By Andrea Byrd (Mississippi Valley State University)
Student Career Journal is a series of articles written by HBCU college students about life on campus, career topics and the career and professional experiences of black historical figures.
If you are going to grad school, it’s pretty clear that personal statements are on your mind. Primarily the personal statement is a subjective piece of work. However, once an application is attached to a personal statement more objective criteria like grammar efficiency, education details and college activities are highly important. There are some common mistakes and misconceptions that people often make and should know about before writing personal statements. One of the main misconceptions is that it has to be hard to do. All you need are a few tips on crafting an original piece that emulates the real you in the best way.
1) Give yourself a guideline. Winging it isn’t always beneficial. Personal statements are often presented with no specific prompt. This can be a sigh of relief for some writers, but it can also be another way to bore the reader with rambling. So if you don’t get a guideline, create one for yourself with a specific memory or personal experience you want to convey and tie it into your desire for the application you seek. For instance, someone seeking a career in Biology might write about how their affinity for science began and the evolution of it.
2) Always spell and grammar check your personal statement. Incorrect grammar and spelling are a surefire way to get your application tossed into the reject pile. It can be tricky but there are several free proof-reading tools on the internet to suit your grammar needs. It also helps to let a friend read your personal statement after you write it. Sometimes when a friend looks over our writing, they’ll catch plenty that we didn’t.
3) Be original. The purpose of a personal statement is to give the selection committee or potential employer reviewing your application and have a better understanding of who you are. The sheer number of applications acts as a barrier between applicants and reviewers, so an essay that is about you and your experiences can make or break your application. It’s not about telling your life story, rather the moment in your life that changed you in some way. Or, the way someone impacted you and shaped who you are now. The way in which you communicate this experience is completely up to you, but that template is a good one to keep in mind.
4) Even though you want to go deep, try and still keep it simple. In terms of word choice, less can always be more. Employers who are reading resumes don’t need too much sensory language when trying to read about the potential employee. It’s the same concept here with admissions officers reading your personal statement. If you are recounting a story or an experience, they want a simple, accurate, but not an overly academic depiction of the role you played in it. According to Fast Company, “It may seem like everyone uses jargon, but you’ll be a breath of fresh air if you master the art of simple communication.”
So remember, don’t get too caught up if your word choice and tone of expression seems baseline. As long as you use your words efficiently and tell a personal story in your personal statement, you’ll do great!