By: Lauren Creamer
The fall term is fast approaching and with it comes deadlines for graduate school applications. One piece of the application you want to leave plenty of time for is the personal statement. It requires a style of writing that most engineering and technology students aren’t used to using (because it isn’t a prerequisite of your academic programs). All the personal statements I have read required multiple drafts and tons of edits! Those things take time.
Consider the following tips when beginning the writing process:
- Read the prompt. Are you answering a specific set of questions? Are you simply explaining why you want to enroll in a specific program? You should include only what is relevant and required for the prompt.
- Tell a story/consider the narrative. Your statement should flow well, be authentic, and engage the reader. This style of writing is different than the direct nature of a cover letter, yet not too casual as to seem like you are writing a blog post. It generally begins with an anecdote about why/how you got into your chosen field, and moves into a summary of your experience to date, and then concludes with future goals. (This is generally speaking – again, follow the prompt!).
- Consider the weight of the statement – how does it rank against other admissions criteria? This one takes a bit of research (which I suggest you do). Is it weighed more or less heavily than your GPA or standardized test scores or an interview? Ask, because it may impact how much time you spend on this portion. See here for general advice from graduate admissions representatives.
- Write, revise. Write, revise. Write, revise. “The writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads,” Dr. Seuss. (Yes, I just quoted Dr. Seuss).
- Get a faculty member to review your statement. Your professors already went to graduate school. They have written and probably read plenty of these before. Ask them for their two cents.
- Bring it into CO-OPS + CAREERS to have your advisor review your statement. It is our literal job to review your written documents. We get paid to do it. (Plus, a lot of us genuinely enjoy editing… myself included).
- If you struggle with spelling, grammar, sentence structure – go to the Center for Academic Excellence. A writing tutor will work with you to identify specific areas in which you can improve your writing capabilities. And/or take gander at some of the recommended writing tutorials.
- Consider format. A cramped, single-page document with small font is difficult to read. Seriously! Space it out a bit, use size 12 font. Make it easier on the older eyes (generally, your application will be read by someone who is several decades older than you and possibly wearing readers. This is not a joke).
- Things to avoid? Clichés, a negative tone, damaging information. You want the reader leaving with positive feelings about you – not critiques on your writing style and negativity.
- Finish strong – why is this school/program/lab your top choice? The reader should finish knowing that you would be a strong choice for the program.
I know this is already in the tips above, but it bears repeating: bring your personal statement in to have it reviewed by your CO-OP + CAREER Advisor before you submit!