Personal Statements Laurie M. Verost, M. Ed. Assistant Director, Career Services at the Campuses

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Personal Statements Laurie M. Verost, M.Ed. Assistant Director, Career Services at the Campuses

  • What are the three most important things that I want an admissions committee to know about me?
  • Why do I want to attend graduate school?
  • Personal Statements…
  • …Big questions

Not easy to answer? Try these*…

  • What is special, unique, distinctive, or impressive about you and your life story?
  • What details of your life might help the committee to better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
    • May include experiences, education, genuinely notable accomplishments, people, or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals
  • When did you originally become interested in this field, and what have you since learned about it - and about yourself?
  • *Questions from Stelzer, R. (1997), located in our Career Info Center—Book#: ED 41

Questions to prompt essays

  • How have you learned about this field - through classes, readings, seminars, work, or other experiences? Conversations with people already in the field?
  • From your work experiences, what have you learned about yourself (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has your work contributed to your personal growth?

Questions to prompt essays

  • What are your career goals?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (e.g., great grades and mediocre LSAT scores, distinct improvement in your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
  • What personal characteristics (e.g., integrity, compassion, persistence) do you possess that would enhance your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?

Questions to prompt essays

  • What key skills do you possess?
  • Why might you be a strong and successful graduate student and emerging professional?
  • What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?

Personal statements

  • Objective: To demonstrate your interests, skills, character and personality
  • Offer insight into your motivation, determination, commitment, experience, education, goals, and personal qualities that will help you succeed in your program and field of interest
  • May provide a prompt, specific instructions or questions. Read all of the instructions carefully - MAKE SURE THAT YOU ANSWER ALL PARTS OF THE QUESTION
  • Should be proofread carefully – no typographical or grammatical errors
  • Persuade the admissions committee to interview and/or admit you to the school
  • Demonstrate your ability to write, offer evidence of statements and examples, to think critically, and to write concisely


  • Tailor your content to each school/program
  • Emphasize your area of specialized study
  • Detail your career goals and plans within the program and beyond
  • Outline your preparation for grad school
    • Experiences: research, work, course projects, volunteer, internship
    • Classes: major, minor, elective seminars, training programs


  • No such thing as “one perfect way”
  • What statements should not be:
    • Narratives about unrelated, controversial topics
    • Clichés
  • Focus on the opening paragraph – does it sound unique and draw attention?
  • Write now and edit at a later time - brainstorm
  • Follow instructions related to page length, format, margins, style, etc.


  • Write your essay well ahead of time. The earlier you write it, the more time you have to proofread, edit…and proofread again!
  • Get several perspectives including advisors, mentors, professors, career counselors, family and friends
  • Write for your audience
    • Remember that your audience is made up of professionals in the field

Writing Do’s

  • Narrow your focus to 1 or 2 themes, ideas, or experiences
  • Provide the reader with insight into what drives you
  • Be yourself
  • Use creativity and your imagination
  • Address the school’s unique features that attract you
  • Focus on the affirmative
  • Evaluate, rather than merely recount experiences
  • Proofread!
  • Use a highly-readable font with conventional spacing and margins

Writing Don’ts

  • Remind the school of its ranking
  • Write an uninspiring introduction or conclusion
  • Use gimmicky styles
  • Submit supplemental materials unless requested
  • Get the name of the school wrong

Sample Essay Critique

  • Small groups – identify key strengths/weaknesses (what works vs. what needs improvement?)
  • Discussion of reactions, strengths and weaknesses in the large group. Each small group will share 1-3 points (at most)…
  • Questions?
    • Career Services website:

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