The personal essay is your best opportunity to convey a sense of who you are, your academic and intellectual development, what is important to you, and why you would be an outstanding graduate student. Many of the other applicants are likely to have similar academic credentials, but none has your particular experience, background, ideas, or outlook. The admissions committee is looking for reasons to accept you, and you can make a strongly favorable impression with a thoughtful, well written essay.
There is no one formula for a successful essay, but every personal statement should be:
► Honest: Never misrepresent your record or experiences.
► To the point: Respond to the particulars of the question and make every sentence matter.
► Specific: Avoid vague statements, clichés, and sweeping generalities.
► True to yourself: Trust your ideas, experiences, and perspective. Admissions committees have little regard for generic, “assembly line” essays. ► Letter perfect: Make sure there are no spelling, punctuation, usage, or grammar mistakes. Don’t give the committee any reason to question your capabilities, care, or commitment.
Here is a brief outline of the essay writing process, adapted from the more comprehensive Guidebook available from Professor Bobrow.
1. Read the question carefully. It is absolutely essential to follow the assignment/instructions for each question, which means responding to the particulars as they are asked and conforming to word/page restrictions.
2. Interview yourself. For purposes of the personal essay, there are generally three types of experience: academic, work (including internships teaching or tutoring), and personal. By far the most important is your academic experience, preparation, and goals. You should ask yourself about your experiences, achievements, and goals in each area, focusing not on what you have done, but on how and why your