Show and tell isn’t just for elementary school anymore – it turns out it can have a HUGE impact on your personal statement.

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“Don’t wait until the night before your application is due to begin this step.”

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Here are a few handy dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you move through the planning and writing stages.

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Personal Statement Preparation, Outline, Style, Content, and Voice

Outline & Preparation Although your first impulse may be to just jump headfirst into the writing stage of your personal statement, resist the urge to speed through! A little preparation and a thoughtful outline may seem time-consuming, but the small time investment will pay off hugely in your final product. Use these questions to get your thoughts flowing as you prepare to write: Why this school? Why this program? What traits do I possess that will help me excel in this field? Have I overcome any obstacles or hardships in order to succeed? What do I already know about this field? Who in this field do I admire, and why? What do I offer this program and profession? In addition to the above questions, there is one more crucial element to keep in mind during your preparation and outlining process: your intention with the personal statement. Remember when we said to consider your reason for attending a program the “theme” of your essay? Well, here’s where that really comes into play. When doing the outline, keep this theme always in mind, and make sure that everything points back to it. That will make your personal statement much more cohesive. Style, Content, & Voice Chances are, by the time you are applying for a college program, you have likely written at least a few essays in life. You may already have a clear idea of what your tone is as a writer. Maintaining that original voice is significant—but these few points on style and tone will help make the design spot-on for the personal statement. Show Don’t Tell Most relevantly, remember the importance of showing over telling. Don’t just tell your reader, “My strong work ethic has gotten me far and will suit...

The Purpose of Your Personal Statement

What’s the big deal with personal statements anyway? If you have earned your decent high school and undergraduate grades, studied hard for admissions tests like the SAT and GRE, and have made an effort to gain relevant work experience, why do admission essays even matter? Why Does it Matter? We will let a pro answer this. According to Dr. Liza Cariaga-Lo, Assistant Dean, Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, “The personal statement is seriously important, as it is often (in cases where there is no interview requirement) the only opportunity for the student to share information about relevant to the pursuit of graduate study.” In other words, your individual composition is your one shot for admissions committee members to see you as a person, not just a smattering of grades and a modicum of test scores. Self Promotion While the purpose of the personal statement is, in essence, to “sell” yourself, there are a few things to keep in mind when self-promoting. The concept of self-promotion: Does NOT mean re-hashing the many achievements on your résumé. Though your academic performance might be stellar, there is more to you than that! The admissions committee members will already read your résumé. Give them something new here! Does NOT mean pretending you are perfect. Some of the most compelling stories involve overcoming hardship. Have you used any struggles in your life as learning experiences to make yourself a stronger person? This applies to things the admissions officers will find elsewhere in your application, like low grades. Use negatives to your advantage instead of pretending they don’t exist. DOES require that you focus on your desired program. Instead of just listing your successes, take the time to...

Personal Statement Preparation: Understanding Your Reasons to Attend

Think Closely Think closely about your reason to attend college or graduate school for two reasons. First, if that reason is weak or unclear, you should rethink the choice. Second, if your reason is solid, it’s time to think about how that reason will affect your personal statement. Do you want to attend because of the program’s specific focus? Or is it because the faculty’s work mirrors your own goals? Or maybe it is due to the school’s proximity to employment opportunities in your field? Understand the Reason Understanding your reason why you want to attend will help you decide how you want to focus your personal statement. Think of your reason for attending as the “theme” of your essay and always direct back to that point in your writing. This will build a coherent story and chronicle the details. You want to avoid reasons that make you sound moneyhungry, desperate, or egotistical. For instance, don’t mention financial gain as the sole reason for graduate school attendance. Also, if you hope to land a managerial position with a major company, don’t focus too much on that. It will come across that your ambition is based solely on ladder-climbing. Are You Sure? Before you jump too far into the application process, now’s the time for a gut check: Are you sure you want to go enter a college program or attend graduate school? Advanced education is a huge commitment of time, energy, and often money. Worse, if you clearly aren’t ready for advanced education, admissions faculty will notice. As Gregg Glover, Associate Director of Admissions, Harvard Graduate School of Education, explained, “…if an applicant demonstrates a lack of relevant experience, sounds naïve, inexperienced, or unfocused and unprepared for graduate study in an essay, it can hinder his...