Generating Ideas for a Personal Statement

Note: The following questions are meant to generate ideas. You will not have material for all questions, and you will not address all of the issues in your personal statement.

  1. What first piqued your interest in this career? How did you explore the career? How did you become sure that this was the ideal career for you? Did your understanding of the career change over time?
  2. Are there any issues related to your future career that are of particular interest to you?
  3. What have been your favorite courses and what made them appeal to you? What excited you intellectually about these courses? (Think of courses related to your career choice and also those completely unrelated.)
  4. What aspects of your background will you need to put in a more positive light? (This might include a less competitive GPA, 5 or 6 years to complete your degree, withdrawing for a semester, dropping several courses, etc.)
  5. Did you perform better academically during your last two years of college?
  6. Did you change your major dramatically, say from dance to biology? If so, why?
  7. What have been your proudest academic accomplishments? (Think of extremely demanding courses in which you earned an A , courses you struggled in at first but eventually conquered, distinctions such as being asked to TA, etc.)
  8. Have you done research? Do you have any “bragging points” related to the research? (This might include a pending publication, an award, a new research technique you developed, words of praise from your supervisor, etc.)
  9. Think about your experiences working, volunteering, and participating in activities and sports. Can you think of examples that might display the qualities that are valued in your future career? For instance, have you shown initiative in any of your extracurricular activities? Can you think of examples that demonstrate your communication skills or humanitarian qualities?
  10. Did you typically work more than 15 hours per week during your undergraduate years? Did you have financial or other obligations?
  11. Are there aspects of your background that are unique or might of interest? Do you have any unusual skills or interests? Do you speak another language such as Spanish?

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