What are reviewers looking for in a personal statement?

Reviewers will have your application, academic transcript, and resume. They may even have a description of a project that you’d like to undertake. Despite all of this material, reviewers will still want to know whether they’d enjoy your company.

They will read your personal statement to answer the question, “Who are you — as a person?” What are you like as a human being? Are you someone whom they would enjoying having on their team? in their lab? in their work group?

The aim of a personal statement is to create a version of yourself a persona or character that feels alive and present to the person reading your work.

How do you create a version of yourself that feels alive?

Personal statements are written in the first person, using “I.” The position taken by the “I” persona is usually one of reflection. The narrator in a personal statement steps back from daily life and reflects on experiences in a thoughtful, probing and considered way.

Personal statements often include stories about yourself. These stories are short, usually a paragraph in length. They describe an experience that you’ve had — one that shows what you value, what you’ve learned over time, and why you’re applying for a particular program or course of study.

When creating your “I” persona, think of yourself as an “older self” looking back on a “younger self.” Step outside of yourself and write about yourself as if you were a character in your own life.

How do you identify the purpose of and audience for your personal statement?