be the Day of Decision.
  • Religious Studies: Shinto’ Belief System This differs significantly from a vast majority of current belief systems such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and the Hindu religion wherein some form of the profession of faith is necessary to be considered a member […]
  • Faith, Justice, War – and Human Rights in the Realm of the Present-Day World Quran: The Most Ancient and Sacred Islamic Book as the Basis for the Laws on Human Rights Considering the Issue from a Different Perspective: The Fifteen Postulates Security of life and property: bi-al haqq and […]
  • Ushpizin: An Unshakable Jewish Faith This is a Jewish film owing to the title, language, setting, themes and even the actors involved in the film. The level of concern that they have for the Sukkot festival is indicative of their […]
  • The Main Problems of “Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief” by John Frame One of the best ways to solve this problem is to approach it from the point of view of God’s love for mankind.
  • “Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief” by John M. Frame The book goes further to analyze God’s will and power. Christians should use this book in order to establish the best relationships with their God.
  • Integrating Faith and Learning Kotter and Keller provide that marketing management is the process of formulating and organizing marketing strategies to control the organizational activities as well as allocate the marketing resources.
  • ‘Belief in Action: The Salvation Army, a Global Not-for-Profit Organization’ Strategic planning goes through a process from setting the mission, objectives, situation analysis, strategy creation, execution and finally control so as to achieve positive results and an effective plan of action.”Strategic planning is inextricably interwoven […]
  • Rational Approach to the Issue of Belief In spite of the fact, objecting the position of Clifford, the person can support James’s views, and objecting the position of James, the person can discuss Clifford’s ideas as relevant, it is possible to provide […]
  • The Individual, Faith, and Society Hobbes managed to overcome all the political and social havocs that affected his life and which were the major things that shaped the way he was thinking.
  • Empowerment Through Art: A Biographical Study on Faith Ringgold But the key lies in knowing that the sickness is real, and her art strives to inform the masses of just that.
  • Faith and Grace as the Peculiarities of Religion Analyzing the opinions of different researchers, it is possible to consider faith as a set of the moral principles caused by the personal experience of God, while grace is a gift given by God in […]
  • Analyzing the Inculturation Process of Specific Historical Moments in the Development of the Christian Faith Inculturation refers to the process of going against the culture or societal values in the process of developing faith. This paper seeks to analyze the inculturation process of specific historical moments in the development of […]
  • W. K. Clifford, ‘The Ethics of Belief’ Clifford provided an opinion in opposition to theism where his statements can be put in three points; there is inadequate evidence to believe that there is existence of God, it is incorrect forever, all over, […]
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i believe personal essay

10 Personal Statement Essay Examples That Worked

What’s covered:, what is a personal statement.

  • Essay 1: Summer Program
  • Essay 2: Being Bangladeshi-American
  • Essay 3: Why Medicine
  • Essay 4: Love of Writing
  • Essay 5: Starting a Fire
  • Essay 6: Dedicating a Track
  • Essay 7: Body Image and Eating Disorders
  • Essay 8: Becoming a Coach
  • Essay 9: Eritrea
  • Essay 10: Journaling
  • Is Your Personal Statement Strong Enough?

Your personal statement is any essay that you must write for your main application, such as the Common App Essay , University of California Essays , or Coalition Application Essay . This type of essay focuses on your unique experiences, ideas, or beliefs that may not be discussed throughout the rest of your application. This essay should be an opportunity for the admissions officers to get to know you better and give them a glimpse into who you really are.

In this post, we will share 10 different personal statements that were all written by real students. We will also provide commentary on what each essay did well and where there is room for improvement, so you can make your personal statement as strong as possible!

Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 

Personal Statement Examples

Essay example #1: exchange program.

The twisting roads, ornate mosaics, and fragrant scent of freshly ground spices had been so foreign at first. Now in my fifth week of the SNYI-L summer exchange program in Morocco, I felt more comfortable in the city. With a bag full of pastries from the market, I navigated to a bus stop, paid the fare, and began the trip back to my host family’s house. It was hard to believe that only a few years earlier my mom was worried about letting me travel around my home city on my own, let alone a place that I had only lived in for a few weeks. While I had been on a journey towards self-sufficiency and independence for a few years now, it was Morocco that pushed me to become the confident, self-reflective person that I am today.

As a child, my parents pressured me to achieve perfect grades, master my swim strokes, and discover interesting hobbies like playing the oboe and learning to pick locks. I felt compelled to live my life according to their wishes. Of course, this pressure was not a wholly negative factor in my life –– you might even call it support. However, the constant presence of my parents’ hopes for me overcame my own sense of desire and led me to become quite dependent on them. I pushed myself to get straight A’s, complied with years of oboe lessons, and dutifully attended hours of swim practice after school. Despite all these achievements, I felt like I had no sense of self beyond my drive for success. I had always been expected to succeed on the path they had defined. However, this path was interrupted seven years after my parents’ divorce when my dad moved across the country to Oregon.

I missed my dad’s close presence, but I loved my new sense of freedom. My parents’ separation allowed me the space to explore my own strengths and interests as each of them became individually busier. As early as middle school, I was riding the light rail train by myself, reading maps to get myself home, and applying to special academic programs without urging from my parents. Even as I took more initiatives on my own, my parents both continued to see me as somewhat immature. All of that changed three years ago, when I applied and was accepted to the SNYI-L summer exchange program in Morocco. I would be studying Arabic and learning my way around the city of Marrakesh. Although I think my parents were a little surprised when I told them my news, the addition of a fully-funded scholarship convinced them to let me go.

I lived with a host family in Marrakesh and learned that they, too, had high expectations for me. I didn’t know a word of Arabic, and although my host parents and one brother spoke good English, they knew I was there to learn. If I messed up, they patiently corrected me but refused to let me fall into the easy pattern of speaking English just as I did at home. Just as I had when I was younger, I felt pressured and stressed about meeting their expectations. However, one day, as I strolled through the bustling market square after successfully bargaining with one of the street vendors, I realized my mistake. My host family wasn’t being unfair by making me fumble through Arabic. I had applied for this trip, and I had committed to the intensive language study. My host family’s rules about speaking Arabic at home had not been to fulfill their expectations for me, but to help me fulfill my expectations for myself. Similarly, the pressure my parents had put on me as a child had come out of love and their hopes for me, not out of a desire to crush my individuality.

As my bus drove through the still-bustling market square and past the medieval Ben-Youssef madrasa, I realized that becoming independent was a process, not an event. I thought that my parents’ separation when I was ten had been the one experience that would transform me into a self-motivated and autonomous person. It did, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t still have room to grow. Now, although I am even more self-sufficient than I was three years ago, I try to approach every experience with the expectation that it will change me. It’s still difficult, but I understand that just because growth can be uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s not important.

What the Essay Did Well

This is a nice essay because it delves into particular character trait of the student and how it has been shaped and matured over time. Although it doesn’t focus the essay around a specific anecdote, the essay is still successful because it is centered around this student’s independence. This is a nice approach for a personal statement: highlight a particular trait of yours and explore how it has grown with you.

The ideas in this essay are universal to growing up—living up to parents’ expectations, yearning for freedom, and coming to terms with reality—but it feels unique to the student because of the inclusion of details specific to them. Including their oboe lessons, the experience of riding the light rail by themselves, and the negotiations with a street vendor helps show the reader what these common tropes of growing up looked like for them personally. 

Another strength of the essay is the level of self-reflection included throughout the piece. Since there is no central anecdote tying everything together, an essay about a character trait is only successful when you deeply reflect on how you felt, where you made mistakes, and how that trait impacts your life. The author includes reflection in sentences like “ I felt like I had no sense of self beyond my drive for success, ” and “ I understand that just because growth can be uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s not important. ” These sentences help us see how the student was impacted and what their point of view is.

What Could Be Improved

The largest change this essay would benefit from is to show not tell. The platitude you have heard a million times no doubt, but for good reason. This essay heavily relies on telling the reader what occurred, making us less engaged as the entire reading experience feels more passive. If the student had shown us what happens though, it keeps the reader tied to the action and makes them feel like they are there with the student, making it much more enjoyable to read. 

For example, they tell us about the pressure to succeed their parents placed on them: “ I pushed myself to get straight A’s, complied with years of oboe lessons, and dutifully attended hours of swim practice after school.”  They could have shown us what that pressure looked like with a sentence like this: “ My stomach turned somersaults as my rattling knee thumped against the desk before every test, scared to get anything less than a 95. For five years the painful squawk of the oboe only reminded me of my parents’ claps and whistles at my concerts. I mastered the butterfly, backstroke, and freestyle, fighting against the anchor of their expectations threatening to pull me down.”

If the student had gone through their essay and applied this exercise of bringing more detail and colorful language to sentences that tell the reader what happened, the essay would be really great. 

Table of Contents

Essay Example #2: Being Bangladeshi-American

Life before was good: verdant forests, sumptuous curries, and a devoted family.

Then, my family abandoned our comfortable life in Bangladesh for a chance at the American dream in Los Angeles. Within our first year, my father was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He lost his battle three weeks before my sixth birthday. Facing a new country without the steady presence of my father, we were vulnerable — prisoners of hardship in the land of the free. We resettled in the Bronx, in my uncle’s renovated basement. It was meant to be our refuge, but I felt more displaced than ever. Gone were the high-rise condos of West L.A.; instead, government projects towered over the neighborhood. Pedestrians no longer smiled and greeted me; the atmosphere was hostile, even toxic. Schoolkids were quick to pick on those they saw as weak or foreign, hurling harsh words I’d never heard before.

Meanwhile, my family began integrating into the local Bangladeshi community. I struggled to understand those who shared my heritage. Bangladeshi mothers stayed home while fathers drove cabs and sold fruit by the roadside — painful societal positions. Riding on crosstown buses or walking home from school, I began to internalize these disparities. During my fleeting encounters with affluent Upper East Siders, I saw kids my age with nannies, parents who wore suits to work, and luxurious apartments with spectacular views. Most took cabs to their destinations: cabs that Bangladeshis drove. I watched the mundane moments of their lives with longing, aching to plant myself in their shoes. Shame prickled down my spine. I distanced myself from my heritage, rejecting the traditional panjabis worn on Eid and refusing the torkari we ate for dinner every day. 

