I'm currently writing my personal statement for a big ten university, I have read many guides on the subject and have written out most of my undergrad research experience, my academic interest, my involvement in student life, connections to faculty and involvement in sports. On to the subject; while I was growing up my father was an alcoholic, for what it's worth he managed to go through life with this illness, and I growing up had no real need uncovered. While i was in High school he really let go and seemed to hit low in his life, eventually passing away from a gun related accident (alcohol related) just before I began college. I feel no resentment towards him now. Should I include this somehow in y personal statement? I'm mature enough to know that what I lived through might not have been the single best infancy, yet I didn't lack of any real necessities, albeit most of the time struggling for money.

Would it be safe to share this in my statement? I feel somehow it pushed me towards the student life somewhat, yet it was a struggle each day as effectively he was drunk most days of the year, and despite of it I excelled in school (high school). Is the admissions committee likely to be inspired or view this as a crutch as it happened too far back as I hold a bachelor's, and there is some water under the bridge now in regards to how I perceived my father.

  • Does your past have anything to do with your future, especially your future academic career? Without figuring this question out, it will be hazardously redundant to include any past personal narration.
    – Arthur Wan
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 20:02

2 Answers 2


I'm not sure a personal statement is the right place to share the information - it will sound better coming from a third party (e.g. in one of your references).

For better or for worse, people tend to take such information more seriously when they hear it from someone who doesn't have anything to gain from sharing it.

People also (rightly or wrongly) may have a tendency to view your not mentioning it yourself in your personal statement as admirable stoicism in the face of adversity.

  • I'm marking this as the correct answer because on the grounds of being a more clear answer (i.e. against including it) than the other, although the other answer had some sound advice. I like the fact also that you suggested that it should be mentioned by a third party. I eventually didn't include it in my sop, and so did the authors recommendation letters and still got admitted. Seems that my profile was good enough, matter a fact maybe including itt would of hurt my application.
    – Panchito
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 14:49

If you prove how it has strengthened your character, then perhaps it would be a valuable statement to make.

If you do decide to put it in, then ensure you keep it short and matter-of-fact; otherwise it may seem like you are "milking" the situation for sympathy.

  • @Panchito - good advice here. I will add a suggestion that you leave out everything having to do with your feelings toward your father. Those are important but not really relevant to your application. Try to think of some specific way(s) overcoming the challenge of your father's alcoholism strengthened you as a student or scientist. That would be a good focus to give to this. Commented Oct 17, 2016 at 1:18
  • Definitely good advice. I ended not putting it in in my sop, and got admitted!
    – Panchito
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 14:41

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