How to write a personal statement

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Writing the Personal Statement
Summary: This handout provides information about writing personal statements for academic and other positions.
Contributors:Jo Doran, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2010-09-07 04:40:49
The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories:
1. The general, comprehensive personal statement:This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms.
2. The response to very specific questions:
Often, business and graduate school applications ask specific questions, and your statement should respond specifically to the question being asked. Some business school applications favor multipleessays, typically asking for responses to three or more questions.
Questions to ask yourself before you write:
* What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story?
* What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set youapart from other applicants?
* When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
* How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, orconversations with people already in the field?
* If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth?
* What are your career goals?
* Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre LSAT or GRE scores, forexample, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
* Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
* What personal characteristics (for example, integrity, compassion, and/or persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession? Isthere a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
* What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
* Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession or field than other applicants?
* What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to beinterested in you?
General advice
Answer the questions that are asked
* If you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar.
* Don't be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It is important to answer each question being asked, and if slightly different answers are needed, you should write separate statements. Inevery case, be sure your answer fits the question being asked.
Tell a story
* Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is to bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourselfmemorable.
Be specific
* Don't, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to become a lawyer, engineer, or whatever should be logical, the result of specific experience that is described in your statement. Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story.
Find an angle
* If you're like most...
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