write a mock personal statement, will not be used with any application  

Writing the Personal Statement

The personal statement is an important document in your application packet. Admissions
committees not only read them, they remember the memorable ones! A strong personal statement
can be make-or-break for your application process.

What is it? It’s a combination of things:

• It is a business document: you are selling yourself, and need to know how to do so

• It is an argument: you are showing the reader that they need and want you in their
program, but rather than convince with reasons, you are often arguing using narrative.

• It is an assignment, and your target audience is looking for you to show them that you
know how to give what is asked for.

Consider your audience. Beware of Web sites and other sources that simply tell you to “tell
your story.” Which story will you choose and for which purpose?

Medical and Law


Humanities MA

Humanities PhD


Want to know
you as a person

Want to know
your work as a
researcher and
your work ethic

Want to see that
you are
interested in
further study and
know your long-
term goals

Want to know
how you will
succeed both in
and beyond the

Want to know
you as a person

Remember that your resume tells them that you can do good undergraduate or graduate work.
Now they need to know that they are choosing a winner, one who can perform at a higher level
and will finish!

Five Standard Topics:

1. your motivation for your career
2. the influence of your family or early experiences
3. the influence of extracurricular, work, or volunteer experiences
4. your long-term goals
5. your personal philosophy

Activity One:

Below is a list of attributes that applicants to professional programs highlight in their personal
statements. On the right is a list of indications of the attribute. Read through the list and

• Check off those attributes you want to highlight.
• List possible stories you can tell about yourself, your family, your extracurricular

activities, your goals, or your personal philosophy that express these attributes.
• Write one paragraph of introduction to one of these stories.

Attribute Indications of this attribute
realistic self-assessment acknowledging limitations

• Think carefully about your reasons for wanting to go to your chosen program. If you

want to help people, for example, then why medicine instead of teaching, social work,

Prepare yourself to write several drafts and to show your drafts to several readers. Choose

• someone who understands and appreciates the purpose of your essay
• someone who will ask you to clarify any questions the essay raises
• someone who is not afraid to critique your essay and tell you if it has faults
• someone who is a great proofreader

As you can see, this might not all be the same person. The more people you

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