Writing A Personal Statement

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Admission committees place heavy emphasis on personal statements. Write multiple drafts and ask friends, professors, and peer tutors to review your personal statement. Since a personal statement is typically short, write a compelling and concise one.

Purposes of the personal statement:

  • Demonstrate character strengths with a few life experiences
  • Share insights into your personality that cannot be expressed in the application
  • Share experiences that shaped your personality and career goals
  • Explain to the admission committee why you’re interesting in studying at their school
  • Address academic deficiencies, reasons for making a career change, or other problems that concern admission committees

Your graduate application package will be evaluated on the following:

  • Positive personality traits that are illustrated through life experiences
  • Academic achievements supported with test scores and GPA
  • Leadership skills and the ability to excel during graduate school
  • Experience within your selected specialty as shown through volunteer, research, and work experience

Determine weak areas and discuss what you’ll do to improve them in a personal statement.

Recommended Writing Process:

  • Seek advice from friends, family members, professors, and business associates about your unique characteristics
  • List various experiences that demonstrate your strengths in an outline
  • Write multiple rough drafts sharing different experiences
  • Concisely address the question
  • Ask people experienced with personal statements to review your final draft
  • Thoroughly review your personal statement for grammar, spelling, and syntax errors since simple mistakes can raise red flags with admission committees

Additional Recommendations

Admission committees read many personal statements, so these committees typically know when students are lying or exaggerating their qualifications. Don’t share experiences that have nothing to do with your decision to pursue a specific field. However, do not hesitate sharing experiences that you think admission committees do not want to hear if these experiences influenced your decision to attend graduate school. If you’re unsure about the applicability of an experience, tie it into your main point.

Do not rationalize blemishes on your academic record. Rather, relate what you’ve learned from personal failures. Address a deficiency in the following way: Although I performed poorly academically during my freshman year, I learned the skills necessary to excel during subsequent years.

DO the following in your essay:

  • Utilize industry specific language
  • Realistically discuss your understanding of the field you’re pursuing. For example, a medical student learned during volunteer work that it’s just as important to listen to patients as treating them
  • Share experiences obtained from volunteer work and extracurricular activities. For example, many students discuss experiences from church missions and school activities
  • Support generalized statements with specific examples
  • Share experiences that illustrate your unique personality and relate them to career aspirations. For example, relate how volunteer experience in a poor country motivated you to assist the less fortunate
  • Discuss research conducted as an undergraduate. Refrain from sharing excessive details, but focus on research accomplishments
  • When making career transitions, address what motivated the change. Discuss what you learned in previous jobs. For example, an accountant applying to an engineering program might discuss how the ability to analyze data will make him or her an effective engineer
  • Discuss why a score on a standardized test should not be a deterring factor in granting you admission if necessary
  • Discuss hardships you had financing your education if you supported a family, cared for an ill friend of family member, or had other important responsibilities


  • Share irrelevant experiences
  • Use adjectives to describe personal characteristics. Rather, use examples to illustrate strengths
  • Summarize your entire undergraduate experience. Rather, focus on a couple experiences that demonstrate your qualifications
  • Exceed word or page requirements
  • Share personal stories, inapplicable religious beliefs, or irrelevant humorous stories or anecdotes
  • Write irrelevant statements such as: I’ve dreamed of being a lawyer since I was young
  • Repeat anything from the application. Rather, only discuss grades or other academic achievements when it’s applicable to experiences shared in the personal statement
  • Add big vocabulary words to sound smart. You’ll be judged by the content of the personal statement
  • State that your main objective is to make a lot of money
  • Boast about achievements
  • Conclude the essay by stating that you’re an ideal candidate

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