Personal Statement

The Personal Statement/Personal Essay/Statement of Purpose

The admission essay should give the committee a sense of who you are and why you want to attend their institution and program. Much like a resume for a job, an admission essay must convey to the committee the important information for which they are looking, so that they will consider you for a place in their program. You must understand the questions asked within the application and answer them in a thoughtful manner. Writing style and techniques can be important, especially if your target program is in the Humanities, Arts or Journalism. You may want to employ a metaphor or anecdote to personalize your statement.

What are Readers Looking For?

There are many ways to approach writing the admissions essay or personal statement. Peterson's Guide to Graduate Programs suggests that admissions committees may be looking for the following when evaluating the essay portion of the application:

    • Motivation and commitment to a field of study
    • Writing ability
    • Expectations regarding the program & career opportunities
    • Major areas of interest
    • Research and/or work experience
    • Educational background
    • Immediate and long-term goals
    • Maturity
    • Reasons for deciding to pursue graduate work in a specific field
    • Reasons for wanting to study at a particular institution
    • Personal qualities: what your presence would add to the diversity of the class

How Should You Format Your Essay?

Research the school, understand the audience, and locate their application instructions for both the Institution and the specific program you are applying for. One or both of these website areas should include their specifics on how to format your statement and what questions to answer or topics to cover in the statement content. If the site does not provide any direction for the statement, find the contact info for the Admissions Counselor and place a call or send an email requesting clarification on both the formatting and content guidelines.

If you are unable to reach a counselor, the standards for a Personal Statement recommended by this office are:

    • Format: double-spaced, essay style up to 2 pages
    • Content/Questions:
        • Why do you want to pursue a graduate degree?
        • What are your goals/research interests?
        • Why did you select this program
        • How you are qualified and why you are exceptional?
        • How will their program help you reach your goals?

Make an appointment with a Career Advisor or a faculty member revise and polish your essay before submission.