Personal Statement For Postgraduate Admission 2015/2016

Presidential Candidates

Tyler Allen

Hello, I am Tyler Allen, a PhD student in Comparative Biomedical Sciences. I am very excited to be running for the position of President for the Graduate Student Association (GSA). I was born in Houston, TX, and have lived in North Carolina for the past 10 years. I attended NCSU for my Bacehor’s in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Over the years I have attended this university, I have seen, first-hand, graduate students make great strides in terms of progression; I have also seen just how key the GSA has been in this progression. My desire to continue this upward trend and work with the brilliant minds of the GSA to make the graduate student experience as fulfilling as it can be is the main reason I am interested in serving in this position.

The current President, Jacob Majikes, has done an outstanding job during his term, and I hope to follow in his footsteps while also blazing my own path. I enjoy seeing the increased the amount of development opportunities graduate students have outside of their specific field/area, and wish to expand upon that. I currently serve as the Vice President of External Affairs, and in this position I have the opportunity to frequently interact with several graduate students, administration, and represent the GSA at several events. In this position I have also had the chance gain experience with the behind-the-scenes work that goes on with the executive team, something extremely important for anyone who is interested in a presidential position in an organization.

I have a plethora of leadership/service experience, and enjoy the responsibilities that comes with these positions. I currently serve as a Chapter Resident Director for the office of Fraternity & Sorority Life. Some of my past experience includes: : President of the NCSU Omega Psi Phi Fraternity chapter, Representative on the Student Center Board of Directors, Chapter Resident Advisor for Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, Resident Mentor, Advisor for multiple University organizations, and many more.

I am also very familiar with the university and its departments. I have worked with the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED), the Department of Fraternity and Sorority Life, the Women’s Center, and the Graduate School, to name a few. I would love to help bridge the gap between us graduate student and the rest of the university, and enhance our experience while here.

Thank you for reading my personal statement and I look forward to working with you in the future. I promise, if elected, I will serve in this position to the best of my ability, and will ensure that the GSA continues to stay committed to enhancing the experience of all graduate students!

 VP of Academic Affairs Candidates

Jessica Nash

My name is Jessica Nash and I am fourth year graduate student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. I am writing this personal statement to accept the nomination for the GSA VP of Academic Affairs for 2016-2017. I have been involved with GSA for two years. For 2014-2015 I was the Vice President of my departmental GSA and a rep to the GSA, serving as the chair of the Research Recognition Committee, This year (2015-2016), I am Vice President of Academic Affairs, a position which is the executive board liaison for the Research Recognition Committee.

The main task of GSA’s Research Recognition Committee is the award the GSA Award for Conferences. When running for VP of Academic Affairs last year, my main objective was to revise the application process for the GSA Award for Conferences so that graduate students could apply for advance funding. In the past, students could only apply for the GSA Award for Conferences after their conference travel took place, preventing many without funding from applying. This year, I changed the deadlines so that students may apply for funding in advance of travel. In addition to changing submission deadlines for the awards, I have also implemented a new submission system for applications and reference letters. The new submission systems considerably streamline the process for applicants and for those processing the applications.

Because of the changes to the award, we received a record number of applicants last semester. However, we could only award approximately 20% of the applications we received. Though the allocated amount totals nearly 15% of the GSA’s operating budget, the GSA can only provide funding to approximately 10 students each year. For Fall 2013, NC State’s graduate student enrollment numbered over 9,000. With this number expected to increase as NC State follows the 2020 Enrollment Plan’s main goal of increasing graduate student enrollment, the amount the UGSA is able to provide is insufficient for NC State’s graduate student population. In the upcoming year, my main goal would be to continue to advocate for the establishment of additional university wide funds for graduate student travel from the Graduate School.

As the VP of Academic Affairs for 2015-2016, I have revised the GSA Award for Conferences application process and letter submission process, worked with the GSA Research Recognition Committee in applicant selection, met with the Graduate School to plan the Graduate Research Symposium, and served as a graduate student representative to the Administrative Board of the Graduate School. In the upcoming year, I look forward to the possibility of working with the GSA, the Graduate School, and the Research Recognition Committee as VP of Academic Affairs for 2016-2017.

