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Personal Statements

Most graduate programs will ask you for a personal statement which is an informal letter to the admissions committee. Your personal statement is also a sample of your writing, attention to detail, and logic.

Questions are usually variations on:

Graduate schools have several reasons for giving you a chance to "speak" to them through a personal statement. They already have plenty of concrete information about you. What they don't know is why you're applying for this particular program, where it fits in your ideas about your future, what you bring to the department as a person and scholar, and what you hope
to take away when you graduate.

  1. Outline: Start by listing the pieces of information you want to convey, then move the items around until they flow in a logical, often chronological, way. Talk it through with friends or a Lazarus Center advisor, and have them write down the main themes they hear.
  2. Write: Elaborate on each item briefly, using the first person active voice ("I") as much as possible, as well as a simple, direct style.
  3. This is not an academic essay. Avoid long or formal words and phrases. Admission committees read hundreds of essays each year; they're delighted when an applicant addresses them as human beings and gives them a clear picture of her readiness for, - and awareness of - their field, program, and expectations.
  4. You may choose to mention courses you're looking forward to taking, and professors with whom you'd like to study, if that will help your readers understand your interests.

Need more help? We encourage you to make an appointment with a Lazarus Center Advisor (413) 585-2582.