Personal Statements - Student Development Services

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Personal Statements - Student Development Services

Beyond Your Degree:Personal StatementsStudent Development ServicesWriting Support CentreUCC 210www.sds.uwo.ca/writing1


OutlinePurposeContentStyleThis presentation will look at the purpose, content and style of personal statements for graduate school and professional school applications.2


Personal StatementPurpose:Companion to your resume/CV/applicationHow do you stand out?How well do you write/think?Weed out the weakPersonal statements are reflective essays meant to complement a resume, CV or application. Reviewers are interested in learning about you as a person. Part of the process is evaluating yourcommunication skills, and in some ways it serves as a way to weed out the weak.3


ContentEmphasis on “Personal” statementDon’t write what you think they want to hearPick your best qualities and write a well-developedstatementComplement, don’t repeat, your application packageWhen writing a personal statement, don’t forget that the title contains the word ‘personal.’ You should not write what you think they want to hear. You should write about your best qualities.4


ContentRead the instructionsEmphasis differs among schools and disciplinesProfessional Schools:You as a personGraduate Schools:You as a scholarThe most important aspect of writing a personal statement is to read the instructions. The instructions usually indicate very clear and explicit expectations. Failing to follow these instructions can result inhaving your application immediately rejected. If the application asks for an anecdote showing leadership, you should not focus on your communication skills.5Depending on the type of position you are applying for, the reviewers will be looking for different things. Professional schools feel that they will be giving you most of the education you need to succeed inthere chosen field, so they are looking more for personal qualities that will ensure that you are an appropriate candidate. Graduate schools prefer to see how your past experiences have prepared you as ascholar.


ContentOften, you answer specific questionsAs few as 1, as many as 7Be as specific as possibleDon’t be shyBe honestIn many cases, the application will ask you to answer specific questions. In these cases, try to be as specific as possible. It may be hard to talk about yourself, but you should not be shy. This is youropportunity to personalize your application. Above all else, you should be honest. Little white lies have a way of catching up to you, so make sure that you can stand behind any statements you make.6


Coming up with ContentSerious soul-searchingTalk to your friends and familyComing up with the content may be the hardest part. Before sitting down to write, you will need to do some serious soul-searching. If you are having trouble, ask your friends and family. They should haveno trouble coming up with personality traits and anecdotes that address the application’s concerns.7


Content to IncludeThe 1 or 2 aspects that you would like to showcaseHow you would fit into the school/programYou should try and focus on developing only a few aspects, rather than rhyming off a list of character traits. The reviewers would like to know how you would fit into the school or program, so doing a littleresearch and mentioning the specifics of the program will go a long way towards convincing the committee.8


Content to AvoidControversial subjects (religion, politics)Praising the schoolOutdated informationYou should definitely avoid controversial subjects. Praising the school too much will only make the reviewers cringe. They know they work at a good facility and by all accounts, these kind of complimentsdo little to help your application.9


Presenting the ContentNot what you say, but how you say itNot a resume in paragraph formPick a few examples and give detailsShow, don’t tellA personal statement is not a resume in paragraph form. It is best to show characteristics with examples, details and anecdotes rather than just telling them you have these traits.10


StyleMulti-paragraph essayParagraph OrganizationSentence StructureMost personal statements are multi-paragraph essays. It is important that you use effective paragraph organization and appropriate sentence structure.11


Multi-Paragraph EssayParagraph Organization:Intro-Body-ConclusionRoughly 10-80-10% word distributionMulti-paragraph essays have a distinctive introduction, body, conclusion structure. In general, the introduction and conclusion will be quite short, but in many cases, these are the most importantcomponents of your essay.12


Thesis StatementDirectly answer the question / introduce what youwill be writing aboutThe most important part of an essayThesis = ArgumentMore than just the topicMore than just your positionThe thesis statement is found in the introduction and it specifically addresses what your essay will be about. Here is your opportunity to directly answer the question you have been asked, or if there is noquestion, you can detail exactly what you want to say with your essay. Everything else in the essay is just support for the the thesis statement.13


Thesis ExampleBAD: I feel I am a good candidate for your graduateprogram.BETTER: My wealth of academic experience hasprepared me for your graduate program.In the first example, the statement is quite vague. The reader has no idea what kind of evidence the candidate will be using to back up this statement. In the second example, we can see that the essay willfocus on the candidate’s academic experience.14


IntroductionTwo options:Thesis statement aloneMotivator-ThesisYou have a choice when deciding on the structure of your introduction. You can either just launch into your thesis statement, or you can preface it with a sentence or two (called the motivator).15


Motivator-ThesisTake a few sentences to lead up to your thesisUse an anecdote, quotation (short), preamble thatleads to your thesisYou have many options for the motivator, but there should be a logical link between what you write as your motivator and what your thesis is.16


Thesis Statement AlonePros:Get right to the pointSave spaceCons:Can seem abruptThe choice you make may be based on space requirements and personalpreference.17


Motivator-ThesisPros:Start out on a personal noteEase the reader into your essayCons:Takes up spaceNot always appropriate18


BodyAll content should come back to the thesisFollow a logical order (A-B, B-C, C-D)Cover one topic per paragraphExplain everythingWhile the body will make up most of the space in a text, all of its content should come back to the thesis from the introduction. Covering only one topic per paragraph will keep your writing focused. It ismuch better to cover less material well, than to try and overwhelm the reader with a lot of poorly developed information.19


ConclusionSpecificRevisit your thesisExtend beyond your topicMaybe a new pointGeneralYour conclusion is your opportunity to revisit your thesis and the arguments you used to support it. You should start out specifically addressing these aspects, but then you should open things up a little bit.20


Sentence StructureShort sentencesMix up the structureSimple, compound and complex sentencesAvoid ‘I-itis’While it may be tempting to show off your compound-complex sentence writing skills, short crisp sentences are the most effective way to keep a reader’s attention. You will want to mix up things a little bitwith some longer sentences, but for the most part, the shorter the better. One major complaint that reviewers have of personal statements is that they devolve into sentences that start with the word ‘I’.Try to mix things up by using dependent clauses at the beginning of sentences, and developing other ways to discuss what you have done without using that short little word.21


ResourcesPurdue Online Writing Labowl.english.purdue.eduHow to Write a Winning Personal Statementby Richard Stelzer22


Examples23

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