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Creating a Resume and Personal Statement

Creating and Improving Your Resume

Miami's Career Services provides extensive information on how to write and/or improve your resume. Contact Career Services for additional resume support.

Writing a Personal Statement

The personal statement is often required in standard graduate, medical and law school as well as most fellowship or scholarship application forms. Some schools allow you maximum freedom in what you write for your personal statement, whereas others ask specific questions to which you must respond. In all cases, it is crucial that the statement accurately reflects who you are, what you stand for, and where you believe you want to be in the future.

Here are some general tips and guidelines for writing an effective personal statement that is aligned with your beliefs, values, experiences and aspirations.

Initial Brainstorming

Ask yourself the following questions before you begin to draft the statement:

  • How would you describe yourself? What in particular is unique and distinctive about you or your life? What personal traits do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in this field or profession? (Focus on those things that might set you apart from other applicants.)
  • What skills (leadership, communication, teamwork) do you possess?
  • When did you become interested in your chosen field, and what have you learned about it that has increased your interest in the field and your belief that you are well suited for it?
  • How have you gained knowledge and experience in this field? What courses, readings, internships, contacts or other experiences have helped you to develop?
  • How did your work, life or other out-of-class experiences help you to grow?
  • What are your goals for the next 5-10 years? What possible career paths are aligned with these goals?
  • Are your future goals in keeping with your personal traits and interests? If not, how might you align your goals to better fit with your passions?
  • Are there any gaps, discrepancies, or problems in your academic record that you should explain (low GRE scores, a drop in grade point average during one semester, etc.)?
  • Have you had any unusual hardships or obstacles to overcome during your undergraduate years (e.g., economic, family-oriented, health)?
  • Why might you be a stronger candidate for your chosen scholarship or for a particular graduate or professional school—and more successful or unique in the field—than other applicants?

Tailoring Your Statement

Although it is tempting to use the same statement for all applications, it is important that you make sure you gear each statement to the particular scholarship or school where you are applying. If you are given specific questions to answer, make sure that you address them specifically. Before beginning to create the statement, be sure to do some in-depth research on the scholarship and your intended graduate program. What is the main aim of the scholarship and program? What benefits, courses and learning opportunities do they offer? Who are some of the past scholarship winners? Who are the faculty members of your intended program of study, and what are their interests? How do your interests dovetail with theirs? Do you see connections between what the scholarship/program offers and your particular interests and goals? Try to highlight those connections.

Making Your Statement Memorable

One of the worst things you can do is to create a boring, routine statement with clichés and vague statements that apply to many students, such as “I am a hard-working student who has made high grades in all of my classes.” You can liven up your statement by incorporating a story into it. Bring in fresh, lively details that give your audience a clear sense of who you are. Be specific in how you describe yourself. For example, don’t simply state that you would be an excellent doctor, lawyer, social worker, etc. Instead back that statement up with a specific story or specific reasons that demonstrate your passion, personality and capacity for this career.

Finding a Main Point, Theme, or Angle

Try to avoid stringing together a bunch of points about yourself without much connection. To create unity and coherence in your statement, find an overarching message, theme, or point about yourself that you can develop throughout the statement.

Grabbing Your Reader's Attention Immediately

The opening paragraph is the most important. It not only provides the framework for the rest of the statement, but it also is crucial in sparking the reader’s interest in you as an applicant. Spend the most time on this paragraph. Find ways to make it engaging and compelling. Interesting images, concrete descriptions, a well-worded phrase can all help in this regard.

Authentic and Specific Writing

The body of your statement will probably address your interest and experience in your particular field. Be as specific as you can about what you know in your field and how you came to know it. Use the language that professionals use in presenting this information. Refer to courses, work or research experiences, conversations with people in the field, books you’ve read, internship experiences, or any other source of information about the career you want and why you are interested in it. Obviously, you cannot cover all of the sources you have gained, so choose carefully those which offer the reader a good idea of who you are and what makes you tick.

Avoiding Controversial or Outdated Subjects and Clichés

In personal statements, it is best to focus primarily on the most recent experiences you have had. Avoid bringing in high school experiences, for example. Also, try to avoid bringing in potentially controversial subjects, such as political or religious viewpoints. Finally, stay away from overused and tired phrases and statements. Find fresh metaphors and ways of expressing your ideas.

Editing and Proofreading

Make sure that your statement is completely error-free. Carefully edit it for style, and proofread it for any grammatical or mechanical errors. Ask a friend, faculty member or advisor to proofread the statement for you before you submit it.

Additional Reading