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Toolkit

Personal Statements

personal statementsIf you are thinking about applying to graduate school your personal statement will be an important part of your application. This is your opportunity to express your professional aspirations and any relevant experience. Done well, the personal statement helps to set you apart from other candidates with similar training. Similar to a cover letter or personal essay, the personal statement is an organized and compelling document highlighting the experiences and ambitions that lead you to desire a more advanced degree.


Writing Advice

Answer the questions that are asked
If you are applying to several schools, you may find that the questions in each application that are somewhat similar. Be sure to tailor your personal statement to the specific school you are applying to, instead of writing one template and adjusting the information as you go.

Tell your story
Distinguish yourself from the pack through your own unique story. Try to demonstrate who you are through concrete experience. Find a hook and make your story as interesting as possible. Aim to grab the reader's attention within your first paragraph otherwise they may not read the rest of your statement.

Be specific
Do not oversell yourself, and be sure to back up any statements you make with specific reasoning, facts or examples. Refer to work experience or research, classes, or any other source of specific information about the career you want and why you're suited to it.

Don't include some subjects
Certain topics are not relevant within a personal statements. References to experiences or accomplishments in high school or earlier are generally not useful, and you should not discuss controversial subjects (religion, politics, etc).

Do your research
If a school asks why you're applying to it rather than another school, find out what sets them apart from other universities or programs. Things like geography and culture can sometimes be worth mentioning as well.

Routinely check your work
Be meticulous in double-checking your statement. Type and proofread your essay very carefully as many admissions officers say that good written skills are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to any stated word limits.


Questions To Consider Before Writing

  • What's special or unique about your story? Are there details related to your personal or family history, personal hardships, or someone who has influenced or mentored you, that might help the reader understand you better?
  • What are your career goals?
  • What skills do you possess? Are you a natural leader, a manager, analytical, etc?
  • Why are you interested in this field, or how did you learn about it?
  • If you have worked or held an internship during college, how did that contribute to your growth?
  • Are there any issues with your academic record that need explaining?
  • How does your personality suit you for success in this field or profession?
  • What sets you apart from all the other applicants? In other words - how can you sell yourself to the reader?