Your guide to writing a Personal Statement

Personal statement

Purpose

The personal statement is usually used as part of the criteria for admission into a graduate program. There are often dozens of applications for one spot in a graduate program, and the personal statement helps the graduate school admissions counselors determine which students are most suitable for the program.

Criteria

Universities rarely offer concrete prompts or topics for a personal statement. Instead, the student is expected to research the conventions of the personal statement and adhere to them. Universities do not do this to make it difficult for students; they are assessing how well the student can conduct independent research as well as how motivated the student is to succeed.

Topics to Cover

Despite the fact that there are no prompts to address, there are some topics that students are generally expected to cover. These topics may vary according to the discipline, however, so it is important to look at many examples of personal statements written for the field before commencing planning and writing.

Some general topics that students are expected to cover include:

  • Why they are interested in the field.
  • How you first became interested in the field.
  • Any unique accomplishments that set the student apart, such as research projects or awards.
  • Any hardships that were overcome to achieve academic success, such as family problems, disabilities, etc.
  • Career goals and how this program will help the student achieve those goals.
  • Research interests, if applicable.
  • Job or volunteer experiences that contributed to the student's knowledge of the field.
  • Explain any negative aspects on the record, such as a failed course or an extraordinary amount of time taken to graduate from the undergraduate program.
  • Qualities that make the student a good candidate for the program.
  • What the student can contribute to the program.

Tone

The personal statement is always written in first-person perspective. However, maintain a professional tone throughout. Avoid slang and unprofessional language. This statement is a measure of writing ability as well as maturity and professionalism, so it is important to make it as polished as possible.

Revising

The personal statement should be free from error and clearly written. To that end, it is necessary to have two or more professionals in the field, such as teachers or professors, evaluate the personal statement before it is sent to the admissions committee. These professionals can assess the personal statement for its suitability and subject matter as well as look for errors.


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