Helpful Tips For Crafting Your Personal Statement

What is a personal statement?

Your personal statement should be a clear and concise essay that articulates your educational and professional goals. It should include your background and past experiences that relate to the program and help the Admissions Committee see evidence of your commitment, motivation and compatibility with the goals of the program. Unless otherwise instructed, your personal statement should always be typed and 500 words or less. Be sure to follow any specific directions provided by the program including the use of any specific forms or formats.

Why are personal statements important?

An Admissions Committee may make an admission decision without ever meeting you. The personal statement add a dimension that cannot be obtained from transcripts or letters of recommendation. Well-written personal statements can help to fill in gaps that are not explained by information requested on the application forms and can have a strong impact on your application.

A Sample Outline

The following is a suggested outline for your personal statement. Endeavor to include all the pertinent information but be as brief and concise as possible—remember there is a 500-word limit. Reflect carefully on what you want to say before you begin. It is important that your statement indicates to the Admissions Committee compatibility with the goals of the program.

  1. Introduction - Introduce yourself, giving the Admissions Committee a sense of you as an individual and the talents you possess. Include in this section the basic reasons for your application to the program.
  2. Qualifications and Background - This section should constitute the body of your personal statement. In this section, you should:
    • Address your previous course work in general and how you think it relates to the program
    • Discuss experiences in related fields and the impact they have had on you
    • Include any specific experiences that demonstrate motivation for pursuing a career in the field and the relevant experiences such as jobs or community service
    • Discuss your background only as it relates to the program
    • Highlight your abilities to develop ideas, your initiative and your capacity to work through complex ideas
  3. Closing Paragraph - Leave the Admissions Committee with a strong impression that you are qualified and will be successful. It is important in this paragraph to provide summary comments related to what you have previously mentioned in the personal statement.

Note: You're not required to follow the above outline, but your statement should include the kinds of information that will help the Admissions Committee reach a decision.

Final Tips

How carefully your personal statement is written will determine how effective it will be. Admissions Committee members will not be impressed by an unorganized presentation in which background material and ideas appear random. Carefully proofread the personal statement for grammatical errors, typographic errors and misspelled words. Though you may use similar material, you should craft a separate personal statement for each program to which you plan to apply. Admissions Committee members will not be impressed with a personal statement that eloquently describes your desire to be admitted to another program!

Although you are trying to make a good impression in your personal statement, try to avoid creating an image of a person that does not exist. The Admissions Committee is impressed by such characteristics as enthusiasm, intelligence, talent, leadership, maturity, creativity and perseverance. Do not try too hard to impress; no one expects perfection.

Admissions Committee members are interested in you as a person and the potential you present for the program. They'll be looking for evidence that you can evaluate ideas and interests clearly and with confidence. Make your personal statement your own; do not just write what you perceive the committee wants to read. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your creativity, thoughtfulness and to distinguish your individuality!

References to Aid You in Preparing Your Personal Statement

  • The Chicago Manual of Style. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 13th ed., (1982). Powell, E. & Angione, H. (1990).
  • The Associated Press Stylebook. New York: Dell. Ross-Larson, Bruce. (1982).
  • Edit Yourself: A Manual For Everyone Who Works With Words. New York: Norton.
  • Strunk, William & White, E.B. (1979). The Elements of Style. New York: Macmillan, 3rd ed.
  • Zinsser, William. (1990). On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction. New York: Harper and Row, 4th ed.