by mark kaloko, senior career coach at temple university career center
In my profession, I speak a lot with students about writing their personal statements. Students tend to have great uncertainty about writing these documents, and this is warranted: I mean it’s not every day that you are asked to explain your future career goals in two pages or less. Typically, there are four main points that I encourage students toward to help them frame their personal statements. Below, I share my magic formula.
- Lead off with a strong introduction. Most personal statements start off with some explanation of how you became interested in the field of study. This could be a compelling story or just a broad overview of events. The main point here is that you want to give the reader some idea of what sparked your interest in the field. Motivation and passion are important factors in pursuing a graduate degree. You need desire to complete your coursework, ace your final exams, and conduct meaningful research. Give your reader an idea of how you became interested in your chosen discipline.
- Provide evidence of experience and growth. Once you have given a killer introduction, you need to provide evidence of how you have pursued your craft with excellence. Admissions counselors will be interested in experiences that have helped to clarify your interest in the field. They will be curious about academic successes in courses closely related to your discipline. Share internship experiences that you have had, courses where you have done well, and volunteer causes that you have supported. Make a case for your relevant experience.
- Highlight qualities of the program and faculty. Now that you have explained a little about you, it’s time to showcase what you value about the program. Make sure you research the school and program. In your statement, talk about the courses and opportunities that this program uniquely offers. Mention faculty members that you will study under and what you admire about their research. Showing alignment with the program and instructors is key to appearing outstanding in your application. Programs are looking for people who are a good fit.
- Cast a vision of your future. Lastly, you need to give the program some idea of your career goals. These ideas do not need to be “set in stone,” but provide some vision of where you see yourself after the program. Perhaps you see yourself in a certain career or championing a particular cause. Whatever the case, give the admissions committee some idea of what you will become. Schools and faculty pour a lot of time and resources into their graduates, and they want to know there will be a return on their investment. Be sure to show these parties that you have a vision worth supporting.
So, there you have it. Those are my four tips for drafting your personal statement. These tips will work best for applications where you are applying to a specific program, not for centralized admissions processes such as law school or medical school. For these other two admissions processes, you will need to draft a statement that will be seen by multiple schools.
In closing, remember that writing your personal statement is casting a vision of “who you are” and “where you are going” as a professional. I hope these tips and strategies will help you to shine on your next personal statement. Your future in graduate school awaits. Best of luck!