How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate (2023)

What is the personal statement on a graduate application?

Graduate school applications often include personal statements from prospective students. This helps admissions committees get to know the person behind each application. A personal statement is a short essay presenting a graduate candidate and her personal reasons for applying to a particular program. While metrics like GPA and test scores can give the admissions committee insight into a student's grades, they are impersonal and do not indicate whether a candidate would be a good fit for a particular program. "The metrics only tell a small part of the whole picture," says Meg Radunich, career counselor and former college admissions representative. "Graduate programs care about the person behind the standardized test score and grade point average. A personal statement is the only part of the application where a candidate can make their own case for what they can add to the freshman cohort.

How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate (1)

Students may obtain applications that request statements of purpose or intent, as well as personal statements. With names so similar, it's no surprise that many students wonder if there's a difference. Depending on the writing program and message, a personal statement and a statement of purpose may fill the same need in the eyes of the admissions committee. However, in cases where both are needed, things can get a bit complicated. In general, the statement of purpose focuses more on a student's reasons for applying to that particular graduate program and may address topics such as career and research objectives, how their academic record demonstrates qualification for that school or program particular study, and how a particular program will impact a student's future.

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On the other hand, personal statements generally offer more latitude when it comes to content and form and are intended to give the admissions committee insight into a candidate's personality. This narrative essay combines specific self-reflective anecdotes with details about past experiences (internships, volunteer experiences, etc.) and a clear description of the student's goals and interests in the future graduate program to provide a more complete picture of the candidate. Often unaccompanied by an explicit writing prompt or set of instructions, this combination can chill even the most seasoned writers. Familiarizing yourself with the ins and outs of writing strong personal statements for graduate school can ease stress and make the process of submitting those applications easier.

Components of a successful personal statement

Since personal statements are individual to the candidate, there is no single way to write them. However, there are some key elements of strong personal statements that prospective graduate students should keep in mind when writing.

  • Focus
  • Narrative
  • broad understanding
  • Vulnerability and sincerity
  • public awareness
  • Individuality
  • Polish

When writing personal statements, students may feel pressured to tell admissions committees all about themselves. People are multifaceted and it seems extremely important to hit all the highlights and achievements of your personality. However, the personal essay is not intended to be an autobiography or a lengthy reiteration of the candidate's resume. "A big mistake I see all the time is that students try to say too much in the personal statement," says Radunich. "It tells one or two specific stories or scenarios very well, rather than taking a broad approach and trying to tell the story of your life. The purpose of the essay is to get a face-to-face interview that allows you to reveal the use of this personal statement to tease them enough that they feel like they need to take you to an interview to get the rest of your story.

  • An MFA program candidate might build their statement around a sculpture class reluctantly taken during their sophomore year of college that encouraged them to experiment and ultimately changed their style and approach to art. This is more revealing and interesting than delving into a lifelong love of art that he began in childhood.
  • Students should try to keep the scope of their personal statements in later years, as admissions committees are generally more interested in applicants' undergraduate experiences.

The best personal statements have clear purposes and easily engage readers. Students must be careful to turn their personal statements into risky or daring creative writing projects and instead maintain a strong narrative structure using anecdotes for support when necessary. "Everyone loves coming-of-age stories," says Radunich. "Remember, professors are interested in admitting students who will be fun to work with and watch grow." Candidates must determine what key points about themselves are most important to them and then choose situations or experiences that demonstrate those points. This serves as the main content of the personal statement. It is important for students to remember to keep anecdotes relevant to the specific programs to which they are applying and to be clear about how the experiences led them to those programs.

  • A prospective engineering student volunteering abroad could set the stage by writing about working with local community members who had their own innovations based on supplies available in their area, such as flip phone batteries and disassembled mopeds, he challenged. your unique western experience. understanding of the infrastructure and exposed holes in knowledge of it.
  • You could continue with short but concrete examples showing technical and soft skills relevant to your program of study, for example, how your experience as a resident assistant affirmed your desire to help people, and your senior thesis project led you to reach others. and collaborate for better research.

Along with a focused narrative, graduate applicants must demonstrate to the admissions committee why they want to participate in this program and how it relates to their place academically, locally and globally. Radunich notes that strong personal statements show candidates understand the "big picture" of the profession and the true meaning and impact it will have in their communities.

