Here you can read an example of the personal statement (motivation letter), written by a student applying for the Biology programme at Cornell University.
The famous Greek mathematician Archimedes once said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” The basic principle of lever is that as the length of a lever increases, the effort needed to be exerted to accomplish a task decreases. This fundamental law can also apply to life. Life’s levers are experiences and opportunities that combine to motivate the individual to succeed. However, a lever is useless when forced upon an incorrectly placed fulcrum. Fulfilling oneself with passion and values is to build and place a strong and stable fulcrum. Without a passion for success, these opportunities and experiences become obsolete. Few find the correct balance between these variables and thus fail to reach their full potential. I, however, plan to be someone who finds that balance.
In an effort to build a successful lever for myself, I have searched for these experiences and opportunities all my life. I have always had a passion for learning and a natural drive to succeed. At the beginning of my sophomore year in high school, I began to volunteer at a local, family owned zoo. This idea came from an innate passion for animals and an on-going interest in science. At first, it was simply to complete a community service graduation requirement, but soon thereafter, I realized it was so much more. Work there was not like what most zoo volunteers experience. When other volunteers were following zookeepers and watching animals through cages at larger commercial zoos, I was spending nights “monkeysitting” my supervisor’s new born Japanese snow macaque. However, calling it work solely alludes to labour. It was more of a life-altering, unique opportunity and provided me with the experience that clenched my decision to major in animal science.
Along with my passion for animals, I am also always looking for ways to challenge myself intellectually. I am an active member of my school’s Envirothon and Math teams and a Science Olympiad competitor. After high school, it has always been a goal of mine to attend an academically competitive university. A few years of researching brought me to Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). After attending the CALS open house and information lecture on the animal science department, I knew I was the perfect fit. One of the reoccurring themes of my conversations with students and professors alike was CALS dedication to shaping students into leaders.
With the experience I have gained in working at the zoo, I see myself emerging as a natural leader. Leaders are those few who do manage to balance the use of their “lever and fulcrum”. In high school, I also have worked my way to positions such as: NHS President, Steel Drums Ensemble President, and Student Representative to the School Board. Leadership roles like these are not something I plan to make the past after high school. In a school like CALS that has so many extracurricular activities to get involved in, I am sure obtaining positions similar to the ones I hold now would not be difficult. One of the clubs that I have seriously explored is the Pre-Vet Society. Veterinary School is something that I plan to pursue after college and hope to get involved in at the undergraduate level.
The building of a successful lever has only just begun for me. There is still so much that I have not seen or done. Life is full of opportunities that can lead to great experiences, one of my greatest being volunteering at the Woodland Zoo. With all of the opportunities CALS has to offer, if given the chance to attend, I am certain that I would utilize every one; becoming not only an active member of the university, but a leader of tomorrow.
Source: Gen and Kelly Tanabe “50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays”