What is a Personal Statement?

A personal statement is a document which elaborates about your academic and professional credentials. It is required at the entry-level to any university or job. A personal statement supports an application to study in an undergraduate college or even get into a post-graduate university. A personal statement has many facets related to it. It is a written statement of the varied interests, achievements, and future planning, coupled with the prospective college’s curriculum and co-curriculum structure and its ability to realize the potential candidate’s goals.

Why do you need a Personal Statement?

It is the first and foremost part for the application of a job or to secure a seat in an undergraduate course in a college or even a post-graduate faculty in a university. Not only that, even doctoral and post-doctoral candidates are heavily required to submit their statement of purpose or a personal statement along with their application to institutes of preference. The personal statement is often viewed as an introduction to oneself.

Its importance lies in the fact that no one knows the candidate, so the statement will formulate an idea among the minds of those, who will judge the potential of the applicant before giving him or her a place in their institution or company. Even applications for grants and fellowship programs require a strong personal statement to be attached to it. A personal statement is an integral part of the application process into the academic curricula as well as the international job market.

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Process for Writing the Personal Statement

There is a specific format of a personal statement. The personal statement format has undergone evolution in the past years to keep up the pace with bodies like UCAS and UK education systems. Owing to the unparalleled importance attached to it, an applicant must be alert and mindful regarding what to write and how to format it. To make your personal statement stand out among a heap of other statements, you must keep in mind the following instructions :

  • Read the instructions given carefully about the college or university or graduate school. Look for what exactly they want. Try to get a general overview of the matter and the institute.
  • Try to pick out the actual goal of the personal statement and what it should do to get you admitted into that school.
  • Reason out carefully why you like to apply to that particular program and to that specific college. It will help the admission committee to judge you based on your keenness to pursue a course in their university or college. Please keep in mind that you should avoid beating around the bush and be as specific as you can regarding the matter. Be direct and to the point in your approach.
  • You should tackle the part of a personal statement where you are required to brag about yourself, very tactfully. Exhibit your skills, achievements, and past experiences in such a manner that they coincide with the activities of the institute. From this section, the admission committee will understand how you can contribute to their undergraduate or graduate school because it is a symbiotic process.
  • You must have a clear idea about the goals of a personal statement. Do not brag unnecessarily or do not exhibit things that you did not achieve. Be honest and truthful.

How to Organize Your Personal Statement?

To make your personal statement very attractive and meaningful and also catchy, you need to avoid certain things. The first and foremost is poor grammar and spellings. Most students do not pay attention to this part of their write up. Perhaps they do not give time for a complete revision. They have a lack of time to edit their papers and hence this incorrect grammar and atrocious spellings. Another mistake is too much personalization of the personal statement. It will not help you bag a seat in the college.

So, you must cautiously avoid it. Pay attention to the talents and qualities that will outshine others. Mention those traits, characteristics, achievements, and experiences that will help you go a long way in this cut-throat competition. Find out the areas of similarity of your interest and their institution. But do not lie. Be succinct; feel free to show your personality. Write relevant and brief stories that will represent you.

Tips to Write a Great Personal Statement

  1. Be genuine

Always remember that your personal statement is upholding you and not anyone else, so let it be a unique one. You can choose your format but keep in mind the guidelines mentioned above. Description of your ambitions, skills, and experience is what the university and college admission committee looks for.

  1. Highlight your passion

Never forget to articulate the reasons for selecting a particular course and backing it up by necessary skills or possessions you possess that show your love for the chosen field. Another important fact is you should avoid mentioning the names of universities and colleges unless they require separate essays on why you are selecting their program. A personal statement is only one and same for all the applications.

  1. Show reasons for your application

Discuss your academic subject in general, do not mention course titles. You can always go through the course descriptions and identify the qualities, skills, and experiences that are commensurate with it. Try to focus on the reasons for your application to the subject, course provider, and higher education. Focus on your activities and try to mention some extracurricular ones that you have done previously. Try finding out the clubs and societies you may join in the prospective college.

  1. Mention job experience

Don’t forget to mention any relevant employment experience or volunteering experience that you have acquired before. Also suggest if you have any participation in skill development programs, award programs, summer school, etc. be as enthusiastic as possible, make every part of it attractive to the reader.

Write in a lucid style; be concise and natural. Do not write in a too complicated manner. Try to make your statement as unique as possible but be careful about using humor and quotes because it might not always please the admission committee member. Write in a structured way; do proper research before venturing, go through the course descriptions to help you. If you have limited space, be careful about the word limit and the characters.

Also, be cautious about grammar and spellings. Take time to write your statement, copy-paste it into your final online application after several rounds of editing and then repeatedly save it. Show your strengths, both professional and personal, focus on soft skills as well as outlining your ideas. Show interest in the course and discuss your goals about the college and the course. You need to write several drafts before your final application is ready.

So be prepared for the hard work and perseverance. It is better to get some feedback on your personal statement before you apply. DO NOT copy-paste any statement available. Also never share yours. Work beforehand and think logically before writing. Avoid exaggeration. Always remember that a personal statement is basically your SWOT analysis. Go through similar works but focus on your own. Give a good title to your personal statement and a good introduction.

 

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Writing a Good Personal Statement for Grad School

For writing a personal statement for admission into a graduate school, you have to be more specific about the research area of interest and thrust areas of the school where you are applying. Mention your research topic and prior research experience in your statement of purpose. You have to be specific about how the graduate school will help you realize your research ambitions and what your contribution will be towards the graduate school’s development.

It is necessary to summarize your previous class performances, research activities, collaborations, and other academic and non-academic achievements and accomplishments. Team workability is also a plus point. In this case, letters of references are necessary. Names of proper referees who are aware of your research ability and potential are also required.

Personal statement for scholarship applications is very critical as chances of being accepted or rejected for the grant or fellowship depends on this. You should reflect on why you need the fellowship for the research project, and your research proposal should be very strong. It should be more policy-oriented and relevant to the present-day world situation.

PERSONAL STATEMENT EXAMPLE #1 

RELIGION AND SCIENCE

“Dev, what’s your religion?”

I felt hot; my heart quickened. I tensed with apprehension while hurriedly reviewing possible answer choices in my head—atheist, agnostic? Was I lurking much farther down the list—Muslim? Although my family is Ismaili, part of a small sect in the Shia branch of Islam, I couldn’t identify myself as such. Not only did I fear that doing so would alienate me from my friends, but I also struggled to buy into the faith honestly.

What I’d heard of my religion from the outside world seemed to stand in stark opposition to what I had seen at home and at the mosque: that Islam cherishes peace and pluralism, charity, and compassion. Teachers and friends denounced it as a religion rooted in violence; nightly news anchors reported on a seemingly constant avalanche of terrorist attacks, supposedly affirmed by messages of hate in the Quran. Left with scant parental guidance, I wondered if they were right. I wondered if extremist groups truly did represent the religion of my parents and grandparents if their religion was one of intolerance.

As I tried to fit into my largely Judeo-Christian community, my disenchantment towards my family’s faith evolved into increasing self-consciousness about my heritage. When asked about my background, I wouldn’t say that my father’s family is Ugandan, but that they were expelled from the country by the dictator Idi Amin. I wouldn’t know that my mother’s family has links to both India and Pakistan. I would instead say that I’m British, a real statement to be precise, but also one more easily digested by my American friends.

Somewhat detached from my religion and heritage, I searched for other philosophies to make up for what I had lost, eventually finding that faith in math and the sciences. I learned of the computational complexity of the human mind, discovered the simple elegance of calculus, and found myself awestruck by the grand scale of the cosmos. I investigated the inner workings and processes of the internet, sparking my fascination with computer science.

My notion of science and religion as a TED Talk challenged opposing forces in the winter of my junior year. As the speaker discussed the potential consequences of artificial intelligence and machine learning, I was struck by his belief that A.I. might be the last truly human invention as the technology itself diminishes the contributions of our species. The troubling assertion that humans have little intrinsic value made me wonder—What does it mean to be human? What, if anything, makes us valuable? These were questions to which science did not have the answer.

I then realized that the belief that humankind is unique and extraordinary is rooted not in science, but rather in faith. I now approach my faith differently from my parents and grandparents, centered on the conviction that the human soul, and the innate sense of ethics and justice it provides, is what endows us with worth. But that’s not all religion has given me.

When asked about my faith now, I still feel hot; my heart again quickens. Now, I’m able to recognize why I find my faith valuable. It has helped me to connect with my heritage, foster my sense of charity and civic duty, and better appreciate the unique importance of human values. It is with faith in those social values that I look towards a future in which the abilities of machines far outstrip my own and remain resolved to realize a future that is not only technologically advanced but also morally sound.

 

PERSONAL STATEMENT EXAMPLE #2

Personal Statement for a Ph.D. in Literature

In August 2015, I completed my graduate degree and thesis for the Research Master’s in Comparative Literary Studies at [university name2]. As a student in the Research Master’s (RMA) program, my scholarly concerns were mostly focused on critical theory, cultural studies, and social discourse, built into the wide-ranging, cross-cultural framework of Comparative Literature. Besides, the rigorous graduate curriculum in the RMA program placed a strong emphasis on individual research and intensive academic writing to prepare me for Ph.D-level studies. As a student, I find myself consistently engaged with the intersection of politics, literature, and critical theory.