Candidates often feel they need to show how talented and impressive they are in their personal statements, but Radunich stresses the importance of being honest and vulnerable. "It helps the reader connect. Admissions deans read enough essays from 23-year-old applicants who brag about their accomplishments and think they have a life planned out." Acknowledging flaws or weaknesses shows the committee that a candidate is self-aware, teachable, and eager to grow.

  • "A medical school candidate I worked with wanted to become a psychiatrist because of her own personal experience with anxiety in high school," recalls Radunich. "Instead of hiding that experience, he owned it. As a result, her personal statement from her was phenomenal."
  • Vulnerability should be presented as something that leads to growth, not as an excuse to do poorly in certain academic areas.

Strong personal statements demonstrate awareness of the audience and how the content can be received. Radunich advises candidates to think about their essays from the perspective of admissions deans: What would you and wouldn't you like to read if you were in their shoes? As they write, students must remember that admissions staff must read many personal statements and review thousands of applications. Being aware of how words or stories may be perceived by people from different backgrounds than their own can be invaluable to students.

  • Radunich cites a time when he worked with a student who wrote about her experience providing health care in a developing country as part of her medical school application: "The student meant well, but in writing it seemed condescending and even condescending. . when describing his interactions with patients. I had no idea. Remember that people who see the world differently from you will read this essay."
(Video) Tips for Writing a Strong Personal Statement for Graduate School

One of the most important keys to writing a successful personal statement is in the name itself. This essay is meant to be personal and completely unique to the writer. "You have full control over this part of your application," Radunich says, urging students to avoid sounding so desperate in their essays. "Fight the temptation to 'shapeshift' into what you think the program wants you to be. You're not going to be a perfect fit in every grad program. Be yourself, and if a grad program doesn't get it, you probably win." Don't be happy in that program for the next three years or more. Many candidates may have similar metrics, but every student has different experiences to write about in a personal statement. Students need to engage with and own their experiences, rather than To err too far on the safety side, which Radunich says is a common pitfall.

  • "Students also make a mistake when they play it safe and write personal statements that have been reproduced. For example, medical students tend to cite having experienced illnesses, observing family members struggling with their health, or wanting to help people as the reason why they want to do it. Become a doctor. Admissions deans need to read thousands of them. Make it personal and unconventional. Give them something new to read.

Applicants should take the time to ensure that their personal statements are accurate and free of errors. Radunich emphasizes the importance of the review. "Don't even bother submitting an application with a poorly written or grammatical personal statement. That personal statement is a reflection of the quality of work you will submit to the program."

How to write a winning personal statement

One of the hardest parts of writing a personal statement is getting started. These steps and strategies can help prospective graduate students overcome initial doubts and begin writing winning personal statements.

