Much like a Cover Letter, a PERSONAL STATEMENT or PERSONAL ESSAY is your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process as an ideal intern, graduate student, research assistant. Typically they fall into two categories:
- a comprehensive personal statement – typical of most graduate school and professional school applications.
- 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:
- What’s unique or distinctive about you and your journey up to this point?
- What details about your life might make you a unique candidate? What personal history, people, events have shaped you and influenced your goals?
- How have you learned about this field? What classes, readings, conversations, seminars, volunteer or work experiences shaped this interest?
- What leadership, managerial or other skills or experiences have contributed to your growth?
- IF there are any gaps, discrepancies in your academic record – how can you account for them?
- What (if any) unusual obstacles, hardships have you had to overcome to get where you are now?
- 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)
- What skills do you possess? (analytical, communicative, leadership, organizational, etc.)
- What makes you a particularly strong candidate for this program and in this field?
- What other compelling reasons might your application to shine?
- If the PS or PE asks specific questions, be sure to address them!
- Tell a story – offer a compelling narrative that demonstrates how your concrete experiences make you an ideal candidate
- Don’t BORE your readers – be fresh, lively – distinguish yourself!
- Be SPECIFIC – don’t talk only in generalizations but offer concrete examples, experiences but don’t exaggerate – TELL WHAT YOU KNOW
- Find an ANGLE – that makes your essay memorable
- 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!
- Show your knowledge of the field to brilliant effect!
- Research as necessary – know the program, the work – and how how your experiences have made you appear to be ALREADY part of the program
- 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!
- 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!)