As I grappled with my relationship with the Bangladeshi community, I turned my attention to helping my Bronx community by pursuing an internship with Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda. I handled desk work and took calls, spending the bulk of my time actively listening to the hardships constituents faced — everything from a veteran stripped of his benefits to a grandmother unable to support her bedridden grandchild.

I’d never exposed myself to stories like these, and now I was the first to hear them. As an intern, I could only assist in what felt like the small ways — pointing out local job offerings, printing information on free ESL classes, reaching out to non-profits. But to a community facing an onslaught of intense struggles, I realized that something as small as these actions could have vast impacts. Seeing the immediate consequences of my actions inspired me. Throughout that summer, I internalized my community’s daily challenges in a new light. I began to stop seeing the prevalent underemployment and cramped living quarters less as sources of shame. Instead, I saw them as realities that had to be acknowledged, but could ultimately be remedied. I also realized the benefits of the Bangladeshi culture I had been so ashamed of. My Bangla language skills were an asset to the office, and my understanding of Bangladeshi etiquette allowed for smooth communication between office staff and its constituents. As I helped my neighbors navigate city services, I saw my heritage with pride — a perspective I never expected to have.

I can now appreciate the value of my unique culture and background, and of living with less. This perspective offers room for progress, community integration, and a future worth fighting for. My time with Assemblyman Sepulveda’s office taught me that I can be a change agent in enabling this progression. Far from being ashamed of my community, I want to someday return to local politics in the Bronx to continue helping others access the American Dream. I hope to help my community appreciate the opportunity to make progress together. By embracing reality, I learned to live it. Along the way, I discovered one thing: life is good, but we can make it better.

This student’s passion for social justice and civic duty shines through in this essay because of how honest it is. Sharing their personal experience with immigrating, moving around, being an outsider, and finding a community allows us to see the hardships this student has faced and builds empathy towards their situation. However, what really makes it strong is that they go beyond describing the difficulties they faced and explain the mental impact it had on them as a child: Shame prickled down my spine. I distanced myself from my heritage, rejecting the traditional panjabis worn on Eid and refusing the torkari we ate for dinner every day. 

The rejection of their culture presented at the beginning of the essay creates a nice juxtaposition with the student’s view in the latter half of the essay and helps demonstrate how they have matured. They use their experience interning as a way to delve into a change in their thought process about their culture and show how their passion for social justice began. Using this experience as a mechanism to explore their thoughts and feelings is an excellent example of how items that are included elsewhere on your application should be incorporated into your essay.

This essay prioritizes emotions and personal views over specific anecdotes. Although there are details and certain moments incorporated throughout to emphasize the author’s points, the main focus remains on the student and how they grapple with their culture and identity.  

One area for improvement is the conclusion. Although the forward-looking approach is a nice way to end an essay focused on social justice, it would be nice to include more details and imagery in the conclusion. How does the student want to help their community? What government position do they see themselves holding one day? 

A more impactful ending might look like the student walking into their office at the New York City Housing Authority in 15 years and looking at the plans to build a new development in the Bronx just blocks away from where the grew up that would provide quality housing to people in their Bangladeshi community. They would smile while thinking about how far they have come from that young kid who used to be ashamed of their culture. 

Essay Example #3: Why Medicine

I took my first trip to China to visit my cousin Anna in July of 2014. Distance had kept us apart, but when we were together, we fell into all of our old inside jokes and caught up on each other’s lives. Her sparkling personality and optimistic attitude always brought a smile to my face. This time, however, my heart broke when I saw the effects of her brain cancer; she had suffered from a stroke that paralyzed her left side. She was still herself in many ways, but I could see that the damage to her brain made things difficult for her. I stayed by her every day, providing the support she needed, whether assisting her with eating and drinking, reading to her, or just watching “Friends.” During my flight back home, sorrow and helplessness overwhelmed me. Would I ever see Anna again? Could I have done more to make Anna comfortable? I wished I could stay in China longer to care for her. As I deplaned, I wondered if I could transform my grief to help other children and teenagers in the US who suffered as Anna did.

The day after I got home, as jet lag dragged me awake a few minutes after midnight, I remembered hearing about the Family Reach Foundation (FRF) and its work with children going through treatments at the local hospital and their families. I began volunteering in the FRF’s Children’s Activity Room, where I play with children battling cancer. Volunteering has both made me appreciate my own health and also cherish the new relationships I build with the children and families. We play sports, make figures out of playdoh, and dress up. When they take on the roles of firefighters or fairies, we all get caught up in the game; for that time, they forget the sanitized, stark, impersonal walls of the pediatric oncology ward. Building close relationships with them and seeing them giggle and laugh is so rewarding — I love watching them grow and get better throughout their course of treatment.

Hearing from the parents about their children’s condition and seeing the children recover inspired me to consider medical research. To get started, I enrolled in a summer collegelevel course in Abnormal Psychology. There I worked with Catelyn, a rising college senior, on a data analysis project regarding Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Together, we examined the neurological etiology of DID by studying four fMRI and PET cases. I fell in love with gathering data and analyzing the results and was amazed by our final product: several stunning brain images showcasing the areas of hyper and hypoactivity in brains affected by DID. Desire quickly followed my amazement — I want to continue this project and study more brains. Their complexity, delicacy, and importance to every aspect of life fascinate me. Successfully completing this research project gave me a sense of hope; I know I am capable of participating in a large scale research project and potentially making a difference in someone else’s life through my research.

Anna’s diagnosis inspired me to begin volunteering at FRF; from there, I discovered my desire to help people further by contributing to medical research. As my research interest blossomed, I realized that it’s no coincidence that I want to study brains—after all, Anna suffered from brain cancer. Reflecting on these experiences this past year and a half, I see that everything I’ve done is connected. Sadly, a few months after I returned from China, Anna passed away. I am still sad, but as I run a toy truck across the floor and watch one of the little patients’ eyes light up, I imagine that she would be proud of my commitment to pursue medicine and study the brain.

This essay has a very strong emotional core that tugs at the heart strings and makes the reader feel invested. Writing about sickness can be difficult and doesn’t always belong in a personal statement, but in this case it works well because the focus is on how this student cared for her cousin and dealt with the grief and emotions surrounding her condition. Writing about the compassion she showed and the doubts and concerns that filled her mind keeps the focus on the author and her personality. 

This continues when she again discusses the activities she did with the kids at FRF and the personal reflection this experience allowed her to have. For example, she writes: Volunteering has both made me appreciate my own health and also cherish the new relationships I build with the children and families. We play sports, make figures out of playdoh, and dress up.

Concluding the essay with the sad story of her cousin’s passing brings the essay full circle and returns to the emotional heart of the piece to once again build a connection with the reader. However, it finishes on a hopeful note and demonstrates how this student has been able to turn a tragic experience into a source of lifelong inspiration. 

One thing this essay should be cognizant of is that personal statements should not read as summaries of your extracurricular resume. Although this essay doesn’t fully fall into that trap, it does describe two key extracurriculars the student participated in. However, the inclusion of such a strong emotional core running throughout the essay helps keep the focus on the student and her thoughts and feelings during these activities.

To avoid making this mistake, make sure you have a common thread running through your essay and the extracurriculars provide support to the story you are trying to tell, rather than crafting a story around your activities. And, as this essay does, make sure there is lots of personal reflection and feelings weaved throughout to focus attention to you rather than your extracurriculars. 

Essay Example #4: Love of Writing

“I want to be a writer.” This had been my answer to every youthful discussion with the adults in my life about what I would do when I grew up. As early as elementary school, I remember reading my writing pieces aloud to an audience at “Author of the Month” ceremonies. Bearing this goal in mind, and hoping to gain some valuable experience, I signed up for a journalism class during my freshman year. Despite my love for writing, I initially found myself uninterested in the subject and I struggled to enjoy the class. When I thought of writing, I imagined lyrical prose, profound poetry, and thrilling plot lines. Journalism required a laconic style and orderly structure, and I found my teacher’s assignments formulaic and dull. That class shook my confidence as a writer. I was uncertain if I should continue in it for the rest of my high school career.

Despite my misgivings, I decided that I couldn’t make a final decision on whether to quit journalism until I had some experience working for a paper outside of the classroom. The following year, I applied to be a staff reporter on our school newspaper. I hoped this would help me become more self-driven and creative, rather than merely writing articles that my teacher assigned. To my surprise, my time on staff was worlds away from what I experienced in the journalism class. Although I was unaccustomed to working in a fast-paced environment and initially found it burdensome to research and complete high-quality stories in a relatively short amount of time, I also found it exciting. I enjoyed learning more about topics and events on campus that I did not know much about; some of my stories that I covered in my first semester concerned a chess tournament, a food drive, and a Spanish immersion party. I relished in the freedom I had to explore and learn, and to write more independently than I could in a classroom.

Although I enjoyed many aspects of working for the paper immediately, reporting also pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I am a shy person, and speaking with people I did not know intimidated me. During my first interview, I met with the basketball coach to prepare for a story about the team’s winning streak. As I approached his office, I felt everything from my toes to my tongue freeze into a solid block, and I could hardly get out my opening questions. Fortunately, the coach was very kind and helped me through the conversation. Encouraged, I prepared for my next interview with more confidence. After a few weeks of practice, I even started to look forward to interviewing people on campus. That first journalism class may have bored me, but even if journalism in practice was challenging, it was anything but tedious.

Over the course of that year, I grew to love writing for our school newspaper. Reporting made me aware of my surroundings, and made me want to know more about current events on campus and in the town where I grew up. By interacting with people all over campus, I came to understand the breadth of individuals and communities that make up my high school. I felt far more connected to diverse parts of my school through my work as a journalist, and I realized that journalism gave me a window into seeing beyond my own experiences. The style of news writing may be different from what I used to think “writing” meant, but I learned that I can still derive exciting plots from events that may have gone unnoticed if not for my stories. I no longer struggle to approach others, and truly enjoy getting to know people and recognizing their accomplishments through my writing. Becoming a writer may be a difficult path, but it is as rewarding as I hoped when I was young.

