A personal statement, also known as a “statement of purpose” or “goal statement,” is a document that demonstrates your writing ability on a more personal level for your application into a graduate program.
The personal statement will discuss your personal, career, and educational goals or answer a general question posed by the graduate school’s admission committee. Your personal statement will be used by the admission committee to gauge your critical and analytical thinking as well as your writing, editing skills, and general reasoning skills and your ability to reflect on your education and work experience. The questions and guidelines they require for the personal statement are there so that they can get to know who you are so they can determine if you would be a good fit into their program.
What are you writing about?
One of the hardest steps to writing a personal statement is the process of actually getting started. Even after deciding what to write about, actually creating material for your personal statement can be a daunting task. However, the Career Development Center is available to guide you to these answers through either walk in hours or appointments. Career Counselors are available and eager to help you see what skills and achievements you have and let you develop them into your personal statement.
Regardless of the path you take to beginning your personal statement, there are many questions that you will have to inevitably cover. How do you want to answer their questions? What piece of you do you want shown to the admissions committee? What kind of tone do you want your personal statement to take? What kind of theme should I use for the personal statement?
These can be very difficult questions to answer. You can make the brainstorming process smoother by knowing yourself first. Gather your transcripts, resumes, and anything else that shows who you are. These will let you know all your strengths, but more importantly, it will also tell you your weaknesses. You can use your personal statement to address your weaknesses or show them in a better light.
You should also research the college to which you are applying. Every graduate school program available has a different set of goals, ideals, and most importantly, students which should be understood before you begin to create a personal. Contacting students who are in the program you are applying for or have already completed the program will have valuable insight into what they thought was most useful on their personal statement. There are a variety of ways in which you can contact these students as well. Your options range from going to the college to physically talk with students, taking advantage of online social networking sites, or even using some of the advanced features built into Vault which is available on the Career Development Center’s website. The main thing to remember is that these students have been to the college so they know the department and the admission process.
Considering who you are and where you are applying will allow you to decide whether you want to expand on your professional experience in your field or focus on how you enjoy the particular method of instruction that the department is known for.
The general format of a personal statement is rather basic. You have an introductory paragraph and a concluding paragraph that surround the body paragraphs. The length of your paragraphs and how many body paragraphs you will include will be determined by the guidelines the admissions committee will have for you. Other than that, open with something that will catch their attention, and finish with something strong and memorable.
Once you are able to create a draft of your personal statement, you should then take advantage of the services offered by both the Career Development Center and the Center for Teaching and Learning. The Career Development Center has trained professional staff available to go over your draft and give advice on how to refine a personal statement into something that best exhibits your skills and achievements. You can take advantage of these services by either coming in during walk in hours and appointments or through having it emailed or dropped off for critique. The Center for Teaching and Learning also has trained professionals that can read through your personal statement and give you advice on grammar and structure which are just as important as content.
Some general tips for writing a personal statement:
- The first thing you will want to do above everything else is be yourself and not what you think the admissions committee is looking for. This will make everything easier when writing your personal statement, and it has the benefit of being genuine.
- Avoid cliché statements and ideals whenever possible. There are a million medical school applicants who want to be a doctor because they wanted to help people from an early age, but your personal story about helping your close friend several years ago is unique to you.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread. . . This does not apply to only you. Even the best writers make embarrassing mistakes. The best thing to do is to have as many people as possible proofread your paper.
- This is a personal statement and not your autobiography. It is recommendable to use your personal experience to reinforce your points, but do not make the personal experience itself the focus.
- For once, personal pronouns are not a bad thing. This statement is about you, and you can now use “I” and “me” without worry. Just remember that beginning every sentence with “I” would look rather conceited.
- If a question is asked, answer it completely with specific details and examples. It is respectful to the admissions committee and shows that you know how to follow directions. Not doing so could easily result in you not being considered for admission.
- Always write a new unique personal statement for each college you are applying for. The questions may be similar, but the intent behind them could be completely different. Give a sincere effort and find out what the college is looking for with their questions and answer them all as if it is the only school you are applying to.
- Writing Your Statement of Purpose for Grad School
- About Law School
- All About the Graduate Admissions Essay
- The UIS Career Development Center Library also has several excellent resources for personal statements