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Purpose of Your Personal Statement

Your personal statement, also called “application essay” or “statement of purpose”, is an opportunity to explain why you are an ideal candidate for a specific graduate or professional school program. It is a picture of who you are and an opportunity to share how your personal and academic experiences have shaped you and your professional goals. 

Ways to Prepare 

  • Read the prompt(s) you are required to answer.
  • Research the program.
  • Consider 2 - 3 meaningful experiences that will support your goal.

The Writing Process

  • Develop a plan for what you want to say, including the topics you want to cover.
  • Write a draft.
  • Read your draft and ask yourself if you covered all of the desired topics.
  • Revise and obtain feedback.
  • Revise again.

Effective Personal Statements Typically Answers and Addresses:

  • Who you are as a person.
  • What you would like to study and why.
  • What type of contribution or impact you would like to make and why.
  • Why the program you are applying to will help you reach your goal.

Use the worksheet below to begin brainstorming what you might want to include in your statement.  

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Writing Your Personal Statement

Admission officers will want to see clear evidence that you are committed to a particular path.  You must be able to demonstrate more than a passing curiosity of the field. Focus on your motivation to pursue the degree, the actions you took to prepare, and develop knowledge in the academic area.

Motivation

  • What motivated you to want to study ____________________?
  • Provide evidence that you are committed to this choice, i.e. What individuals or incidents have shaped your life, and convey what you value? 
  • Expand on why you would be a strong addition to this program and avoid discussing what the program could do for you.

Preparation

  • What have you done to prepare for this career choice? Describe your experiences so the reader can make conclusions about your competencies, such as your resilience, maturity, focus, drive, etc.
  • Avoid just using specific words to show your competencies. Instead tell stories that demonstrate those skills. Remember, show vs. tell.

Explanation

  • Be sure to explain any questionable items that may appear in your transcripts including withdrawals, incompletes, repeated courses, below average grades and test scores, or even breaks in your education. 
  • Provide clarity if you are applying again after a failed attempt.
  • Other items to clarify include having a criminal record or being documented for negative conduct on campus. 

Avoid

  • Stay clear of complicated themes. Your personal statement should be straightforward, easy to read, and in your own words. 
  • Avoid themes that may confuse the reader. Using quotes or song lyrics may seem like a good starting point, but you are wasting valuable space with someone else’s words. 
  • Try not to use cliché’s like “I’ve wanted to be a ___________ for as long as I can remember.”

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Proofing Your Personal Statement

It is important to proof read your personal statement before submitting it. Be sure to incorporate these steps when proofreading:

Make sure your statement is well written. 

  • Check your spelling, grammar, and sentence structure all BEFORE sending your application. The flow of your statement should be easy to read.

Do not wait until the last minute.

  • Admission officers will be able to tell if your statement was rushed and not well thought out.

Get feedback on your statement. 

  • Submit your personal statement online for review.  The Writer’s Workshop also reviews personal statements.

Do not focus on being unique.

  • Instead focus on being genuine. Just tell your story.

Do not plagiarize your statement.

  • Write and tell your own story in your own words.