Half the battle of writing a convincing personal statement for a master's program is to understand the statement's purpose. With thousands of qualified students competing for just a few dozen seats, admissions committees look for ways to connect personally with each applicant. Personal statements tell the committee what makes you tick, how you developed a passion for a field and why you think their school offers training that can't be beat. Typically, law and medical schools allow you to select your own theme, while business and liberal arts programs want statements that respond to pointed questions.
- Skill level:
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Consider your aptitude for the field you've chosen. Recall a past experience that demonstrates your special skills or relevant knowledge. For example, a former volunteer with the Peace Corps might be particularly suited to graduate studies in Third World cultures.
Review your educational history for experiences that prove you can handle graduate-level training. For example, can you show that you worked full-time during college and yet still maintained an A average?
Consider how to account for gaps in schooling or low grades. For example, did an illness make you skip semesters or impact your ability to complete assignments on time?
Gather your school transcripts and employment documents. Make a list of teachers, employers, dates of employment and special courses taken. Check the spelling of names and confirm dates. Refer to this list when writing the personal statement.
Research the school and note its distinctive features. Use these facts to explain why you are applying to the school.
Draft an introduction that hooks the reader. Open with an anecdote that reveals the special skills considered in Step 1. Relate the anecdote to your chosen profession.
Write the body of the statement. Describe your interest in the field. Discuss experiences demonstrating your aptitude for graduate studies considered in Step 2. Explain personal setbacks considered in Step 3. Use professional jargon and a confident tone.
Conclude with a concise summary of major points. Reiterate your interest in the field and your preference for that particular program.
Proofread the statement for content and mechanics. Check that you've answered the question fully and offered specifics to support your statements. Make sure all paragraphs hang on one topic idea. Correct misspelled words and grammatical errors. Pare down the statement if it spans more than three pages.
Tips and warnings
- Applicants applying to several schools should resist the urge to develop one blanket answer for all applications. Lee Cunningham, Director of Admissions at the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business, suggests that admissions committees can use this against you. According to Cunningham, "...generic statements detract from the applicant when we realise that we're one of six schools and the applicant is saying the same thing to each and every school...."
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