Tips for Developing a Personal Statement
Applications for graduate or professional schools often include a section requiring you to write a Personal Statement that outlines your background and your reasons for wanting to pursue an advanced degree in the field or profession you have chosen. If the application asks you to respond to certain questions or cover certain topics in your statement, make sure that you do so.
Your essay should be clear, concise, and well written. Talk about yourself and your experiences in positive terms. The Personal Statement is important to admission selection committees; it provides them with a sample of your writing skills and your ability to present ideas in a clear and coherent way. Before submitting the statement, seek constructive feedback from advisors, faculty and from the Career Center.
The following is a simple outline which might be used in writing a Personal Statement:
Opening Paragraph: State your general reasons for pursuing graduate study and introduce yourself to the selection committee. Make it interesting; the committee members will read many applications, so be sure that you give them a sense of your particular talents, individuality, experience, and uniqueness. Make it interesting, eye catching, write about your "Epiphany" moment, the moment you realized you wanted to pursue that particular career path.
Epiphany Moment Example
"When the old man urinated on my left leg, it ran down my pants and into my shoe. I could not let go of him, as I was holding him up, trying to move him from a wheelchair onto the bed. That is when I first realized that medicine was not going to be just starched white lab coats and golf at four. I looked again at medicine, the actual practice of medicine on real people, and saw that it often involved messy fluids, imprecision, and an element of surprise...." Asher, D. (2008).
Background: Concentrate on those experiences that have served as a foundation for your upcoming graduate work. Describe your community and family background and tell how your interests in, and knowledge of, your chosen field developed. Describe any personal attributes and qualities that would help you complete your graduate study successfully, examples are very helpful. Focus on your determination to achieve your goals, initiative and ability in developing ideas, and capacity for working through problems independently.
Qualifications: Describe those experiences that will serve as a foundation for your forthcoming graduate work. Discuss (1) your expertise and accomplishments in your major field, (2) your undergraduate studies in general and how they relate to what you intend to do in graduate or professional school, (3) specific learning experiences that demonstrate your motivation and inspiration for continued study, and (4) other relevant experiences such as jobs, internships, community activities, volunteer experience and other related experience.
Goals and Objectives:
- Short-term - What specific area do you want to study in graduate or professional school?
- Long-term - How do you intend to combine your knowledge and experience with your graduate or professional school work to achieve your career goals?
- What impact will you have on society, the community, or your field of study with your advanced degree?
Closing Paragraph: Leave the reader with a strong sense that you are qualified and that you will be successful in graduate or professional school. (You should combine this with your qualifications).
Example: “Summarizing all written above, I believe that my serious intention for study, my past lab work, strong academic background in various areas of physics and mathematics will be beneficial for my graduate studies and research. Attending Blank University would give me an opportunity to receive high-level education under the guidance of prominent scientists and excellent teachers and with the help of first-class equipment.”