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My Personal Statement: University of Southern California - Qaqambile M.

FEB 05, 2021

In his personal statement for the University of Southern California, Qaqambile wrote about how his English teacher’s encouragement to participate in a public speaking competition unearthed a sense of confidence and conviction he didn’t know he had. From there, he felt capable of pursuing a variety of passions that would have otherwise been left dormant — and empowering others to do the same.

This essay is part of a collection of personal statements written by Crimson students who were accepted to their top-choice universities in the US and UK. By bringing together nearly 25 of our best students’ essays, we want to provide inspiration for future students with the same aspirations and goals. This series will showcase the wonderful variety in our student’s essay creations — powered by their personal voice and supported by their dedicated Crimson essay mentors. Ready to be inspired? Let’s go…


During October 2011, my confidence changed for the better. I went from someone who felt that they had no value in the world, due to my irrational fear of being humiliated, to someone who believed in their worth to the world.

After class one day, my English teacher called me to stay behind and said “Qaks, I would like you to consider joining my public speaking society.” I was left shocked and confused. I was terrorized by thoughts like, “How could a shy, timid boy like myself join such a society?” However, I joined based on my teacher’s recommendation.

Despite my trepidation of failure, I spent the whole of 2012 honing my public speaking abilities. I admired my progress from the novice speaker shaking every time he spoke, to a speaker delivering with confidence. Impressed by my progress, my teacher invited me to partake in a competition against my fellow peers. She then thrust me on the spot when she told me that my first speech on stage would be an impromptu speech.

This terrified me. However, the audience laughed at my humor and I could see their interest in my speech. I placed second. This left me astonished. In that very moment, I realized that I have the ability to speak my mind without the fear of being ridiculed. I realized that I had the ability to converse on contentious topics like racism, sexism, politics, and religion. I had just grasped the notion that my words could impact lives, engage people in my ideas, and hopefully leave a mark on the world. It was in that moment that I realized the power of my voice.

It is only now that I view my teacher’s invitation to be one of the best opportunities that I have taken in my life, for which I am forever grateful. I realized that people are enticed by the content of my mind; the only thing that I had to do was simply speak. This newfound confidence in myself and my voice convinced me to pursue my other interests, such as learning the saxophone and playing sports like basketball and rugby. It led to my appointment as a leader within the school’s council and was ultimately the foundation of my leadership. It was through that experience that I was able to discover who I was, the boy who limited his potential, and who I could be, the man who could conceivably influence the world.

After numerous interactions with people who originate from impoverished areas, I identified that many have yet to discover their voices. It is a tragic reality that many people in rural areas in South Africa are not confident in their abilities due to their circumstances. I yearn to change this unfortunate belief. My English teacher inspired me to see the potential in others, just as she had with me. It is thus my wish to assist people to discover their voices. This led me to numerous hours of helping to elevate those in communities around me out of poverty, especially with regards to their education and English proficiency. My ambition of becoming a social entrepreneur stems from my appetite for community outreach. Through my interactions, I believe that many people dream of becoming entrepreneurs, but lack the confidence to turn that dream into a reality. It is for this reason that I have the desire to go to college in order to put myself in the best position to acquire the necessary knowledge on start-up ventures so that I may assist others.

My English teacher gave me a sense of confidence that I had never felt before in myself, something I aspire to replicate in others. Just like how my English teacher plucked a reserved, anxious boy and gave him a new sense of life, I wish to do the same for others, so that they too can find their voices.

NEXT WEEK: Read the essay that got Rupert B. into Oxford!

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