This essay is clearly structured in a manner that makes it flow very nicely and contributes to its success. It starts with a quote to draw in the reader and show this student’s life-long passion for writing. Then it addresses the challenges of facing new, unfamiliar territory and how this student overcame it. Finally, it concludes by reflecting on this eye-opening experience and a nod to their younger self from the introduction. Having a well-thought out and sequential structure with clear transitions makes it extremely easy for the reader to follow along and take away the main idea.

Another positive aspect of the essay is the use of strong and expressive language. Sentences like “ When I thought of writing, I imagined lyrical prose, profound poetry, and thrilling plot lines ” stand out because of the intentional use of words like “lyrical”, “profound”, and “thrilling” to convey the student’s love of writing. The author also uses an active voice to capture the readers’ attention and keep us engaged. They rely on their language and diction to reveal details to the reader, for instance saying “ I felt everything from my toes to my tongue freeze into a solid block ” to describe feeling nervous.

This essay is already very strong, so there isn’t much that needs to be changed. One thing that could take the essay from great to outstanding would be to throw in more quotes, internal dialogue, and sensory descriptors.

It would be nice to see the nerves they felt interviewing the coach by including dialogue like “ Um…I want to interview you about…uh…”.  They could have shown their original distaste for journalism by narrating the thoughts running through their head. The fast-paced environment of their newspaper could have come to life with descriptions about the clacking of keyboards and the whirl of people running around laying out articles.

Essay Example #5: Starting a Fire

Was I no longer the beloved daughter of nature, whisperer of trees? Knee-high rubber boots, camouflage, bug spray—I wore the garb and perfume of a proud wild woman, yet there I was, hunched over the pathetic pile of stubborn sticks, utterly stumped, on the verge of tears. As a child, I had considered myself a kind of rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes, who was serenaded by mourning doves and chickadees, who could glide through tick-infested meadows and emerge Lyme-free. I knew the cracks of the earth like the scars on my own rough palms. Yet here I was, ten years later, incapable of performing the most fundamental outdoor task: I could not, for the life of me, start a fire. 

Furiously I rubbed the twigs together—rubbed and rubbed until shreds of skin flaked from my fingers. No smoke. The twigs were too young, too sticky-green; I tossed them away with a shower of curses, and began tearing through the underbrush in search of a more flammable collection. My efforts were fruitless. Livid, I bit a rejected twig, determined to prove that the forest had spurned me, offering only young, wet bones that would never burn. But the wood cracked like carrots between my teeth—old, brittle, and bitter. Roaring and nursing my aching palms, I retreated to the tent, where I sulked and awaited the jeers of my family. 

Rattling their empty worm cans and reeking of fat fish, my brother and cousins swaggered into the campsite. Immediately, they noticed the minor stick massacre by the fire pit and called to me, their deep voices already sharp with contempt. 

“Where’s the fire, Princess Clara?” they taunted. “Having some trouble?” They prodded me with the ends of the chewed branches and, with a few effortless scrapes of wood on rock, sparked a red and roaring flame. My face burned long after I left the fire pit. The camp stank of salmon and shame. 

In the tent, I pondered my failure. Was I so dainty? Was I that incapable? I thought of my hands, how calloused and capable they had been, how tender and smooth they had become. It had been years since I’d kneaded mud between my fingers; instead of scaling a white pine, I’d practiced scales on my piano, my hands softening into those of a musician—fleshy and sensitive. And I’d gotten glasses, having grown horrifically nearsighted; long nights of dim lighting and thick books had done this. I couldn’t remember the last time I had lain down on a hill, barefaced, and seen the stars without having to squint. Crawling along the edge of the tent, a spider confirmed my transformation—he disgusted me, and I felt an overwhelming urge to squash him. 

Yet, I realized I hadn’t really changed—I had only shifted perspective. I still eagerly explored new worlds, but through poems and prose rather than pastures and puddles. I’d grown to prefer the boom of a bass over that of a bullfrog, learned to coax a different kind of fire from wood, having developed a burn for writing rhymes and scrawling hypotheses. 

That night, I stayed up late with my journal and wrote about the spider I had decided not to kill. I had tolerated him just barely, only shrieking when he jumped—it helped to watch him decorate the corners of the tent with his delicate webs, knowing that he couldn’t start fires, either. When the night grew cold and the embers died, my words still smoked—my hands burned from all that scrawling—and even when I fell asleep, the ideas kept sparking—I was on fire, always on fire.

This student is an excellent writer, which allows a simple story to be outstandingly compelling. The author articulates her points beautifully and creatively through her immense use of details and figurative language. Lines like “a rustic princess, a cradler of spiders and centipedes, who was serenaded by mourning doves and chickadees,” and “rubbed and rubbed until shreds of skin flaked from my fingers,” create vivid images that draw the reader in. 

The flowery and descriptive prose also contributes to the nice juxtaposition between the old Clara and the new Clara. The latter half of the essay contrasts elements of nature with music and writing to demonstrate how natural these interests are for her now. This sentence perfectly encapsulates the contrast she is trying to build: “It had been years since I’d kneaded mud between my fingers; instead of scaling a white pine, I’d practiced scales on my piano, my hands softening into those of a musician—fleshy and sensitive.”

In addition to being well-written, this essay is thematically cohesive. It begins with the simple introduction “Fire!” and ends with the following image: “When the night grew cold and the embers died, my words still smoked—my hands burned from all that scrawling—and even when I fell asleep, the ideas kept sparking—I was on fire, always on fire.” This full-circle approach leaves readers satisfied and impressed.

There is very little this essay should change, however one thing to be cautious about is having an essay that is overly-descriptive. We know from the essay that this student likes to read and write, and depending on other elements of her application, it might make total sense to have such a flowery and ornate writing style. However, your personal statement needs to reflect your voice as well as your personality. If you would never use language like this in conversation or your writing, don’t put it in your personal statement. Make sure there is a balance between eloquence and your personal voice.

Essay Example #6: Dedicating a Track

“Getting beat is one thing – it’s part of competing – but I want no part in losing.” Coach Rob Stark’s motto never fails to remind me of his encouragement on early-morning bus rides to track meets around the state. I’ve always appreciated the phrase, but an experience last June helped me understand its more profound, universal meaning.

Stark, as we affectionately call him, has coached track at my high school for 25 years. His care, dedication, and emphasis on developing good character has left an enduring impact on me and hundreds of other students. Not only did he help me discover my talent and love for running, but he also taught me the importance of commitment and discipline and to approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running. When I learned a neighboring high school had dedicated their track to a longtime coach, I felt that Stark deserved similar honors.

Our school district’s board of education indicated they would only dedicate our track to Stark if I could demonstrate that he was extraordinary. I took charge and mobilized my teammates to distribute petitions, reach out to alumni, and compile statistics on the many team and individual champions Stark had coached over the years. We received astounding support, collecting almost 3,000 signatures and pages of endorsements from across the community. With help from my teammates, I presented this evidence to the board.

They didn’t bite. 

Most members argued that dedicating the track was a low priority. Knowing that we had to act quickly to convince them of its importance, I called a team meeting where we drafted a rebuttal for the next board meeting. To my surprise, they chose me to deliver it. I was far from the best public speaker in the group, and I felt nervous about going before the unsympathetic board again. However, at that second meeting, I discovered that I enjoy articulating and arguing for something that I’m passionate about.

Public speaking resembles a cross country race. Walking to the starting line, you have to trust your training and quell your last minute doubts. When the gun fires, you can’t think too hard about anything; your performance has to be instinctual, natural, even relaxed. At the next board meeting, the podium was my starting line. As I walked up to it, familiar butterflies fluttered in my stomach. Instead of the track stretching out in front of me, I faced the vast audience of teachers, board members, and my teammates. I felt my adrenaline build, and reassured myself: I’ve put in the work, my argument is powerful and sound. As the board president told me to introduce myself, I heard, “runners set” in the back of my mind. She finished speaking, and Bang! The brief silence was the gunshot for me to begin. 

The next few minutes blurred together, but when the dust settled, I knew from the board members’ expressions and the audience’s thunderous approval that I had run quite a race. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough; the board voted down our proposal. I was disappointed, but proud of myself, my team, and our collaboration off the track. We stood up for a cause we believed in, and I overcame my worries about being a leader. Although I discovered that changing the status quo through an elected body can be a painstakingly difficult process and requires perseverance, I learned that I enjoy the challenges this effort offers. Last month, one of the school board members joked that I had become a “regular” – I now often show up to meetings to advocate for a variety of causes, including better environmental practices in cafeterias and safer equipment for athletes.

Just as Stark taught me, I worked passionately to achieve my goal. I may have been beaten when I appealed to the board, but I certainly didn’t lose, and that would have made Stark proud.

This essay effectively conveys this student’s compassion for others, initiative, and determination—all great qualities to exemplify in a personal statement!

Although they rely on telling us a lot of what happened up until the board meeting, the use of running a race (their passion) as a metaphor for public speaking provides a lot of insight into the fear that this student overcame to work towards something bigger than themself. Comparing a podium to the starting line, the audience to the track, and silence to the gunshot is a nice way of demonstrating this student’s passion for cross country running without making that the focus of the story.

The essay does a nice job of coming full circle at the end by explaining what the quote from the beginning meant to them after this experience. Without explicitly saying “ I now know that what Stark actually meant is…” they rely on the strength of their argument above to make it obvious to the reader what it means to get beat but not lose. 

One of the biggest areas of improvement in the intro, however, is how the essay tells us Stark’s impact rather than showing us: His care, dedication, and emphasis on developing good character has left an enduring impact on me and hundreds of other students. Not only did he help me discover my talent and love for running, but he also taught me the importance of commitment and discipline and to approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running.