I have always had an interest in projects that are interdisciplinary and which also foster a broad, social-political dialogue; I have published in Marxist theory, but I have also presented at conferences on neuroscience and post-colonialism. While my interests are vast, I have always found literary studies to satisfy my intellectual curiosity and provide an essential methodological foundation. Therefore, it is from this theoretical perspective and challenging background as a scholar that I wish to pursue a Ph.D. in Literature at [university name], as it would be a privilege to participate in this critical discourse alongside the immensely distinguished Literature faculty.

Before beginning my graduate studies, I finished a Bachelor’s degree in English from the [university name3]. I was fortunate enough as an undergraduate to have found exhilarating joy in academic research. Setting a goal to pursue a lifelong career as an academic allowed me to overcome weaknesses that were initially felt to be insurmountable, including low grades and test scores. Learning the strategies necessary for university study, though, while following a compelling curriculum enabled me to complete my degree, participate in interdisciplinary thesis research, and eventually continue to graduate school. Relocating to the Netherlands for graduate school proved to be an excellent choice, as living abroad for the past few years has been a formative and enriching experience. Thinking globally about academic study and education more generally, while being amid a tumultuous political climate and refugee crisis has developed the way I continue to speak (and write) about the cultural experience.

In 2015, I had my first refereed article, “Utopian Registers of the New Italian Epic,” published in the peer-reviewed journal Incontri: Rivista Europa di Studi Italiani. After submitting it to this journal, the article underwent a strict external review process where I was able to refine my argument carefully before it was published in the 30th volume of Incontri.

The final six months of my degree were devoted to completing my RMA thesis, entitled “An Ethics of Belonging.” For this project, I chose to continue my interest in examining ethics and literature, using several sources of migrant research as my literary corpus. I framed my discussion within the context of ‘belonging’ and considered the ethical complications with that concept. One of the exciting aspects of writing this thesis was the ability to place these ideas in the background of current events and political issues such as racism, police violence, and migrant experience. Adding urgency to my thesis, I was able to emphasize the stakes of literature, otherness further, and belonging, while illustrating the efficacy of imagination, empathy, and representation in re-calibrating the ethical horizon.

It is with gratitude that I have always looked toward the esteemed Literature department at [university name] as a source of inspiration throughout my undergraduate and graduate education; and, the faculty at [university name] has always held my attention as giving invaluable contributions to literary and social discourse. It would, therefore, be an honor to pursue my Ph.D. in Literature at [university name]. And, given my scholarly background and academic achievements, I believe I am an ideal candidate for this program.

 

PERSONAL STATEMENT EXAMPLE #3 

Personal Statement for York Scholarship

My two passions in life drew me to York College. While some of my fellow high school classmates looked for a campus close to home, others chose the freedom of being far away. Some looked for specific programs of study like pharmacy or law enforcement. Others just followed their friends. I, however, chose York because it is the only school in New York where a student can play in a jazz band and also fly airplanes, the two overwhelming passions of my life. I have been playing the trumpet since I was seven years old. My uncle had an old horn, which he let me fool around with when I was a child. I still have that trumpet and have learned to play it pretty well. York’s Jazz program and classes are both intense academically and allow students to perform with other musicians. I plan to continue following this passion here at York as a minor and then as a life-long hobby. My other love, Aviation, is what I want to major in at York and then find work in that field. I want to fly, but I also want to understand the business and management areas of Aviation. One day, I hope to manage airport operations at one of New York’s major airports. Only York College could offer me the chance to fly an airplane, learn about airport operations, and at the same time making music with my trumpet. I believe that I would be a worthy recipient of a York Scholarship. I did well in high school, and after one year at York, I have completed 29 credits and have a 3.47 G.P.A.

I belong to the flying club and perform with the York Jazz ensemble. Also, with the help of one of my music professors, I have organized a group of student musicians, and we go to nursing homes in Queens to perform old favorite jazz numbers for the senior residents. Seeing the smiles and clapping and singing along by people who are my grandmother’s age makes me feel that I am helping those people to have a better quality of life. I am a student who is proud to be at York and will continue to contribute to the quality of student life. I plan to be a leader in the flying club and the jazz ensemble and eventually in student government, where one of my main goals would be to increase the number of paid internships for students. I plan to intern at Kennedy airport or with one of the airlines such as Jet Blue. When the managers there see how hard I work, how focused I am, and how well educated I have become, they will not only want me to continue working with them; they will also want more interns and full-time workers who study at or have graduated from York College.

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