Applying to Grad School – Jump Starting your Personal Statement

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Personal statements are the absolute WORST! Be it for college or grad school applications, it can be extremely tricky to sell yourself in however many pages schools allot nowadays. It is especially hard for grad schools because you need to somehow summarize all those fancy qualifications you have while making it a bit more interesting than a simple reading of your resume. Ugh. It kind of just makes you want to put them off and procrastinate for as long as possible, huh?

NO! STAHP! DON’T DO IT! DON’T SUCCUMB TO THE NEED TO PROCRASTINATE!

Phew! You still with me here?

Trust me, procrastinating is the last thing you want to do! In fact, having your personal statement done early enough to get a couple of proofreads in can make a world of difference! But how can you get the motivation to even start it?  Hmmm…

Well, here’s some tips and tricks for getting a jump start on writing your personal statement! As the title suggests, I warn that this advice is directed towards grad school applications, but some of the tips are applicable to undergrad applications as well! So behold, personal statement tips (specifically for grad school applications)!

1. Start Early

Okay, okay. I said that I would list of other tips as well, but I kind of feel the need to drill this into everyone and anyone that will listen. Personal statements are your one and only chance to make the admissions office realize that you’re the one the school NEEDS. The one that will bring in all the funding! The one that may one day donate millions to the school because the alumni associations are like money vampires! Er, I digress.

Therefore, start early! And I don’t just mean with writing. Start early in looking up those prompts, fixing up your resume, outlining all the qualifications you want to include and bonus points for name dropping specific professors you want to work with at your university of choice.

Personal statements get much easier to write if you have everything already laid out in front of you.

2. Lists

Make lists! Make lists of the prompts for each school/department. Make a list of your past research/experiences. Make lists of any rewards or scholarships you’ve gotten. Make lists of your relevant future goals. Make lists of why you want to waste spend the next 5+ years in grad school (or 4 years in undergrad). Make a list of every single criteria these prompts require you to mention in your personal statement!

As I said before, personal statements are sooo much easier if you already have the material in front of you, because then the only hard part is to put it in narrative form. Not to mention, making lists is a sure way to make sure you’re not leaving a vital piece of information out of your statement.

3. Schedules

Make a writing schedule! Procrastination can set in all too easily with personal statements. Sometimes, even with the best intentions, you’ll find yourself going weeks without even opening the document. Therefore, I suggest putting aside a set amount of time every day or every couple of days to write down at least a sentence! I feel that this can serve as motivation and help you feel like you made progress, no matter the amount!

I personally used Google Calendar when I had to write my statements. I made sure that every day I had an hour allotted to write something in my statement. I also set weekly goals such as “Get X amount of words” or “Edit research experience section.” This helped tremendously, and I found myself making progress much faster than I probably would have otherwise.

4. Writing Sessions with Friends

Have writing sessions with some of your friends that are also writing their own personal statements! Now, I didn’t do this for my grad school apps, but I did do this with personal statements that were required for some fellowships. Oh my gosh! If I knew it would be that helpful, I would have done this years ago! Not only did this give me a place to complain and whine and bitch about all my life decisions up until that point, but it also let me get different opinions on how to improve my statement and make it more interesting!

Not to mention this is also a good way to 1) con people into proofreading your personal statement a million times and 2) con people into letting you read their statements so you can steal borrow some aspects of their writing that you really like.


Welp, I think that about covers it! Hope that this helps you guys start the hard task of writing your personal statement! Let me know if you want more tips about this or anything else application related! Good luck! ❤

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