Personal statements are often required for graduate school applications. There usually is no specific form, unless the institution provides guidelines or questions. The personal statement combines personal and academic elements in the form of a narrative essay, telling a story that conveys a thematic message. It provides space for you to promote yourself—your attributes, successes, experiences, unique abilities—to the institution you are applying for.
Before you begin, here are some questions to direct your writing:
- When did you become interested in this field?
- Have you had to overcome obstacles in your life?
- What insights have you gained from your experiences?
- What skills and/or attributes do you possess that qualify you for a place in their institution?
- How can you contribute to the university or institution?
- What are your career goals?
In a personal statement, knowing the strengths and goals of the institution you are applying for is very important. Why are you applying to this school? How will this school make you successful? Here are some ideas to direct your research: find the institution’s Mission Statement, look at your specific degree requirements, and determine the institution’s unique features that interest you.
Keep it short, simple, and specific. In general, a personal statement should not be more than two pages, double-spaced. Be sure to focus on one or two ideas or experiences, keeping it fresh and lively. Be sure to check the application website, since many institutions provide tips on their preferred formatting and content.
Opening Paragraph: The opening paragraph frames the rest of your statement. Here are some key elements for this paragraph: catchy opening lines and the actual program/degree/position you are applying for.
- “This is what I want and why I want it.”
Body Paragraphs: The body of the statement should follow a narrative form, retelling your experiences, attributes, and past success. (Leave out information from high school.)This is where you support what you say in your opening paragraph. Be unique, be yourself, and provide insight into what drives and motivates you. Avoid repeating information that can be found elsewhere, such as the resume or CV. Avoid jargon.
- “This is what I have done that proves I have been and will be successful.”
Conclusion: The final paragraph sums up what you previously said. It is also a place for you to state your future goals and how this institution will help you be successful based on your past experiences. Be sure to conclude with a strong closing sentence.
- “This is how I will be successful at your institution and in the future, proving what I said in the first paragraph.”