3 Secrets for the Ultimate Grad School Personal Statement

There’s no question in the fact that I enjoy writing. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. But I have talked to many people that admit to me that they struggle to put themselves onto paper. Heck, I struggle still! It’s not a walk in the park - it’s more like climbing Mount Everest people. I’ve never done it, but I imagine after all of the struggle there is this revelation at the top of the mountain where you understand yourself as a person more than you ever have before. You pushed past the mental toughness and developed a self-awareness that couldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Self-awareness. This is the key to making you stand out. It’s seems so simple - and it is, when you truly commit to developing it. Understanding the best way for you to make a good impression, starts from recognizing your personal ticks - gosh I love that word.

These were the tactics that I used to create a personal statement. You can follow these steps in a different order (I don’t recommend it) but this is for you, so if you need to do it in another way then JUST DO IT.

1. Free write your little heart out.

If you haven’t written in a while, welcome back! I know some of you are cringing and that’s okay (writing kind of sucks when you’re out of practice). It’s going to be bumpy in the beginning so be prepared. Even the great Stephen King struggled writing after his near death accident in ‘99.

Here’s the first thing I want you to do. Write for 5 minutes non-stop. Yeah, I’m not kidding. Grab a pen and paper and get comfortable - grab a snack if you’re like me and need food motivation. I’m not going to leave you hanging off a cliff though so no need to panic. Start with one of these prompts and if you can’t think of anything to write, I want you to literally write, “I don’t know what to write.” You need to be able to continually write without picking up your pen and pausing. This prevents you from having your internal editor constantly changing your words. Pick from one of these.

Describe one thing that is on your bucket list and why you want to accomplish it.

Describe your ideal way to spend 3 hours of your day (leave out no details - I want my senses to be buzzing!)

2. Think about your WHY

You’re writing this application for a reason. You decided to put more blood, sweat, and tears in your education to get this specific job that this grad school can provide. Why?! There has to be some intrinsic motivation behind why you want to put all of this extra time into these applications when you have an already hectic schedule.

This is no time for fluff pieces. It’s time to pull out the nitty-gritty details of your story. Everyone has something different about them. Pluck it out! They are going to hear countless stories that all have similar plots. I’m here to help you be the diamond in the rough they’re waiting for. This is where self-awareness comes in.

This might be a challenge for some of you but I truly believe this is how I write my best content. Cut out social media for a week. I promise I’m not asking for a lot. When you remove the noise from your life you have almost a stupid amount of time to reflect. You learn what makes you different and what makes you tick! Hone these thoughts and constantly be writing in the notes app on your phone. It’s worth the effort, I promise.

But NEVER FORGET that the “why” needs to be for that specific profession. Why speech pathology? Why medical school? Why MBA? This is crucial because you have to prove to these people that you thought long and hard about their specific masters program.

3. Start creating your story

Are you excited to write again? If you cringed again, just know I am for you. Start creating a draft that encompasses everything I gave you above. You have a sense of humor - please use it! I still think my application to undergrad stuck out because I mentioned the story of when I peed my pants in the Jamaican Emergency Room. I never thought my mission trip would end up with me in the bathroom tangled by my IV while trying to pull down my one-piece swimsuit. Predictably is for the weak, right?

There was an analogy I heard at a personal statement workshop and I have never forgotten it. When you first meet a couple the obvious question you ask is, “How did you guys meet?” Our first instinct is to ask this is because it’s a fun question - plain and simple. But the question that gets more complex, that truly asks the “how” behind their relationship is, “What convinced you guys that marrying each other was the right thing to do?” It just sounds juicier doesn’t it? This is the meat the recruiters want.

You have stories. Develop your writing to make it flow on paper. If you need help I suggest reading books. I know my writing gets better the more I read. You surround yourself with skilled writers and it influences you, whether you realize it or not.

Now it’s time to set you free. I believe in you, but just start writing!