The personal statement is your one chance to tell an admissions committee how and why you have decided to pursue that degree at that university.
POTENTIAL QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF WHILE WRITING:
- Can you demonstrate and discuss a research agenda
- What makes you different and unique from the other applicants applying who will have similar backgrounds as you
- Are you highlighting your achievements compared to the opportunities life has given you (circumstances, challenges, and hardships)
- Can you demonstrate substantial experiences with cultures other than your own
- Can you prove through examples that you know yourself, what you want professionally, and how this graduate program is going to help you accomplish your goals
- Read the prompt carefully and make sure you respond to each part in detail
- Leave yourself a lot of time to write your essay
- Understand that you will go through several drafts
- Critique your grammar, structure and your word choice
- Ask professors, advisors, family members, and peers to read and critique
- Take advantage of your career educator in the Career Development Center
- Research the department and the work of the professors in that department; tailor your personal statement to that department
- Showcase your initiative, leadership, service to others, potential, etc.
- Turn your resume or CV into a narrative and stop there
- Use sloppy/lazy languages and/or abbreviations
- Don’t be funny, ironic, or use an excess of metaphors and cliques
- Don’t lie or inflate your experiences
- Just assume that the reader will make the connection on what you are referring to in your writing – you must be explicit & offer explanations, i.e. follow through with your ideas
More than any other issues associated with writing the personal statement, most students struggle with creating a seamless flow in their writing. Constraints of word count, page count, or questions open to interpretation are often the cause of many applicant frustrations.
What is your main point/theme?
Focus on a value that has shaped/is shaping you into the person you are now. Often focusing on a value means that you are discussing a broad topic related to an abstract quality such as: the desire to influence change, a commitment to change, or a mission based upon personal/professional ethics.
Choosing your focus point
Make a list of the experiences/anecdotes that you considering as your focus point/theme for your personal statement. Then map out if you can easily tell this story in the parameter of space that the essay allows – can you tell your story in 500 words or less? Which experiences highlight your professional growth? Demonstrates your professional passion?
Transitioning between paragraphs
Students seem to struggle with this concept the most when writing personal statements. The key is to have a strong focus point and use this point to frame the direction of each of your paragraphs. Is your closing smoothly looping back to the opening of your personal statements? Does each paragraph introduce a clean transition between each idea? Are your transitions connecting the story you are trying to tell in a logical way?
Is your conclusion looping back to your opening statements? Have you been able to describe the evolution of your focus point and connect it to the journey you want to continue as a graduate student at your chosen university?
Write for your audience
The audience who reads your personal statement will be the professors of that department, if they do not believe you are connecting background with goals, you application ends there. Research the department you are applying for, investigate the backgrounds of professors & when possible – speak directly to their research and how you want to become involved.
When requesting a letter of recommendation
Bring the final draft of your personal statement to the professor/recommender so that they have the best information about what your goals and ambitions are. Your personal statement can be a great tool for your recommender to write a well-tailored letter for you.
When applying to a licensed degree program (such as medicine)
The expectation is that you have a high GPA & test scores, extensive experience in building to your professional goal – including research, and that you have additional invested experiences in related fields.
So, the personal statement is an opportunity to round out your profile beyond the “given”, and highlight the unique elements of you to stand out from the competition. For example: where do you exemplify leadership experience, or community ties.
When applying to the field of humanities
The personal statement content should be concentrating on your academic background, interests, and professional goals. Not your professional experiences or extracurricular. Are you interested in & capable of conceiving & completing an in-depth and detailed research project and write the necessary literature. This is your opportunity to seriously discuss your research agenda – your essay is being assessed for your writing style and your thought process.
ADVICE FOR VETERANS
- Do the universities you are considering applying to have a dedicated military or veteran liaison/association to help you with the application process
- Writing your personal statement is where you can really stand out; discuss how your military skills, background, and maturity can be a positive benefit to the university