Writing a Personal Statement
A personal statement is a short essay that introduces a graduate studies candidate and his/her personal reason for applying to a particular program. They are important because it give the graduate school admission committee an idea of your career plan and how it pertains to that graduate program. The admissions committee is looking at your motivations, your writing style, and those specific experiences that are indicators of success. It is an opportunity for you to showcase your strengths and fit with the program as well as your writing abilities.
- Personal statements are common requirements for application to graduate programs . The best advice is to write a unique personal statement for each program you are applying. Generic personal statements are rarely going to make your application stand out from the crowd. When admission committees are reading 100 or more applications, it is important to make the effort to ensure your materials are carefully considered. Do this by ensuring that you are responding to the questions asked; modify your personal statement each time to tailor it to address the instructions.
- Proofread your statement carefully. It is smart to ask a trusted faculty advisor to review your materials. Take their advice if they suggest changes.
- Focus on "fit". Work to convince the faculty that your research and career goals overlap with the types of training provided in that program. Do your homework to ensure you known enough about the program to be able to offer specific examples in your personal statement about the training provided by that program.
- Avoid any personal disclosures about mental health concerns, family problems, or other overly sensitive information.
- Remember that you are competing against a large number of other highly qualified applicants who also have good grades and volunteer experiences, so consider how you can set your application apart in a professional way. Consider specifying research interests, career goals, and other personal attributes that make you a strong fit for the graduate program.
- The most common personal statement is a one-page double-spaced statement, original composition that highlights your strengths as an applicant, motivation for this program, leadership and service record, etc. However, it can also be a 300–500 word personal statement describing your educational and career goals, or a 200 words or less, please indicate your career goals, why you wish to participate in this program and how you believe you will benefit from your experience in this program.
Be as specific as possible. Your personal statement should include your reasons for applying, your area of interests, your academic and research accomplishments and your career goals. A great personal statement can help you get an interview, a mediocre one probably won’t matter much, and a terrible one will hurt you. You want to be unique and interesting, but you definitely don’t want to stand out too much.What they don’t know is who you are, and what draws you to your field so be straightforward in your writing. Try to avoid deep analogies, quotes, and super cheesy stories. Throughout your essay, sprinkle in skills and qualities that you feel will make you an excellent for this field without explicitly saying how they relate to the field. Length of the personal statement is also important. Keep in mind that any given program will have to go through hundreds of personal statements, so try to get your points across without all of the added fluff. Anything over one page is too much (unless otherwise stated).
In the end, do not underestimate the power of a personal statement. It is common to hear people say that it doesn’t matter, which can be true, but it can also make or break your application. Once you think it’s perfect, put it down for a few days and then revise it again. Have multiple people (friends, family, academic mentor…etc.) read it and give you feedback. Last but not least, PROOFREAD! The last thing you want to do is potentially cost yourself interviews by making a simple grammatical or spelling error. Your personal statement is an opportunity to let programs know more about yourself on a personal level.The goal is not to rewrite your resume try to explore parts of your life that are not anywhere else on your application.
Most Personal Statements Ask Questions Like the Following:
What motivates your decision to attend graduate school at this time?
Indicate your career goals immediately following graduation, and 5-7 years following graduation.
Identify and discuss personal life experiences and factors - for example, strengths and stressors in family, work and community experiences - that have been important in shaping your character, outlook, and life choices. How have these experiences and factors influenced your choice of this field as a profession?
If there are any discrepancies in your GPA, this is the place to plea your case to the admissions committee.
Explain why you have chosen to apply to this program in particular. What attracted you to our program? What do you hope to gain from the program?
Describe your special interests and career goals. If you have worked or trained in another field, why are you now considering a career change?
How have your life experiences, career experiences, economic, ethnic, racial, spiritual and/or other diverse experiences contributed to your desire and capacity to work in this field?
Describe the intellectual and personal qualifications that will enable you to practice in this field successfully.
What limitations do you see in your work experiences, attributes and skills that would need to be addressed to practice social work?
How will you balance outside responsibilities with academic responsibilities?
If you have any special circumstances that require an explanation or that may hinder you in working with a particular population (e.g., failing grades, low GPA, personal circumstances), please do so.
Describe your research interests and discuss how this program will allow you to pursue research in this area (tip: connect your response to a specific faculty member; also address your flexibility in working with your 2nd choice faculty member).
Describe your professional strengths and areas for growth.
Describe your professional goals and how this program will help you accomplish these goals. (Be sure your answer to this question addresses your intention for this degree). If you intend to pursue further doctoral study, please include your research interests and how this program (and particular faculty members) will allow you to pursue research in this area.