As part of your applications to graduate schools, you will need to write a personal statement. But what is a personal statement? What should you write about? And more importantly, how long should a personal statement be?
A personal statement is important because it allows you to make sure your application stands out from others. It will allow you to show off your biggest achievements in life and what you consider to be your best attributes.
Explore the below tips to learn how to write a strong personal statement and what length you should keep your personal statement at.
What Is a Personal Statement?
A personal statement is an essay explaining your reasons for wanting to enter the graduate program you are applying for. It is your chance to tell the school who you are and how you became interested in your field.
In your personal statement, you should show your passion for the subject and motivation behind applying for the program. There should also be an emphasis on storytelling. Schools typically require applicants to write about challenges in their lives and how they have overcome them.
Maybe you are choosing a program that does not align with your previous education, or maybe you do not have specific work experience related to the field. In this case, a personal statement will help you emphasize your strengths and show why you belong in the program.
How Long Should Your Personal Statement Be?
It is best to focus on the message you are delivering in the essay rather than the length. Requirements for the length of a personal essay may vary depending on the school to which you are applying. Typically, colleges ask for a word count of about 200 to 500.
What Are Schools Looking for in a Personal Statement?
Through a personal statement, schools are trying to get to know you on a deeper level. It is important to include a story about yourself in your statement. It should be related to your personal failures and triumphs.
All the experiences you write about should also be related to your field of study. It’s a good idea to avoid opening your essay with a quote, and try not to use cliches or get too creative. You still want to come across as a professional, serious applicant.
The admissions committee will also be looking for your inspiration behind entering your chosen field. They will want to know what made you interested in the specialization. While explaining your interests, do not make the mistake of going back to the beginning of your life, or even to high school. Avoid starting your statements with “I fell in love with …. When I was 8.”
The school will want to find out what personally motivated you to apply. Be honest in your statement and explain why it is an appropriate step on your educational path, and how it will help you achieve your future career goals.
Of course, strong writing skills are crucial to a strong essay. A successful personal statement will show that you can write coherently. Make sure you use correct grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. Ask a couple of family members, friends, or former professors to proofread your essay when you feel you are finished.
There are five universal traits that most schools will be looking for you to demonstrate in your essay: punctuality, the ability to work independently, communication skills, time management skills, and determination/perseverance.
Personal Statement Best Practices
Writing a personal statement can be challenging. On top of having to explain all of your strengths in one short essay, you will also need to follow the rules and have no grammatical errors. Here are some best practices to follow when writing your essay.
1. Start early
Start the process a couple of months before your application is due. Personal statements take a lot of work, especially if you are also balancing other commitments in your life. Setting aside extra time means you will not have to squeeze in hours of work at the last minute.
2. Read the requirements thoroughly
It is very important to make sure that you understand the instructions fully. Your program will give the information as to what content your statement should focus on, how long it should be, and even how to save your essay.
3. Brainstorm ideas
Brainstorm topics you would like to discuss. Figure out how you will present your goals, what the program means to you, and why you are interested in it.
4. Make an outline
Create a chart or a list of the things you plan to mention in your essay and the order you would like to discuss them in.
5. Draft your essay
Finally, begin writing. When you enter this stage, it is entirely okay to write down anything that seems relevant. While you continue to draft, you can take out parts that seem unnecessary.
6. Get feedback
Allow people you trust to read your essay and provide feedback. They will see your writing with fresh eyes and tell you what needs to be fixed.
7. Edit your essay
Now that you have feedback, you will be able to revise and edit your statement based on the responses of people you trust. Look out for sentences with unnecessary information. Personal statements are intended to be short, so if one sentence is not essential, take it out.
8. Proofread times 10
The last step is to proofread, a lot. Make use of your computer’s spellchecker, Grammarly, and any other resources available to you. Proofread one sentence at a time. Then, allow others to proofread your final draft. If they see a problem, go back one step, then proofread again.