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:
- Writing Your Personal Statement
- Personal Statement Critiques
STEP 1: Brainstorming
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- How has your work experience influenced your decision?
- Think about: Internships, externships, part-time jobs, summer jobs, and volunteer or community work.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Read the guidelines listed on this page.
- Incorporate your notes or responses to the above questions.
- Begin writing your first draft.
- 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.
- Accentuate your strengths and what makes you unique.
- Explain your weaknesses in a positive way. For example, refer to them not as weaknesses, but as areas for improvement or growth.
- 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.
- 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.
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Rutgers Application Essay - With A Free Essay Review
Going into my college search, diversity was definitely one of the top requirements on my checklist. Growing up in northern New Jersey, diversity has virtually surrounded me my entire life. However, being from Montville, a suburban town filled with middle-upper class, and mainly white, people, my high school is slightly void of diversity in the traditional sense: race, ethnicity, religion, etc. Luckily though, through various extracurriculars, I have gotten my share of variety, yet want nothing more than to get my fill from Rutgers.
I first came into my greatest contact with diversity in my sophomore year of high school. I was invited to the National Young Leaders Conference in Washington DC to learn about government and see the nations capitol with students from all over the country. Both excited and nervous, I stepped into my study group with kids from every state and Puerto Rico. Immediately after a quick icebreaker, leadership and teamwork activities went into full swing. Being the only New Jerseyan, I was anxious to find out how each person worked coming from their different backgrounds. But to my surprise, working with everyone was easier than I had anticipated. I quickly became comfortable with my new team members and gained my role as an ambassador for our debate. We worked on making mock trials, legislature, and ultimately toured the city together. By the end of our weeklong journey in DC, we all were able to open up and built lifelong friendships, as I still keep in touch with many of them today. NYLC taught me the importance of a variety of people and gained me first hand experience on a national level.
From experiences such as NYLC, I have learned the importance of diversity in any situation. From my volleyball team, to my DECA competition, this variety makes for greater learning opportunities. While working at a Public Relations firm in Manhattan this passed summer, I was surrounded by various people with different personalities and working skills. I now know, that being surrounded by diversity will help me to better cope with my responsibilities in the real world. Being an aspiring marketing major, I am setting myself up to be in a field where working with people and teamwork is essential. By choosing a diverse college experience, I know it will only prepare me to overcome challenges and form relationships not only in the work world, but also in life in general.
To me, adaptability, camaraderie, and the formation of relationships define what it means to be diverse. With the hopeful privilege of enrolling in Rutgers University, I know the benefits of its diverse community will be endless.
Your essay would be at least twice as good as it is if you just deleted the first paragraph, which, I'm sorry to say, is about as convincing as the tears of Glenn Beck. You treat diversity as though it were a commodity that Rutgers has up for sale and you really want to buy it. (Of course, many universities do parade their diversity as a commodity for sale, but that's beside the point). So completely revise the opening, or excise the whole thing and start with "I was once invited to the National Young Leaders Conference in Washington DC."
Here's the complete prompt: "Rutgers University is a vibrant community of people with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. How would you benefit from and contribute to such an environment? Consider variables such as your talents, travels, leadership activities, volunteer services, and cultural experiences."
This prompt asks you two specific questions: How will you benefit from Rutgers' vibrant community? How will you contribute to it? Your essay barely answers the first question, and ignores the second. Let me quote two of your sentences as examples:
"NYLC taught me the importance of a variety of people and gained me first hand experience on a national level. "
"From my volleyball team, to my DECA competition, this variety makes for greater learning opportunities."
In these sentences, you identify benefits of "diversity" and "variety," but only in general terms. What exactly did NYLC teach you about the importance of diversity? How did playing volleyball or being in the DECA competition teach you that "variety makes for greater learning opportunities"? What were these learning opportunities? How did you take advantage of them? What did you learn? I infer from the rest of the paragraph from which the second quotation is taken that you think being in a vibrant community will prepare you to cope with teamwork in the real world. That's really the thesis, so to speak, of your essay, so you might want to articulate it more clearly, and make it more obvious that that is your answer to the first question in the prompt. It doesn't have to be your only answer, but so far it appears to be, with the possible exception of your remark about forming relationships. It was unclear to me, however, how the fact of diversity itself helps you form relationships. You also have an implicit story going on in your second paragraph about how you were once anxious about being thrust into the middle of group with people from places that were not New Jersey, but you thrived. You don't really make it clear that you enjoyed meeting people from different places or learning about different places and so on. You probably also don't sufficiently emphasize the part of the story that might help you answer the second question in the prompt. So far, you don't answer that question at all. So, how will you contribute. There are two ways to answer that.
(1) You could claim to be culturally interesting.
Unfortunately, you're from New Jersey, so you're not really culturally interesting.
(2) You could claim to be experienced in the art of getting on with people from different backgrounds which you hope will allow you to contribute something or other when it comes to working on class projects or being involved in campus organizations.
Unfortunately, you don't have any such experience.
Fortunately, one of two sentences that begin with the word "unfortunately" is false. (Hint: It's the second one).
P.S., Before you organize a New Jersey-culture-loving Internet posse to wreak pitiless vengeance against peddlers of calumniatory reviews, let me just clarify that I meant that in coming from New Jersey you are only not culturally interesting to Rutgers. As proven by MTV, the rest of the world is all kinds of crazy about New Jersey.
P.P.S., What on earth is DECA?
Submitted by: lea221