Writing Effective Personal Statements

The purpose of a personal statement is to persuade the admissions committee that you should be accepted into the program.  The personal statement also shows the committee how you think and write.  It explains why you're applying to graduate school, what interests you about the program and what your future goals are.  This is your chance to speak for yourself, so put your best foot forward!

Here are a few pre-writing exercise to help you get started.

  • What makes you unique from other candidates?  Write down the most unusual things about you as a person.
  • Think of intellectual and academic milestones. What is the most important concept you have learned in college?  How have you prepared yourself to succeed in grad school?
  • Think about where you were and what you were doing when you first thought of pursuing graduate school.
  • Consider how your interests have changed and what experiences have led you to want to pursue graduate school.  What is your career goal?  What attracts you to this career?
  • Describe an experience in which you showed remarkable drive or perseverance.  How does this apply to graduate work and your future career?

The guidance and coaching that I had received from the Library staff was priceless. ...  I am more solid than ever in my career objectives.  I will continue to expand my research and writing skills while completing my degree at Hiram.  Following graduation, I  plan on continuing my education in a master's program in museum studies and curation.

- Julie Thompson '13, Library of Congress intern

When writing your personal statement, make sure to avoid:

  • Sounding like everybody else.  Focus on what sets you apart from the other applicants.
  • Stereotypes.  A lot of people say "I always knew I wanted to be a... ".  This may be true, but how are you different?
  • Writing one general statement for all schools you apply to.  Each personal statement needs to be specific to a particular school.  Read the instructions and follow the guidelines!
  • Sloppiness.  Proofread your work to fix spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors.

There are books and sample personal statements in the Career Center library to help you.  The Writing Center and Writing Assistants are also good resources.  Writing sessions will be held every fall in the Writing Center to give feedback.

More resources on writing personal statements from writing centers:

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