The writer could’ve helped us feel a stronger emotional connection to Stark if they had included examples of Stark’s qualities, rather than explicitly stating them. For example, they could’ve written something like: Stark was the kind of person who would give you gas money if you told him your parents couldn’t afford to pick you up from practice. And he actually did that—several times. At track meets, alumni regularly would come talk to him and tell him how he’d changed their lives. Before Stark, I was ambivalent about running and was on the JV team, but his encouragement motivated me to run longer and harder and eventually make varsity. Because of him, I approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running.

Essay Example #7: Body Image and Eating Disorders

I press the “discover” button on my Instagram app, hoping to find enticing pictures to satisfy my boredom. Scrolling through, I see funny videos and mouth-watering pictures of food. However, one image stops me immediately. A fit teenage girl with a “perfect body” relaxes in a bikini on a beach. Beneath it, I see a slew of flattering comments. I shake with disapproval over the image’s unrealistic quality. However, part of me still wants to have a body like hers so that others will make similar comments to me.

I would like to resolve a silent issue that harms many teenagers and adults: negative self image and low self-esteem in a world where social media shapes how people view each other. When people see the façades others wear to create an “ideal” image, they can develop poor thought patterns rooted in negative self-talk. The constant comparisons to “perfect” others make people feel small. In this new digital age, it is hard to distinguish authentic from artificial representations.

When I was 11, I developed anorexia nervosa. Though I was already thin, I wanted to be skinny like the models that I saw on the magazine covers on the grocery store stands. Little did I know that those models probably also suffered from disorders, and that photoshop erased their flaws. I preferred being underweight to being healthy. No matter how little I ate or how thin I was, I always thought that I was too fat. I became obsessed with the number on the scale and would try to eat the least that I could without my parents urging me to take more. Fortunately, I stopped engaging in anorexic behaviors before middle school. However, my underlying mental habits did not change. The images that had provoked my disorder in the first place were still a constant presence in my life.

By age 15, I was in recovery from anorexia, but suffered from depression. While I used to only compare myself to models, the growth of social media meant I also compared myself to my friends and acquaintances. I felt left out when I saw my friends’ excitement about lake trips they had taken without me. As I scrolled past endless photos of my flawless, thin classmates with hundreds of likes and affirming comments, I felt my jealousy spiral. I wanted to be admired and loved by other people too. However, I felt that I could never be enough. I began to hate the way that I looked, and felt nothing in my life was good enough. I wanted to be called “perfect” and “body goals,” so I tried to only post at certain times of day to maximize my “likes.” When that didn’t work, I started to feel too anxious to post anything at all.  

Body image insecurities and social media comparisons affect thousands of people – men, women, children, and adults – every day. I am lucky – after a few months of my destructive social media habits, I came across a video that pointed out the illusory nature of social media; many Instagram posts only show off good things while people hide their flaws. I began going to therapy, and recovered from my depression. To address the problem of self-image and social media, we can all focus on what matters on the inside and not what is on the surface. As an effort to become healthy internally, I started a club at my school to promote clean eating and radiating beauty from within. It has helped me grow in my confidence, and today I’m not afraid to show others my struggles by sharing my experience with eating disorders. Someday, I hope to make this club a national organization to help teenagers and adults across the country. I support the idea of body positivity and embracing difference, not “perfection.” After all, how can we be ourselves if we all look the same?

This essay covers the difficult topics of eating disorders and mental health. If you’re thinking about covering similar topics in your essay, we recommend reading our post Should You Talk About Mental Health in College Essays?

The short answer is that, yes, you can talk about mental health, but it can be risky. If you do go that route, it’s important to focus on what you learned from the experience.

The strength of this essay is the student’s vulnerability, in excerpts such as this: I wanted to be admired and loved by other people too. However, I felt that I could never be enough. I began to hate the way that I looked, and felt nothing in my life was good enough. I wanted to be called “perfect” and “body goals,” so I tried to only post at certain times of day to maximize my “likes.”

The student goes on to share how they recovered from their depression through an eye-opening video and therapy sessions, and they’re now helping others find their self-worth as well. It’s great that this essay looks towards the future and shares the writer’s goals of making their club a national organization; we can see their ambition and compassion.

The main weakness of this essay is that it doesn’t focus enough on their recovery process, which is arguably the most important part. They could’ve told us more about the video they watched or the process of starting their club and the interactions they’ve had with other members. Especially when sharing such a vulnerable topic, there should be vulnerability in the recovery process too. That way, the reader can fully appreciate all that this student has overcome.

Essay Example #8: Becoming a Coach

”Advanced females ages 13 to 14 please proceed to staging with your coaches at this time.” Skittering around the room, eyes wide and pleading, I frantically explained my situation to nearby coaches. The seconds ticked away in my head; every polite refusal increased my desperation.

Despair weighed me down. I sank to my knees as a stream of competitors, coaches, and officials flowed around me. My dojang had no coach, and the tournament rules prohibited me from competing without one.

Although I wanted to remain strong, doubts began to cloud my mind. I could not help wondering: what was the point of perfecting my skills if I would never even compete? The other members of my team, who had found coaches minutes earlier, attempted to comfort me, but I barely heard their words. They couldn’t understand my despair at being left on the outside, and I never wanted them to understand.

Since my first lesson 12 years ago, the members of my dojang have become family. I have watched them grow up, finding my own happiness in theirs. Together, we have honed our kicks, blocks, and strikes. We have pushed one another to aim higher and become better martial artists. Although my dojang had searched for a reliable coach for years, we had not found one. When we attended competitions in the past, my teammates and I had always gotten lucky and found a sympathetic coach. Now, I knew this practice was unsustainable. It would devastate me to see the other members of my dojang in my situation, unable to compete and losing hope as a result. My dojang needed a coach, and I decided it was up to me to find one.

I first approached the adults in the dojang – both instructors and members’ parents. However, these attempts only reacquainted me with polite refusals. Everyone I asked told me they couldn’t devote multiple weekends per year to competitions. I soon realized that I would have become the coach myself.

At first, the inner workings of tournaments were a mystery to me. To prepare myself for success as a coach, I spent the next year as an official and took coaching classes on the side. I learned everything from motivational strategies to technical, behind-the-scenes components of Taekwondo competitions. Though I emerged with new knowledge and confidence in my capabilities, others did not share this faith.

Parents threw me disbelieving looks when they learned that their children’s coach was only a child herself. My self-confidence was my armor, deflecting their surly glances. Every armor is penetrable, however, and as the relentless barrage of doubts pounded my resilience, it began to wear down. I grew unsure of my own abilities.

Despite the attack, I refused to give up. When I saw the shining eyes of the youngest students preparing for their first competition, I knew I couldn’t let them down. To quit would be to set them up to be barred from competing like I was. The knowledge that I could solve my dojang’s longtime problem motivated me to overcome my apprehension.

Now that my dojang flourishes at competitions, the attacks on me have weakened, but not ended. I may never win the approval of every parent; at times, I am still tormented by doubts, but I find solace in the fact that members of my dojang now only worry about competing to the best of their abilities.

Now, as I arrive at a tournament with my students, I close my eyes and remember the past. I visualize the frantic search for a coach and the chaos amongst my teammates as we competed with one another to find coaches before the staging calls for our respective divisions. I open my eyes to the exact opposite scene. Lacking a coach hurt my ability to compete, but I am proud to know that no member of my dojang will have to face that problem again.

This essay begins with an in-the-moment narrative that really illustrates the chaos of looking for a coach last-minute. We feel the writer’s emotions, particularly her dejectedness, at not being able to compete. Starting an essay in media res  is a great way to capture the attention of your readers and build anticipation for what comes next.

Through this essay, we can see how gutsy and determined the student is in deciding to become a coach themselves. She shows us these characteristics through their actions, rather than explicitly telling us: To prepare myself for success as a coach, I spent the next year as an official and took coaching classes on the side.  Also, by discussing the opposition she faced and how it affected her, the student is open and vulnerable about the reality of the situation.

The essay comes full circle as the author recalls the frantic situations in seeking out a coach, but this is no longer a concern for them and their team. Overall, this essay is extremely effective in painting this student as mature, bold, and compassionate.

The biggest thing this essay needs to work on is showing not telling. Throughout the essay, the student tells us that she “emerged with new knowledge and confidence,” she “grew unsure of her own abilities,” and she “refused to give up”. What we really want to know is what this looks like.

Instead of saying she “emerged with new knowledge and confidence” she should have shared how she taught a new move to a fellow team-member without hesitation. Rather than telling us she “grew unsure of her own abilities” she should have shown what that looked like by including her internal dialogue and rhetorical questions that ran through her mind. She could have demonstrated what “refusing to give up” looks like by explaining how she kept learning coaching techniques on her own, turned to a mentor for advice, or devised a plan to win over the trust of parents. 

Essay Example #9: Eritrea

No one knows where Eritrea is.

On the first day of school, for the past nine years, I would pensively stand in front of a class, a teacher, a stranger  waiting for the inevitable question: Where are you from?

I smile politely, my dimples accentuating my ambiguous features. “Eritrea,” I answer promptly and proudly. But I  am always prepared. Before their expression can deepen into confusion, ready to ask “where is that,” I elaborate,  perhaps with a fleeting hint of exasperation, “East Africa, near Ethiopia.”

Sometimes, I single out the key-shaped hermit nation on a map, stunning teachers who have “never had a student  from there!” Grinning, I resist the urge to remark, “You didn’t even know it existed until two minutes ago!”

Eritrea is to the East of Ethiopia, its arid coastline clutches the lucrative Red Sea. Battle scars litter the ancient  streets – the colonial Italian architecture lathered with bullet holes, the mosques mangled with mortar shells.  Originally part of the world’s first Christian kingdom, Eritrea passed through the hands of colonial Italy, Britain, and  Ethiopia for over a century, until a bloody thirty year war of Independence liberated us.

But these are facts that anyone can know with a quick Google search. These are facts that I have memorised and compounded, first from my Grandmother and now from pristine books  borrowed from the library.

