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How To Start A Pse Essay

Queen’s has an optional PSE for all students, but also has additional mandatory questions for certain programs, Bachelor of Commerce being one of them. Thus, below you’ll find a Queen’s Commerce Essay Example. For admissions consulting services, we recommend the folks at Or read the latest Queen’s Commerce Application – How to Get In for 2017.

General PSE

List any Award or Distinction that you have earned in the last 4 years. Please indicate if each is a High School (HS), Community (C) or Other (O) Award/Distinction and briefly explain in the space provided (maximum 90 characters with spaces). Please also include the year the Award/Distinction was received.

Awards/ Distinctions

Advanced PADI Diver-Over 20 successful scuba dives around the globe (O)
Certified Lifeguard-Over 100 hours of training and a 100% safety rate (O)
1st Place, DECA Provincials-Co-led a team of 10 and fundraised to attend competition (HS)
Certificate in Leadership, Global Leadership Academy-Completed rigorous program (O)
English Award-Obtained highest academic standing in Grade 12 English with 97% (HS)


Co-leader, DECA-Conducted 10 practice workshops with team; 1st place provincials (HS)
Co-captain, Hockey Team-Scored 9 goals, 25 assists, and acted as role model for team (HS)
Assistant Coach, Youth Hockey-Volunteered 50+ hours with youth hockey team (C)
Me to We, Volunteer Abroad Trip-Volunteered for one month at an orphanage in Kenya (C)
Leader, Global Leadership Academy-Completed 9-mth leadership development program (O)


Lifeguard, Toronto Pool-100% safety record, promoted to senior staff in one year (O)
Intern, CampusRankings-Business analyst intern, deriving new insights on site traffic (O)

In an essay of 300 words, or fewer (approximately 1950 characters with spaces), write about your goals for your time at Queen’s University and beyond. Your answer will be evaluated for content and writing style.

Only the most successful companies make long-term strategic plans, and I believe the success of this discipline translate into life as well. I have three major goals I hope to accomplish over the next five years: experience everything I want at university, obtain an exceptional career, and place in the top 5% of an international athletic competition.

Queen’s University helps me achieve all three of these goals. For one, the experience I hope to obtain at Queen’s will be truly second-to-none. Studying a diverse range of business and non-business topics, gaining internships, studying abroad, and participating in extra-curriculars are all activities I hope to pursue. Since I eventually aim on going into entrepreneurship, I intend to not specialize my studies, and rather study all aspects of business to build a solid foundation of knowledge and understanding. I would, however, like to obtain an internship in second year with a growing technology-related startup, and in third year with a management consulting firm.

From a career perspective, I’m not opposed to working in any industry in particular – I’m more concerned with joining a company that that values employees as their number one asset, such as McKinsey & Company or GE. I also want to work for a company that represents the same values as my own, and in some way, helps significantly improve the state of the world. Meeting these two factors will allow me to build my business acumen, grow within the company, and enjoy my career before pursuing entrepreneurship.

Lastly, health and fitness has always been a priority for me. I’m currently an aspiring triathlete, and would like to improve my times by 5% each year while at Queen’s. The university was ranked by CampusRankings having the best recreation and sports facilities in Canada, so it will directly align.

Commerce Essays

  1. In 300 words, or fewer, please describe one of your greatest strengths. Given the knowledge you have gained about the Queen’s Commerce Program, describe how this strength will help you to succeed in the program.

People often associate the term ‘strength’ for a skill. Skills help people accomplish things, and thus open doors to opportunities in career and life. But what if these opportunities aren’t the ‘right’ ones? What if we’re pursuing things that inherently aren’t aligned with what makes us happy? There’s simply no way of knowing this unless you have the one strength that I believe precedes all the rest: a clear sense of purpose.

Purpose, in my opinion, is the foundation for a happy and successful life. I know who I am, what I want, and why I want it – allowing me to make the most authentic decisions and consciously/ subconsciously pursue the right opportunities. It’s the reason why I get out of bed in the morning, it’s what keeps me going when times get tough, and it’s my internal compass that keeps me on the right path toward my goals.

The Queen’s Commerce program offers an unprecedented set of opportunities to its students. You can choose courses from several different departments, exchange programs from dozens of countries, and extra-curriculars from countless clubs, committees, and competitions. Therefore, having a clear sense of who I am and what I want out of the program is paramount to having an extraordinary experience.

The program will test me in various different ways, from rigorous quantitative analysis, to group presentations, to projects that require high degrees of creativity. There’s no single skill that will allow me to succeed across these diverse demands of the program. Rather it’s the fact that I am aware of my strengths and development areas that will allow me to get the most from this exceptional education.

  1. Choose one extracurricular activity or one employment opportunity you have listed on your Personal Statement of Experience. In 300 words, or fewer, describe the impact of this experience and the greatest learning outcome for you.

My year with the Global Leadership Academy (GLA) was the most transformational year of my life. Deciding to take a gap year between high school and university was difficult at first, but I feel more self-aware, confident, and skilled than ever before – a necessary year off that will act more like a year ahead in the long-run.

The program requires its students to accomplish six things before they can graduate. In this essay, I will focus on one of accomplishments that I feel had the most impact on me and others: solving a problem in my community.

After volunteering for a youth hockey team in a low-income region of Toronto, I was exposed to the challenges these families and kids face. Hockey is an incredibly expensive activity – the equipment, ice time, transportation, and time commitment makes it difficult for lower-income families to get involved. I conducted a large-scale data gathering and analysis activity to attempt to prove my hypothesis that these families want to play, but simply cannot afford it. I conducted a survey with over 500 respondents and analyzed the results, which in fact proved my hypothesis.

