You’ve decided you’re going back to school. You’ve called your old college for transcripts, and you’ve talked to your boss or former professor about writing you a letter of recommendation. Now comes the hard part.

The personal statement.

The idea of talking about yourself for multiple paragraphs might make you queasy–where do you even begin? You aren’t alone; tons of people dread the personal statement. Never fear! We’ve broken down 8 steps that can serve as an outline for this important piece of your application.

8 Things to Include in Your Personal Statement

1. Your academic background.

Where do you come from? Lead with your academic credentials, to ensure the admissions team takes them into account and keeps reading. Include any other collegiate activities that contributed to your development toward the program you’re interested in: internships, projects, specific study abroad, and more.

2. Your skills & work experience. 

Since you were last in school, what have you been up to? Focus specifically on work experience and skills you’ve developed that pertain to your program of interest. Highlight any pertinent accolades you’ve received. 

3. Your short-term goals. 

What’s your plan for the next couple of years? Is advanced education your main goal, or are there other professional aspirations on the horizon? How will this program help you get there?

4. Your long-term goals.

What’s your dream career? Where do you want to be in 10 years? More importantly, how can the program you’re applying for help you reach these goals? 

5. Reasons you’re applying to this program.

It’s time to do your homework. Read up on the academic program you’re interested in. Mention in your letter what makes this program appealing to you: why this field, and why this school’s program in this field? What sets them apart for you? 

6. Reasons you’re applying to this school

Review the mission, vision, and values of the schools to which you apply. Find pieces that resonate with you, and call them out in your letter. Why do you want to be part of this school’s community? How do you align with their past, present, and future? 

7. Personal tidbits about yourself.

Share any personal details about your journey that are relevant – perhaps your GPA in undergrad wasn’t stellar, but you’ve since found a love for your field of interest and have worked hard to prepare for re-entering a college classroom. This is a great place to shed light on inconsistencies in your transcripts, but be sure to show how you’ve grown instead of making excuses.

8. A great closing statement.

Remember, people (even admissions officers) tend to skim longer documents, but they usually don’t skip that final paragraph. Before trying to write a conclusion, read and re-read your personal statement. Then, sum up how your life experience has prepared you for this program. Sum up the top 3 skills/traits that make you perfect for admission.

With these 8 helpful hints, your personal statement will be on its way to greatness!

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