Putting Your Mark on a Personal Statement
Along with being an important part of the graduate school application process, the personal statement allows students to present themselves as individuals and gives the department a window into their personality.
Often personal statements are one of the most overlooked or dreaded parts of an application to graduate school. The statement of interest is your opportunity to introduce yourself to professors in your prospective department.
In addition ask yourself questions such as; what are your goals?; which professors seem best suited to guide you?; what is your approach to studying?
The Binghamton University Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development offers tips on how to strike an appropriate balance of personal style and informal conversation in a personal statement.
Overstating accomplishments - or excusing shortcomings - should be avoided. Be conscious of your use of "I" and avoid using inappropriate language. Inappropriate language can include words that are profane, "cute" or otherwise unprofessional, needlessly flowery, or simply words not used in normal conversation.
While the personal statement is of course the best way to describe the events in your life, writing a full-fledged autobiography is not suggested. Beginning your essay with clichés about your upbringing and family should also be avoided. Instead, opening the essay with a question, interesting anecdote or even exciting description of defining moments in your life is suggested.
Focus on unique anecdotes and important moments in your life, and how they connect to your current goals and values. Writing about how you overcame personal challenges, how you have grown and your personal or professional influences are other great ways to describe your background while being succinct and avoiding a total play-by-play of your life. If you struggle to identify some of your own qualities or traits, family and friends can be a great help.
Describing important moments in your life may mean addressing unpleasant times or even personal failures. The Fleishman Center advises simply stating the facts about a lost job or failed class and then describing how you learned and grew from the experience.
Apologizing, defending, or excusing such things can be considered immature.Like the rest of the application package, the personal statement's ultimate purpose is to present the case of why you should be selected for admission. Keep in mind how your experiences, goals and personal traits will relate to the program you're applying to. Be sure to discuss why you want to attend the specific institution and how you can strengthen the program.
Like any other essay, the personal statement should be interesting, clear and succinct. To keep your writing focused, keep a thesis in mind. The easiest way to write the personal statement is to simply sit down and write it. There will be plenty of time to edit and rewrite later in the process.
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