Wednesday, 17 January 2018

How to Write a Personal Statement for Your Thesis

Graduate schools, fellowships, grants, and other competitive programs often require each applicant to submit a short essay about her history and goals. These essays are sometimes written in response to very specific questions. They’re written in response to a generic prompt. In both cases, the good personal statement carefully balances its author’s history and aspirations. The personal statement is a chance to communicate to your reviewers’ information about your interests, skills, experiences and goals that is not readily apparent from your resume and transcript.

Start by examining the prompt. Applicants are asked very specific questions about why they are applying to a particular program and what, specifically, qualifies them to be part of that program. Think about the question you’ve been asked. Decide how your experience is different, interesting, or special. Personal statements succeed when they are specific. Research the program. The program you’re applying to is also unique in some ways, and you should make it clear that you chose it carefully from among its competitors. Think about how your goals will best be served by this particular fellowship, internship, or university. Again, be specific. Make your goals clear. Just as your past is interesting and specific, so is your future.

Once you’ve thought about your history and your goals, start writing. It’s often very tempting to put this off. Writing a personal statement is stressful. But it’s important to start writing as soon as possible especially because you’ll be revising again and again. Show how your personal history relates to your goals, and how you’re a good fit for this particular program. If your first attempt looks halting and a little half-baked don’t worry. The first draft is supposed to look this way.Once you feel the personal statement says what you want it to say, show it to somebody. The Writing Center can be useful here. It might also be useful to get feedback from a professional in your field. Many personal statement conventions are discipline-specific.

Things to Include in Personal Statement:

Origins of your interest in a particular field: This could be a book you read, lecture you attended, or experience you had said. It can also be hiking with your family in the summers as the source of your interest in forest ecosystems. Ways in which you have developed your interest: Additional reading, experiments, internships, coursework, dissertation writing, summer jobs, science fairs, travel experiences, writing projects, etc. Special skills you have developed relevant to the planned research.

This could be general knowledge of a field acquired through reading and study or special practical skills. Knowledge or skills that you hope to acquire through participation in this research opportunity. Future plans and goals character traits, talents, or extra-curricular activities outside the field that help to qualify you. If you are particularly tenacious about overcoming obstacles, creative at problem-solving. Adaptable to unfamiliar circumstances, or just great at organizing teams of people. These qualities can be mentioned as relevant to the research experience.
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