The Purpose of Your Personal Statement
by Ben Frederick MD
on November 13, 2013
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.
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 really indicate how you can benefit that specific program. Like any good sales pitch, the personal statement needs to show a school what is in it for them. What do you bring explicitly to their table that they cannot pass up or let get away?
If you need more help, check out The Ultimate Guide