A personal statement, or a statement of purpose, is a brief and focused essay about one's career or research goals, identified means to achieve them, and accomplishments so far towards those goals. It is frequently required for applicants to universities, graduate schools, and professional schools in the United States and many other countries. Often, a personal statement is used as a yardstick to assess the capabilities of a prospective student in terms of critical thinking, analytical abilities, interests, aims, and aspirations. It is a good way for an applicant to communicate with the admissions committee. Most admissions committees look for a short, crisp and ideologically clear personal statement. A personal statement is sometimes called a graduate school essay, letter of intent, letter of intention, statement of intent, statement of intention, statement of interest, goals statement, personal narrative, application letter, or application essay. The name can be just a name but often it influences the content and length of the essay. Every university has its own regulations, but most of the time it will be 1 page.
Though the requirements differ from application to application, the purpose of this type of writing is to represent your goals, experiences and qualifications in the best possible light, and to demonstrate your writing ability. Your personal statement introduces you to your potential employer or program director, so it is essential that you allow yourself enough time to craft a polished piece of writing. Your statement may include the reason why you wish to study your chosen subject, your past study experience related to your chosen subject, your related employment experience, the reasons you wish to study in the United States (or another country where the educational or research institution you are applying to is located), your ambitions, goals, and expectations, personal and other areas of interest (hobbies, sports, social or leisure), any other information which you feel will support your application.
PREPARATION FOR WRITING
Before you sit down to write, do some preparation in order to avoid frustration during the actual writing process. Obtain copies of documents such as transcripts, resumes and the application form itself; keeping them in front of you will make your job of writing much easier. Make a list of important pieces of information, in particular the names and exact titles of your former employers and supervisors, the titles of jobs you have held, the companies you have worked for, the dates of appropriate work or volunteer experiences, the duties you have performed, etc. In this way, you will be able to refer to these materials while writing your personal statement in order to include as many specific details as possible.
After you have collected and reviewed these materials, it is time to start writing. The following is a list of concerns that writers should keep in mind while writing a personal statement.
ANSWER THE QUESTION:
A major problem for all writers can be the issue of actually answering the question being asked. For example, an application might want you to discuss the reason you are applying to a particular program or company. If you spend your entire essay or letter detailing your qualifications with no mention of what attracted you to the company or department, your statement will probably not be successful. To avoid this problem, read the question or assignment carefully both as you prepare and again just prior to writing. Keep the question in front of you as you write, and refer to it often.
CONSIDER THE "I" PROBLEM:
This is a personal statement; using the first person pronoun "I" is acceptable. Moldovan writers often feel rather self-conscious about using first person excessively, either because they are modest or because they have learned to avoid first and second person ("you") in any type of formal writing. Yet in this type of writing using first person is essential because it makes your prose more lively. Using third person can result in a vague and overly wordy essay. While starting every sentence with "I" is not advisable, remember that you and your experiences are the subject of the essay.
AVOID UNNECESSARY DUPLICATION:
Sometimes a writer has a tendency to repeat information in his or her personal statement that is already included in other parts of the application packet (resume, transcript, application form, etc.). For example, it is not necessary to mention your exact GPA (grade point average) or specific grades and course titles in your personal statement. It is more efficient and more effective to simply mention academic progress briefly (e.g., "I was on the Dean's List" or "I have taken numerous courses in the field of forestry") and then move on to discuss appropriate work or volunteer experiences in more detail.
MAKE YOUR STATEMENT DISTINCTIVE:
Many writers want to make their personal statements unique or distinctive in some way as a means of distinguishing their application from the many others received by the company or program. One way to do this is to include at least one detailed example or anecdote that is specific to your own experience - perhaps a description of an important family member or personal moment that influenced your decision to pursue a particular career or degree. This strategy makes your statement distinctive and memorable.
KEEP IT BRIEF:
Usually, personal statements are limited to one typed page, so write concisely while still being detailed. Making sure that each paragraph is tightly focused on a single idea (one paragraph on the strengths of the program, one on your research experience, one on your extracurricular activities, etc.) helps keep the essay from becoming too long. In addition, spending a little time working on word choice by utilizing a dictionary and a thesaurus and by including adjectives should result in less repetition and more precise writing.
