Personal Statement

Tag: Personal Statement

How to Write Personal Statements for Graduate School Applications

Writing a compelling personal statement for graduate school is crucial to your application’s success. This is your opportunity to showcase your qualifications, experiences, and motivations to the admissions committee. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you craft an effective personal statement:

  • Understand the Purpose:
    • The personal statement allows you to demonstrate why you’re a strong candidate for the program.
    • It should highlight your academic achievements, relevant experiences, and your passion for the field.
  • Research the Program:
    • Familiarize yourself with the specific graduate program you’re applying to, including its mission, faculty, and curriculum.
    • Identify what makes this program unique and how it aligns with your goals.
  • Brainstorm and Outline:
    • Begin by brainstorming your key experiences, achievements, and reasons for pursuing graduate education.
    • Create an outline to organize your thoughts and structure your statement.
  • Start with a Strong Opening:
    • Begin your personal statement with an engaging hook to grab the reader’s attention.
    • This could be a personal anecdote, a relevant quote, or a brief summary of your journey.
  • Discuss Your Academic Background:
    • Highlight your academic achievements, including relevant coursework, research projects, or honors.
    • Explain how your academic background has prepared you for the graduate program.
  • Showcase Your Relevant Experiences:
    • Discuss internships, research, work experience, or volunteer work that is relevant to your field of study.
    • Provide specific examples of how these experiences have shaped your goals and skills.
  • Explain Your Motivation and Goals:
    • Describe why you are passionate about the field and what motivates you to pursue graduate education.
    • Discuss your short-term and long-term career goals and how the program will help you achieve them.
  • Address Weaknesses (if necessary):
    • If you have any academic gaps or weaknesses, briefly address them and explain how you’ve overcome or learned from them.
  • Show Fit with the Program:
    • Explain why you believe the specific program is the right fit for you and how it will help you achieve your goals.
    • Mention faculty members or research opportunities that align with your interests.
  • Reflect on Personal Growth:
    • Share personal insights or transformative experiences that have influenced your decision to pursue graduate studies.
  • Conclude Strongly:
    • Summarize your main points and reiterate your enthusiasm for the program.
    • End with a forward-looking statement about your potential contributions as a graduate student.
  • Edit and Proofread:
    • Revise your personal statement for clarity, grammar, and coherence.
    • Seek feedback from professors, mentors, or peers to ensure it’s well-polished.
  • Stay Within Word Limits:
    • Adhere to any word or page limits provided by the graduate program.
  • Tailor Your Statement:
    • Customize your personal statement for each program you apply to, emphasizing the aspects most relevant to each.
  • Review and Submit:
    • Review your application and personal statement thoroughly before submitting it by the deadline.

Remember that your personal statement should reflect your unique experiences, aspirations, and personality. Be honest, authentic, and enthusiastic throughout your writing, and make sure it conveys your genuine passion for your chosen field of study and the graduate program you’re applying to.

Writing a Personal Statement for Summer Research

Adapted from the Institute for Broadening Participation

Personal statements are an important component of the research application process, especially for off-campus programs. They provide you with the opportunity to explain why you are interested in this research opportunity, how you will be able to contribute to this project, and how the project connects to your goals. The personal statement also enables the selection committee to get a better idea of who you are as a person and whether you are the best fit for this research opportunity. But given how important a personal statement can be, how does one go about writing a strong one? 

Your personal statement should include: 

  • Why you are interested in a field of study 
  • How that interest started and how it grew over time 
  • How the research opportunity is the next logical step in the path toward your specific goals 

To help write about above topics, try answering the following questions: 

  • Why are you interested in this program? Does it fulfil your interests in a particular area or field of study?  
  • How did you become interested in this specific research area/academic field? Maybe it’s because you took a class that sparked your interest, or you read a book that intrigued you and pushed you to learn more about this specific field of study.   
  • What are your aspirations, goals or future plans? How does this summer research project act as a stepping stone in pursuit of your academic and career goals? 
  • What kind of activities or experiences have you done that contributed towards your interest in or preparation for this field or research area? Explain how your skillset aligns with what they need for this research program to grab the reviewers’ attention. 

Personal statements also give you the opportunity to explain certain gaps or weaknesses in your application. For example, if you got low grades in your spring term of sophomore year because a family member passed away or you had low grades during your first term due to challenges with difficulties adjusting to college, you could say: 

  • “Unfortunately, a family member passed away during my spring term of sophomore year which is why I my performance was sub-tier. However, I learned how to get connected with counseling resources and was able to get back on my feet the following year” for the first example. 
  • “Although a lack of academic preparedness caused my grades to suffer during my first year, my transcript from more recent semesters shows a significant improvement in my grades, proving that I’m committed to my academic growth and demonstrate that I’m ready for this research opportunity” for the second example. 

However, while explaining weaknesses or apparent gaps, don’t list excuses. Focus on what you learned from that situation and how you dealt with this challenge to get back stronger. You can make a strong case for yourself by turning your own weaknesses into strengths and while the application committee understands that most things in our life are out of our control, they are most interested in hearing how you work through challenges.  

Other tips to keep in mind when planning your personal statement: 

  • Saying “I am…” instead of “I have always been…” 
  • Make positive statements and how you are qualified for this summer research position: “My experience in… makes me well suited for this opportunity because…” 
  • Your opening statement (why the committee should accept you for this research) should be supported in the body and should also be consistent with your closing. 
  • Organize the statement so it flows from sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph. 
  • Proofread for grammar, spelling, paragraph breaks, and correct punctuation. 

A strong personal statement could be the deciding factor in whether you are accepted for a research opportunity, which is why it is important to create drafts and plan ahead. If you need more advice on writing a personal statement or any other part of the research program application process, feel free to make an appointment with our PHN advisor, Jacklyn Fischer.