A personal statement, also known as a “statement of purpose” or “goal statement,” is a document that demonstrates your writing ability on a more personal level for your application into a graduate program.
A personal statement, also known as a “statement of purpose” “goals statement” or “admissions essay” serves to:
- Demonstrate your writing ability on a more personal level for your application into a graduate program.
- Discuss your personal, career, and educational goals or answer a general question posed by the graduate school’s admission committee.
- Gauge your critical and analytical thinking as well as your writing, editing skills, and general reasoning skills and your ability to reflect on your education and work experience.
- Provide insight into who you are which helps to determine if you would be a good fit into a specific graduate program.
Writing a Personal Statement
What are you writing about?
Regardless of the path you take to beginning your personal statement, there are many questions that you will have to inevitably cover.
- How do you want to answer their questions?
- What piece of you do you want shown to the admissions committee?
- What kind of tone do you want your personal statement to take?
- What kind of theme should I use for the personal statement?
These can be very difficult questions to answer. You can make the brainstorming process smoother by knowing yourself first. Gather your transcripts, resumes, and anything else that shows who you are. These will let you know all your strengths,but more importantly, it will also tell you your weaknesses. You can use your personal statement to address your weaknesses or show them in a better light.
Research the college to which you are applying.
- Every graduate school program available has a different set of goals, ideals, and most importantly, students which should be understood before you begin to create a personal.
- Contact students who are in the program you are applying for or have already completed the program will have valuable insight into what they thought was most useful on their personal statement.
- Considering who you are and where you are applying will allow you to decide whether you want to expand on your professional experience in your field or focus on how you enjoy the particular method of instruction that the department is known for.
- You have an introductory paragraph and a concluding paragraph that surround the body paragraphs.
- The length of your paragraphs and how many body paragraphs you will include will be determined by the guidelines the admissions committee will have for you.
- Open with something that will catch their attention, and finish with something strong and memorable.
Once you are able to create a draft of your personal statement, you should then take advantage of the Career Development Center services also those of the The Learning Hub. The Career Development Center has trained professional staff available to go over your draft and give advice on how to refine a personal statement into something that best exhibits your skills and achievements.
Some general tips for writing a personal statement:
- Be yourself and be genuine in your writing.
- Avoid cliche statements and ideals whenever possible.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread.
- Use your personal experience to reinforce your points, but do not make the personal experience itself the focus.
- You can now use “I” and “me” without worry. Just remember that beginning every sentence with “I” would look rather conceited.
- If a question is asked, answer it completely with specific details and examples. It is respectful to the admissions committee and shows that you know how to follow directions.
- Always write a new unique personal statement for each college you are applying for.
Tools for Writing a Personal Statement
Whether students are enrolling in their first college courses, putting maximum effort into their upper-division coursework, or nearing the end of their educational paths, they’re keeping an eye on their goals. This focus—their reason for attending college in the first place—can spark their motivation even on the days they’re struggling with assignments or stressed by their responsibilities.
But what are those goals? And how does college help them achieve those goals? In our Spring 2015 Student Engagement Insights survey, we asked over 3,000 college students about their goals and how they think college will enable them to get where they want to go.
To begin, let’s look at college students’ responses to the question: What are your goals after college?
Going by these results, it’s clear that most students attend college to improve their chances of obtaining a fulfilling career that lets them pay the bills. Among the choices listed on the survey, a good or better job ranked the highest, netting 80% of the student vote. Nearly two-thirds (62%) hope that their college achievements will result in a high-paying job (or, one that pays better than their current job). These results align with students’ answers to a question we previously covered at the Engaging Minds blog: “Was getting a good job your primary reason for attending college?” 73% of students said that yes, this was true for them.
Many students also told us that they have plans for continuing their formal education. More than half (56%) indicated that they’re hoping to pursue an additional degree after they complete their current program. Whether this means they’ll be working towards a bachelor’s degree after earning an associate degree, or they want to attend graduate school after completing their undergrad studies, a good percentage of students have additional educational goals beyond their current college experience.
Five additional post-college goals, as named by college students
As noted above, ten percent of our surveyed students noted that they had additional goals after graduation (aside from those named above). We observed trends among their responses, and we’ve summarized them below:
1. Pursue additional career-focused training, schooling, or certification. As we observed earlier, more than half of our survey respondents want to pursue another degree. But in addition, many students said that, once they finish college, they hope to pursue “certification paths,” a “cosmetology/beautician license,” “additional technical certificates,” “law school,” “medical school,” and other programs that prepare them to practice in fields that require licenses or advanced education.
2. Start a business. Several of the students we surveyed said that they plan to take an entrepreneurial route after graduation. For these students, the knowledge and skills attained during college will apply to the work they’ll put into building their own companies, services, practices, and firms.
3. Achieve personal satisfaction. For other students, the goals are less tangible (but by no means less important). Students listed “happiness,” “greater and broader experience,” “travel,” “work/life balance,” “pride,” “more knowledge,” and “personal completeness/wholeness” among their post-college goals. Others look forward to “doing what [they] want to do,” or a “job where I can grow but still be true to my beliefs,” while still others want to “retire” and “rest on [their] satisfaction of going to school at an elderly age.”
4. Serve and support others. We were encouraged by the students who wanted to use what they’d learned in college for the purpose of “helping others in need” and “pass[ing] knowledge on to others.” Many mentioned that they want to join a national or global aid effort, whether by working for a non-profit or NGO, joining the Peace Corps, or “provid[ing] aid for children and individuals with disabilities in war-torn countries.” Others stuck a bit closer to home, naming such activities as “mentoring,” “start[ing] a family,” “utilizing my newly gained knowledge to help others in my community,” or “passing on knowledge about… my experience in my specific school and helping whoever I can will attend that school in the future.”
5. Secure a better financial outlook. In addition to the 62% who say they have a goal of a high-paying (or higher-paying) job, several students commented that their goal is to “become financially independent.” One student put a date to the goal, writing of a desire to experience “financial freedom in two years after I graduate.”
Students name the top way college enables them to reach their goals
In this same survey, over three thousand students named the key way that they believe college will enable them to achieve these goals.
Nearly half (49%) of the students stated that the degree itself will help them get to where they want to go, whereas nearly one quarter (23%) said that the subject knowledge will be the key to reaching and achieving their goals. Clearly, the majority of students believe that their academic achievements will be the key to achieving their post-college goals.
Other factors proved to be a priority to fewer college students. A much smaller percentage (14%) said that building contacts and networking were the most valuable part of their college experience. And, only 12% said that critical-thinking skills were the key factor in helping them reach their goals. However, this doesn’t mean they devalue critical thinking; in a previous survey from Fall 2014, 99% of students agreed that critical thinking is an important skill, and 92% believe what they learn in class sharpens their critical thinking skills for the “real world.”
Truth be told, most students have many goals in mind when they decide to enter college. Likewise, they undoubtedly recognize that multiple factors will help them achieve their personal and professional goals. But, by knowing and understanding their key goals and priorities, we can be better prepared to help them succeed in those areas that matter the most to them.
Want to help your students achieve their academic goals, as well as their goals after college graduation? Review the tips in the blog posts below, and share your own suggestions in the comments.
The GPS Strategy for Achieving Goals
Tips for Students: Prioritizing Time to Achieve Your Goals
Tips for Students: Defining Your Values and Goals