VP of Internal Affairs Candidates

Doug Czajka

My name is Doug Czajka and I am a 2nd year PhD student in the Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Science Department, where I also completed my Masters degree in May of 2014. I am running for the position of Vice President of Internal Affairs, a position I currently hold. Prior to serving as VP of Internal Affairs, I was the GSA rep for the MEAS department and served on the Departmental Outreach and Leadership Committee (DOLC) during the 2014-2015 academic year.

During my two years of involvement with the DOLC committee, both as a rep member and as executive board liaison, I feel we have made some beneficial accomplishments. We created the start-up funds grant which allows newly formed departmental GSAs to get an advance on their rebate, an incentive to lure new or inactive departments to get involved with GSA. We also created the Best Practices Award for departmental GSAs which allows them to show off their operating procedures and win a cash prize. This is the second year of the Best Practices Award, and we have had a record numbers of departments apply. The DOLC committee will begin to document these practices and create infographics of best practices to serve as a resource that departmental GSAs can use to guide their own operations, get tips, and ensure good standing with the GSA from year to year. We also tested a new model for our leadership conference this year, where we partnered with the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) to send graduate students to a 2 day conference/event dealing with the future of work in NC. Hopefully we can work to make the annual DOLC event one that many graduate students find value in and would be eager to attend.


As VP of Internal Affairs I have a few goals I would like to accomplish in the upcoming year. One is to streamline the process that allows departmental GSAs to submit their Letter of Credentials in order to be in good standing with the GSA. This has been a slow process in the past, and one that could use some updating. This will require working with GSA reps to determine what steps in the process are least clear or causing the greatest delay. I would also like to (re)create a beginning of year rep orientation that begins to build a sense of community and professionalism among the incoming GSA reps before the first all council meeting. In addition, I plan to continue keeping the constitution up to date and relevant to the actual workings of the GSA, making changes and amendments as necessary.

My past two years of service with the GSA and on the DOLC have me well equipped to continue serving in the role of VP of internal affairs. I am hopeful that I can continue to work on and improve many of the programs and changes that I’ve been involved with over the last couple years through GSA and the DOLC. Serving on the GSA has allowed me to play a role in making sure that the best interests of graduate students are represented and respected, and I hope to continue serving in this role.

VP of External Affairs Candidates

Melissa White

Hello everyone,

My name is Melissa White. I am currently a second year PhD student in Industrial and Systems Engineering focusing on research in Human Factors and Ergonomics. My current research endeavors have me actively involved with both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. I am excited to be running for Vice President of External Affairs for the Graduate Student Association (GSA). I am a born and raised Floridian, where I also completed my BS in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Anthropology at the University of Miami.  From there, I relocated to the University of Notre Dame where I completed my MS in Engineering, Science and Technology Entrepreneurship. After my Master’s degree, I worked as a Healthcare IT Consultant helping healthcare systems switch to electronic records.

This year I am the GSA representative for my department in addition to serving as the Social Chair for GSA. During my tenure as GSA Social Chair, my committee has organized many events to facilitate interdepartmental networking including trivia, a Carolina Hurricanes game, and Oktoberfest. Currently, my committee and I are working with the Public Relations officer to plan the first graduate student formal. For my own department, we are currently coordinating a research symposium to allow students to present their research and an opportunity to gain feedback on poster presentations for conferences.  These experiences have equipped me with the skills necessary to plan and facilitate the Fall and Spring University Graduate Student Orientations. Furthermore, I serve on the Management Survey Subcommittee with other graduate students to develop a survey to gather feedback on faculty-student relationships. I am also a graduate student representative on the University Standing Committee for Student Health. Through this position, I have been voicing concerns of graduate students in order to ensure student needs are being met by the university’s student health services. This experience with a standing committee will prove imperative as a key component of the VP of External Affairs’ job is to organize graduate students on the standing committees.

