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Writing personalstatements

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  • 1. Writing Personal Statements: Strategies for Success The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Career Services Center 336 – 334 – 5454
  • 2. What is a Personal Statement? • Narrative that describes your past experiences and future goals • Gives the Admissions Committee a way to get to know you, your experiences, and your ambitions • Provides you with an avenue to explain why you want to be a doctor, veterinarian, lawyer, dentist, etc. You can also use this to describe “how” and “if” • A way for you to speak on your own behalf
  • 3. The Admissions Committee: Use the Personal Statement to… – Gain better insight concerning your past, achievements, and career ambitions – Weed out candidates (especially if there is a large number of applicants) – Gives them something to think about, before you come to campus for your admissions interview and when you leave campus after your admissions interview – Serves as a talking point, during the interview
  • 4. No Candidate is Perfect… • Most candidates have at least one weak spot (GPA, test scores, experiential learning, etc.) • A strong essay can provide you with an extra boost, during the admissions process
  • 5. What do they want? • Some institutions provide you with specific questions to answer • Some institutions provide you with a general, open prompt • Some institutions do not provide you with any prompt at all…except “Write!”
  • 6. Example Prompts University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) “Please state your purpose in applying for graduate study, your particular areas of specialization within the major (field of interest), your plans for future occupation or profession, and any additional information that may aid the selection committee in evaluating your preparation and aptitude for graduate study at UCLA”
  • 7. Example Prompts Carnegie Mellon University – School of Engineering “Type or print a two-page concise statement that includes the following information: – A brief statement of your educational research interests – An outline of your research experience and a list of any publications – A description of your background in engineering or allied field that is particularly relevant to your objective – include any relevant industrial or work experience and any academic honors”
  • 8. Example Prompts: “Tell us anything that we need to know about you”
  • 9. Personal History Academic History Persuasive Why am I Unique? Relevant Work Experience Why this Program? Future Ambitions Blemishes/ Deficiencies How do I Organize my Essay?
  • 10. Your Goal • The Admissions Committee should read your essay and have this reaction…
  • 11. Things to Consider: Are you Persuasive? – Avoid writing a biography or an expository resume – Focus on relevant experiences and clearly articulate events What makes you Unique? – Tailor your response – Avoid generic answers (evading questions)
  • 12. Things to Consider: Make it Personal: – Be honest and distinctive – Avoid being dull – Don’t try to evade real/suggested issues Personal History: – Interesting stories – “Moment of Clarity/Truth” – Any circumstances/obstacles that you overcame, in order to reach your personal and professional goals
  • 13. Things to Consider: Academic History: – Specific areas of research – Special projects – Study abroad – Special presentations/conferences Knowledge of the Field: – Use industry-specific jargon – Let the reader know that you understand the “ins and outs” of the particular field or area of interest
  • 14. Things to Consider: (Relevant) Work Life: – Internships – Fellowships – Special Volunteer Opportunities – Part-Time Full-Time Jobs Short and Long-Term Career Goals: – Expectation vs. Reality – How can that program help you reach your goals
  • 15. Things to Consider Why that Particular School? – Specific courses – Faculty research interests – Particular clinics, internship opportunities, fellowships, research opportunities from that program – What is special about that particular school? – What is special about its location?
  • 16. Things to Remember • Show, don’t tell! • Stress unique materials/experiences • Concentrate (don’t ramble) • Be cautious of just listing lots of extracurricular activities, work experiences, and classes. Prioritize. • Ask yourself – Is this information relevant?
  • 17. Explaining Deficiencies • Low test scores or GPA • Criminal record • Disciplinary action • Gaps in work/education • Why you are applying again Turn the negative into a positive by focusing on a “moment of change or truth,” a learning experience, or a recent class project/assignment Attach an addendum, if you have several blemishes or deficiencies to address
  • 18. Time to Write…. • Before you write, decide on the layout/flow of the essay • Unite the essay – Stay on track • Use concrete examples to articulate your (relevant) experiences • Avoid simply listing tons of experiences • Avoid cliché openings/closings • Don’t try to impress the reader with “fancy” vocabulary • Be positive, when it comes to your word choices/diction • Don’t tell them (the reader) what they already know • Make it memorable (“Wow” factor) • Don’t be overly funny or emotional
  • 19. Organizing Your Personal Statement • Introduction (Story) • Academic History • Relevant Experience Outside of the Classroom • Uniqueness • Institution • Short/Long-Term Goals
  • 20. Writing Tips • Have someone else read and critique the statement (a Career Counselor, the Writing Center, a Professor, etc.) • Don’t wait until the last minute • Write it, sleep on it, and then come back to it in a couple of days
  • 21. Common Mistakes • Sloppiness • Generic Essay • Boring Content/Clichés • Being Shy/Arrogant • Writing on Expectations from Others
  • 22. Common Mistakes • Dwelling on a Crisis • Failing to Proofread • Mentioning Unrealistic Career Ambitions • Unanswered Questions
  • 23. Top “Do’s”: Peterson’s Guide • Strive for depth than breadth • Tell the reader something other’s won’t • Provide them with insight into what drives you/makes you tick • Be creative with opening remarks • Address the institution’s unique features/programs
  • 24. Top “Do’s”: Peterson’s Guide • Focus the majority of the essay on your positive attributes; Attach an addendum if necessary • Evaluate your experiences instead of simply recounting them • Enlist others to proofread your document • Use appropriate font, spacing and margins
  • 25. Top “Don’ts”: Peterson’s Guide • Don’t submit an expository resume • Complain about “the system” or whine about past • Get on a soapbox to preach about an issue • Mention money as the guiding factor concerning graduate/medical school • Remind the school of its rankings
  • 26. Top “Don’ts”: Peterson’s Guide • Waste your time by writing a formal introduction and conclusion • Use gimmicky style or formatting • Submit supplemental materials unless the school requests them (or they are ok with them) • Get the name of the institution wrong
  • 27. Need Help? Visit us at: #1 Elliott University Center 334-5454 Drop-in Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 am -5 pm • 15-minute session for brief questions Find us online at : Website: www.uncg.edu/csc Facebook: UNCG Career Services Center Twitter: UNCGCareer LinkedIn: UNCG Career Services