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Writing Your Personal Statement

To assist you in writing your personal statement for graduate school applications, University Career Services has prepared this three-step worksheet and guidelines. 

3 Basic Steps:

  1. Brainstorming
  2. Writing Your Personal Statement
  3. Personal Statement Critiques

STEP 1: Brainstorming

Actions: 

  • Devote some undisturbed time to reflecting on these key questions.
  • Also discuss them with friends or family members.
  • Jot down notes. In some cases write sentences.
  • Don't expect to have responses to every question or example.
  • Also think about the flip side of each question. For example, why are you really committed to the field of biology despite pressure from your parents to become a lawyer or to get a job? 
     

Your answers to the following questions will form the heart of your personal statement. 

  1. How did your pre-college education influence your decision to pursue graduate study in your field? 
    • Think about: High school courses, teachers, special programs, student organizations,and community or volunteer work.
  2. How has your Rutgers experience influenced your decision?  
    • Think about:  College courses, professors, academic interests, research, special programs, and student organizations. Think about the decision-making process you went through to choose your major.
  3. How has your work experience influenced your decision?
    • Think about: Internships, externships, part-time jobs, summer jobs, and volunteer or community work.
  4. What person or persons have had the most influence on your decision to pursue graduate study? In what ways?
    • Think about: Parents, relatives, teachers, professors, clergy, friends of the family, college friends, parents of friends, local merchants, supervisors, coaches, doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc. 
  5. What situation or situations have had the most influence on your decision? 
    • Think about: Family, academic, work or athletic situations. Think about happy, sad, traumatic, moving or memorable situations.
  6. What personally motivates you to pursue graduate study in this field?

Think about: Your personal skills, interests and values.

STEP 2: Writing Your Personal Statement 

Actions:

  • Read the guidelines listed on this page.
  • Incorporate your notes or responses to the above questions.
  • Begin writing your first draft.
     

Next Steps:

  1. Develop an outline of your statement prior to writing. It doesn't have to be a detailed outline. It can be three or four main points in the order you want to make them. 
  2. Accentuate your strengths and what makes you unique.
  3. Explain your weaknesses in a positive way. For example, refer to them not as weaknesses, but as areas for improvement or growth.
  4. Paint pictures and tell stories about what makes you special. In this way the admissions readers will remember you. The story can be happy or sad. The more feeling you can inject into your statement, the more you will stand out. 
  5. Find out the specific orientation and philosophy of the graduate program to which you are applying. Adapt and refine your statement to fit the program. This will make you stand out from other applicants who recycle the same personal statement with each application.

STEP 3: Personal Statement Critiques 
Schedule an appointment with a Career Services counselor to have your personal statement reviewed.