PERSONAL STATEMENT FOR GRADUATE SCHOOL APPLICATIONS What is a personal statement? This is the admissions committee’s first chance to “meet” you as an individual instead of a collection of numbers. The personal statement is used to call attention to important parts of your application that might otherwise be overlooked and to explain any discrepancies or potentially negative aspects of your application. It also shows the committee that you know how to write and can logically answer an essay question.
Main Types of Personal Statements: The general, comprehensive personal statement: This allows you the maximum amount of freedom. You can pick the theme and/or thesis that best reflects you. It is often used for medical and law school applications.
The response to a very specific question statement: A narrow and logical response is required. Sometimes you may be asked multiple questions in one prompt or need to do a series of short-answer questions. These statements are often used for graduate and business school applications.
How do I begin? •
Realize that a good personal statement takes time so start it early.
Do research on the schools to which you are applying.
Get to know yourself.
Determine your angle, thesis, or theme.
Writing Style: •
Use an upbeat and positive tone.
Write in the first person.
Consider your audience.
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Generally the most important paragraph.
Make it unique and catchy.
Sets the framework for the rest of the statement.
Body Paragraphs: •
Make sure you answer the question.
Provide evidence to support your claim.
Tell a story.
Use specifics and details.
Keep the focus narrow.
Mention why you are interested in the school or program (if you haven’t already done so).
Keep it short.
Edit your statement: Ideas, organization, word choice, grammar, etc.
Have someone else read and comment on it. o Friends and family who know you well o The Writing Center
Allow yourself a full week away from your statement, and then go back and polish it.
Don’t use a generic personal statement for all schools.
Don’t get the name of the school wrong.
Don’t discuss your minority status or disadvantaged background unless you have a compelling and unique story that relates to it.
Don’t include controversial topics: religion and politics. 3
Don’t include events from high school or earlier unless they are relevant to why you are choosing this school or career path.
Don’t include every achievement. Be selective—a good detailed example is better than a list of achievements.
Don’t write a simple narrative of information that is available elsewhere in the application.
Don’t use clichés.
Should I explain a poor GPA or test score? If you have extenuating circumstances that affected your grades or scores, you can mention them in your personal statement.
Have a valid reason.
Keep the explanation to a minimum.
Use a neutral tone.
Complain or whine.
Where can I get more help? •
The Writing Center
Books: o Asher, Donald. Graduate Admissions Essays: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why. Berkley: Ten Speed Press, 1991. o Stelzer, Richard J. How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School. 3rd ed. Princeton: Peterson’s, 1997. o Stewart, Mark Alan. Peterson’s Perfect Personal Statements: Law, Business, o Medical, Graduate School. 3rd ed. Lawrenceville, NJ: Thompson/Peterson’s, 2004.
Websites: o The OWL at Purdue: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/642/01/
Questions to Ask Before Writing Your Personal Statement
(Adapted from How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School. 3rd ed. by R. J. Stelzer)
1. What is special, unique, distinctive, or impressive about you or your life story? What details of your life might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from the other applicants?
2. When did you originally become interested in this field, and what have you since learned about itâ€”and about yourselfâ€”that has further stimulated your interests? What insights have you gained?
3. What have you learned about this field from classes, readings, seminars, work experience, or conversations with others?
4. What have you learned from your work experience, and how has it contributed to your personal growth? (This is especially important if work took up a lot of time and extended your schooling.)
5. What are your career goals?
6. Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record? Why?
7. Have you overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships in your life?
8. What personal characteristics do you possess that would enhance your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
9. What skills do you possess?
10. Why might you be a stronger and more successful candidate for graduate school than the other applicants?
11. What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the committee to be interested in you? Evaluative Questionnaire: (Adapted from How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School. 3rd ed. by R. J. Stelzer.)
I have composed the attached personal statement(s) for submission to _______________, which I hope to attend. If you could take some time to read what I have written and answer the following questions, I would be most grateful for the benefit of your perspective.
1. Did my opening paragraph capture your attention?
2. Did you find the statement as a whole to be interesting?
3. Did you find it to be well-written?
4. Did it seem positive, upbeat?
5. Did it sound like me?
6. Do you regard it as an honest and forthright presentation of who I am?
7. Did it seem to answer the question?
8. Can you think of anything relevant that I might have inadvertently omitted?
9. Is there material within the statement that seems inappropriate?
10. Did you gain any insight about me from reading this?
11. Did you notice any typos or grammatical errors?
12. Do you think the statement has in any way distinguished me from other applicants?