Writing a Personal Statement Outline: Transforming the Process from Scary to Inspiring

Personal Statement Tips

Writing a Personal Statement Outline: Transforming the Process from Scary to Inspiring

When I graduated from university, I was sure that after a couple of years I would continue my education through graduate school. But, it was only after a couple of my friends started their application journey that I started thinking about my own academic future. I spoke with friends that had already been accepted into MA programs to get their insights and advice on my own application. Every single person that I spoke to mentioned that writing personal statements was probably the scariest part of the process. Being the good sceptic that I am, I thought my friends were exaggerating. So, I started my own process with a lot of confidence.

To my surprise, research soon helped me discover the truth. It wasn't long before I had very clear what I was looking for in a MA program: I wanted one that would complement the skills I already had and would help me shape my professional career around international development. Once I had decided what schools and programs would get my applications, I had to face the personal statement. And that's when I realized that everything I had heard about personal statements was completely true. Writing a personal statement can be a tedious and scary process.

After I finished my personal statement, I was speaking to a friend that who was struggling with his own. It was then that I finally understood why the process can be so scary. A personal statement is a document in which we have the opportunity to pitch to a school why we are a great candidate for one of their programs. In order to be successful, there are certain things we need to include and the first step is to identify those components.

To help you get started writing your own PS, answer for yourself the following questions:

  • Why do you want to study in that specific MA program? What attracted you to it? Why did you choose that school?
  • Who are you? What did you study? Where have you worked or interned? What’s your experience? What are your competencies? What have you achieved in life/school/work?
  • Where are you headed to? For sure, going to grad school is a step to achieve something bigger in your career, so what is that “bigger thing” you are aiming for? What are your dreams and goals for the future? What do you want to do once you graduate?
  • Is there anything else that you would like to share with the admission committee? You can mention one of your passions, but remember to related it to your academic and professional goals. For example in my case, I am a long distance runner and I believe that the discipline that I have while training for a marathon is a good example of my commitment to my goals.

Once you have answered these questions in writing, you will have 80% of your statement finished. The only thing you have to do now is to re-read your answers and re-arrange them to tell your story. Start by linking your ideas. Convert them into paragraphs that connect to each other smoothly. Remember, when you’ve been honest with yourself in your answers, editing your personal statement is an easy task. You only have to decide the order of your paragraphs and which ones give your statement a powerful introduction and a confident conclusion.

A personal statement is easier (though not necessarily easy) to write when you know what components it should have. Writing a personal statement is like creating a self-portrait with words. Thus, outlining your ideas by answering questions and then ordering your stories can help you figure how you will pitch yourself to the admissions committee of your chosen school(s). And, while you think about the questions you need to answer, it is very important to keep this in mind: Every time you read your personal statement you should be proud of yourself.