Applying to Graduate School, Part Three: Personal Statement

by kathleenljackson

This is probably the most important part of the application; it showcases your individuality, your research and what you have to offer. Avoid using a boring letter template, space is limited and you want to grab their attention straight away – I opened with something very important to me, something that influences every aspect of the life; my Indigeneity.

You could approach the statement with a checklist:

☐ Who am I?
– Personal background
– Educational background
☐ Outline of research/ area of interest?
☐ Why is the study important? What will you add to the field?
☐ Why are you applying to that school?
– Demonstrate knowledge of the school
– Show how their work is linked to your research interests
– Name the relevant people
– How does that school relate to your overall goals?
– Are they doing things that interest/ excite you? Tell them!

There is no right or wrong way to write your personal statement – it’s personal for a reason! It’s an incredible opportunity to showcase what makes you special. Make sure you tailor your personal statement to ensure you are applying to the right school and the right department. Look at the faculties research interests and recent publications so that you can appeal to their curiosity (they’re academics, curiosity is inherent).

Write a draft as quickly as possible. It’s so easy to agonise over what to write about – your whole life in three pages is hard!  Just remember, it’s easier to edit than to fill a blank page.

Proofread your application! They are looking for any excuse to cut people out of the running; make sure you are writing about the right university (this, apparently, does happen – another reason to tailor statements!).

But, above all, emphasise the aspects that make you different. This is graduate school, they aren’t looking for lemmings who can sit a test or write pretty prose (although that does help), they are looking for eager people with cutting-edge ideas. People who can offer a unique perspective. People who love learning.

Handy additional resources

Writing A Convincing Personal Statement For Grad School

Writing the Personal Statement

How to write a personal statement that catapults you on to your chosen course