Next, I came up with the idea to run a hockey equipment drive, getting donations from families across the city – mainly for helmets, sticks, and skates – the essential pieces that allow young kids to learn the basics of the sport. We collected over 100 pieces of equipment and then decided rather than donating it all now, we run a series of workshops to teach the kids how to play. However, ice rentals were incredibly expensive, so we found free outdoor rinks and hosted five workshops across the city.  We then donated the equipment to the kids we felt showed the most passion, need, and potential.

The above Queen’s Commerce Essay Example cannot be re-used or copied in any way but rather is just an example and should be used for guidance.

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Campus Rankings

CampusRankings (formerly UniversityHub) is Canada's #1 destination for post-secondary student reviews, rankings & admissions support. Our aim is to help students better navigate the post-secondary decision-making process, by providing free online resources and tools, such as our infamous MatchU quiz.

There are so many names for supplementary applications required by Canadian Universities.

Waterloo calls theirs the “Admission Information Form (AIF)”; Queen’s coined its nearly universal term as the “Personal Statement of Experience (PSE)“;  Western and Laurier chose to simply things with “Experience Profile“; but my all-time favourite is  Trent’sEquity Admissions Application Form“.

Whatever the name, supplementary essays and applications are critically important to getting accepted to top Canadian University programs. Queen’s Commerce, for instance, places 100% weight on your “PSE” once you’ve hit their grade cut-off.

It’s a great tool to leverage. The admissions committee can decide on the questions that will provide them with the best insights about their prospective students… and some of them can be really blue sky and interesting! I particularly love McMaster’s “Use up to 1,500 characters for whatever you think is appropriate.”

We read a lot of supplementary essays and applications – time and time again we see the same improvement areas, so we’re here to share those with you now.

1. Answer the question 

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? You’d be surprised how many first drafts we read where the student hasn’t specifically answered the question. For example, in the famous ‘goals essay’ by Queen’s, it simply asks “What are your goals at Queen’s and beyond”. We either see responses that don’t explicitly mention anything to do with goals or answers that focus completely on goals at Queen’s, and nothing on ‘beyond’.

Oftentimes, I also read essays where students constantly self-pitch why they are perfect for the program while indirectly answering the essay question. As a reader, what happens is that we drift off, or get frustrated and think “When is this person going to answer the question!”

2. Run on sentences / sentence structure

The high school curriculum focuses far too much on book reports and analyzing poetry, rather than fixing the fundamental issue of improving student writing. Only one in ten students we see writes clear, compelling, and concise (3 C’s!) prose.

Run-on sentences are one of the biggest problems we see. Remember, the admissions committee isn’t just evaluating you for your content, writing style is definitely an important factor. If they see too many run-on sentences, you can kiss your admission chances goodbye.

Remember that scene from the movie Wedding Crashers? Rachel McAdams’ character was going to give a wedding speech at her sister’s ceremony. She pitched it to Owen Wilson’s character before going up on stage and he said, “I think you’re better off going with something from the heart … you’re going to hear crickets!”.

Nevertheless, she delivered the same speech, opening up with this infamous line:

“I never thought my sister would find someone who cared about what other people thought as much as she did – until I met Craig.”

Remember the reaction of the audience in the movie? Readers of university applications react the exact same way to sentences like this. I usually shake my head, re-read the sentence, try to fathom what it means, re-read it again, then move on. We want to avoid this as much as possible.

Please, please, please review your essays for run-on sentences – I guarantee you have at least one.

3. Proper grammar

Similar to the previous point, scrutinize your essay for use of proper grammar – especially the basics we are told time and time again. One of these ‘basics’ is ending a sentence with a preposition. Who knows if you’re admissions reader will care or not, but it’s better to de-risk the situation and go with proper grammar. Here’s an example of poor preposition use, found on (great site btw):

  • BAD: “She is a person I cannot cope with”
  • GOOD, but sounds not authentic: “She is a person with whom I cannot cope”
  • BEST: “It is behaviour I will not tolerate”

The ‘best’ example has the same message, just used a different way to get rid of the preposition.

4. Informal, non-intellectual writing

You want your essays to be authentic, and maybe even a bit colloquial, but too informal is a definite no-go. “My goal is to earn a good job” is not a sentence from a Canadian-educated 18 year-old… it’s a sentence from a toddler. Push yourself to sound intellectual, while still sounding ‘yourself’. Maybe something more like “I am determined to obtain a challenging and rewarding career”. Much better 🙂

5. Be creative, people

Sir Ken Robinson’s famous point around schools ‘killing’ kids’ creativity is quite widely-seen amongst our clients. We see the same answers time and time again. Be different, while still being comfortable with the essay you are writing (i.e. make sure it’s authentic). There isn’t an ‘answer’ these people are looking for. They’re looking for your answer.

For admissions support on your supplementary essays, we recommend contacting the folks at We don’t recommend ‘answers’ for you, and we certainly don’t write the essays for you (unlike what one client thought this year).

Rather, what we try to help you with is structuring the essay, encouraging creativity, and pushing you to think deeper about yourself, your goals, and what it is that you specifically want to get out of university.

One of our past clients describes what we do best: “you played a huge role in pulling out all in intricate details of my life that I never would have thought were important.” That’s what we do. 

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5 Supplementary Essay Tips for Queen’s, McMaster, UBC, etc.