I’m applying for admission to a MA program and I have to write a 500 word essay explaining my objectives in applying for graduate study. OK, no problem there. I know what my objectives are. They also ask to include a brief personal statement. That is the bit that slightly stumps me. What sort of stuff should I be writing about for that part?
What’s the actual prompt for the personal statement?
All it says is:
Applicants must write and submit a 500-word essay explaining their objectives in applying for graduate study and including a brief personal statement.
No help here; I never had to do anything other than split my essays into one on my academic background and one on my research proposal. But that wording (which sounds very strange to me!) sounds kind of like the brief personal statement is included in the 500-word essay.
What kind of program is it? If it’s something applied/professional (though being an MA I assume it’s academic) maybe they want to hear about any relevant personal experience? I used to read a livejournal community for people applying to grad school and some of the posted statements made me very uncomfortable, but presumably many of those students got in and maybe the school does in fact want a statement about your deep personal love for continental philosophy and how it got you through a tough time in your life.
Just don’t begin with how you loved reading as a child, or how you used to pretend your Barbies were Foucault and Derrida. Just don’t.
Don’t overthink it. A personal statement is just a brief explanation of the experiences that have led you to want to go into whatever career your MA will get you. Then launch into why you want to go to THIS program and how it will enable you to achieve those goals.
I’m currently working on my masters, so this obviously worked for me, but I’m in a professional degree program. I think it would still be fairly applicable for an academic degree, though.
I’d focus on who you are and what makes you special for the personal statement. I mean, if your children are off to college and that’s what made you decide it was time to do something for yourself by going to grad school, say that. If you are an unemployed new college grad looking to improve your marketability by picking up a Master’s degree, say so.
Don’t be TOO self-deprecating–if you don’t think highly of yourself, why should anyone else? But don’t over think it, 500 words isn’t very long, and the prompt is vague. But talk about yourself and why you want this career, this degree and this program.
I definitely over thought mine. I had to write one for law school and I hired a professional writer to look it over. I think it helped because I got into every school where my LSAT and GPA was near their average.
You have to give them a reason to accept you while talking about why you want to go to graduate school. Writing something that isn’t boring will help.
Since I don’t know what king of graduate school you’re applying to, I can’t come up with specifics. But I found out that Law Schools like diversity, so I wrote about my home country and how it’s oppressive laws inspired me to become a lawyer.
I can’t imagine a grad school which didn’t like diversity–provided you don’t make yourself sound like such a special snowflake that you won’t fit in and won’t succeed.
Great advice guys. The program is in applied linguistics, and I’m hoping to teach ESL upon completion of my degree. I’ve had very limited experience actually working in the field (a couple volunteer jobs and one paid), so I’m trying to focus on the qualities I already have that will make me successful in this program and as a teacher. I find it so hard to right about myself.
Perhaps you should try to write about yourself instead.
(Seriously, have someone proofread your essay before you send it off. Even a strong, well-written essay can be sunk by typos.)
Haha. Yes, absolutely good advice. I’ll have a few people proofread it after I manage to crank out a first draft.
You know, you could always phone up the school and ask them what they’re looking for. A respectful inquiry about what exactly they are asking won’t lose you any points.
(“Hi, I’m applying for X program and had a quick question about the essay: it looks like you want a single 500 word essay that incorporates both objectives and personal background. Is that correct, or was the personal statement separate from the essay?”)
This is a little tidbit of advice I learned from phd apps but I think it applies to preprofessional degrees as well – The “personal” in “personal essay” also covers “personal interests”. So you can take the focus off yourself a little bit and write about the things that you’re excited to learn more about in the degree program. Maybe a trend or hot-topic in the profession, or something that you experienced as a volunteer that you would like to study in the classroom. Really anything that you could see yourself chatting about with faculty or an alum. The idea is to show that you are interested and informed in the field, because interested and informed students are more likely to be successful all else being equal. Obviously write about yourself too but this is a way to add more content if you feel it’s needed.
Anyhow, just some ideas in case you haven’t heard this already. I hate writing about myself too, I know how much these suck. And I agree with Quercus it’s it’s worth clarifying if it’s one essay or two.
You know, I’ve read hundred of grad school apps. Our app asks for a statement of objectives. In deciding yes/no never has this statement made the slightest difference to my recommendation. Although I read them, I was really only interested in marks in math courses and in professors’ recommendation. All the rest was useless verbiage.
If you’re also shooting for a teaching assistantship, you should slyly mention any teaching experience you have - even if it’s not formal - like having to train new employees.
Also, make some calls, pick some brains, and throw their key buzz words back at them in your essay. Be able to refer to some theory/ies in your field by name as well.
Well if your program needed applicants with good math scores, you probably were not interested in how well they could write.
A linguistics program might be different. They might look at the personal statement as writing sample.