Most of the people who apply to selective graduate schools have the numbers – the GPAs and test scores – needed to get in. Admissions committees look to the graduate school personal statements for the additional information they need to decide who should receive an admissions offer.
The particular requirements of the graduate school personal statements vary from one field to another. In general, this is the information that admissions committees are looking for:
– Who are you? Why do you want to study subject x at school y? Why should the admissions committee want you in their program?
– Can you write? Grad students have to be able to share information and express ideas in writing. Your writing doesn’t need to be Nobel Prize material, but it does need to be competent.
– Can you understand and follow directions? Did you write a personal statement that does what the application said it should do? Or did you attach a statement that was clearly written for a different program, or one that says what you want to say but ignores what the admissions committee wants to know?
– Can you set a goal and pursue it effectively? Did you select a clear topic or theme for your statement? Do you stay focused on that topic or theme? Are you in control of your train of thought, or is your train of thought in control of you?
– Are you personable? Do you sound like someone faculty and staff would enjoy having as a student and colleague?
See our Checklist and Tips pages for more pointers on writing your graduate school personal statements.
“Perhaps the most important thing applicants can do today to increase their admission chances is to add a lot of specificity to the ‘why?’ part of their personal statement. Applicants who could have gotten by five years ago with a weaker statement are now being rejected outright.” – Heather MacNeill, senior consultant with admissionsconsultants.com.