Graduate and professional schools often require some sort of written statement as a part of the application. The terminology differs, but may include "statement of purpose," "personal statement," "letter of intent," "personal narrative," etc. Some statements require rather specific information--for example, the applicant's intended area of study within a graduate field. Others suggest subjects which should be addressed specifically. Still others are quite unstructured, leaving the applicant free to address a wide range of matters. Some applications call for one statement, while others require responses to a series of six or more questions, ranging from 250 to 750 words each. The importance of the statement varies from school to school and from field to field.

As You Begin to Write Your Personal Statement

Think about your life and why you are applying to graduate or professional schools. Ask yourself, "What do I want the admissions committee to know about me that is not already in my application?" To get started, you might want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is important to me?
  • What am I interested in?
  • What am I proud of?
  • What significant experiences have I had?
  • What kinds of qualities are necessary for the profession I wish to pursue?
  • Why do I think I posses these qualities?

After you have thought about your life and goals, think about the profession you are intending to enter. What are the skills and values of people in that particular profession? How do they match with yours? How can you highlight those values and skills in your personal statement?

Writing Your Personal Statement

Start early, plan on writing and revising several drafts. Schedule specific times for this important and time-consuming task. Understand the questions thoroughly. Brainstorm your achievements, career goals, leadership, and personal interests. Narrow your emphasis to one specific theme or point. Begin your essay with this theme and the following paragraphs should logically develop and illustrate it. Work towards a rough draft. Then revise it. Have others read it. Continue to revise the draft until you have a clear, concise, error-free essay.

Resources at Cornell

  • Faculty- If you are applying to graduate school in a specific field, it is advisable to have a faculty member read your essay.
  • The Writing Studio - part of The Center for Teaching and Learning in Cole Library- they can help  you in editing and revising your essay.