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Graphic by: Len Duenas

Even for the most talented writers, it’s a hard process when it comes to writing about themselves. 

When you are sending out applications for graduate programs, they will often ask you to write them a personal statement. In the sea of applicants with almost identical transcripts and work experience, personal statements make you stand out. 

A personal statement is a chance for applicants to make their mark in front of the application committee. The statement should be something that tells the committee about who you are outside of the test scores and transcripts.

Depending on the program, there can be specific details they might ask for but this article is an overview of some basic dos and don’ts when writing a personal statement.

Dos and Don’ts

Take this time to think about why you want to do the program you’re applying for. Why are you applying to that particular school? Why do you want to be in that profession at all?

Tell the admissions committee a story. It can be about who you are and what shaped your character. Or, about why you choose to go into this specific field. But do not make it generic. 

Draw from specific experiences and talk about moments that inspired you. Talk about key accomplishments, but try to not talk about what you hope to accomplish.

You want to give the admissions committee the chance to know who you are today, rather than who you will be in ten years. If you’re telling them that you wish you accomplished something specific, tell them what made you determined to go down that path.

Be Diligent

But do not ramble or wander off the point. You want to give them a reason to admit you to the graduate program, get straight to the point, and be concise. Just like any other essay, it is important to start and end your statement with a strong point.

Take this opportunity to tell the committee about any discrepancies in your application. The statement can give you a good window to talk about any gaps in your resume or hardships that might have had any effect on your grades.

Do your research about the program and tweak your statement accordingly. If there are little details about the program that fit like puzzle pieces into your life – tell the committee that.

Always proofread your work a little after you are done writing but get others to proofread for you. I would suggest having at least three people go over your work before you submit the application. This will allow your statement to be checked thoroughly for any blindspots or errors.

That’s it. Writing personal statements for a graduate program is not an easy task. If you have come this far, you have already done the heavy lifting.

Good luck and happy applying!

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