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Personal Statements

What is a personal statement?

Personal statements are often required when applying for fellowships or graduate schools. They provide an opportunity to differentiate yourself from other applicants, even more than reference letters.

How do I write a personal statement?

Perfectly. No sentence fragments (like the ones here). Your personal statement should be grammatically flawless. It's the kind of thing that's worth talking to a Career Center staff member about, showing your roommate, and going to the Writing Center, even if you've never been there in your life.

So, besides that, what are the basics?

  • Length - There is no established length for personal statements, so if you feel you have not been given sufficient space on the application form, attach an extra page. Use whatever you need to convey your message.
  • Intellectually Grounded - In general you want to focus on your academic background with extracurricular activities as highlights to it.
  • Applicable Knowledge - Your essay should also show that you have an understanding of the central concerns of a field of study or profession to which you are applying. Also demonstate any knowledge you have of the faculty at the school you are applying for, such as names, publications, recent research, etc.
  • Goals - You should mention why you want to go to graduate school in a particular area, and what you focus on while there. An explanation of why you've become interested in these issues would be good, too.
  • Personable And Original - These are the two "summing-up" words that you might want to think of while writing. Make your statement reflect you and show yourself off.

Be sure to take drafts of your statement into a Career Center staff member for comments. The more eyes that view your statement, the better (especially if they've been doing this for years).

Career Center pages maintained by Sarah Rechtzigel
This page was last updated on 18 April 2014