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I have worked in graduate admissions in higher education for over 10 years, and during this time, I have read a lot of personal statements – some good and some not-so-good. So, what qualities help to make a good personal statement that will help a student gain admission into the program of his or her choice? While admissions committees do consider a variety of factors in their decisions, here are just a few tips that might help you as you prepare to write your statement of intent. 1. Know the requirements. Are you writing a statement that is 500 words or 5 pages? Different programs have different requirements, so you should contact the schools to find out what they are expecting. It will not help your application to submit a document that is 5 pages long if the committee is only going to read the first page. 2. Use formal, academic language. Your document is going to be read by faculty, so you need to impress them with your background as well as your writing... read more

An English teacher of mine once taught us that there are only two ways to build any sentence you want to write: you can either say what something is, or you can say what it does. That’s it. The English language has at least a quarter of a million words to work with, and you can still reduce any statement to one of these options.   There is comfort in that simplicity when you are working on a cover letter. As you grope through the field of language, hoping to find that magic combination of words to persuade a prospective employer to look more closely at you, consider the following questions as a useful starting place:   What (or Who) are you? What do you do?   Of course, it’s not uncommon to react to broad questions like these with ill-defined anxiety. There’s the temptation to to create a broad, generic response (“I can do anything you need me to do!”), which is neither compelling nor effective. It’s a little like trying to lift the... read more

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