Personal Statement

For many people, the good news about graduate, law, and medical school admissions is that you don’t have to write an admissions essay.

But the bad news is that you have to write a personal statement. And writing a personal statement can be even more intimidating than writing an admissions essay because the instructions for writing a personal statement often don’t tell you what to write about.

Relax. It’s really pretty straightforward and here are some personal statement guidelines to help you.

Your personal statement is your chance to introduce yourself to the admissions committee. Use it to tell the committee who you are, why you want to study at their school, and why they should accept you as a student.

Sometimes you will be given specific instructions as to what to include in your personal statement:

Describe briefly your reasons for wanting to teach. Explain how your previous education and experience led you to the decision to pursue a graduate degree in education. Give details about previous teaching experience and other work with young people.

Other times, however, the instructions are completely open-ended:

Provide evidence in support of your application.

If the application gives clear instructions for writing the personal statement, by all means follow them. (That goes for instructions regarding word or page limits, too.) But even if you are given specific instructions on what to write about, see our checklist of questions [link] that an effective personal statement should answer and make sure that your statement covers all of those points.

You should also make sure that your personal statement is, at a minimum, competently written. Follow the conventions of standard written English. Present your information and ideas in a logical way that any reader could easily follow. Proofread your final draft carefully for misspellings, grammatical slips, and typos.

You’ll be doing yourself a big favor, however, if you see to it that statement is not just competent but also lively, engaging, or even compelling.

A strong personal statement goes beyond giving the admissions committee information about the applicant’s background and qualifications. It also gives an idea of the applicant’s personality, vision, and life and work goals. Those are often the pieces of information that convince an admissions committee that they want a particular applicant as a student and future colleague.

It is a cold, hard fact of life that the top graduate and professional degree programs always have many more qualified applicants than they have seats to fill. Decisions about who gets admitted and who does not are inevitably based on limited information that is presented in an impersonal manner. Your best opportunity to influence that process – by rounding out the body of data that the admissions committee has available for review, and by providing a context for that data that is favorable to you – lies in your personal statement. Make the most of it!

Click on the links below for more tips on writing an effective personal statement:

Law School Personal Statements

Medical School Personal Statements

Graduate School Personal Statements

General Tips on Writing Personal Statements

Personal Statement Checklist