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Personal Statements

Page history last edited by Caitlin Horrocks 10 years, 5 months ago

One of the trickiest part of the graduate school application is the personal statement (see some examples at the end of this page):


Writing A Graduate School Personal Statement


Writing a strong personal statement to accompany your application materials is a very important part of applying to graduate programs. Not only should the personal statement give a graduate admission committee a sense of who you are as a writer and scholar, but it should indicate why you are interested in that particular program and how you will spend your time at that institution.


Keep in mind that while you might write a template personal statement, you must revise it slightly to suit each graduate program to which you apply. To customize your personal statement for various programs, you should research:


o    Programmatic requirements: What sorts of courses are required for your degree? What kind of final examinations or thesis project will be required of you?

o    Faculty: Who are the faculty who teach in the program, and what are their specialties?

o    Alumni: What have alumni of the program gone on to do?

o    Resources: What resources are available to you not just in the program, but also at the university and in the city/region? Resources might include literary magazines or university presses, if you’re interested in publishing; special collections related to your writing/research goals; courses or special programming within the department; a community reading series or literacy program.


Of course, you’ve probably completed this very research in deciding to which graduate programs you’ll apply!



A Few Don’ts:


o    Don’t write a clichéd essay that discusses how much you love to read and write. All applicants will love those things—but those things aren’t intrinsically creative or academic.

o    Don’t come across as bragging, but don’t sell your successes short, either. (This is one area in which readers’ responses can be incredibly helpful!)

o    Don’t go over the maximum word/page length indicated on the application itself, but don’t write so little that your statement looks short and skimpy next to those of other applicants.


A Few Do’s:


o    Make clear why you want to attend graduate school—and what you plan to do once completing your degree;

o    Talk about why you want to attend this specific graduate program--what attracts you?

o    Indicate what sets you apart from other applicants;

o    Refer to specific experiences, publications, successes, and coursework to illustrate your claims;

o    Follow each application’s instructions carefully in terms of the essay’s length, format, and content.

o    Draft early. Get feedback! Share drafts of your personal statement with faculty and your peers.

o    Consult resources on writing successful personal statements. Some places to start:

      o    The Meijer Center for Writing’s bookshelves, which include a few books on writing successful graduate application essays.

      o    The Colgate University’s Writing Center handout on writing successful graduate application essays: http://departments.colgate.edu/diw/gradschool.html

      o    Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Personal Statements: http://www.washington.edu/uaa/advising/prelaw/downloads/personalstatementdd.pdf     

      o    The Purdue OWL information on writing personal statements (includes sample statements): http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/642/04/


Example Personal Statements:

[statement1.pdf] [statement2b.pdf] [statement3.pdf] [statement4.pdf] [statement5.pdf]


All of the above pdf files are actual, successful statements written by students for specific programs. Obviously they take very different approaches, which is fine.




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