As a prospective grad student, it is easy to find yourself struggling to write your personal statement. The essay is an integral part of the application process, and it can either make or break your chances of getting into the grad school of your dreams.

Yet, your personal statement can be flexible and allow you to showcase yourself in the best way possible. Consider it as a blank canvas where you can create an image of yourself that aligns with how you want to be perceived by graduate schools.

The process of talking about oneself in an application can be challenging and is often the least favorite part for many people. It involves self-reflection, assessing one’s strengths and weaknesses and sharing personal details with strangers. This task can be particularly daunting for those who haven’t written an essay since high school.

It is not as difficult as it seems. Just follow the steps below and you will be on your way to writing a successful personal statement.

Start early

It’s essential to give yourself enough time to write a personal statement that showcases your personality, experiences, skills, and goals.Just like the GRE, waiting until the last minute can lead to poor results. Plan ahead and set aside specific time blocks to focus on your essay.

Pay attention to the directions

Some graduate programs use the terms “personal statement” and “statement of purpose” interchangeably without any clear distinction, so it is really important that you are writing the right type of essay.

To ensure you understand the requirements,make sure to review what is being asked of you before proceeding. There are grad schools that allow you to choose any topic for your essay, while others have a set word count and specific questions that need to be addressed. To avoid problems, make sure you are aware of any guidelines before writing. You wouldn’t want to write a great 1,500-word essay only to realize the limit was 1,000 words or that you missed a question.

Prospective grad student working on her personal statement.

Consider what drives and inspires you

Although your educational transcripts and work experience are important, they do not fully represent you as a candidate. If you’re struggling to write your personal statement, keep in mind that best way to win is to share why you are the ideal candidate for the college.

Making the decision to pursue a higher education degree is a crucial one that can have a great impact on your life. Share your story about what drove you to make this decision. Discuss your objectives, any obstacles you had to overcome, and how obtaining your degree can enable you to make a positive difference.

Proceed methodically

To effectively write your personal statement, you should first organize your thoughts. Determine the key points you want to make and the order in which you want to present them.

Creating an outline can help you break down your statement into separate sections. This allows you to work on each section incrementally instead of trying to write everything in one go. Treat each section of your outline as a separate block of content.

For instance, if your outline consists of three main topics- how a graduate degree can enhance the skills you need, your expectations from the graduate program, and your career goals after completing the degree.

To make writing easier, focus on one content block at a time. Once the first block is complete, take a break before moving on to the next one. By following this process, you can finish writing before you know it.

Structure your statement

There are different ways to structure a personal statement, but we recommend the following:

– Introduction- Hook the reader’s attention and lay out the main theme of your essay

– Body- Elaborate on your experiences, skills, and achievements.

– Conclusion- Summarize your key points, reiterate your interest in the program, and show how you will contribute to the institution.

Male MBA student writing is personal statement

Know your audience

Remember that you are writing for an admissions committee; hence your tone, language, and style should reflect that. They want to hear your story, but at the same time, they are also looking for evidence that you can undertake rigorous academic work. Find a balance between personal and academic writing.

Show, Don’t Tell

One of the biggest mistakes that students make when writing their personal statement is telling their story instead of showing it. In other words, don’t just say that you’re hardworking, show how you’ve demonstrated your work ethic. Give specific examples and use descriptive language to paint a picture of who you are and what you’ve accomplished.

Be specific

Avoid vague statements like “I am passionate about science.” Instead, show evidence of your passion, for instance, “I spent my summer interning at a research facility, where I assisted in a project on gene therapy.” Use concrete examples to show that you have the necessary skills and experience.

Highlight your achievements

Your personal statement is not only an opportunity to tell your story but also to showcase your achievements. Quantify your achievements as much as possible, for instance, “I ranked top in my class in biology, and my research paper was published in a peer-reviewed journal.”

Craft a personal statement that reflects who you are

It is essential to remember that your life experiences are unique to you. To reflect this in your personal statement, avoid using vague language and general statements. Instead, share specific stories of events in your life that have influenced you, and provide concrete examples of your goals and aspirations.

Your personal statement should be a reflection of who you are as a person. Avoid trying to be someone you’re not or writing what you think the admission officers want to hear. Admission officers read hundreds of personal statements, so it’s important to stand out by being yourself.

Woman who comes up with an outline prior to writing her personal statement.

Less is more

Using excessive complicated vocabulary is not synonymous with good writing. On the contrary, using simple and clear language is preferable because it is easier to comprehend and more engaging to read. It is recommended to use language that you usually use in everyday conversations. This approach will help you communicate your ideas more effectively and your essay will reflect your true self.

Tailor your statement

One of the most common mistakes students make is submitting a generic personal statement. Customize your statement to the program or school you’re applying for. Show the admissions committee that you’ve thoroughly researched the program and understand what they’re looking for in a candidate.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Writing a personal statement is a challenging task, and it’s okay to ask for help. Seek feedback from your teachers, friends, or colleagues. They can provide you with a different perspective and help you fine-tune your statement. Additionally, there are professional services that specialize in editing, proofreading, and writing personal statements.

Writing a personal statement is a valuable opportunity that can help enhance your college application and even teach you more about yourself. While it may push you out of your comfort zone and require you to think differently than usual, it is definitely worth the effort. In fact, it could potentially become one of the strongest components of your grad school application.

Girl on campus jotting down ideas for her grad school essay.

Edit, revise, repeat

Once you’ve written your statement, set it aside for a few days, and come back to it with fresh eyes. Proofread your statement multiple times and make sure there are no grammar or spelling errors. Read your statement out loud and make sure it flows smoothly. Don’t be afraid to make changes; this is your personal statement, and it should represent you to the fullest.

Writing your personal statement is a process that takes time and effort. Don’t be afraid to rewrite and edit multiple times until you’re confident in your content. \

The importance of proofreading your work cannot be overstated. Make sure that your essay is free from typos, grammatical errors, and awkward sentences. Consider hiring a professional editor to review your work.

Parting words

It is easy to find yourself struggling to write your personal statement at first, but with the right attitude, tips, and tricks, you can craft a statement that proudly showcases your strengths and experiences. Remember, your personal statement is an opportunity to showcase who you are and what you can bring to the college community.. Remember to take your time, tailor your statement to the program or school, ask for help, and edit repeatedly. If you are struggling to write your personal statement or want an informed opinion, feel free to check our graduate school application editing services. Happy writing! Got questions about the application process, or would like to get a quick assessment of your essay? Sign up for a consultation, or send us your draft for an estimate. It’s FREE!

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Philippe spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Philippe has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

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