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 or her application.”

If you need more help, check out The Ultimate Guide: How to Write a Personal Statement.

Writing a Personal Statement?


Ben Frederick M.D.
Co-Founder
During my fourth year of medical school, I was faced with writing yet another personal statement, this time for a radiology residency. I'm not a strong writer, but after sending my personal statement to our founding editor, Sam Dever, I had to turn down interviews because I was getting too many. True story!

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