Personal Statements 101

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1 Personal Statements 101 EXAZEVIA LOGAN, Ph.D. ASSISTANT PROFESSOR WINSTON-SALEM STATE UNIVERSITY

2 Personal Statement Rules to Live By Rule #1 Stop calling it a personal statement No one really wants to know you that personally Letter of intent Rule #2 Don t wait until a week before the due date to begin Rule #3 Know your strengths and limitations

3 Exercise 1: Describe Yourself in Five Words

4 Words to Avoid Outstanding Exceptional Excellent Organized Good communicator Creative Honest Dedicated Innovative Team player Extensive experience Hardworking Experienced Loyal Dependable Smart

5 Words to Use Adaptive Analytical Consistent Constructive Diplomatic Disciplined Enthusiastic Logical Mature Optimistic Practical Self-reliant Sincere Sophisticated Tactful

6 My Five Words: Resourceful Principled Optimistic Disciplined Demanding

7 List three weaknesses you would like to change about yourself EXERCISE 2:

8 What is the Purpose of the Letter of Intent? Big Four Questions: Who are you as a person What are you passionate about How will you fit into our community What makes you unique

9 Top Five Biggest Mistakes Overstating academic accomplishments (Déjà vu) Don t be repetitive in the essay Trying too hard to appear intellectual Thesaurus is not your friend Plethora or myriad Group versus mob Trying too hard to be creative Keep it simple! You aren t as deep as you think you are Taking the generic approach I m hardworking, ambitious and driven My Grandfather s death made me want to be a doctor I want to make a difference in the word Not understanding the true point of the letter You are unique Speak to what makes you special

10 The Blueprint Find the perfect topic Grab attention from the beginning Keep the reader engaged Edit, edit, edit

11 Letter of Intent Basics: Do Talk about specific instances that reflect your journey Tailor your statement to the school Do your research (3 months) Tell them exactly what interests you about the school Faculty Research Research facilities Don t Be Cliché Overuse jargon

12 Major Themes for Letter of Intent Personal story that is central to their identity Incident or time when you experienced failure A time when you challenged a belief Environment where you are perfectly content An event or accomplishment that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, family or education

13 Crafting the letter Do Clearly state your aha moment Don t leave this to the reviewer Tell short stories that directly relate to the program Make a list of past jobs, skills, hobbies, impactful moments and people Solicit suggestions from friends and family Write non-stop for 10 minutes Don t Be boring Use the words to be Plagiarize Forget to use find/replace

14 The Opening Statement: There is no salutation necessary. You ve already demonstrated that the letter is for the attention of the selection committee. Don t: My name is Shaniqua Johnson and I would like to apply for your graduate program in neurobiology at the University of Phoenix.. Let the committee know right away what you are applying for, and briefly what you are currently studying. You can expand later. I am applying to your graduate program in Biological Sciences for the fall of For the last 5 years I have immersed myself in biology as a student, administrator, and laboratory manager. I am currently in the process of completing my BS in Biology at Winston-Salem State University..

15 Opening Statement Samples I am honored to apply for the Master of Library Science program at the University of Okoboji because as long as I can remember I have had a love affair with books. Since I was eleven I have known I wanted to be a librarian. When I was eleven, my great-aunt Gretchen passed away and left me something that changed my life: a library of about five thousand books. Some of my best days were spent arranging and reading her books. Since then, I have wanted to be a librarian.

16 Recommended Organization Passionate hook Pivot to your background in the field Specific classes by title Related extracurricular activities Publications or other professional accomplishments in the field (conference presentations) Explanations about problems in your background (if needed) Why you have chosen this grad school

17 Check & Double-Check Check and double-check your grammar and punctuation Check for typos Do not use colloquial expressions Avoid contractions (don t, can t, isn t) Avoid controversial subjects and strong opinions Proof read Avoid stretching the truth Do not exceed the word limit Be candid and self-confident, rather than negative about yourself

18 Sample 1: Terrible A career in public health laboratory science is exciting, interesting and very intriguing; public health laboratory scientists conduct research on problems dealing with people s health on a daily basis. They figure out how a health problem occurs and what can be done in order to treat that particular health problem. I want to pursue a career in public health, so that I will be able to observe different health problems and determine what can be done in order to stop an epidemic. When I was in the tenth grade, my grandmother died from breast cancer. I observed her throughout that entire period, which drastically affected me and I know how I felt when she finally died. Since I was affected with breast cancer, I want to help solve problems with breast cancer in my community, so that less people will be affected by this disease.

