Writing a Personal Statement for Grad School

Writing a Personal Statement for Grad School

Applying to graduate school can often be a challenging process. You will need to gather your transcripts, update your resume, and perhaps even reach out to potential references for letters of recommendation. However, one of the most important steps is writing a personal statement. 

A personal statement is a chance for you to showcase your individuality and academic skills creatively and tactfully. Admissions teams use personal statements to gain insight into who you are and determine if you are a good match for the program.

Personal statements also give you the opportunity to express your goals and aspirations.  They allow you to explain how you see the program helping you reach these goals.

Personal statements are a staple in the graduate school admissions process. Learning to tell your story effectively is key to getting that acceptance letter — and sometimes even scholarship opportunities. 

Understanding personal statements

The purpose of a personal statement is to allow the admissions team to get to know you and understand a little bit more about your background. It gives insights into what makes you you. Personal statements are your chance to talk about what you have accomplished and how those accomplishments will set you up for success in each program. Your personal statement also has the potential to set you apart from other applicants.

the building blocks of a personal statement: introduction, goals, experiences

Crafting your narrative

A personal statement is also a form of narrative art. It tells your academic history as well as personal events that shaped you into the person you are today. Your narrative should be cohesive and easily readable. Your personal statement should begin with a clear introduction that introduces yourself and why you want to study the course. Your ‘why’ can be both academic and personal. 

The majority of your personal narrative or statement will need to be focused on the prompt given by the grad school application. Generally speaking, these prompts focus on sharing your background, intended field of study, and what you hope to achieve having completed your respective program. 

Always remember to proofread your personal statement before submitting your application. 

Showcasing your achievements & experiences effectively

It’s important to consider which achievements are most relevant to include in your letter. These achievements and experiences should follow the flow or general theme of your essay. What you choose to highlight will need to underscore the overarching goals of the essay while also answering the prompt provided. 

Achievements and experiences described in your statement should also be as timely as possible. For example, if you are writing your essay for graduate school, achievements from high school would not be most pertinent. Instead, the best experiences to describe are undergraduate or recent career experiences. 

When it comes to sharing your experiences, it's important to be specific and highlight the impact they had on you or others. Make sure to mention the challenges you faced, and the outcome of each situation. Also, it's crucial to showcase how these experiences helped you grow as a person or professional. Try to focus on personal growth examples and explain how they will help you succeed. This will also make for a smooth transition into your personal goals and aspirations section. 

Pro Tip 💡: When showcasing your achievements, always make sure to hold humility at the forefront of your writing. Focus your writing on lessons learned and the impact rather than creating a highlight reel. 

Conveying your goals and aspirations 

The section of your personal statement where you talk about your goals and aspirations should be in line with your experiences and the program you are applying for. This part of your statement is an opportunity for the admissions team to get to know you better and understand what you want to achieve. By connecting your goals with the impact of your experiences, you can create a cohesive narrative that will resonate with the admissions process.

It's important to list your academic and career goals, but feel free to also include any personal goals and passions that are related to your journey. Expressing your whole self will more completely explain why you want to be in this program.

Who are you called to be?
Pursue your purpose at PLNU.

Tailoring for specific programs

Researching the program that you are applying for is crucial when it comes to writing your personal statement. It is highly beneficial to have a good understanding of the program and its admission requirements, as well as the institution and its mission. 

By taking the time to research and customize your personal narrative, you can demonstrate your passion for the program and showcase yourself as a strong candidate.

Next Steps

Graduate school is a significant commitment, but it can be a great way to gain knowledge and advance your career. If you're still deciding whether or not pursuing a graduate degree is the right choice for you, check out this list of graduate programs that may align with your goals and interests. Still need some more information about graduate school? Check out this article on Why Go to Grad School in San Diego … And Why PLNU May Be the Best Choice for You.

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