How-To Guide: Personal Statement for Graduate Application in the Biosciences
                                                               By: Jimmy Budiardjo
A personal statement is an integral part of the application process into graduate school. Whether it is in the field of Medicine, Science, English, or any other field, most graduate programs require that the applicant compose a personal statement. In conjunction with a resume, curriculum vitae, and letters of recommendation, a graduate school admissions committee will assess the applicant’s qualifications for a program based on the personal statement. What makes the personal statement different from the other parts of the application is that it is the only part of the application that will be able to convey a level of personality. An admissions committee will see a lot of applications and accept a small number of people. It is a chance for applicants to sell themselves to the admissions committee and set themselves apart from other applicants. A personal statement is a formulation of one’s goals, experiences, accomplishments, and motivations. 

State Your Movitavion: In the first paragraph, one should state their root motivation for seeking a graduate degree in the field. You can start by asking yourself a few questions: Why do you have this passion? Why do you want to explore this field?
o      Tip: Find an angle in which you can hook the reader’s attention. The opening paragraph is the most important since it sets the framework for the rest of the paper. An effective strategy is to use a personal story or quote. For example, if your research interests lie within genetic diseases, you can talk about an experience you have had with a person afflicted with a genetic disorder.

Tell Your Story: The body of the paper is a place where the admissions committee learns about you. Building up your credibility as an applicant is of the upmost importance. Go through your experience as an undergraduate and list your credentials
    o   Research experience – be specific with the project, overall goal, techniques used, data obtained, what was accomplished
    o   Scholarships/Research Grants
    o   Extracurricular activities/Student Groups
                ·         Analyze yourself as a student and scientist (ex. Strengths)
                ·         Reflect on your experience and state what you have learned/how you have grown from it.
    o   Some questions to think about: What sets you apart from other applicants? Have you experienced any
                    hardships or obstacles that have helped you mature as a person?

End with Statement of Goals:
      o   Restate goals
          o Do background research on specific people you would like to work with and why their research is important.
       o State why your goals fit in best with them.
       o State why you decided to apply to this school. What sets them apart from other programs? Why is what they have to offer better than other schools?

Adopt a Professional Tone:
        o     Since personal statements are academic essays that are highly critiqued by the reader, it should have a professional, academic tone. Generally, flowery poetic language is not used. You must find a balance between being clear and concise and including enough to give the reader an idea of who you are.

        o Make sure that you understand all of the guidelines and requirements of the schools you are applying to. Although most will have a similar format, they will differ slightly. (Length requirements, number of reference letters etc.) Guidelines and requirements will be clearly stated on the application website of the university.
         o      Be sincere! I interviewed a member of a graduate admissions committee at a local university and he stated that being sincere is very important. He said that he could tell when a person was not genuine with their motivations and was just stating things that they thought the admissions board would like to hear. By sticking true to you and your passions, there is no way you can sound fake or cliche.

Sample Personal Statements:

  *Click on the link below to download an analysis of the genre of personal statements.*

File Size: 35 kb
File Type: doc
Download File