Writing your personal statement for your application


The personal statement, for some, will be most difficult part of applying to graduate school. Each institution has a different format, so pay close attention to the directions. Before beginning to write, stop and consider what the reader is looking for. Following are some things you need to consider.

Helpful hints for preparing your statement:

It should be:

  1. A statement of your ideas and goals
  2. A clear, succinct statement showing you have a definite sense of what you want to do plus an enthusiasm for your chosen field of study
  3. Positive*
  4. Typed
  5. Free of errors — spelling, grammar, and neatness are very important
  6. Complete. (It is usually acceptable to attach pages to your application if the space provided is insufficient.)
  7. A demonstration of your writing clarity, depth, and focus of thought.

*If your application contains information that might reflect negatively on you, such as poor grades or a low admission test score, it is better not to deal with it in your essay unless you are asked to. You can explain the negative aspects on a separate sheet labeled "Addendum" and then attach it to the application, or you could address it in a cover letter. Either way, keep your explanation short and to the point; avoid elaborate excuses.

Aspects that you could include in your personal statement:

  1. Reasons for deciding to pursue a graduate degree in a particular field.
  2. Reasons you want to attend that particular institution.
  3. Motivation and commitment to a field of study.
  4. Expectations with regard to the program and career opportunities.
  5. Educational background.
  6. Research and/or work experience.
  7. Immediate and long-range goals.
  8. Major areas of interest.
  9. Personal uniqueness – what could you add to the diversity of the class.

After completing your essay, you should have several people critique it. Your advisor or those who write your letters of recommendation may be able to assist you. If they are in the field you plan to pursue, they will be able to tell what points to stress. More than likely, you will get varying opinions on the content of your essay. Remember, only you can decide on the best way to present yourself.