Applying to Grad school can be a significant step towards career and academic goals. This can make the process of applying in your dream school more intimidating. Along with preparing for exams and collecting recommendation letters, students have to learn how to write a personal statement for grad school to help them get into their dream school.
Besides, a personal statement is an important part of the admission process. Therefore, learning how to write a personal statement for grad school can help you make sure you get admission to your favorite grad school.
What is Personal Statement and Why is It so Important?
A personal statement is an essay that students have to add to the admission application. This gives a glimpse into the personality of the student. A personal statement is a combination of:
- Self-reflective and specific anecdotes
- Past experiences
- Student’s future goals (both academic and career goals)
- The reason why he chooses that particular school and program of study.
- And why he is the best fit for that position
Because grads and entry tests show a small part of the picture, students often have to include a personal statement to their graduate school application. A personal statement helps the admission committee know more about the person behind the application which makes it very important.
Personal Statement vs Statement of Purpose
Students may be asked to either write a personal statement or statement of purpose or probably both. Their so similar names make students wonder if there is any difference between them.
Depending on the study program and writing style, both personal statements and statements of purpose may serve the same purpose. However, if both personal statements and statements of purpose are required, things get a little tricky then.
In general, the personal statement is a self-reflective essay that shares past experiences and volunteer experiences.
On the other hand, a statement of purpose focuses on:
- Candidate’s reasons for applying to that specific program
- Career goals
- Their academic record
- And how the program can help the student achieve the best in the future
Learn How to Write a Powerful Personal Statement for Your Grad School
Now that you know what is a personal statement, why is it so important and what is the difference between a personal statement and statement of purpose, you are good to start learning how to write a personal statement for grad school.
Moreover, learn more about the expert tips for writing a personal statement.
Step 1. Look for Reasons You Should Apply
Before you start writing your personal statement, think why you want to apply for that particular program at that particular school.
So, take a pen and a piece of paper. In the center write down “why do I want to attend this particular program?”. Then, write down whatever comes around.
Similarly, on the other side of the paper, write down “why do I want to go to that particular school?” and write down your answers.
You should write as many answers as you can think of. Then, reread those answers a couple of times until you find the one that seems the clearest and most specific. And you should use this reason as your main purpose in getting admission to that program.
Nevertheless, if you are applying for a well-known course or a program that’s prestigious in your area, you should write down the reasons why it holds the popularity. And that those reasons are probably why you too want to study that program.
Step 2. Look for the Faculty Profiles
As a graduate student, you may have to work along with the faculty member of your department. Besides, it is useful to know your professors and the kinds of arguments they are going to make.
Thus, read their profiles and books or even any article if they have written to learn about their style and thought process. Moreover, reading their research may help you but reading articles the least they may have written can help you know much more about them.
Hence, do not just appear in the class, do some homework not only about your course, school but teachers too.
Step 3. Explore Additional Opportunities on Campus
Before you start your application process, you should do research on whether there are any opportunities for you to grow in ways other than academics. See if you can get to work with any faculty member on your campus or else to help you grow as a person.
Step 4. Draft Your Personal Statement
Let’s suppose that by now you have enough knowledge and ideas to help you compose a good personal statement. If so, it is time to start learning how to write your personal statement.
Below you will learn about the main components of a personal statement.
- Body of your personal statement
Compose an Outline
Generally, a personal statement maybe 2 to 3 pages long. And the admission committee has to read hundreds of personal statements, you need to grab their attention in some ways.
Here outline plays an important role. In a half-page or at most one page long, you can briefly explain why you and your personal statement should be given a chance.
Thus, writing an outline can be useful. So, follow the steps below to write a powerful outline.
- In the first paragraph, write down why you are applying to that program and why you are a good fit for it. Clearly you should answer the second question either with an anecdote or a fact about yourself. In both cases, it should be powerful enough.
- The second paragraph should illustrate the first one. Explain which specific course you want to specialize in. Why you want to specialize in that course. What events have helped you to decide? What are your strengths that can complement your choice? And more.
- The third and probably fourth paragraph should illustrate how you are going to use your degree. Whether you are going to teach, continue research, or work as a professional in any well-known company.
- Lastly, in the fifth paragraph, explain how the additional opportunities can help you grow not only academically but also personally which can affect your career and goals.
Write a Powerful Opening
The Introduction of your personal statement can help you wither build your confidence or not. Therefore, writing a powerful introduction is crucial.
So, look back and see if there are any events or any sort of story that can help you show the admission committee that you are the best fit for the program. For example, was there any situation that made you decide that Computer Science is the study you want to continue and make a career out of it. Nevertheless, it should be powerful and convincing enough.
- Avoid writing “I always wanted to become a doctor …”. Because to some extent, such statements are not true.
- Also, avoid cliche statements such as “according to XYZ resource, Machine learning…”.
Draft the Body
The body of your personal statement is the longest and therefore the most time-consuming part of your personal statement. Therefore, you should take your time while writing it. Set aside 2 to 3 hours and just write!
Yes, during this time, you should just write. You should just aim to write a draft of your personal statement. But do not edit.
In conclusion, reflect on all the important points you have discussed in the body and the introduction of your personal statement.
Try to be concise and clear.
Step 5. Ask Someone to Read Your Personal Statement
Once you have completed the draft version of your personal statement, ask your friends to read and give you feedback.
Or you can ask any of your mentors to read it for you. And it would be best if you take it to your university’s career and writing center. Since they have read a lot of such papers, they would be able to provide you in-depth feedback.
Step 6. Read and Edit
Lastly, read and reread it yourself. Then, edit. You can check the final version of your personal statement for grammar and spelling. Besides, you should also see whether in your opinion it is interesting, powerful and engaging enough.