Personal Statements

Much like a Cover Letter, a PERSONAL STATEMENT or PERSONAL ESSAY couples with your CVs as your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process as an ideal intern, graduate student, research assistant. Typically they fall into two categories:

  1. a comprehensive personal statement – typical of most graduate school and professional school applications.
  2. a specified personal statement in response to a specific question or set of questions – typical of some graduate and professional school applications (like business school)

Questions to ask yourself as you gather material for your PS or PE:

  1. What’s unique or distinctive about you and your journey up to this point?
  2. What details about your life might make you a unique candidate? What personal history, people, events have shaped you and influenced your goals?
  3. How have you learned about this field? What classes, readings, conversations, seminars, volunteer or work experiences shaped this interest?
  4. What leadership, managerial or other skills or experiences have contributed to your growth?
  5. IF there are any gaps, discrepancies in your academic record – how can you account for them?
  6. What (if any) unusual obstacles, hardships have you had to overcome to get where you are now?
  7. What personal characteristics do you possess that would make you a success in this field? (integrity, compassion, focus, persistence…remember you’ll need to point to concrete things that demonstrate or document these characteristics)
  8. What skills do you possess? (analytical, communicative, leadership, organizational, etc.)
  9. What makes you a particularly strong candidate for this program and in this field?
  10. What other compelling reasons might your application to shine?

Additional Advice: 

  1. If the PS or PE asks specific questions, be sure to address them!
  2. Tell a story – offer a compelling narrative that demonstrates how your concrete experiences make you an ideal candidate
  3. Don’t BORE your readers – be fresh, lively – distinguish yourself!
  4. Be SPECIFIC – don’t talk only in generalizations but offer concrete examples, experiences but don’t exaggerate – TELL WHAT YOU KNOW
  5. Find an ANGLE – that makes your essay memorable
  6. Find a good “hook” – reel your readers in! Much like the popular science article you need to show your readers that it’s worth their while to KEEP READING!
  7. Show your knowledge of the field to brilliant effect!
  8. Research as necessary – know the program, the work – and how how your experiences have made you appear to be ALREADY part of the program
  9. Be meticulous – proof read and proof read again – read it out loud a third and even fourth or fifth time – write MULTIPLE drafts! Be clear and concise!
  10. avoid cliches, controversial or overtly political subjects, and avoid experiences or accomplishments from before HS (or if you’re actually applying to grad school – avoid HS all together!)

Interdisciplinary Writing