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How to Write Your Personal Statement for Graduate School

Your winning personality is worth more than 600 words on a sheet of white paper. Admissions offices also know this, but they will need to be convinced that there’s more to you than meets the eye. While you can easily fill a graduate school application with all of your past experience, including volunteer and work experience, your personal statement gives you the chance to express your personality outside of your achievements, which is something that both employers and college admissions offices are looking for.

If you’re considering pursuing a campus-based or online master’s degree and don’t quite know where to begin with the personal statement portion of your application, here are a few pointers that may result in a glowing essay and perhaps even an acceptance letter:

Do it now
If your graduate school application is due in a few months, write your personal statement now. Even if you’re not tconsidering going back to college until next year, you should start thinking about what your personal statement will say, especially if you’re currently doing work that’s related to the field you wish to study. The more time you give yourself to write the essay, the more time you’ll have to rewrite, edit and brush it up with personal anecdotes and quibs that admissions offices are hungry for.

Keep in mind that admissions officials have to read through hundreds, if not thousands, of essays during the course of their review, so your personal statement needs to have pizazz.

Be true to yourself
Leave your self-promotion for the fill-in-the-blank application. There’s plenty of room for you to list your past experiences in other parts of your admissions package. Your personal essay gives you the opportunity to show the admissions officials a side of you that doesn’t come out in the rest of your application.

Additionally, you should avoid coming off as too enamored of the college you’re applying to. While it’s important to discuss why you’ve chosen a particular institution in the first place, coming off as too enthusiastic might turn off some admissions officials.

Above all else, just be yourself. Your essay should reflect who you are as both a student and person, so admissions officials can get a sense of your values, intelligence and motivation aside from what’s listed on your resume.

Tell a story
You don’t have to write a Pulitzer-worthy personal statement to grab the attention of your college, but your essay should have a literary flow to it. Professors often recommend starting a graduate admissions piece with a brief story from your life that acts as an example of who you are and what you’re most passionate about.

If you’re applying to a school to earn an online Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, try to remember a time when you were faced with a difficult task at work or at home and you had to bring all of your problem-solving skills to the forefront of your decision making. The same goes for any degree program: Find an anecdote that will paint a picture of how you are as a worker and a student.

Get to the point
Your personal statement should never go beyond a page. Admissions officials simply don’t have time to read lengthy essays, and while you certainly have dozens of related experiences to relay to your ideal college, narrow your focus down to one or two. In the same vein, your essay should be as concise as possible. You can leaf through Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style,” which is the absolute authority on how to write well while avoiding excessive wordiness. Leave out phrases like “in order to” (“to” suffices in most cases) and “needless to say” (if it’s needless to say, why say it?) so your personal statement reads smoothly.

Be specific
If you’re applying to a campus-based or online MBA program, chances are you already know what you want for a career. Instead of beating around the bush in your personal essay, be specific about which field you want to focus on, whether it’s marketing and finance or entrepreneurship. You could even narrow your focus down even more depending on your experience. By showing admissions officials that you’re career-minded and determined to succeed in a particular area, they could be more likely to accept you because you will eventually be a leader in the school and after you graduate.

Have fun with it
After working on your essay for a few weeks, you should let it sit and stew for at least a few days. During this time, you can clear your mind and come back to it with a fresh take. There’s no reason to stress over the essay – especially if you start well in advance. If you’re not going through the process with a positive vibe, then your personal statement might reflect your negativity. Instead, have fun with the writing. Employ the advice of friends and family, who may see a different side of you that you might not have noticed.