To assist you in writing your personal statement for graduate school applications, University Career Services has prepared this three-step worksheet and guidelines.
3 Basic Steps:
- Writing Your Personal Statement
- Personal Statement Critiques
STEP 1: Brainstorming
- Devote some undisturbed time to reflecting on these key questions.
- Also discuss them with friends or family members.
- Jot down notes. In some cases write sentences.
- Don't expect to have responses to every question or example.
- Also think about the flip side of each question. For example, why are you really committed to the field of biology despite pressure from your parents to become a lawyer or to get a job?
Your answers to the following questions will form the heart of your personal statement.
- How did your pre-college education influence your decision to pursue graduate study in your field?
- Think about: High school courses, teachers, special programs, student organizations,and community or volunteer work.
- How has your Rutgers experience influenced your decision?
- Think about: College courses, professors, academic interests, research, special programs, and student organizations. Think about the decision-making process you went through to choose your major.
- How has your work experience influenced your decision?
- Think about: Internships, externships, part-time jobs, summer jobs, and volunteer or community work.
- What person or persons have had the most influence on your decision to pursue graduate study? In what ways?
- Think about: Parents, relatives, teachers, professors, clergy, friends of the family, college friends, parents of friends, local merchants, supervisors, coaches, doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc.
- What situation or situations have had the most influence on your decision?
- Think about: Family, academic, work or athletic situations. Think about happy, sad, traumatic, moving or memorable situations.
- What personally motivates you to pursue graduate study in this field?
Think about: Your personal skills, interests and values.
STEP 2: Writing Your Personal Statement
- Read the guidelines listed on this page.
- Incorporate your notes or responses to the above questions.
- Begin writing your first draft.
- Develop an outline of your statement prior to writing. It doesn't have to be a detailed outline. It can be three or four main points in the order you want to make them.
- Accentuate your strengths and what makes you unique.
- Explain your weaknesses in a positive way. For example, refer to them not as weaknesses, but as areas for improvement or growth.
- Paint pictures and tell stories about what makes you special. In this way the admissions readers will remember you. The story can be happy or sad. The more feeling you can inject into your statement, the more you will stand out.
- Find out the specific orientation and philosophy of the graduate program to which you are applying. Adapt and refine your statement to fit the program. This will make you stand out from other applicants who recycle the same personal statement with each application.
STEP 3: Personal Statement Critiques
Schedule an appointment with a Career Services counselor to have your personal statement reviewed.
College admission essay is probably the scariest section of the application process. With the approach of the deadline for sending your essay, students feel frustrated and parents are stressed. However, this task doesn’t have to be so insuperable – when you have enough time, necessary information, and thorough proofreading, it should be not be difficult to prepare good college essays.
The list of the most frequent questions about how to prepare an essay for an admission to college should assist you compose your own story and make a positive impression on the admission committee.
What Does Admission Committee Expect to See in an Essay?
Well-composed college essays should give a chance to know more about you for the admission committee. You have to make your personal statement. Many students craft shallow essays that are filled with clichés, uninformative, and too impersonal. This leads to the fact that the essay itself becomes a reason for a failure to enter the university.
How to Make Your College Essay Distinguished from Others?
Admission committees look for five main things in your essay. They are the following:
- Does the applicant have writing skills?
- What can we learn about the applicant from the essay?
- Did the applicant use any personal reflections?
- Will the applicant be able to add something interesting to the college life?
- Do the qualities of the applicant described in the essay resound with the applicant’s rest application?
The Best Topics for Good College Essays
A lot of students prefer to use the Common Application when applying to get some particular essay prompts. Students can decide themselves whether or not they want to personalize topics for an essay and make it original and memorable. These are some of useful essay prompts for the topic:
- Some students have an interest, identity, talent, or a background that is unique and significant, and they think it will be good to include it in their application. If you can say this about yourself, then go with it.
- Failures that happen in our life bring not only negative things, but also teach us something by giving an example of what not to do in the future and leading to success. Tell about a failure or an incident that happened to you. Write about how it affected you and what lesson it taught you.
- Write about a time when you doubted and challenged some idea or belief. What made you act? Would you repeat it again if could turn back the time?
- Write about the issue you have once solved or you would like to find the solution for. It can be a research matter or an intellectual or ethical dilemma – anything that was personally important to you. Explain why it was or is significant to you and what moves you made or are about to take to find a solution.
- Write about formal or informal event, or describe some of your accomplishments, or something that helped you make a transition from a child to an adult in terms of community, culture, or family.
What Is the Best Topic You Can Choose?
According to college essay advisors, the best prompt would be telling your personal story, because it is the most open and is easy to make personal. When you’re telling your story you allow an admission committee to learn something about yourself. The second best option is to describe an issue that you once solved.
The best way to select the topic is to ask your parents, friends, advisor, or teacher what can be the most entertaining story about you to tell the admission committee. Brainstorm and search for the best ideas. This process should be creative and free. Think about the events in your life that were filled with a lot of conflict, drama, or humor. What event would be the best to tell the committee the most about how you are going to assist the college life?
Be inventive –you can present your essay as a word map, an infographic, or a graphic story. Do everything you can to better see the story in your head. Then you can transform it in a more organized way.
The Best Way to Begin Good College Essays
When preparing an essay you need to make sure to grab the attention of your reader with the very first paragraph. This can be done by using some of the most standard methods:
- Originality. Begin with an unconventional event or statement.
- Story hook. Start your essay by jumping straight into the story. In this case your second paragraph can be an introduction.
- Solve an issue. Show how your creativity once helped you find solution for the problem, somebody, or even yourself.
- Describe visually. Begin your essay with a blazing description of an event or image that helps engage the reader in your paper.
- Create mystery. Start with a riddle to make readers interested. This way they will want to hear more to find out what happened.
Whatever of these options you choose, avoid boring and conventional sentences like ‘I want to be a student of this college, because … ‘. Any admission committee won’t be interested in continuing reading it and will place your essay aside.
The Best Structure and Format for an Essay
There are many methods to write good college essays and there are no instructions on which form is the best as long as your essay in interesting, engaging, logical, and revealing.
A traditional essay begins with an intro statement that catches attention of the reader, goes on with a strong sentence on the topic, and ends with a summation or an argumentative closing paragraph. In the main part of the essay you need to provide evidence as to why your essay is true.
This form might be good if for instance you are trying to persuade a college that your summer experience taught you about chemistry, which you have chosen as your major.
You can also write about yourself with an origin, finish, and dramatic turn. If you are not good at telling stories envisage how you would film it. What scenes would you need to describe this or that?
If you’re experiencing problems with the structure of your essay, try to present it in a different way to better see how to tell your story in an interesting way.
In the main part of the essay you need to provide answers to some of the most important questions, like so what? Why does the reader need care about what you are writing? What is the influence of your essay on the reader?
Pay attention to transitions you make from one paragraph to another. Don’t make your essay look like a list. Conversion should not just link paragraphs, they need to give information. Try to avoid words like ‘meanwhile’, ‘nevertheless’, ‘but’, etc.
When your essay is done ask somebody to edit and proofread it for grammar and spelling mistakes. Make sure you have also followed the instructions for your essay, like the number of words and topic. Remember, this is just like a regular test. Representatives of a college wants to see whether or not you can follow guidelines and how creative you are within these limitations.
Making Your College Essay Creative
The best option for creativity is to brainstorm with parents, a teacher, or friends. Use this method if you are out of words and don’t know what to write. Make a list of things about yourself that can be interesting to the reader. List your likes and dislikes, achievements and failures, etc. You need to find an original topic that will be able to catch readers’ attention. Begin with the following ideas and see where they will take you:
- What is your favorite book and why?
- What class do you like the most and why?
- Where do you want to travel the most and why?
- What is the place you would never want to visit and why?
- What person/object is significant to you and why?
- What is your least favorite thing and why?
You can keep going in the following direction by asking yourself similar questions. This will help you create an outline of topics and ideas you can pick from that can describe you in a unique way.
Think about the things that are very important for you in your life. Figure out what experience about you is original to you. Only this way you will be able to make your story different from others.
How to Avoid Plagiarism in an Essay?
When writing an essay you can look at somebody else’s works and use them as an example and inspiration. However, it is not good to copy anything without giving credit to those people. Otherwise it is plagiarism. Don’t ask anybody to write your essay, like a friend, parent, or a special service. It should be your story and nobody else can tell it. Admission committees have seen many of the same stories, so you will be caught.
The best thing to stay away from plagiarism is to compose your essay personally. If you’re writing about your actions, experiences, thoughts, and ideas you won’t be at risk of being accused in plagiarism.
The Best Advice of Writing a Good Essay Is to Be Yourself
Help the admission committee see what kind of person you are and what kind of student you are going to be in college. Your essay should not just be an example of your great writing skills; it should be your personal story.