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Writing Personal Statements

Personal statements are a vitally important component of any graduate or professional school application. For many programs, they serve as your interview. In any case, they are very challenging to write and very rewarding when successfully completed.

The personal statement is at its best when it has, at its core, a thesis. What is the central point you are trying to drive in the statement? Developing a thesis is a reflective process. It takes time to really think about what message you are trying to convey.

The document, "Tips on How to Write a Personal Statement" provides some general advising on the process. Below, you can review additional suggestions based upon the type of program you are applying to, academic or professional.

Personal Statements for Academic Programs
When writing personal statements for an academic program, you are making the argument that you have the research skills, mindset, and scholarly interest that is worth funding by the program. Keep in mind the following:
  1. You should, in your statement, identify the professor within the program who you want to study with. You should understand their research, publications, etc., and how they connect with your research goals. Contact the professor before applying to be sure they are accepting doctoral students that year.
  2. Your statement should draw a line from your current research, areas of focus, etc., to your work in graduate school. You should also state how you came to be interested in these ideas or research questions.
  3. While you do not need to know exactly what you want to do after you graduate, you should be able to show how the research you are pursuing will connect to career goals.

Personal Statements for Professional Programs
Personal statements for professional programs differ a bit from academic ones in that you need to focus more on your personal development and how it connects to the career you are seeking training in. Your statement should address the following:
  1. What lead you to pursue this program of study? What career goals do you have related to it?
  2. What about you makes you a fit for this profession? This not only includes experiences you have had, but the insights about your personality, values, and character that connect to it.
  3. Why do you want to pursue training at the particular graduate program? What about the program makes you want to study there? (e.g., certain professors, the clinical opportunities, reputation of graduates in the field, etc.)

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