Developing Personal Statements

Monday, November 2, 2015

What-is-a-personal-statementCreating a Personal Statement is much like what Professor Maureen Moran of Brunel University describes as, “You develop the insight of an artist, the analytical precision of a scientist, and the persuasiveness of a lawyer.” It’s the dreaded piece of any graduate program application where you’re expected to be insightful about what you hope to contribute to a field of study, but be very explicit how you plan on doing it and why you should be the one to receive the opportunity to do it.

It can be overwhelming and daunting even, knowing that even with your grades, resume, testing scores, and letters of recommendation, your Personal Statement will be the “make it or break it” piece. So much of your future rests on how the Personal Statement will be received.

Personally, I know that writing my Personal Statement was a process where I doubted myself over and over, plagued by questions such as: Do I start off with a quote? No, that’s too cheesy. PersonalstatementHow many times can I use the word “passion”? Oh gees, also cheesy! How much of my personal background is relevant? Should I elaborate on certain accomplishments that I’ve listed in my resume? How do I highlight myself without bragging or lionizing myself? Am I good enough to do this? Am I even doing this right?!

But have no fear! Here are some tips from someone who went through the whole anxious process to help you get started:

  1. Start early. Good writing is just re-writing. Allow yourself time to have evolving ideas about what you want to accomplish through your discipline, research, and short/long term goals during/after the program.
  2. Network. Ask current doctoral students in the program you’re applying to give you feedback on your personal statement and don’t be shy about politely asking them for a copy of their own personal statement. We’ve all been through it! We get it. Also, ask your professors who are helping with the letters of rec. to also give you feedback on your statement.
  3. Do your research. Different institutions have their own style, beliefs, and focuses. Research what those are and you must tailor each personal statement to align with them. The whole point is to let them know how you “fit” with their program and vice versa.
  4. Attend workshops. Some universities will have events and workshops for prospective students who are interested in applying. Go to those. They help with giving you some background and details on what is expected for the content and formatting. Lastly, there is a workshop you can attend here at UPENN! Register at to attend this Friday, Nov 6th from 12-1pm at GSE Room 200.

Statement of Purpose

Staff Writer: Victoria Rodriguez