No historical narrative, however, can adequately capture what Eritrea is.  No one knows the aroma of bushels of potatoes, tomatoes, and garlic – still covered in dirt – that leads you to the open-air market. No one knows the poignant scent of spices, arranged in orange piles reminiscent of compacted  dunes.  No one knows how to haggle stubborn herders for sheep and roosters for Christmas celebrations as deliberately as my mother. No one can replicate the perfect balance of spices in dorho and tsebhi as well as my grandmother,  her gnarly hands stirring the pot with ancient precision (chastising my clumsy knife work with the potatoes).  It’s impossible to learn when the injera is ready – the exact moment you have to lift the lid of the mogogo. Do it too  early (or too late) and the flatbread becomes mangled and gross. It is a sixth sense passed through matriarchal  lineages.

There are no sources that catalogue the scent of incense that wafts through the sunlit porch on St. Michael’s; no  films that can capture the luminescence of hundreds of flaming bonfires that fluoresce the sidewalks on Kudus  Yohannes, as excited children chant Ge’ez proverbs whose origin has been lost to time.  You cannot learn the familiarity of walking beneath the towering Gothic figure of the Enda Mariam Cathedral, the  crowds undulating to the ringing of the archaic bells.  I have memorized the sound of the rains hounding the metal roof during kiremti , the heat of the sun pounding  against the Toyota’s window as we sped down towards Ghinda , the opulent brilliance of the stars twinkling in a  sky untainted by light pollution, the scent of warm rolls of bani wafting through the streets at precisely 6 o’clock each day…

I fill my flimsy sketchbook with pictures from my memory. My hand remembers the shapes of the hibiscus drifting  in the wind, the outline of my grandmother (affectionately nicknamed a’abaye ) leaning over the garden, the bizarre architecture of the Fiat Tagliero .  I dice the vegetables with movements handed down from generations. My nose remembers the scent of frying garlic, the sourness of the warm tayta , the sharpness of the mit’mt’a …

This knowledge is intrinsic.  “I am Eritrean,” I repeat. “I am proud.”  Within me is an encyclopedia of history, culture, and idealism.

Eritrea is the coffee made from scratch, the spices drying in the sun, the priests and nuns. Eritrea is wise, filled with ambition, and unseen potential.  Eritrea isn’t a place, it’s an identity.

This is an exceptional essay that provides a window into this student’s culture that really makes their love for their country and heritage leap off the page. The sheer level of details and sensory descriptors this student is able to fit in this space makes the essay stand out. From the smells, to the traditions, sounds, and sights, the author encapsulates all the glory of Eritrea for the reader. 

The vivid images this student is able to create for the reader, whether it is having the tedious conversation with every teacher or cooking in their grandmother’s kitchen, transports us into the story and makes us feel like we are there in the moment with the student. This is a prime example of an essay that shows , not tells.

Besides the amazing imagery, the use of shorter paragraphs also contributes to how engaging this essay is. Employing this tactic helps break up the text to make it more readable and it isolates ideas so they stick out more than if they were enveloped in a large paragraph.

Overall, this is a really strong essay that brings to life this student’s heritage through its use of vivid imagery. This essay exemplifies what it means to show not tell in your writing, and it is a great example of how you can write an intimate personal statement without making yourself the primary focus of your essay. 

There is very little this essay should improve upon, but one thing the student might consider would be to inject more personal reflection into their response. Although we can clearly take away their deep love and passion for their homeland and culture, the essay would be a bit more personal if they included the emotions and feelings they associate with the various aspects of Eritrea. For example, the way their heart swells with pride when their grandmother praises their ability to cook a flatbread or the feeling of serenity when they hear the bells ring out from the cathedral. Including personal details as well as sensory ones would create a wonderful balance of imagery and reflection.

Essay Example #10: Journaling

Flipping past dozens of colorful entries in my journal, I arrive at the final blank sheet. I press my pen lightly to the page, barely scratching its surface to create a series of loops stringing together into sentences. Emotions spill out, and with their release, I feel lightness in my chest. The stream of thoughts slows as I reach the bottom of the page, and I gently close the cover of the worn book: another journal finished.

I add the journal to the stack of eleven books on my nightstand. Struck by the bittersweet sensation of closing a chapter of my life, I grab the notebook at the bottom of the pile to reminisce.

“I want to make a flying mushen to fly in space and your in it” – October 2008

Pulling back the cover of my first Tinkerbell-themed diary, the prompt “My Hopes and Dreams” captures my attention. Though “machine” is misspelled in my scribbled response, I see the beginnings of my past obsession with outer space. At the age of five, I tore through novels about the solar system, experimented with rockets built from plastic straws, and rented Space Shuttle films from Blockbuster to satisfy my curiosities. While I chased down answers to questions as limitless as the universe, I fell in love with learning. Eight journals later, the same relentless curiosity brought me to an airplane descending on San Francisco Bay.

“I wish I had infinite sunsets” – July 2019

I reach for the charcoal notepad near the top of the pile and open to the first page: my flight to the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes. While I was excited to explore bioengineering, anxiety twisted in my stomach as I imagined my destination, unsure of whether I could overcome my shyness and connect with others.

With each new conversation, the sweat on my palms became less noticeable, and I met students from 23 different countries. Many of the moments where I challenged myself socially revolved around the third story deck of the Jerry house. A strange medley of English, Arabic, and Mandarin filled the summer air as my friends and I gathered there every evening, and dialogues at sunset soon became moments of bliss. In our conversations about cultural differences, the possibility of an afterlife, and the plausibility of far-fetched conspiracy theories, I learned to voice my opinion. As I was introduced to different viewpoints, these moments challenged my understanding of the world around me. In my final entries from California, I find excitement to learn from others and increased confidence, a tool that would later allow me to impact my community.

“The beauty in a tower of cans” – June 2020

Returning my gaze to the stack of journals, I stretch to take the floral-patterned book sitting on top. I flip through, eventually finding the beginnings of the organization I created during the outbreak of COVID-19. Since then, Door-to-Door Deliveries has woven its way through my entries and into reality, allowing me to aid high-risk populations through free grocery delivery.

With the confidence I gained the summer before, I took action when seeing others in need rather than letting my shyness hold me back. I reached out to local churches and senior centers to spread word of our services and interacted with customers through our website and social media pages. To further expand our impact, we held two food drives, and I mustered the courage to ask for donations door-to-door. In a tower of canned donations, I saw the value of reaching out to help others and realized my own potential to impact the world around me.

I delicately close the journal in my hands, smiling softly as the memories reappear, one after another. Reaching under my bed, I pull out a fresh notebook and open to its first sheet. I lightly press my pen to the page, “And so begins the next chapter…”

The structuring of this essay makes it easy and enjoyable to read. The student effectively organizes their various life experiences around their tower of journals, which centers the reader and makes the different stories easy to follow. Additionally, the student engages quotes from their journals—and unique formatting of the quotes—to signal that they are moving in time and show us which memory we should follow them to.

Thematically, the student uses the idea of shyness to connect the different memories they draw out of their journals. As the student describes their experiences overcoming shyness at the Stanford Pre-Collegiate Summer Institutes and Door-to-Door Deliveries, this essay can be read as an Overcoming Obstacles essay.

At the end of this essay, readers are fully convinced that this student is dedicated (they have committed to journaling every day), thoughtful (journaling is a thoughtful process and, in the essay, the student reflects thoughtfully on the past), and motivated (they flew across the country for a summer program and started a business). These are definitely qualities admissions officers are looking for in applicants!

Although this essay is already exceptionally strong as it’s written, the first journal entry feels out of place compared to the other two entries that discuss the author’s shyness and determination. It works well for the essay to have an entry from when the student was younger to add some humor (with misspelled words) and nostalgia, but if the student had either connected the quote they chose to the idea of overcoming a fear present in the other two anecdotes or if they had picked a different quote all together related to their shyness, it would have made the entire essay feel more cohesive.

Where to Get Your Personal Statement Edited

Do you want feedback on your personal statement? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

Next Step: Supplemental Essays

Essay Guides for Each School

How to Write a Stellar Extracurricular Activity College Essay

4 Tips for Writing a Diversity College Essay

How to Write the “Why This College” Essay

Related CollegeVine Blog Posts

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How my (many) wedding superstitions saved my marriage

Following every good-luck rule was just one way of managing my fears around making it to forever.

I was raised in a family of wildly superstitious Italians. Black cats and broken mirrors were our warm-up act. My relatives would not exit from a different door of the house than they entered, pass a baby over literally any surface, come within a hundred yards of an owl, or buy, rent or honestly even visit any property in any way associated with the number thirteen. But the rules that scared me most as a child were the superstitions about marriage. Omens about the groom seeing the wedding gown (or God forbid the bride!). Predictions about what happens if it rains on the day (nothing good in my family’s personal system of belief — yes, I know that’s opposite what the rest of the world believes). Grave guidelines for that cute old-new-borrowed-blue rhyme (my aunt bought hundreds of sixpence in the ’80s so not one family shoe would be in jeopardy). And the grandmother of them all: Never accept a vintage engagement ring. To enter marriage wearing the karma from someone else’s relationship?! Mamma mia !       

Somewhere around high school I became the gray sheep of my family in many categories (full black sheep was a step too far from the family lasagna). One among them was my unwillingness to stay in line with that long list of superstitions. I started brazenly walking through front doors then dancing out the back, and I once opened an umbrella indoors — on Christmas. Naturally I thought I would also be the first rebel bride. What modern, free-thinking woman would let ancient practices rule her love life?  

Cut to me seconds after my boyfriend of three years finally asked, “Anything I should know about your taste in rings?”

I did not breathe before yelling, “It has to be brand-new!”


Thankfully he got the (very clear) memo, but my 180 on how to guarantee a “happily ever after” only worsened in the months leading up to my wedding. I downloaded six different weather apps, hid my gown in my parents’ basement and had three backups for each old/new/borrowed/blue item (so a dozen individual items). Somewhere around considering an entire rain date wedding, I started to wonder if there was something deeper at play. Why was I suddenly so committed to following every single rule? To be clear, I think it’s lovely to honor family traditions on your big day, but for me this ran much deeper than decorating with the same lucky peonies my ancestors chose to bring prosperity.

