Getting Started Questions for Personal Statements
• What’s special, unique, distinctive, or impressive about you or your life story?
• When did you originally become interested in this field, and what have you since
learned that has further stimulated your interest?
• How have you learned about this field?
• If work experiences have consumed significant periods of time during your college
years, how has the work contributed to your personal growth?
• What are your career goals?
• Are there any gaps of discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain?
• Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships in your life?
• What personal characteristics do you possess that would enhance your prospects for
success in the field or profession?
• Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
• What skills do you possess?
• Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful
and effective in the profession or field—than other applicants?
• What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to
be interested in you?
Page adapted from: Richard Stelzer’s How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate
and Professional School. New Jersey: Peterson’s, 1997.
516 High St., WL 677
Bellingham, WA 98225-9124
The Dos and Don’ts of Personal Statements
• Concentrate on one theme
• Be unique
• Start by grabbing attention
• Read and follow directions;
answer all questions
• Consult outside sources
• Explain inconsistencies in
• Focus; be relevant to your
field of study
• Show your personality
• Be straightforward and
confident; show your
• Back things up; be specific
• Have someone else look it
• Appear too scattered
• Start with “I was born”
• Make it a sob story
• Make it a resume
• Repeat what you’ve alrea