Your personal statement for graduate school should be written in a very different way than your college application essay.
The differences between both are the following:
- Your personal statement is more subtle and reveals more specified information about yourself.
- In contrast with the college application essay, now you should avoid autobiographical references as far as they are not directly related to your field of interests.
- The personal statement for graduate school should demonstrate your academic skills – research, teaching skills, everything which is required for future work at a given college.
- Life experiences also influence the way in which both are written. Now you are more mature and more experienced.
However, likewise the essay which has been part of your college application, personal statement for graduate school should be convincing and well-organized. Your preparation should start at least one year before graduating in order to have more time to talk over your interests and academic abilities with a professional in the field (from your college or from another institution). If you are applying to a master program or a PhD program at your college, then you have to stay in touch with one or more of your current lecturers. If they see the appropriate qualities in you, then they will give you advice on what to work and how to apply.
How to write personal statement for graduate school – key tips
Choose a topic
The topic seems to be not that necessary for master degrees, but absolutely important for enrolment in PhD programs. You should know what you are going to research henceforth. Your research has to be original; that means, not to repeat the efforts and research of other scientists or academics. Even for master programs you will need to work on a specific diploma thesis. The earliest you choose your topic, the more time you will have to work on it. Remember: it may be required from the applicant to demonstrate knowledge in the chosen field, so read more and prepare yourself.
This is what will make you stand out. Have you participated in conferences (respectively international ones)? Have you studied abroad? Do you have teaching experience at college level? Have you written academic articles (don’t list them word by word, only mention their titles), or even books? Have you translated articles of books? In natural sciences, it is also important to demonstrate your laboratory work – under whose supervision have you worked? What was the goal of your research, and what were its results? Do you have international academic contacts? These are important questions you should answer for yourself.
Now you should explain more about your career plans. What are your career goals and plans? Who should be your academic supervisor? What are you going to work on and in what way? Especially if you apply to a PhD program, you have to explain the activities which you will organize – seminars, conferences, research, international projects, articles, books, etc. Try to pay attention to the details – give examples for the topic of the conference, or the topic, goals, and methods of your research, or how you will find funding for it, and so forth.
The application for a graduate school is a serious challenge. Be careful with defining your goals and interests, as well as with your grammar and spelling. Ask some of your friends that are enrolled in master or PhD programs to proofread your paper and then revise it accordingly. Don’t borrow ideas or phrases from someone else, but rather express your personal attitude. Your personal statement has to be authentic and convincing.