Advising and Resources Center
The personal statement provides an opportunity to to make yourself stand out by describing your experiences, recognition and awards, and your personal philosophy.
Below are questions to ask yourself before you write your personal statement
- What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story? Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
- What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
- When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
- How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
- What are your career goals?
- Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre MCAT or GRE scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
- What personal characteristics (for example, integrity, compassion, and/or persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
- What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
- Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession or field than other applicants?
- What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?
Writing the Personal Statement
- Analyze the question(s) asked on a specific application
- Research the school and/or program to which you are applying
- Draft responses to many of the questions above in preparation for writing your essay
- Write your essay
- Revise your essay for form and content
- Ask someone else - preferably a faculty member in your area - to read your essay and make suggestions for further revision
- Revise again
- Proofread carefully
Tell a story
- Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the pack.
- Don't, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to pursue a specific career field should be logical, and the result of specific experience that is described in your statement.
Find an angle
- If you're like most people, your life story lacks drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle or a "hook" is vital.
Concentrate on your opening paragraph
- The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it.
Tell what you know
- The middle section of your essay might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as some of your knowledge of the field. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information.
- If a school wants to know why you're applying to it rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs.
Write well and correctly
- Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits.