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Show Them Who You Are: Talking About the Present in a Personal Statement

By Peterson's Staff updated on Thursday, October 31, 2013
Talking about the present can be the most difficult thing for applicants to handle when writing personal statements. When I talk about discussing the present, though, I’m not asking you to tell the admissions committee what you’re doing right now. Instead, you should think about this section of your personal statement as your opportunity to show the admissions committee why you’re ideally prepared for graduate study at the moment, and why now is the perfect time for you to undertake such study.

If you're interested in more advice particularly tailored to you and your application, then you should check out EssayEdge and its crew of expert essay editors today!

Focus on more than accomplishments
Many applicants compose personal statements or other admissions essays (including statements of purpose) that focuses almost entirely on what those students have accomplished and what they want to do in the future. While these are good things to include in such admissions writing, they neglect an important part of your application: why are you in an excellent position to pursue graduate studies at this particular moment? Or put another way, why do you need this program to further your career?

In discussing your present, you should focus on telling the admissions committee why your past experiences have put you in an ideal position from which to pursue graduate studies, and why those studies are a necessary next step for you.

Speak to why you want to get in
You can also think about speaking to why this particular program calls to you, given your past and future. What about this program makes it an ideal fit for you at this time? Remember that if the program has a separate essay prompt for this question, you don’t need to focus on it in your personal statement or SOP.

For example, you may be tempted to say something along the lines of:

“I am confident that I have what it takes to succeed in a challenging graduate program.”

Instead of simply stating your excitement or confidence, take the opportunity to show how or why you will thrive in this particular place at this particular time. Try something like this instead:

“Having already undertaken independent research of X and built collaborative relationships with many leading minds in the field, I am excited to advance my knowledge through graduate study at X University’s renowned engineering department.”

This does speak to your accomplishments, but it also focuses on why you are well-suited to the position for which you are applying. 

Mention current work
Lastly, you should use this section of your personal statement to tell the reader about any current projects or undertakings that will further enhance your qualifications for graduate study. This is particularly applicable for applicants who are currently finishing up undergraduate studies or some other job/research project. Let the reader know what you’re working on and how it will further increase your knowledge base or experience level.


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