  1. Read the instructions.Some apps provide little guidance, asking potential students to explain why they want to apply to the program or provide information about their background and interests. Others, however, provide specific guidance on content, format, word count, and submission method. It is crucial that candidates read and understand what is expected of their personal statements. It doesn't matter how well crafted the statement is if it doesn't meet the message or doesn't take into account the stated length requirements.
  2. self reflectionBefore sitting down to write, students should spend time thinking about their strengths and what they want to convey to admissions committees. Radunich says it's essential that students really think about what makes them special. "Take some time to reflect on your personal brand. What qualities do you bring to a group of graduate students that this program doesn't know they need?" When students are confident in their positive qualities, it can be easier to convince admissions officers of the value they add to any graduate program.
  3. Talk to friends and family.Sometimes figuring out how to write about yourself or what items to highlight can be difficult. Radunich says this is where friends and family can be a big help. She recommends talking to those who know you best. "Ask the people who have been with you throughout your journey to give you feedback on who you are and what they have observed. Use them to provide feedback on what a graduate program has to offer. How do you do it?" would describe? in five words This is your 'essential self,' what makes you stand out from the rest."
  4. Be authentic."We hear this all the time, but it's the best advice," Radunich says. "Admissions people can smell a scam. They know when you're using words outside of your vocabulary or exaggerating what an experience was like to you. They read thousands of personal statements a year, and they also see which applicants sound like the people who said than they were when they were admitted. Don't sell yourself to an admissions panel โ€” present a polished but real account of who you are and what matters to you. That way the right school will recognize what you bring to the table."
  5. Keep it relevant.The focus should remain on why the student is qualified and wants to apply to that particular program. Admissions staff want to get to know their candidates, but primarily they want to make sure they choose students who value the program and have specific reasons for applying. For example, a student may be drawn to a program because one or two faculty members conduct research that aligns with that student's interests. This is something worth mentioning in a statement. Anecdotes and stories add a personal element, but it's also important to include practical, academic, and career-focused details.
  6. Get feedback from external sources.It is helpful for students to ask others to read their personal statements. As Radunich points out, this can help students see how their statements may be perceived by others, and another set of eyes can help a student determine if the essay is interesting and well-organized. Friends, family, teachers, and writing center staff can be great resources.
  7. Use specific examples.Graduate applicants should do their best to avoid using blanket statements or listing their experience and qualifications. "Use specific examples and a strong narrative to draw the reader into your life and care about you in the end," suggests Radunich. "For example, if you're applying to medical school, tell us a specific personal story about something that happened while you were volunteering at the hospital that changed your worldview, challenged you, and confirmed your goal of being a doctor."
  8. Correct possible deficiencies.The personal statement is an excellent opportunity for a candidate whose metrics aren't top-notch to step up and make their case. "If the student had less than excellent grades at graduation," Radunich notes, "(the student) can provide some context in the personal statement." Students may feel that this is not necessary or comfortable with it, but it is an option. Candidates must be cautious about how they address weaknesses; explanations should not sound like excuses, but rather be framed in a way that demonstrates perseverance, improvement, or the learning that followed these challenges.
  9. Use space efficiently.Personal statements are usually quite short, typically between 500 and 1,000 words. This means that filler words and phrases like "the truth is" or "it is my personal belief that" take up valuable space that could be used to compel admissions to request an interview. It's important to convey a clear picture in just a few paragraphs, so keep it concise and to the point. In statements that allow for a larger number of words, remember that more is not always better. Admissions committees read thousands of personal essays each year, and longer ones may be at greater risk of being skimmed rather than read in full.
  10. Write, edit, repeat.Depending on the program, a student's personal statement can carry considerable weight. It should not be put together at the last minute. Allowing adequate time to write multiple drafts, edit, and thoroughly proofread is a must. Have others proofread and grammar check before you apply; they can catch errors that were missed in earlier drafts.

sample personal statement

Writing a personal statement can be intimidating, which can make it difficult for candidates to get started. Having enough time to reflect and write is also valuable and can give students the opportunity to choose a strong point of view instead of feeling pressured to write about the first thing that comes to mind. Radunich emphasizes that students who are unsure about what to write or how to approach writing about themselves should do considerable brainstorming and receive input from those who know them well. Students are often self-critical, especially in high-stakes situations, and may not realize the positive qualities they may have that stand out to others.

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Radunich also offers tips for understanding the mindset of admissions staff: "They read the personal statement and assess the applicant's suitability for the program. Can this person handle stress and persevere? Does he have courage? This person has overcome adversity." , and does this give us confidence that he can handle the demanding three years of law school? Can this person receive feedback or will they back off after the slightest challenge or criticism? This student can tolerate different points of view and be open to growth. ?" Considering these questions can help guide students through the writing process.

It can also help students look at examples of personal statements and see how these key considerations work in a real essay. Take a look at this sample personal statement from a prospective graduate student.

As I approached the convention hall, I wondered if I had the wrong room number. I couldn't hear any signs of life and was losing the nerve to open the door and risk embarrassing myself. As I imagined a security guard walking up and berating me for being in a place I shouldn't be, a hand reached out and opened the door, pulling me back to the real world. Check it out. More hands. Hundreds of them. Hands flew, waved, articulated,baile. At the same time, admiration and fear invaded me.

You can do that.

I never planned to take American Sign Language and I certainly didn't plan for it to take my heart. In the first term of the university I enrolled in German, a language that I loved to listen to since I was a child. However, a week before classes started, the course section was removed. In my frustration, I decided that I would take the first available language class on the course registration. In hindsight, this probably wasn't the smartest approach, but it was a decision that completely upended my supposedly immutable plan to become a linguist. The intricacies of nonverbal language baffled me, and I found myself thinking about hand signs while writing essays on Saussure's linguistic signs. I rearranged my schedule so I could take improv classes to help me with my facial and body expressions. Theater! This was completely out of the question, but I was suddenly forced to do anything that would help me immerse myself in ASL and deaf culture.

