Questions to Ask Yourself When Writing a Personal Statement

In order to begin writing your personal statement – your story – you’ll need the answers to some basic questions. Pretend you have five minutes to speak with someone from an admissions committee. This person asks, “What’s most important for us to know about you?” You must make a case for your candidacy and hold the listener’s interest. Answering the following questions will facilitate this.

  • What’s special, unique, distinctive, or impressive about me or my life story? What details of my life might help the committee better understand me and help set me apart from other applicants?
  • When did I first become interested in this field and what have I since learned about it – and about myself – that has further stimulated my interest and reinforced my conviction that I am well suited to this field?
  • How have I learned about this field – through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
  • If work experiences have consumed significant periods of time during college, what have I learned, and how has the work contributed to my personal growth?
  • What are my career goals?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in my academic record that I should explain?
  • Have I had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships in my life?
  • What personal characteristics do I possess that would enhance my prospects for success in this field? How can I demonstrate or document that I have these characteristics?
  • What skills do I possess?
  • Why might I be a stronger candidate for graduate school – and more successful and effective in the field – than other applicants?
  • What are the most compelling reasons I can give for the admissions committee to be interested in me?

Source: “How to Write a Winning Personal Statement For Graduate and Professional School,” Richard Stelzer, Peterson’s, 1997.