Happy Thanksgiving — Time to Write Some Personal Statements!

Don’t be a turkey — start those drafts early!

I always get nostalgic around holidays.  With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I was remembering my Thanksgiving last year.  A time of food, friends, family…

…oh, and a little personal statement writing.  Yeah, there was that, too.

If you’re anything like me, you may be counting on holiday breaks from work/school to get started on your grad school applications.  And for those of you whose home is far away from New England, you may not have yet had the chance to visit the HGSE campus and hear tips and advice from current students.  So, I polled some of my Learning & Teaching cohort members about what they learned in writing their personal statements, and I wanted to pass it on to you as you are starting yours!  As a word of caution, none of us read applications, so we can only speak from the experience of being applicants this time last year.  I think I speak for each of us, though, in that we are thankful for all the people who helped us through the application process, and we are eager to pass that on to you!

The Learning and Teaching cohort of 2015. We’re a pretty good looking bunch!

So, without further ado, I give you some words from my wise friends in L&T:

  • I put together an entire team of trusted colleagues and friends to edit and provide feedback for my statement.  It was not a game.  Assemble a team.  One of these amazing folks–(Kyra, ahem!)–unfailingly pushed me to be concise in the statement, and though I verbally professed resistance to her counsel, I secretly appreciated how it forced me to determine what information was essential to the narrative that I wanted to portray.  Be concise. —Warren
  • I know this is obvious but I think being really sincere in your statement of purpose would be my #1 advice. I think its best to have others read your draft and check whether your sincerity and passion in the field has been conveyed. Also, make sure every sentence is deliberately/intentionally placed.  (You don’t want to waste any precious space!) —Jiwon
  • Make sure your statement has multiple readers and editors (for grammar and content); an iterative statement is usually a stronger statement. —Debbie
  • Make your statement a good balance of your authentic personality and professionalism.  It’s important to note not only your experience and accomplishments, but how you arrived at the question(s) you are coming to grad school to pursue. —Alexis
  • I think a good personal statement reveals a snapshot of who you are and what you care for beyond the “ostensible” achievements. —Karen
  • The best advice I received when I was writing my statement of purpose involved weaving a personal narrative. Obviously you want to talk about your skills/background/goals/all the other stuff you’re supposed to include. However, it’s much more compelling when you embed those components into a cohesive story about you. What did your journey to the education sector look like and where do you hope to go? (Don’t write “I want to help people.” That’s a given.)  —Rosie
  • One really interesting tip I got from a professor who is a Harvard alum said “Harvard knows what it can do for you, so what can you do for Harvard?” and she told me to use experiences to highlight your answer to that question.  —Amanda
  • I think the most important tip for me was to write “from my heart”. The person reading the statement should feel that you are passionate about the topic you’re writing, about your future/current work, or what you want to change. —Iryna

Sarah Stuntz is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Instructional Leadership strand of the Learning and Teaching program.  As a former English teacher who plans to return to the classroom, Sarah loves learning about how literature and writing connect with adolescent development and social justice.