As mentioned last week, writing your personal statement is a very important part of your graduate school application. You may be required to write one regardless of what program you are trying to go into, and can generally assume that it is weighed just as heavily as your transcripts or letters of recommendation. Thus, it is important to spend a lot of time and thought putting your essay together so that the final draft is a solid document of reflection and support for your choice of continuing your education.
To help you get started, first you need to understand what is expected of you in your essay. Generally the program you are applying for gives you guidelines of questions they want you to respond to. Follow these guidelines! Part of the success in your essay boils down to whether or not you included the information that the application committee is looking for. If it says to include information about your background, your undergraduate education and your future goals, then construct your essay in such a way that will incorporate these topics. You can include other things about yourself that are relevant toward your decision to apply for this program and that will make you stand out, but be sure to cover the scope of the directions given to you.
Here are a few helpful hints for writing your essay:
· Give your essay direction with a theme or thesis. Demonstrate that you have a definite sense of what you want to do and your enthusiasm for it. Incorporating a theme into your essay might mean making sure that each of your paragraphs are linked together in a way that supports your thesis (which could be your reason for continuing onto graduate school, your future career goal, your reason for applying to that school in particular, etc).
· Choose what you want to discuss and in what order. What you choose to write about may be decided by following the prompt given to you, or it may include aspects such as: reasons for deciding on a particular field and/or school; motivation and commitment for study; expectations for the program; educational background; research and/or work experience; immediate and long-range goals; major area of interest; or personal uniqueness. Plan out what you want to include and decide what order makes sense in helping the essay transition from one topic to another.
· Use concrete examples to support your theme/thesis to distinguish yourself from other candidates. For example, don’t just say that you like helping people, give examples that demonstrate that or stories that lead you to that realization.
· Begin your essay with an attention-grabbing lead (anecdote, quote, question, ect.). End your essay with a conclusion that refers back to the lead and/or thesis.
· Plan on revising and editing several times. Proofread for clarity and error. Have other people read it (including Career Services staff) to be sure it reads well and answers the questions asked of you.
For additional help, utilize Career Services staff, books available to you that include further tips and samples of essays, online resources, faculty, staff, etc. The goal is to create the best representation of yourself that you can-take the time you need and the help offered to you so that you can be confident when you send it in!