Except really get involved in the community.

I knew going to my first deaf convention would be intimidating. My hands shake when I'm anxious, and nothing makes me more nervous than throwing you into a situation where you're a total stranger. Between my limited vocabulary, trembling fingers, and face frozen in fear, would anyone be able to understand me? What was he doing here? He had been studying American Sign Language for almost three years and had somehow managed to avoid spontaneous conversations with the deaf community, and he was terrified. Workbook exercises and informal conversations with classmates, who had roughly the same ASL vocabulary and relied on the same language crutches as I, became increasingly comfortable, but immersing myself in the deaf culture and community was something completely different. I was afraid. However, American Sign Language and Deaf Studies won my heart, and I knew this fear was a huge barrier I needed to overcome in order to continue working toward my goal of becoming a Deaf Studies advocate and educator. .

It must have been quite obvious that I was listening and petrified, because I was immediately greeted by someone who very formally and slowly asked me if I was a student and offered to come with me. This small gesture is representative of how I became so fond of deaf culture in such a short time. The hearing community tends toward posturing, indirect communication, and sometimes an isolated emphasis on individualism, and my limited experiences within the Deaf community have been quite the opposite. Direct communication that exists in insightful, beautifully nuanced language and welcoming enthusiasm for growing the community is something I look forward to being a part of. I am an outsider and I have a lot to learn, but I want to do everything I can to foster understanding and sharing between the deaf and hearing communities and make listening spaces more inclusive, especially for those who are more experienced as an outsider than Yeah.

(Video) Graduate School Personal Statement | My #1 Tip as an Admissions Reader

My devotion to the language and learning culture through communication has not changed, but the path I want to follow with this passion has changed. My foray into deaf studies and American Sign Language may have started as an accident, but no matter how nervous I still get when my fingers wobble or I have to spell something, I am honored and grateful that this accident helped me. has led to a vocation. that could have remained unheard of throughout my life.

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additional resources

  • Brainstorming is an important step in writing a compelling personal essay, and Coggle might be the right tool to help you.Coggleis a mind mapping app that helps users organize their thoughts in a visual and non-linear way. Users can easily share with collaborators, such as writing coaches, consultants, or friends.

  • Inspiration can strike at any time. Students can make sure they are prepared to jot down any personal statement ideas, gather inspiration, and organize their thoughts withEvernote, a popular note-taking app.

  • Writing personal statements requires distraction-free writing time. However, most students write on the devices that distract them the most.FocusWriteris a simple tool that helps mitigate the problem of distraction by hiding computer interfaces and replacing them with a clean and clear digital writing environment.

  • This web browser plugin makes grammar checking quick and easy.grammaticallychecks users' text and provides context-specific suggestions and corrections. Detailed explanations of each suggestion help users improve their writing over time.

    (Video) THE BEST PERSONAL STATEMENT I'VE EVER READ (Cambridge University Example)
  • To bespecific topic bookis a guide to writing personal statements for graduate school. It includes tons of tips and examples to help students write their application essays.

  • OneNote de MicrosoftThe app is one of the most popular among those who like to use sketches to collect and organize their thoughts, but its many features make it a great pre-writing tool for writers of all organizational preferences.

  • mindomoIt can help graduating candidates brainstorm and identify key elements to include in their personal statements. The app's mind maps, concept maps, and sketches help users easily visualize and organize their ideas.

  • Students looking for an advanced editing tool to help improve their graduate applications may want to investigate.ProWritingAid, a comprehensive application that helps with basic and advanced editing and addresses issues of style, word choice, and structure.

    (Video) how to write an AMAZING personal statement for ANY university application.
  • Waiting for academic writing,purdue OWL, reviews the 10 essential dos and don'ts of writing personal statements.

  • OUNR Writing Centeroffers this extensive alphabetical list of writing tips, from the academic voice to writing introductions, to help with the writing process. Students should also consider checking out their own graduate school's on-campus writing centers for help.

  • UNC forcespecific orientationfor students who write personal statements and other significant academic essays. The guidance on this page is not unique to UNC, so students at many different schools may find these tips helpful.

  • Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences offers thisonline manualsto help students understand and successfully write personal statements and other essays for admission and graduate scholarships. Easy to navigate chapters provide plenty of examples and advice to meet a variety of criteria.

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