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Personal Statements and Application Essays

Most graduate schools require a personal statement or application essay. The essay is the most personal part of the application package. Transcripts, test scores, resumes, recommendations--these all give the graduate school a profile of your abilities and experiences. The essay presents the school with a complete portrait: they hear your voice, see you in action, get to know the person behind the numbers, the lists, the scores. When the application asks for a personal statement, then you must aim to write about yourself as clearly, as interestingly, and as honestly as you can.

Writing Your Personal Statement

The Career Resource Library has many resources to help you write your graduate or professional school statement(s). Keep in mind that each grad school has its own requirements for this essay, and you must adhere to these guidelines. If you have questions or would like a professional critique of your personal statement, call x. 5242 or email to schedule an appointment with a career counselor.

Getting Started

Below are some questions to ask yourself as you begin to formulate your statement. Jotting down your answers as you think through your motivation for pursuing graduate study will help you write smoother essays later.

  • What specific discipline or concentration will you pursue in graduate school? How did you arrive at this interest?
  • What have you learned from your work experience and undergraduate coursework that will help you excel in your chosen field?
  • What are your long and short-term professional goals? How does this graduate degree play into these goals?
  • What specific influences (people, professors, internships, etc.) shaped your career goals?
  • What details of your life (personal or family history, notable accomplishments, etc. that have helped shape your goals) might set you apart from other applicants? (Stelzer, R., How to Write a Winning Personal Statement)
  • What personal characteristics (integrity, compassion, persistence...) do you possess that would enhance your prospects for success in this field? Is there a way to demonstrate that you have these characteristics? (Stelzer, R., How to Write a Winning Personal Statement)
  • Which field-related volunteer and/or campus activities have you experienced? What did you learn from them?
  • What research related to this field have you done during your undergraduate education?
  • What are the main issues confronting your future profession? How do you imagine yourself fitting in to that profession?

Additional Information

Writing Your Personal Statement
Application Essays

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