Your personal statement is essentially the cover letter for your grad school application. The rest of your application consists of facts about you and recommendation letters where others talk about you and your accomplishments. It is designed to put the rest of the application in context. Your personal statement is your opportunity to tell your prospective school why you are pursuing your desired field of study and why you think this particular school is the best fit for you. Much of the rest of your application is the what and how of your story. This is your opportunity to tell the why. Your prospective school wants to know what drives you, what your goals are, and why you are a better candidate than others with similar backgrounds and references.
Before you submit your personal statement, it’s a good idea to have a few people read it – those who will give honest feedback. The best bet is to have at least one person read it who is in the field you plan to study and a couple of other people read it who know you well – even better if this person attends or attended your prospective school. Make sure these are people who will give you honest feedback. Here are some questions to ask those whom you ask to read your personal statement.
1. Was the personal statement compelling? You want your personal statement to stand out, to grab the attention of those reviewing it and to tell the school important reasons for you to attend the school that aren’t already in other parts of your application.
2. Did the writing sound sincere? It’s important to that your personal statement clearly and sincerely reflects you. It must sound genuine, and the reader should feel that you are being completely honest with them about your reasons for wishing to pursue your career and attend this particular school. This is where friends and family can be helpful. They know you well enough to tell you if it sounds like you are telling the school what you think it wants to hear or if you are truly being honest about your reasons for wishing to attend.
3. Is the personal statement a good example of graduate level writing? You are, after all, applying for graduate school. The quality of your writing should reflect this. It’s a great idea to have someone edit your personal statement for grammar and writing quality. This will be your schools first impression of you. It should be an example of your writing at its best.
Having a few people review your personal statement means that you’ll probably need to complete it early, to allow for time for people to review and time for you to rewrite if necessary. However, it’s worth the time and effort to create something that will set you apart from other applicants and provide a sincere expression of you that will show your prospective school your unique attributes, skills, and life-experience.