A Personal Statement is a document used when applying to graduate schools or post-graduate programs. It assists admissions committees in getting to know the applicants on a personal level. It also provides supplementary information used in conjunction with transcripts and resumes. It summarizes any personal and academic experiences that prompted application to the specific program. It includes evidence of individual suitability to the program’s aims and objectives.
When Do I Use a Personal Statement?
Different forms of Personal Statements may be required by different schools. Pay attention to the given title to guide the information you include. A Personal Statement is also known as:
- Letter of Intent
- Plan of Study
- Statement of Interest
Plans of Study tend to be more formal and academic than personal. They often include previous research experience which contributed to current interests and some indication of future research plans.
Points to Consider When Writing a Personal Statement
Before you get started, you should:
- Carefully read the requirements provided by the school to which you are applying. Often word count, length, and topics to include is listed as guidelines or requirements.
- Gather all documents that might be helpful or provide useful topic ideas (your CV, or resume, transcripts and certificates).
- Decide on a focal message that you want to convey.
- Plan your statement to be interesting and relevant. Consider your “audience”.
- Using the first person “I” is generally acceptable but try to use it appropriately.
- Allow enough time to write your personal statement. This may “make or break” your application. Ask someone familiar with the program (professor or graduate) to look it over and provide you with feedback
Reflect on these questions:
- What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story?
- When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
- How have you learned about this field--through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
- What are your career goals?
Other aspects to consider:
- Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre LSAT or GRE scores for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
- Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
- What personal characteristics (e.g. integrity, compassion, persistence) and skills (e.g. leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess that would set you apart from other applicants in the field or profession? Can you give examples?
- What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?
What Should I Include in a Personal Statement?
Possible sections may include (not necessarily in the order given):
- Introduction: A unique and interesting statement, the name of the program and degree to which you are applying.
- Education: Personal compatibility with the program, goals in pursuing entrance to the program using relevant personal examples.
- Summarizing Conclusion: Tie together the information discussed and reiterate your interest in the program. End your essay with a conclusion that refers back to the lead and restates your thesis.
Do’s For Preparing Your Personal Statement:
- Do choose what you want to discuss and then organize your paper before you begin writing.
- Do answer any specific questions that are asked. Do not try to second guess the intent of the committee.
- Do remember that different faculties and schools have different emphases. Tailor your statement to your prospective program.
- Do use concrete examples from your life experience to support your thesis and distinguish yourself from other applicants.
- Do write about what interests and/or excites you. Be sincere.
- Do show them you have done research about the program and that you are knowledgeable about the university to which you are applying.
- Do write clearly and succinctly.
Don’ts For Preparing Your Personal Statement:
- Don't include information that doesn't support your theme.
- Don't write an autobiography, itinerary, or résumé in prose.
- Don't try to be a clown (but gentle humour is OK).
- Don't be afraid to start over if the essay isn't working or doesn't answer the question.
- Don't try to impress your reader with your vocabulary.
- Don't rely exclusively on your computer to check your spelling.
- Don't provide a collection of generic statements.
- Don't give weak excuses for your GPA or test scores.
- Don't make things up.
- Don’t turn this into a creative writing piece – not too many adjectives, adverbs.
There are a number of resources available which offer specific examples of personal statements. One site, www.studential.com
allows you to view a variety of personal statements organized by subject. A few samples from this site include: