Brainstorming—Questions to Ask Yourself
- What’s special, unique, or impressive about you or your life story?
What details of your life might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
- When did you originally become interested in this field and what have you since learned about it—and about yourself—that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited for this field?
- What insights have you gained?
- How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
- If work experiences have consumed significant periods of time during your college/graduate school years, what have you learned, and how has the work contributed to your personal growth?
- What are your career goals?
- Are there gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades, mediocre GRE scores, or a distinct improvement in your GPA if it was average in the beginning)?
- Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (i.e. economic, familial, and physical) in your life?
- What personal characteristics (integrity, compassion, persistence) do you possess that would enhance your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
- What skills (leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
- Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession—than other applicants?
- What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?
It won’t be easy to answer all of these questions, but this is an exercise that will have great practical benefit in readying you to write an outstanding personal statement.
Do Not Bore the Admissions Committee, How do you avoid this?
- Find an angle
- Concentrate on your opening paragraph
- Tell who YOU are
- Review your personal history
- Find out the specific orientation and philosophy of the graduate program to which you are applying
What NOT to include in your personal statement
- References to experiences during your high school years or earlier (unless they are extraordinary achievements or a traumatic event)
- Don’t mention subjects that are potentially controversial or offensive (i.e. religion, politics)
- What’s most important is WHAT you say and HOW you say it
- In addition to providing your story, be sure to answer the Admissions committee’s questions
- Be selective
- Be honest
- Try to maintain a positive tone
- Express yourself clearly and concisely
- Explain your weaknesses in positive ways, as areas for improvement or growth
- Respect stated word limits (or page limits)
- Be meticulous (Proofread, proofread, proofread!)
- Bring your personal statement to Career Services for review!
This information was taken from the following source and is available in our Career Resource Library:
Stelzer, Richard J. (1997). How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School. Princeton, New Jersey: Peterson’s.