It hit me when I tossed a straw hat onto my bed, breaking a non-wedding rule ­ without a second thought: This wasn’t about my relationship with superstition, it was about my relationship with marriage . Following every good-luck rule was just one way of managing my fears around making it to forever .

I started to see each superstition as this sort of emotional litmus test for my feelings about the future — my brain’s way of dealing with the huge life decision I was making. The real question wasn’t, “Will a rainy day, missed item or heirloom ring mean a bad marriage?” It was, “Can anything actually guarantee that I won’t end up divorced?” Not, “What if the sixpence falls off my shoe?” but “What if I fall out of love with this man?” I decided to focus my attention on trying to answer those questions before I walked down the aisle (instead of looking for a fourth something blue). What was I afraid might happen to my marriage, and why?

Once I let my fears do some talking, I realized some anxieties were based on things still unsaid in my relationship . My fiancé and I had talked about many versions of our future but never had a firm conversation about parenthood. I also realized I needed to hear all his truest feelings about being tied to a writer who might never have truly stable income. And how exactly would he react if I said, “Sorry, no cats … ever . ”? Quickly the idea of not having these very foundational talks became scarier than sitting down to hash it all out. I felt a hidden-wedding-gown-sized weight off my shoulders after we finally did. I was also more convinced than ever that I’d picked the right partner.

And yet there was still no way in hell you could have convinced me to let him see my wedding dress before the day. 

Jessie Rosen sitting with her husband after wedding ceremony

The more air time I gave my worry the more I realized that underneath it all was a deep distrust in the entire concept of marriage . The couples in my immediate family are together, but I’m a child of the ’90s. Growing up, more than half my friends split their time between Mom’s house and Dad’s house. But I was also able to see how much I craved certainty and control over my life, and how much angst I felt around the idea of the opposite. I started seeing a therapist for help working through those feelings, which were spilling over into much more than my wedding planning. At first I felt so much shame around all my uncertainty. A bride with cold feet? Mamma mia! But the closer I got to my wedding date the more pride I felt in my decision to battle the fears versus ignore them, and the more comfort I felt with all the new tools I was developing to know whether or not forever was for me.     

Any relationship is a leap of faith. Marriage takes that hope in lasting love and makes it legally binding. The truth is you can follow every single rule in the Italian superstition book (yes, there absolutely is one in print), and still not know for certain whether you’ll make it to “‘til death do us part.” To me that’s what makes the decision to enter into a lifelong commitment so incredibly romantic. You’re saying, “I know how big this is, and I’m doing it anyway.” Or as I came to decide, that’s why I’m doing it. Marriage is the biggest way that I have to say that I believe we should be together for life. 

In the end, it rained on our wedding day, and despite all the options my “something borrowed” was the same thing as my “something blue” which was — irony of all ironies — an heirloom butterfly brooch from my Italian grandmother. But on May 10, my husband and I celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary, and I firmly believe we’ve made it this far because of those wedding superstitions I became obsessed with over a decade ago. Walking through that process showed me that my sudden rule-following was a sign that it was time for me to examine my motivation. And I say bravo to any bride that faces those fears head-on before saying “I do.” To get married without exploring your deepest feelings about the decision?! Mamma mia ! 

Jessie Rosen got her start with the award-winning blog 20-Nothings and has sold original television projects to ABC, CBS, Warner Bros. and Netflix. Her debut novel, “ The Heirloom ,” is out now from Putnam Books. 

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Guest Essay

The Deep, Tangled Roots of American Illiberalism

An illustration of a scene of mayhem with men in Colonial-era clothing fighting in a small room.

By Steven Hahn

Dr. Hahn is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian at New York University and the author, most recently, of “Illiberal America: a History.”

In a recent interview with Time, Donald Trump promised a second term of authoritarian power grabs, administrative cronyism, mass deportations of the undocumented, harassment of women over abortion, trade wars and vengeance brought upon his rivals and enemies, including President Biden. “If they said that a president doesn’t get immunity,” Mr. Trump told Time, “then Biden, I am sure, will be prosecuted for all of his crimes.”

Further evidence, it seems, of Mr. Trump’s efforts to construct a political world like no other in American history. But how unprecedented is it, really? That Mr. Trump continues to lead in polls should make plain that he and his MAGA movement are more than noxious weeds in otherwise liberal democratic soil.

Many of us have not wanted to see it that way. “This is not who we are as a nation,” one journalist exclaimed in what was a common response to the violence on Jan. 6, “and we must not let ourselves or others believe otherwise.” Mr. Biden has said much the same thing.

While it’s true that Mr. Trump was the first president to lose an election and attempt to stay in power, observers have come to recognize the need for a lengthier view of Trumpism. Even so, they are prone to imagining that there was a time not all that long ago when political “normalcy” prevailed. What they have failed to grasp is that American illiberalism is deeply rooted in our past and fed by practices, relationships and sensibilities that have been close to the surface, even when they haven’t exploded into view.

Illiberalism is generally seen as a backlash against modern liberal and progressive ideas and policies, especially those meant to protect the rights and advance the aspirations of groups long pushed to the margins of American political life. But in the United States, illiberalism is better understood as coherent sets of ideas that are related but also change over time.

This illiberalism celebrates hierarchies of gender, race and nationality; cultural homogeneity; Christian religious faith; the marking of internal as well as external enemies; patriarchal families; heterosexuality; the will of the community over the rule of law; and the use of political violence to achieve or maintain power. This illiberalism sank roots from the time of European settlement and spread out from villages and towns to the highest levels of government. In one form or another, it has shaped much of our history. Illiberalism has frequently been a stalking horse, if not in the winner’s circle. Hardly ever has it been roundly defeated.

A few examples may be illustrative. Although European colonization of North America has often been imagined as a sharp break from the ways of home countries, neo-feudal dreams inspired the making of Euro-American societies from the Carolinas up through the Hudson Valley, based as they were on landed estates and coerced labor, while the Puritan towns of New England, with their own hierarchies, demanded submission to the faith and harshly policed their members and potential intruders alike. The backcountry began to fill up with land-hungry settlers who generally formed ethnicity-based enclaves, eyed outsiders with suspicion and, with rare exceptions, hoped to rid their territory of Native peoples. Most of those who arrived in North America between the early 17th century and the time of the American Revolution were either enslaved or in servitude, and master-servant jurisprudence shaped labor relations well after slavery was abolished, a phenomenon that has been described as “belated feudalism.”

The anti-colonialism of the American Revolution was accompanied not only by warfare against Native peoples and rewards for enslavers, but also by a deeply ingrained anti-Catholicism, and hostility to Catholics remained a potent political force well into the 20th century. Monarchist solutions were bruited about during the writing of the Constitution and the first decade of the American Republic: John Adams thought that the country would move in such a direction and other leaders at the time, including Washington, Madison and Hamilton, wondered privately if a king would be necessary in the event a “republican remedy” failed.

The 1830s, commonly seen as the height of Jacksonian democracy, were racked by violent expulsions of Catholics , Mormons and abolitionists of both races, along with thousands of Native peoples dispossessed of their homelands and sent to “Indian Territory” west of the Mississippi.

The new democratic politics of the time was often marked by Election Day violence after campaigns suffused with military cadences, while elected officials usually required the support of elite patrons to guarantee the bonds they had to post. Even in state legislatures and Congress, weapons could be brandished and duels arranged; “bullies” enforced the wills of their allies.

When enslavers in the Southern states resorted to secession rather than risk their system under a Lincoln administration, they made clear that their Confederacy was built on the cornerstone of slavery and white supremacy. And although their crushing defeat brought abolition, the establishment of birthright citizenship (except for Native peoples), the political exclusion of Confederates, and the extension of voting rights to Black men — the results of one of the world’s great revolutions — it was not long before the revolution went into reverse.

The federal government soon allowed former Confederates and their white supporters to return to power, destroy Black political activism and, accompanied by lynchings (expressing the “will” of white communities), build the edifice of Jim Crow: segregation, political disfranchisement and a harsh labor regime. Already previewed in the pre-Civil War North, Jim Crow received the imprimatur of the Supreme Court and the administration of Woodrow Wilson .

Few Progressives of the early 20th century had much trouble with this. Segregation seemed a modern way to choreograph “race relations,” and disfranchisement resonated with their disenchantment with popular politics, whether it was powered by Black voters in the South or European immigrants in the North. Many Progressives were devotees of eugenics and other forms of social engineering, and they generally favored overseas imperialism; some began to envision the scaffolding of a corporate state — all anticipating the dark turns in Europe over the next decades.

The 1920s, in fact, saw fascist pulses coming from a number of directions in the United States and, as in Europe, targeting political radicals. Benito Mussolini won accolades in many American quarters. The lab where Josef Mengele worked received support from the Rockefeller Foundation. White Protestant fundamentalism reigned in towns and the countryside. And the Immigration Act of 1924 set limits on the number of newcomers, especially those from Southern and Eastern Europe, who were thought to be politically and culturally unassimilable.

Most worrisome, the Ku Klux Klan, energized by anti-Catholicism and antisemitism as well as anti-Black racism, marched brazenly in cities great and small. The Klan became a mass movement and wielded significant political power; it was crucial, for example , to the enforcement of Prohibition. Once the organization unraveled in the late 1920s, many Klansmen and women found their way to new fascist groups and the radical right more generally.

Sidelined by the Great Depression and New Deal, the illiberal right regained traction in the late 1930s, and during the 1950s won grass-roots support through vehement anti-Communism and opposition to the civil rights movement. As early as 1964, in a run for the Democratic presidential nomination, Gov. George Wallace of Alabama began to hone a rhetoric of white grievance and racial hostility that had appeal in the Midwest and Middle Atlantic, and Barry Goldwater’s campaign that year, despite its failure, put winds in the sails of the John Birch Society and Young Americans for Freedom.