19 Sample 2: Terrible I am interested in Illinois State University. I was glad to read that you like me know that student motivation and academic preparation are not fully revealed by a student s college transcript or by standardized tests. College bored me and was not challenging. It is no longer an institution which can provide an education sufficient to meet the challenges of the modern economic situation. A college degree is no longer a document which alone will allow an individual to attain a job which will support a family. Also, the GRE is no longer a test which divides those who have studied and have made the effort to achieve, from those who bumble through school. At the point books were published on how to pass the GRE, it simply became another test which doesn t prove anything definitely. Because of my viewpoint on college and the GRE I did not exert myself on either. I was reserving myself for graduate school. Graduate school is the difference which makes the difference. Of two people applying for the same job, similar in everyway except for the fact that one is the holder of an advanced degree and the other is not, the degree holder is far more likely to get the job. Further, graduate school is where I will learn the knowledge and skills I will use in the workforce of my generation. I am exciting to be moving into this phase of my life, and look forward to attending Illinois State University in the fall.

20 Sample 3: Art has always been my passion, and has played a major role in my life. As a child my parents encourages us to express ourselves artistically. They would lay out a large canvass for us and allow my brother and me to color in every nook and cranny. My parents still have one of my early works framed and hanging in their hallway! As I grew older, I became interested in comics, and eventually began creating and sketching my own super heroes. I was only encouraged when I decided to pursuit Art and Animation as a career choice.

21 Respond to Specific Questions: Hit them with your best shot first Place the best points at the beginning of your letter Demonstrate that you have thought through and planned out your future This demonstrates both foresight and maturity Be clear about why you want to attend the school you want to Be clear about why you wish to take the specific course you are applying for

22 The Application in a Nutshell Part 1: Introduce yourself, your interests and motivations Part 2: Summarize your undergraduate and previous graduate career Part 3: Discuss the relevance of your recent and current activities Part 4: Elaborate on your academic interests

23 Part 1: Introduce yourself, your interests and motivations Tell them what you re interested in, and perhaps, what sparked your desire for graduate study. This should be short and to the point; don t spend a great deal of time on autobiography.

24 Part 2: Summarize your undergraduate and previous graduate career Research you conducted. Indicate with whom, the title of the project, what your responsibilities were, and the outcome. Write technically, professors are the people who read these statements. Important paper or thesis project you completed, as well as anything scholarly beyond your curricular requirements. Work experience, especially if you had any kind of responsibility for testing, designing, researching or interning in an area similar to what you wish to study in graduate school.

25 Part 3: Discuss the relevance of your recent and current activities If you graduated and worked prior to returning to grad school, indicate what you ve been doing: company or non-profit, your work/design team, responsibilities, what you learned. indicate here how this helped you focus your graduate studies.

26 Part 4: Elaborate on your academic interests Indicate what you would like to study in graduate school in enough detail to convince the faculty that you understand the scope of research in their discipline, and are engaged with current research themes. Indicate the area of your interests. Ideally, pose a question, define a problem, or indicate a theme that you would like to address, and questions that arise from contemporary research. Look on the web for information about departments you re interested in, including professors and their research. Are there professors whose research interests parallel yours? If so, indicate this. End your statement in a positive manner, indicating your excitement and readiness for the challenges ahead of you.

27 Essential Tips 1. What the admissions committee will read between the lines: self-motivation, competence, potential as a graduate student. 2. Emphasize everything from a positive perspective and write in an active, not a passive voice. 3. Demonstrate everything by example; don t say directly that you re a persistent person, show it. 4. If there is something important that happened to you that affected your grades, such as poverty, illness, or excessive work, state it. Write it affirmatively, showing your perseverance despite obstacles. 5. Make sure everything is linked with continuity and focus. 6. Unless the specific program says otherwise, be concise; an ideal essay should say everything it needs to with brevity. Approximately 500 to 1000 well-selected words (1-2 single space pages in 12 point font)

28 Exazevia Logan, Ph.D. Dr. Logan s Research concentration is the Neural control of blood pressure with a concentration in molecular mechanism responsible for the development and maintenance of hypertension. He is the course coordinator for the MARC/RISE student centered programs and a principal investigator/mentor for the Biomedical Research Infrastructure Center.

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