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Writing a Personal Statement
Prepared by Graduate Student Grants Service, University of Massachusetts

The Process

  • Step One: make a "laundry list" of all relevant information
  • Step Two: draft a personal statement from your laundry list, though don't worry about incorporating every single bit of information
  • Step Three: get three people to review your statement. First, someone familiar with your personal information; second, a casual acquaintance; and third, a detail-oriented proof-reader.

Some Suggestions

  • Grab readers in the first paragraph
  • Give examples, not just adjectives (e.g., demonstrate what it meant for you to be "creative")
  • Avoid overused phrases (e.g., "I'm a people person", "I am interested in science")
  • Be personal; don't write in generalizations; and avoid statements written from a third person perspective
  • Avoid oversentimentality, but maintain a positive and upbeat tone
  • Don't make excuses for any weak areas: present your shortcomings as opportunities for growth

Common Patterns of Personal Statements
  • Narrative: tells a story related to your qualifications and experiences
  • Descriptive: relates information about your experience through sensory dimensions
  • Definition: shows how a personal or dictionary definition, synonim, simile, metaphor, comparison, or anecdote relates to your experience and qualifications
  • Example: demonstrates specific and typical instances of the qualifications and experience you are trying to communicate
  • Compare/Contrast or Cause/Effect: emphasizes a changed relationship in your experience, illustrates your awareness of what you've done and how you've been influenced

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