Four years later, Wallace mobilized enough support as a third-party candidate to win five states. And in 1972, once again as a Democrat, Wallace racked up primary wins in both the North and the South before an assassination attempt forced him out of the race. Growing backlashes against school desegregation and feminism added further fuel to the fire on the right, paving the way for the conservative ascendancy of the 1980s.

By the early 1990s, the neo-Nazi and Klansman David Duke had won a seat in the Louisiana Legislature and nearly three-fifths of the white vote in campaigns for governor and senator. Pat Buchanan, seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 1992, called for “America First,” the fortification of the border (a “Buchanan fence”), and a culture war for the “soul” of America, while the National Rifle Association became a powerful force on the right and in the Republican Party.

When Mr. Trump questioned Barack Obama’s legitimacy to serve as president, a project that quickly became known as “birtherism,” he made use of a Reconstruction-era racist trope that rejected the legitimacy of Black political rights and power. In so doing, Mr. Trump began to cement a coalition of aggrieved white voters. They were ready to push back against the nation’s growing cultural diversity — embodied by Mr. Obama — and the challenges they saw to traditional hierarchies of family, gender and race. They had much on which to build.

Back in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville, in “Democracy in America,” glimpsed the illiberal currents that already entangled the country’s politics. While he marveled at the “equality of conditions,” the fluidity of social life and the strength of republican institutions, he also worried about the “omnipotence of the majority.”

“What I find most repulsive in America is not the extreme freedom reigning there,” Tocqueville wrote, “but the shortage of guarantees against tyranny.” He pointed to communities “taking justice into their own hands,” and warned that “associations of plain citizens can compose very rich, influential, and powerful bodies, in other words, aristocratic bodies.” Lamenting their intellectual conformity, Tocqueville believed that if Americans ever gave up republican government, “they will pass rapidly on to despotism,” restricting “the sphere of political rights, taking some of them away in order to entrust them to a single man.”

The slide toward despotism that Tocqueville feared may be well underway, whatever the election’s outcome. Even if they try to fool themselves into thinking that Mr. Trump won’t follow through, millions of voters seem ready to entrust their rights to “a single man” who has announced his intent to use autocratic powers for retribution, repression, expulsion and misogyny.

Only by recognizing what we’re up against can we mount an effective campaign to protect our democracy, leaning on the important political struggles — abolitionism, antimonopoly, social democracy, human rights, civil rights, feminism — that have challenged illiberalism in the past and offer the vision and political pathways to guide us in the future.

Our biggest mistake would be to believe that we’re watching an exceptional departure in the country’s history. Because from the first, Mr. Trump has tapped into deep and ever-expanding illiberal roots. Illiberalism’s history is America’s history.

Steven Hahn is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian at New York University and the author, most recently, of “ Illiberal America: a History .”

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Broad Public Support for Legal Abortion Persists 2 Years After Dobbs

By more than 2 to 1, americans say medication abortion should be legal, table of contents.

  • Other abortion attitudes
  • Overall attitudes about abortion
  • Americans’ views on medication abortion in their states
  • How statements about abortion resonate with Americans
  • Acknowledgments
  • The American Trends Panel survey methodology

Pew Research Center conducted this study to understand Americans’ views on the legality of abortion, as well as their perceptions of abortion access. For this analysis, we surveyed 8,709 adults from April 8 to 14, 2024. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology .

Here are the questions used for the report and its methodology .

Nearly two years after the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing a national right to abortion, a majority of Americans continue to express support for abortion access.

Chart shows Majority of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases

About six-in-ten (63%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. This share has grown 4 percentage points since 2021 – the year prior to the 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe.

The new Pew Research Center survey, conducted April 8-14, 2024, among 8,709 adults, surfaces ongoing – and often partisan – divides over abortion attitudes:

  • Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (85%) overwhelmingly say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with near unanimous support among liberal Democrats.
  • By comparison, Republicans and Republican leaners (41%) are far less likely to say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. However, two-thirds of moderate and liberal Republicans still say it should be.

Chart shows Partisan divide over abortion has widened over the past decade

Since before Roe was overturned, both parties have seen a modest uptick in the share who say abortion should be legal.

As in the past, relatively few Americans (25%) say abortion should be legal in all cases, while even fewer (8%) say it should be illegal in all cases. About two-thirds of Americans do not take an absolutist view: 38% say it should be legal in most cases, and 28% say it should be illegal in most cases.

Related: Americans overwhelmingly say access to IVF is a good thing

Women’s abortion decisions

Chart shows A majority of Americans say the decision to have an abortion should belong solely to the pregnant woman; about a third say embryos are people with rights

A narrow majority of Americans (54%) say the statement “the decision about whether to have an abortion should belong solely to the pregnant woman” describes their views extremely or very well. Another 19% say it describes their views somewhat well, and 26% say it does not describe their views well.

Views on an embryo’s rights

About a third of Americans (35%) say the statement “human life begins at conception, so an embryo is a person with rights” describes their views extremely or very well, while 45% say it does not describe their views well.

But many Americans are cross-pressured in their views: 32% of Americans say both statements about women’s decisions and embryos’ rights describe their views at least somewhat well.

Abortion access

About six-in-ten Americans in both parties say getting an abortion in the area where they live would be at least somewhat easy, compared with four-in-ten or fewer who say it would be difficult.

Chart shows About 6 in 10 Americans say it would be easy to get an abortion in their area

However, U.S. adults are divided over whether getting an abortion should be easier or harder:

  • 31% say it should be easier for someone to get an abortion in their area, while 25% say it should be harder. Four-in-ten say the ease of access should be about what it is now.
  • 48% of Democrats say that obtaining an abortion should be easier than it is now, while just 15% of Republicans say this. Instead, 40% of Republicans say it should be harder (just 11% of Democrats say this).

As was the case last year, views about abortion access vary widely between those who live in states where abortion is legal and those who live in states where it is not allowed.

For instance, 20% of adults in states where abortion is legal say it would be difficult to get an abortion where they live, but this share rises to 71% among adults in states where abortion is prohibited.

Medication abortion

Americans say medication abortion should be legal rather than illegal by a margin of more than two-to-one (54% vs. 20%). A quarter say they are not sure.

Chart shows Most Democrats say medication abortion should be legal; Republicans are divided

Like opinions on the legality of abortion overall, partisans differ greatly in their views of medication abortion:

  • Republicans are closely split but are slightly more likely to say it should be legal (37%) than illegal (32%). Another 30% aren’t sure.
  • Democrats (73%) overwhelmingly say medication abortion should be legal. Just 8% say it should be illegal, while 19% are not sure.

Across most other demographic groups, Americans are generally more supportive than not of medication abortion.

Chart shows Younger Americans are more likely than older adults to say abortion should be legal in all or most cases

Across demographic groups, support for abortion access has changed little since this time last year.

Today, roughly six-in-ten (63%) say abortion should be legal in all (25%) or most (38%) cases. And 36% say it should be illegal in all (8%) or most (28%) cases.

While differences are only modest by gender, other groups vary more widely in their views.

Race and ethnicity

Support for legal abortion is higher among Black (73%) and Asian (76%) adults compared with White (60%) and Hispanic (59%) adults.

Compared with older Americans, adults under 30 are particularly likely to say abortion should be legal: 76% say this, versus about six-in-ten among other age groups.

Those with higher levels of formal education express greater support for legal abortion than those with lower levels of educational attainment.

About two-thirds of Americans with a bachelor’s degree or more education (68%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with six-in-ten among those without a degree.

White evangelical Protestants are about three times as likely to say abortion should be illegal (73%) as they are to say it should be legal (25%).

By contrast, majorities of White nonevangelical Protestants (64%), Black Protestants (71%) and Catholics (59%) say abortion should be legal. And religiously unaffiliated Americans are especially likely to say abortion should be legal (86% say this).

Partisanship and ideology

Democrats (85%) are about twice as likely as Republicans (41%) to say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

But while more conservative Republicans say abortion should be illegal (76%) than legal (27%), the reverse is true for moderate and liberal Republicans (67% say legal, 31% say illegal).

By comparison, a clear majority of conservative and moderate Democrats (76%) say abortion should be legal, with liberal Democrats (96%) overwhelmingly saying this.

Views of abortion access by state

About six-in-ten Americans (58%) say it would be easy for someone to get an abortion in the area where they live, while 39% say it would be difficult.

Chart shows Americans vary widely in their views over how easy it would be to get an abortion based on where they live

This marks a slight shift since last year, when 54% said obtaining an abortion would be easy. But Americans are still less likely than before the Dobbs decision to say obtaining an abortion would be easy.

Still, Americans’ views vary widely depending on whether they live in a state that has banned or restricted abortion.

In states that prohibit abortion, Americans are about three times as likely to say it would be difficult to obtain an abortion where they live as they are to say it would be easy (71% vs. 25%). The share saying it would be difficult has risen 19 points since 2019.

In states where abortion is restricted or subject to legal challenges, 51% say it would be difficult to get an abortion where they live. This is similar to the share who said so last year (55%), but higher than the share who said this before the Dobbs decision (38%).

By comparison, just 20% of adults in states where abortion is legal say it would be difficult to get one. This is little changed over the past five years.

Americans’ attitudes about whether it should be easier or harder to get an abortion in the area where they live also varies by geography.

Chart shows Americans living in states with abortion bans or restrictions are more likely to say it should be easier than it currently is to obtain an abortion

Overall, a decreasing share of Americans say it should be harder to obtain an abortion: 33% said this in 2019, compared with 25% today.

This is particularly true of those in states where abortion is now prohibited or restricted.

In both types of states, the shares of Americans saying it should be easier to obtain an abortion have risen 12 points since before Roe was overturned, as the shares saying it should be harder have gradually declined.

By comparison, changes in views among those living in states where abortion is legal have been more modest.

