Tips for Writing a Good Personal Statement

Tips for Writing a Good Personal Statement
 
 

Your personal statement is an integral part of your graduate school application. To write a strong personal statement, we suggest you start by putting yourself in the shoes of an admissions advisor. The role of the admissions advisor is to assemble a talented group of students with diverse life experiences and strong academic and professional credentials. Your job is to help them do it.

First things first: look to the guidelines.

In our essay prompt, we focus on three key areas:

  • What are the specific academic and professional qualities you possess that could help you excel within this program?
  • What goals do you hope to achieve if you are accepted into this program?
  • How do ethics factor into your everyday life—both personally and professionally? Briefly describe a situation when you've had to rely on your personal ethics to make a difficult decision or overcome a challenge. What did you learn from this experience?

At the risk of stating the obvious, answer the questions. Begin by building an outline for your essay based on these questions, add an introduction and a conclusion, and your personal statement should be well on its way.

Talk about your strengths.

As helpful as an outline can be, writing a personal essay is not easy for many people. You may feel uncomfortable writing about yourself. Even if it seems unnatural at first, don’t downplay or minimize your accomplishments—use these as proof points to demonstrate why you are a strong candidate for the degree. As with any good piece of writing, you may need to write a few drafts.

Do your homework.

Look at those questions again—if you can answer them with confidence and specificity, you’re halfway there. If not, you need to do more research, both to write a stronger essay, and to clarify your goals. Like a job seeker, you should learn as much as possible about the program that you’re applying to and understand exactly what you want to get out of it. The more you know about a particular program—what it encompasses, who qualifies for admission, how it can advance your career—the clearer your objective, and ultimately, your essay, will be.

Be specific.

You may wish to include examples of both academic and professional achievements. This mix will vary depending on your age and experience. Recent college graduates may want to focus more on academic qualifications, while those with more work experience might emphasize their professional skills. And if your transcript reflects any poor grades or if your resume has gaps between positions, be sure to address them and provide brief explanations in the essay.  

Connect the dots.

The final question listed in the personal statement guidelines asks about additional qualities that make you “an ideal candidate overall.” As a Jesuit institution that seeks to educate the whole person, we will holistically evaluate each applicant’s academic history, professional qualifications, letters of recommendation, and other application materials before admitting any student. Your academic record and work experience offer a unique perspective to a university that values the whole person and welcomes diversity in all its forms—including diversity of thought. Use this last question as an opportunity to demonstrate how your experience, goals, and perspectives align with the program objectives.

Good luck from the Admissions team!

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