A personal statement, also known as a “statement of purpose” or “goal statement,” is a document that demonstrates your writing ability on a more personal level for your application into a graduate program.
A personal statement, also known as a “statement of purpose” “goals statement” or “admissions essay” serves to:
- Demonstrate your writing ability on a more personal level for your application into a graduate program.
- Discuss your personal, career, and educational goals or answer a general question posed by the graduate school’s admission committee.
- Gauge your critical and analytical thinking as well as your writing, editing skills, and general reasoning skills and your ability to reflect on your education and work experience.
- Provide insight into who you are which helps to determine if you would be a good fit into a specific graduate program.
Writing a Personal Statement
What are you writing about?
Regardless of the path you take to beginning your personal statement, there are many questions that you will have to inevitably cover.
- How do you want to answer their questions?
- What piece of you do you want shown to the admissions committee?
- What kind of tone do you want your personal statement to take?
- What kind of theme should I use for the personal statement?
These can be very difficult questions to answer. You can make the brainstorming process smoother by knowing yourself first. Gather your transcripts, resumes, and anything else that shows who you are. These will let you know all your strengths,but more importantly, it will also tell you your weaknesses. You can use your personal statement to address your weaknesses or show them in a better light.
Research the college to which you are applying.
- Every graduate school program available has a different set of goals, ideals, and most importantly, students which should be understood before you begin to create a personal.
- Contact students who are in the program you are applying for or have already completed the program will have valuable insight into what they thought was most useful on their personal statement.
- Considering who you are and where you are applying will allow you to decide whether you want to expand on your professional experience in your field or focus on how you enjoy the particular method of instruction that the department is known for.
- You have an introductory paragraph and a concluding paragraph that surround the body paragraphs.
- The length of your paragraphs and how many body paragraphs you will include will be determined by the guidelines the admissions committee will have for you.
- Open with something that will catch their attention, and finish with something strong and memorable.
Once you are able to create a draft of your personal statement, you should then take advantage of the Career Development Center services also those of the The Learning Hub. The Career Development Center has trained professional staff available to go over your draft and give advice on how to refine a personal statement into something that best exhibits your skills and achievements.
Some general tips for writing a personal statement:
- Be yourself and be genuine in your writing.
- Avoid cliche statements and ideals whenever possible.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread.
- Use your personal experience to reinforce your points, but do not make the personal experience itself the focus.
- You can now use “I” and “me” without worry. Just remember that beginning every sentence with “I” would look rather conceited.
- If a question is asked, answer it completely with specific details and examples. It is respectful to the admissions committee and shows that you know how to follow directions.
- Always write a new unique personal statement for each college you are applying for.
Tools for Writing a Personal Statement
Below are some common scholarship essay questions. You can use these as a great starting point for a pesonal statement. Some of these essay questions are used in the Maricopa Scholarship Database.
- What life experiences have shaped who you are today and what challenges have you overcome in achieving your education (i.e. financial, personal, medical, etc.)?
- Explain why you need financial assistance.
- Describe your academic and career goals and your plans to achieve them and discuss any of your extracurricular/volunteer activities (both on and off campus) that you may perform.
- Describe an event in which you took a leadership role and what you learned about yourself.
This is a sample essay to help guide you when you are writing essays for scholarships. Keep in mind that all scholarship applications are different, so you may have to design your essay to meet those specific requirements.
(State an overview of what you are going to talk about in the essay. If the essay is about you, give a brief description of your experiences, goals, aspirations, family background, etc. Touch on why you want the scholarship.)
For as long as I could remember, I have wanted to be a veterinarian. I have been responsible for the care and feeding of pets ever since I was in the second grade. In high school, I participated in the 4-H club as well as the Junior Humane society. To reach my goals, I realize that I must pursue an eight year college education which will begin with the Fall 2010 semester. I am very excited about my future and feel that with the opportunity your scholarship will provide, I can help many animals.
Paragraph II & III
(Go into more detail on one of the topics listed in paragraph I. For example, elaborate on your previous experiences, family and financial situation, volunteer work, employment, academic career, future goals, college plans, etc.)
My love for animals has been encouraged by my family and friends. I have had the opportunity to volunteer with the local animal shelter and provide basic care to the stray animals. With the help of my biology teacher, I was able to start a 4-H club on campus. Many of the other students on campus developed an interest in the animals and now our club has 100 members. My family also has many animals for which I provide care, including basic needs as well as first aid. I find that I enjoy that aspect of pet ownership best. Unfortunately, my family cannot afford to pay for my entire education, so I hope to use my skills and love of animals to help me pay for college.
(Conclude your essay with a wrap-up of why you should be considered for the scholarship; how do your goals match those of the organization, etc.)
Your organization stands for what I believe in. Like your organization, I hope to help animals for the rest of my life. To reach my goals, I need as much help as possible. I already have the moral support of my family and friends, but that is not quite enough to make my dream come true. I hope that your organization can help me reach this dream by awarding me your scholarship.