While Americans overall are more supportive than not of medication abortion (54% say it should be legal, 20% say illegal), there are modest differences in support across groups:

Chart shows Across most groups, more say medication abortion should be legal than illegal in their states

  • Younger Americans are somewhat more likely to say medication abortion should be legal than older Americans. While 59% of adults ages 18 to 49 say it should be legal, 48% of those 50 and older say the same.
  • Asian adults (66%) are particularly likely to say medication abortion should be legal compared with White (55%), Black (51%) and Hispanic (47%) adults.
  • White evangelical Protestants oppose medication abortion by about two-to-one (45% vs. 23%), with White nonevangelicals, Black Protestants, Catholics and religiously unaffiliated adults all being more likely than not to say medication abortion should be legal.
  • Republicans are closely divided over medication abortion: 37% say it should be legal while 32% say it should be illegal. But similar to views on abortion access overall, conservative Republicans are more opposed (43% illegal, 27% legal), while moderate and liberals are more supportive (55% legal, 14% illegal).

Just over half of Americans (54%) say “the decision about whether to have an abortion should belong solely to the pregnant woman” describes their views extremely or very well, compared with 19% who say somewhat well and 26% who say not too or not at all well.

Chart shows Wide partisan divides over whether pregnant women should be the sole deciders of abortion decisions and whether an embryo is a person with rights

Democrats (76%) overwhelmingly say this statement describes their views extremely or very well, with just 8% saying it does not describe their views well.

Republicans are more divided: 44% say it does not describe their views well while 33% say it describes them extremely or very well. Another 22% say it describes them somewhat well.

Fewer Americans (35%) say the statement “human life begins at conception, so an embryo is a person with rights” describes their views extremely or very well. Another 19% say it describes their views somewhat well while 45% say it describes them not too or not at all well.

(The survey asks separately whether “a fetus is a person with rights.” The results are roughly similar: 37% say that statement describes their views extremely or very well.)

Republicans are about three times as likely as Democrats to say “an embryo is a person with rights” describes their views extremely or very well (53% vs. 18%). In turn, Democrats (66%) are far more likely than Republicans (25%) to say it describes their views not too or not at all well.

Some Americans are cross-pressured about abortion

Chart shows Nearly a third of U.S. adults say embryos are people with rights and pregnant women should be the ones to make abortion decisions

When results on the two statements are combined, 41% of Americans say the statement about a pregnant woman’s right to choose describes their views at least somewhat well , but not the statement about an embryo being a person with rights. About two-in-ten (21%) say the reverse.

But for nearly a third of U.S. adults (32%), both statements describe their views at least somewhat well.

Just 4% of Americans say neither statement describes their views well.

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Group shot of a family in the garden of their house. One woman in the foreground is cutting another's hair, while a girl pushes a baby in a pram and another woman looks on

The families risking everything to keep Ukraine’s trains running – photo essay

Dutch photographer Jelle Krings has been documenting the workers of the Ukrainian railway since the war began. Here, he revisits the families that have kept a war-torn country moving, often to great personal sacrifice

  • Words and pictures by Jelle Krings

I n the early hours of 24 February 2022, when Russian bombs and rockets struck Ukrainian cities and infrastructure throughout the country, railway workers boarded trains heading east. Determined to get as many people as possible to safety , they would end up evacuating millions to Ukraine’s borders in the west.

Ukraine’s new railway chief Yevhen Liashchenko was in the team that guided the network through the first stages of the war. He says his people acted not because they were instructed to but because “they didn’t know any other way”. There was no time for bureaucracy, “decisions were made by the people on the ground, and they love the railway, not as a business but as a family”.

It takes more than 230,000 people to keep the trains running in Ukraine.

The train station in Lyman, Donbas, in ruins after being destroyed by shelling.

The railway station in Lyman, Donbas, destroyed by shelling

Yevhen Liashchenko, chief executive of Ukrainian Railways, standing in a rail shed with a man working on a wagon behind him.

Yevhen Liashchenko, chief executive of Ukrainian railways, has been leading Ukraine’s 230,000 railway workers through the war

Together they run a vast railway network of more than 15,000 miles (24,000km) of track, one that has been invaluable for Ukraine’s ability to withstand the invasion. Despite continual bombing, the network has largely remained operational. Damage to the tracks is swiftly repaired, and shell-hit critical infrastructure is promptly restored.

Over two years, we followed families and workers living by the tracks near the frontlines to find out how the war and the struggle to keep the trains running is shaping their lives.

The Neschcheryakovas

Nadiya Neschcheryakova works as an attendant at a railway crossing in Bucha, about 10 miles from Kyiv. She works in shifts, sharing her post with her mother and two other women. On the morning of the invasion, the sound of explosions pierced the sky above the thick pine forests surrounding her home. She went to work anyway. A few days later, her post at the railway crossing was occupied by Russian troops. Her home in the next village along the track was now at the frontline of the war.

Nadiya Neschcheryakova at her post at a railway crossing in Bucha, near Kyiv. A freight train approaches under an overcast winter sky.

Nadiya Neschcheryakova operates her railway crossing in Bucha, near Kyiv . A freight train passes transporting materials such as wood for possible use in Ukraine’s defensive efforts along the frontline

Remnants of a house, destroyed by shelling, lie in a yard

Remnants of the Neschcheryakovas’ family house, destroyed by shelling, lie in the yard at Spartak, Kyiv oblast

Nadiya Neschcheryakova, right, with her husband, Yuriy, left, on either side of their daughter Kateryna and grandson Andriy.

Nadiya Neschcheryakova with her husband, Yuriy, their daughter Kateryna and grandson Andriy. Yuriy built a new house after their home was destroyed by shelling early in the war

With her husband, daughter and grandson, Nadiya managed to flee to the west where they stayed for a month waiting for the Russian withdrawal from Kyiv. When they returned home, they found their home had been reduced to rubble.

The Petrovs

When the city of Kherson was liberated after nine months of Russian occupation in November 2022, Oleksandr Petrov was sent on a mission to repair the tracks leading to the city. When he set out in a van with a team of repairmen in the morning, he knew the risks: the fields along the tracks were heavily mined in an attempt to slow the Ukrainian advance.

Railway workers wash their wounds after driving over a mine in the Kherson region, November 2022.

Railway workers wash their wounds after driving over a mine in the Kherson region, 13 November 2022. They were carrying out repair works just days after Kherson was liberated. Oleksandr Petrov lost a leg in the incident

Oleksandr shows his prosthetic leg to workers in a railway repair team, Voznesensk, Mykolaiv oblast, Ukraine.

Oleksandr shows his prosthetic leg to workers in a railway repair team in Voznesensk, Mykolaiv oblast. Since his injury, Oleksandr has been given a desk job

Oleksandr Petrov at his parent’s place in Voznesensk. His prosthetic leg is on the floor beside him and there is a wheelchair nearby.

Oleksandr Petrov at his parents’ house in Voznesensk. Family members spend a day at the cemetery to maintain their relatives’ graves and pay their respects

Russian troops were expected to start shelling the city once they’d had a chance to regroup on the other side of the Dnipro River. The civilians left in the city would have to be evacuated by train, so Oleksandr went anyway. Later that day, Oleksandr lost his leg after they drove over a Russian anti-vehicle mine.

The Lyman community

When Ukrainian troops recaptured the railway hub of Lyman from Russian troops in November 2022, it had been under Russian occupation for six months. Since then, it has been on the frontline of the war in Ukraine’s Donbas region. Yet, a small community of railway families continues to live in the basements of their battered apartment buildings on the outskirts of the city.

The Rosokhas family mourn the death of Nina Rosokha who was killed by a Russian artillery strike on Lyman

The Rosokha family mourn the death of Nina Rosokha, who was killed by a Russian artillery strike on Lyman. Nina had worked in a railway service department, her husband was a train driver for 36 years. During the funeral, sounds of fighting could be heard in the nearby Kreminna forest

A forest on the outskirts of Lyman burns after shelling

A forest on the outskirts of Lyman smoulders after shelling. Firefighters do not go into the forests for fear of mines

Fedya (13) plays his accordion outside the apartment building.

Fedya, 13, plays his accordion outside the apartment building where he lives with his mother and grandmother, both of whom work for the railway. Evelyna, 12, with one of her cats

The families in the community stay underground most of the time. The frontline is too close for the air raid alert system to be effective, and artillery and missiles can strike at any moment. The community have paid a heavy price in the war . Railway worker Nina Rosokha was killed on her way to the post office in a Russian artillery strike on a market. During another attack, Lyubov Surzhan’s top-floor apartment was obliterated. A piece of shrapnel skimmed Fedya’s head during a strike on a nearby railway depot. Yet the railway is their home and, despite the danger, they don’t want to leave.

The Mykolaychuks

The Mykolaychuk brothers live in an apartment building in the centre of Podilsk. Both are fifth generation locomotive drivers. Before the invasion, their jobs were mostly local, transporting grain from the region to the port of Odesa. Now, they go farther east towards the frontlines of the war, driving evacuation trains and weapons transports.

A woman in an apartment looks after two toddler girls who have just started walking

Alla Valeriyivna Mykolaychuk in Podilsk with her daughter and niece, both aged one

They don’t get paid if they don’t work, and jobs have become less frequent since the war. With money hard to come by, they have had to sell their family car to make ends meet.

The Tereshchenkos

Olha Tereshchenko survived a Russian attack on a convoy of civilians fleeing the then occupied city of Kupiansk. Her husband and five-year-old son were killed. Consumed with grief, she now works at a railway office in Kharkiv and gets support from her fellow workers there. Urns containing the ashes of her husband and son still sit on a shelf in a nearby crematorium. She hopes to bury them near their home in Kupiansk one day, when the frontline is further away.

Woman walking in a grey, desolate street with a blossom tree in flower

Olha Tereshchenko in Saltivka, the area of Kharkiv where she now lives

A photo of Olha’s dead husband and child on a floral bedspread

Olha’s husband and son, photographed as a baby, were killed in a Russian attack on a civilian convoy. Olha is overcome when she visits their remains in a nearby crematorium: she hopes one day to bury her husband and son near their home in Kupiansk

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