Writing a Personal Statement for Graduate or Professional School by iqo36530


									Writing a Personal Statement
for Graduate or Professional
School Applications
By Brian O'Driscoll, Director
Pacific University Career Development Center

Unfortunately, more often than not, very little explanation is given as to what should be in your personal
statement. So before diving in, it's worth sitting back and thinking about what the admissions committee likely
wants to know:

        Are you smart enough to do the work?
        Are you disciplined enough to do the work?
        Are you focused and ready for graduate level work?
        What evidence of past success do you have?
        Do your goals make graduate/professional school a logical step?
        Why are you pursuing graduate/professional school?
        Have you put enough thought into picking appropriate programs to apply to?
        Why are you interested in this particular school's program? (Watch out—many applicants
        flail on this one.)
        What has been your intellectual development thus far?
        What courses/areas of study have you excelled in?
        Why should you be accepted ahead of other applicants?
        Do you possess the qualities necessary to be what you aspire to be, and do you seem to know
        what those qualities are?

Committees and individuals vary in what they want to see in a statement of purpose, but generally it's going to
include answers to some subset of the questions listed above. Talk with professors and career staff about your
particular application and situation. Writing a professional school application, such as for optometry or law
school, requires a different approach than is needed for an application for graduate study in, say, philosophy or
history. Finally, how can you convey compelling responses to the questions you need to answer? One word:
specifics. Give details about pivotal and significant courses, experiences, research, projects, and other factors in
your experience and intellectual development. Below is a suggested method for working through this process, but
perhaps you have your own ideas. In any case, be specific, write with conviction, and convince them that you’d
be a great person to have in their program.

 Pacific University • Career Development Center • Chapman Hall UC 697 • careerdc@pacificu.edu • 503.352.2877
Getting Started
       Recognize that with many applicants competing for few spots, it's important to stand out. Focus on what's
       most compelling about you as a candidate:
          o Individual strengths
          o Academic accomplishments and background
          o Academic and career interests
          o Formative personal experiences
          o Research experience
          o Relevant work, internship, or volunteer experience
          o Professional goals
       Consider beginning a draft by jotting down responses to the above and similar questions.
       Get as much content as possible on paper, again with plenty of specific detail.
       Search for an organizing principle and structure.
       Write with paragraphs—develop them fully and use to advance your viewpoint. Sounds basic, but in a
       two-page or shorter document, paragraph structure and organization needs to be tight and solid.

       Settle on an organization, and on the questions you'll answer, the points you'll make.
       Flesh out claims with supporting evidence—again, specific details.
       Tighten prose to eliminate unnecessary words and maximize good content.
       Vary sentence construction.
       Combine sentences strategically.
       Use suitable, natural vocabulary—but be at your verbal best.
       Use smooth transitions.
       Use appropriately formal language.

       Review carefully, including backwards (end to start).
       Get help, multiple readers: professors, career center staff, or tutors.
       Allow time between proof readings.
       No room for clumsy errors.

Sounds like a tall order, but if you’re serious about this application, the content’s there and the words will come—
just get started and get help. Good luck!

 Pacific University • Career Development Center • Chapman Hall UC 697 • careerdc@pacificu.edu • 503.352.2877

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