By Megan Boone
Applying to Graduate School? Oftentimes, personal statements are an essential piece of your application needed to apply to many graduate programs. You may be asking yourself, what is a personal statement? How does a personal statement differ from a resume or CV? How should a personal statement be formatted?
A personal statement is a written statement that allows you to explain to the admissions reviewers why you are a strong applicant and overall express your interest in the specific program. Think of a personal statement as an opportunity to sell yourself to the admissions committee. Why should they accept you over another applicant?
It can be a daunting process thinking about where to start when it comes to drafting a personal statement. Here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when crafting your personal statement and to make it stand out from other applicants:
Tell a strong personal story and narrative throughout your statement. Unlike your other application materials such as a resume or CV, your transcripts, recommendations, etc. Your personal statement allows you to share a unique and special narrative and allows the reviewers to understand you as a person outside of all of the logistics from your application. If there is a specific story or motivation behind wanting to pursue a graduate degree in the program you’re applying for, this is the perfect opportunity to tell it.
Don’t focus on summarizing your experiences from your resume or CV. Your resume and CV are typically an essential part of your application. That being said, since reviewers are already looking through these documents, your personal statement should not merely focus on summarizing your resume or CV. Rather, consider discussing other areas that may be outside of your application materials. Brainstorm questions such as, why are you interested in the program or area of study? How can this program contribute to your future career goals? Why are you a unique candidate? Reflecting on these questions prior to starting the drafting process can help drive the direction of your personal statement.
Thoroughly read through any prompts or directions given for the personal statement. Each school and program has different requirements for their personal statements. Some have specific prompts or questions to answer throughout your statement. Others are more open ended giving the freedom to include what you feel is the most representative to you, your interests, and your background. If the program includes specific prompts, it’s important that you are fully responding to all aspects of each prompt. In addition to prompts, some programs also have character limits attached to statements. Make sure that you are following these guidelines as you are crafting your statement.
Do your research on the program and specific school. Yes, you’re applying to the specific school and program, but why? It’s vital that you are researching each program and school prior to drafting your personal statement. Even if you are applying to multiple schools for the same type of program, it’s important that you are slightly tailoring each statement to the specific school and program. For each statement, consider reflecting on what the specific school and program has to offer and how it may differ from other schools and programs. Exploring their mission statements, setting the school is in, various class offerings, alumni connections, and more can be helpful in determining what you tailor in each of your statements
Have multiple sets of eyes review your personal statement. Once you’ve drafted your personal statement, it’s essential to have several reviewers read through and edit your draft before submitting it with your application. Utilize your personal network of individuals such as friends, family, professors, peers in your program, etc. Professors, especially within your field of study, are an excellent resource to tap into. In addition to your personal network, utilize DePaul resources! The Writing Center specifically is an excellent resource for editing longer form writing content. In the Career Center, we also have expert advisors and ambassadors that are able to review and discuss writing your personal statement. Overall, the more eyes you have reviewing your statement the better!
All in all, using these guidelines and utilizing all of your resources will be beneficial when crafting your personal statement for graduate programs. Remember, you’re not alone in the process of writing and editing your personal statement and even throughout your general application and search process. Whether you’re looking to have your personal statement reviewed or wanting to discuss the graduate school application process, we are here to help support.
Feeling lost and don’t know where to start? DePaul’s Career Center, your professors, and your budding professional network are your trusty sidekick in this adventure. We’ll show you how to find your guiding star, from sharpening your pitch to finding internships and building a killer network.
Book an appointment with Megan, or another member of the advising community through Handshake, or by calling the front desk at (773) 325-7431.