Posted by: Meghan Orner
Every graduate school’s application process is different, but a common element among most of them is the submission of a personal statement. The main purpose of a personal statement is to convince the admissions committee that you should be chosen. Here are some tips so you can achieve that purpose!
The topic for personal statements really depends on the school – some require you to give specific information while others allow the applicant to address a wide range of matters that interest them. Some applications require one statement, while others require shorter responses to six or more questions. But regardless of the structure required by each school, it is equally important to realize that the significance of the statement varies depending on the school field.
When determining your purpose in writing the personal statement, remember that the content you choose to incorporate should be presented in a way that will unify the whole statement. You should strictly adhere to the purpose of your statement and always pay close attention to your audience. Before you begin writing, analyze the questions or guidance statements for the essay so you know the exact guidelines and can completely and succinctly answer the questions proposed without including irrelevant material.
Remember that personal statements should be both objective and self-revelatory. Even though this is not a research paper, it should still be specific and organized in a cohesive way. Personal statements are typically no longer than two pages unless directed otherwise by the school, meaning your statement has to be concise. Be sure to catch your reader’s attention early on and form conclusions that explain the value and meaning of the experience you chose to write about. When you have finished writing your statement, ask yourself the following question to put your essay to the ultimate test: Is this essay one that only I could write? Your goal is to stand out from among the other applicants, and since this is a sort of interview, provide some insight into your personality through this statement.
One of the most common mistakes made when writing personal statements is that you simply write an expository essay on your background and experience. Remember that a personal statement is not a resume. Avoid the “what I did with my life” or the “I’ve always wanted to be a…” approaches. You should not lecture the reader either – graduate committee members are not trying to learn about the field from applicants. Instead, try to focus on one or two specific themes, incidents or points and be creative with this – they are more likely to remember a creative personal statement than a generic one, and remember to let your personality shine!
If you ever need more assistance in writing your personal statement, see the Career Center for help.