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Personal Statements

As part of the application process for most graduate or professional school programs, you will be asked to submit a personal statement. Some programs will have specific prompts to answer; others might simply ask you to “write a personal statement.”

If you are asked to write a general personal statement without specific prompts, here are a few tips:

  • Include: your background and experiences that led you to develop an interest in the specific program or field of study, your specific long term goals, and how the program to which you are applying will help you to accomplish your goals.
  • The personal statement is personal. It is a chance for the admissions committee to get to know who you are. Use a specific anecdote or several anecdotes to show rather than tell your personality, strengths, and character. Anecdotes will help make you more memorable.
  • Use the opening sentence and paragraph to entice the reader to continue reading.
  • Avoid restating your resume in a paragraph form. Provide information about yourself that the interviewer is not able to attain from other parts of your application.
  • Go for depth rather than breadth. Focus on one, two, or three points about yourself.
  • Write about what makes you unique and sets you apart from other applicants.
  • Tailor the statement to each program to which you are applying.  If a program has specific features in which you are interested, mention these features and why you are specifically interested in them as related to your experience or goals; however, don’t tell simply tell the reader things about their program that they already know.
  • Avoid clichés.
  • Avoid delving too far in the past. In general, don’t write about high school or earlier.
  • Proofread your essay very carefully. Write clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word or page limits. If no word or page limits are given, limit your personal statement to two to three pages double-spaced.
  • Have several people read your personal statement, such as professors, The Writing Center staff members, and OPCD career counselors. Personal statements are subjective, so it is a good idea to get opinions and input on your statement from a variety of people.