Writing a personal statement to get into grad school, college, residency or any other big academic program is probably unlike anything else you’ve written recently. This time, the focus is all about YOU, which is often a topic many struggle to write about.

Here are some of our editors’ favorite resources for crafting the best statements of purpose:

How to Write a Good College Application Essay; The New York Times

Favorite tip: “It’s not just a resume or a regurgitation of everything you’ve done. It needs to tell a story with passion, using personal, entertaining anecdotes that showcase your character, your interests, your values, your life experiences, your views of the world, your ambitions and even your sense of humor.”

Writing the Perfect Personal Statement for Your Master’s or Ph.D Application; Study Portals

Favorite tip: “In your personal statement, show that you’ve given thought to the actual program that you’re applying to. Don’t tell them that you applied to their school because it is the highest-ranking school, or that it’s in a city you’d love to live in.”

Preparing your personal statement for graduate school applications; American Psychology Association
Favorite tip: “When writing about your goals and experiences, aim for precision and detail. Avoid generic statements (‘I have a lot of research experience,’ ‘I did an internship’). Provide details, as space permits. What exactly did you do in your research, and what did you learn from it? What did your internship entail, and, again, what did you learn from it?”

Writing the Personal Statement for Medical School; Yale Office of Career Strategy
Favorite tip: “Make a list of some of your most defining experiences – extracurricular activities, specific classes, volunteer work, research, hobbies, etc. Try not to include overly personal experiences (breakups, trouble with parents, illnesses in the family, and so on). It’s difficult to write about such things without being sentimental or cliché. You want experiences in which you did something and had to make a choice.”

5 Medical School Personal Statement Writing Pitfalls; US News
Favorite tip: “Just listing a series of positive attributes will not impress any one on an admissions committee. Instead they want to know if you have strong interpersonal skills and that you can thoughtfully demonstrate how you acquired those interpersonal skills through interactions with patients or teamwork with a diverse group of peers.”

Writing a Personal Statement?

Ben Frederick M.D.
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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