Your personal statement is an integral part of your graduate school application. To write a strong personal statement, we suggest you start by putting yourself in the shoes of an admissions advisor. The role of the admissions advisor is to assemble a talented group of students with diverse life experiences and strong academic and professional credentials. Your job is to help them do it.
First things first: look to the guidelines.
In our essay prompt, we focus on three key areas:
- What are the specific academic and professional qualities you possess that could help you excel within this program?
- What goals do you hope to achieve if you are accepted into this program?
- How do ethics factor into your everyday life—both personally and professionally? Briefly describe a situation when you've had to rely on your personal ethics to make a difficult decision or overcome a challenge. What did you learn from this experience?
At the risk of stating the obvious, answer the questions. Begin by building an outline for your essay based on these questions, add an introduction and a conclusion, and your personal statement should be well on its way.
Talk about your strengths.
As helpful as an outline can be, writing a personal essay is not easy for many people. You may feel uncomfortable writing about yourself. Even if it seems unnatural at first, don’t downplay or minimize your accomplishments—use these as proof points to demonstrate why you are a strong candidate for the degree. As with any good piece of writing, you may need to write a few drafts.
Do your homework.
Look at those questions again—if you can answer them with confidence and specificity, you’re halfway there. If not, you need to do more research, both to write a stronger essay, and to clarify your goals. Like a job seeker, you should learn as much as possible about the program that you’re applying to and understand exactly what you want to get out of it. The more you know about a particular program—what it encompasses, who qualifies for admission, how it can advance your career—the clearer your objective, and ultimately, your essay, will be.
You may wish to include examples of both academic and professional achievements. This mix will vary depending on your age and experience. Recent college graduates may want to focus more on academic qualifications, while those with more work experience might emphasize their professional skills. And if your transcript reflects any poor grades or if your resume has gaps between positions, be sure to address them and provide brief explanations in the essay.
Connect the dots.
The final question listed in the personal statement guidelines asks about additional qualities that make you “an ideal candidate overall.” As a Jesuit institution that seeks to educate the whole person, we will holistically evaluate each applicant’s academic history, professional qualifications, letters of recommendation, and other application materials before admitting any student. Your academic record and work experience offer a unique perspective to a university that values the whole person and welcomes diversity in all its forms—including diversity of thought. Use this last question as an opportunity to demonstrate how your experience, goals, and perspectives align with the program objectives.
Good luck from the Admissions team!
For many years, I have been interested in studying international relations. My interest in pursuing this field stems from several factors which have affected me. First, I have been exposed to international affairs throughout my life. With my father and two of my brothers in the Saudi Foreign Service, I have grown up under the shadow of inter-national affairs. Second, I am fascinated by history, economics, and diplomacy. I believe, through the study of international relations, I can effectively satisfy my curiosity in these fields. A third factor which has affected my interest in international relations is patriotism.
Through the Foreign Service, I would not only have the opportunity to serve my country, but also have the chance to help bridge gaps between my country and others. Finally, as a Saudi living abroad, I have been bridging cultures throughout my life. This experience has taught me to look for differences to compromise and similarities to synthesize in order to balance different cultures. In short, I believe that my experiences in life, combined with a rigorous academic education, will enable me to pursue a successful career in the Saudi Foreign Service.
Georgetown, Favorite Class
At St. Albans, especially in our later years, we are given the freedom to choose from a vast array of classes. Using this freedom, I have selected classes which have personal significance to me, regardless of difficulty or appearance on my transcript. However, from these classes, one holds an extraordinary amount of value to me. This course is A.P. Omnibus History, a combination of American and European history. There are several reasons for my great interest in this class. First, I am fascinated by the cyclical nature of the past. I see these recurring political, economic, and social trends as a means of looking forward into the future, while allowing us to avoid the mistakes of the past. Second, history teaches many lessons about the nature of human behavior, both past and present, providing insight into the actions, desires, and aspirations of those around me. Finally, it lays a solid foundation for several disciplines, including political science, economics, and international relations, three fields of great interest to me.
Georgetown, Visual Arts
Another major interest of mine, which I have not had the opportunity to express elsewhere on my application, is the visual arts. Throughout high school, I have used a variety of media to express myself. I began with black and white photography, focusing on the presence of lines and balance in nature. For my work in this medium, I received an award at the St. Albans School Art Show. From photography, I moved on to glass etching. Using a sandblaster to etch the glass, I again concentrated on lines and balance in my works. Moreover, by arranging several glass panes into a sculpture, I moved my study into three dimensions, winning another Art Show award. Currently, I am working on canvas, using oil and acrylic in a Mondrian style, which is based on lines and balance. Eventually, I hope to explore the effects of combining these and other media, creating my own style of artistic expression.
In the past four years of my life, no activity has affected me more than wrestling. Four years of varsity wrestling and the honor of being a team captain has instilled many qualities in me. First, through years of hard work and continuous dieting, wrestling has given me discipline. This discipline has spread to other parts of my personality, including my moral character, work ethic, and perseverance. Another quality wrestling has given me is leadership. As a team captain, I have learned to lead by example, both on and off the mat. Above all, though, wrestling has given me a love of life. Through this sport, I have experienced pain, sacrifice, adversity, and success. Exposure to these feelings which are, in my opinion, the essence of being has allowed me to truly appreciate life. I hope to continue wrestling at Georgetown.
** ADMISSIONS COMMITTEE COMMENTS **
What immediately strikes the reader about this set before even reading it is the balance between the essays. Each answer contains only one paragraph, each of approximately equal length. The solid structure of each essay and the focus of each reflects this outward balance. Each one focuses on a completely different area of its writer’s life, another striking detail. The first focuses on his career goals, the second on his interest in history, the third on his interest in the visual arts, and the fourth on wrestling. This is a perfect example of the jigsaw puzzle approach. When put together, you have a well-rounded individual with passion, depth, and involvement in many different areas.