The requirements for personal statements differ, but generally a personal statement includes certain information and can follow the format presented below. Please note that these are only guidelines and are not intended to stifle your creativity. Our purpose in giving you these guidelines is to give you a sense of direction in terms of the required content.
Many personal statements begin with a catchy opening, often the distinctive personal example mentioned earlier, as a way of gaining the reader's attention. From there you can connect the example to the actual program / position for which you are applying. Mention the specific name of the program or company, as well as the title of the position or degree you are seeking, in the first paragraph.
Subsequent paragraphs should address any specific questions from the application, which might deal with the strengths of the program/position, your own qualifications, your compatibility with the program/position, your long-term goals or some combination thereof. Each paragraph should be focused and should have a topic sentence that informs the reader of the paragraph's emphasis. You need to remember, however, that the examples from your experience must be relevant and should support your argument about your qualifications. The body may contain the following bits of information:
YOUR EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND:
In chronological order, mention all of your academic achievements with the respective dates. Mention the medium of instruction in school / college. Include those research projects, internships and training undertaken during your period of study connected to your proposed area of study. Mention your academic strengths, highlighting achievements and receipt of any awards, rank and scholarships in the relevant field if applicable. Explain shifts in education interests, if any. If there is a similar course / program available in Moldova, elaborate your reasons for not wanting to enroll in it. Concrete and substantial links must be established between your previous academic background and your proposed course of study.
YOUR EMPLOYMENT HISTORY:
In case of relevant work experience, a connection must be established with the proposed course of study. If you are working with the family business, highlight the scope and application of the proposed course of study in relation to the family's business interests.
REASONS FOR TAKING THE PROPOSED COURSE OF STUDY:
Mention the actual reasons for taking the proposed course, properly indicating your wish to specialize in the particular field as applicable. Highlight the reasons for choosing the United States (or another country where the educational or research institution you are applying to is located) as well as the particular institution of study.
Explain explicitly why you want to pursue your chosen course of study (do include an outline of your course) in the institution in the United States (or another country where the educational or research institution you are applying to is located) and how it will help you in your career pathways. This point is absolutely essential and it must be explained very clearly. Mention your career aspirations, both short-term and long-term, and how the obtained qualification will help you achieve them. Also, mention your plans upon your return to Moldova, whether you have a family business to return to or if you wish to join a firm or set up a business of your own. Please remember that your goals should be concrete and realistic and based on sound inferences.
Tie together the various issues that you have raised in the essay, and reiterate your interest in this specific program or position. You might also mention how this job or degree is a step toward your long-term goal(s). Conclude by requesting the institution to admit you into the program of your choice. Do not forget to date and sign your statement.
REVISING YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT
Since this piece of writing is designed to either get you an interview or a place in a graduate school program, it is vital that you allow yourself enough time to revise your piece of writing thoroughly. This revision needs to occur on both the content level (Did you address the question? Is there enough detail?) and the sentence level (Is the writing clear? Are the mechanics and punctuation correct?). While tools such as spell-checks and grammar-checks are helpful during revision, they should not be used exclusively; you should read over your draft yourself and/or have others do so. You can ask your TOEFL instructor to proofread your personal statement.
USEFUL INTERNET RESOURCES
WRITING THE PERSONAL STATEMENT by the Writing Lab & the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University, IN, USA
WRITING A PERSONAL STATEMENT by Studential.com, UK
THE STATEMENT OF PURPOSE by Statementofpurpose.com, USA
PERSONAL STATEMENT by PersonalStatement.info, UK
APPLICATION ESSAYS by The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC, USA
PERSONAL STATEMENTS AND APPLICATION LETTERS by Writing Tutorial Services at Indiana University, IN, USA
PERSONAL STATEMENT / APPLICATION LETTER by Career Development Services at Auburn University, AL, USA