I also have an abundant amount of leadership experience from my previous institutions including being President of the University of Miami Chapter of Alpha Eta Mu Beta, an executive board member of Hurricane Productions, an academic excellence representative for the women’s fraternity Kappa Kappa Gamma, event chair for the Engineering Advisory Board at Miami, a Freshman Peer Counselor at Miami, a mentor for student athletes at Notre Dame, and a member of the student leadership board for the Central Florida Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

If I am to be elected as the VP of External Affairs, I aim to continue the excellent work done by my predecessor Tyler Allen. In addition, I would like to improve graduate student orientation by taking into account current student feedback. Furthermore, I would try to improve the relationships developed by our current president Jacob Majikes across the universities and organize more networking opportunities for students across all of the college campuses in the Triangle. As a member of the community service committee, I would try to implement my experiences from my previous universities to allow graduate students to get involved and give back to the community. For the 2016-2017 academic year, if elected, I promise to serve the graduate student body to the best of my ability. I look forward to the opportunity to work with the GSA, the Graduate School, and  the Community Service Committee to enhance the experience of all graduate students across NC State.


Melissa White

VP of Communications Candidates

Chelsea Doub

Hello Graduate Family,

My name is Chelsea Doub, and I am currently a first-year PhD student in the Higher Education program here at NC State. I am running for the position of Vice President for Communication for the Graduate Student Association (GSA). As it is my first year here at NC State, I have been deeply inspired by the Graduate School community and by NC State as a whole. I graduated from Yale University in 2014 with my Masters in Public Health and graduated with a Bachelors of Science from Penn State University in 2011.

NC State makes the third graduate school that I have been employed at, and it is certainly the most innovative, dynamic and exciting! As a result of my employment and studies at Yale University and my work at Columbia University, I have chosen to run for this position at NC State because I am deeply passionate about graduate life. While the graduate school is often seen as a separate entity within the University, I believe we are an integral part of this University’s culture, success, and reputation. We are leaders in our respective fields and we bring an array of diversity to campus life. My goal is to continue that legacy and serve our graduate community as your VP for Communication. I have a profound understanding of student life and student culture, but most importantly, I value what it means to be a graduate student at a large, public, Research I institution like NC State.

Here at NC State, I have served on the committee of the Scholar Practitioner Symposium, in which I managed the coordination of the events and served as the webmaster. Additionally, as the Doctoral Graduate Assistant for the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, I am spearheading the creation of a Working Wellness Certificate Program for all offices and labs throughout the University. I also currently serve a Chapter Resident Director on campus, as well as the Program Coordinator for the 2016 LeaderShape Institute. My work at Columbia University involved serving as the Director of a program housed at the Medical School. I oversaw the planning, coordination, and implementation of a federally funded summer program. Out of my time spent working at Columbia grew my passion for working with students and also serving as a mentor in student endeavors.

I am sharing my background with you for a number of reasons. The first of which is that in all of my roles, effective communication is the most important aspect of my journey. I also prioritize transparency in both my professional and my personal life. As VP of Communication, I will ensure that students are not only aware of University and the GSA concerns, but understand why both entities pursue certain paths. Lastly, I have had a wide array of experiences that add to my diverse knowledge of people, academic backgrounds, and professionalism.

With that said, I hope that you will envision me not only as your VP of Communication, but as a peer and friend who represents you as student. I will work diligently to ensure a flawless transition from the current VP of Communication’s role and will positively contribute to the Publicity Committee. Additionally, more information about my story can be found at Thank you for your time!

Benjamin Dictus

My name is Benjamin Dictus. I am running for the Vice President of Communication position as a first-year PhD student in the Higher Education Administration program. If you’re interested in my past experiences and qualifications, please check out my LinkedIn.

This important role is very much a “nuts and bolts” type of position. Work needs to be completed quickly and with consistency. I promise to do that and believe my past experiences support that claim.  More importantly, I believe in being fun, concise, and genuine. Those three characteristics are important to any leadership position, but especially to people charged with the communication efforts of large organizations. The length of this statement should exemplify all three!

I am excited to serve GSA and my fellow NCSU students. We have an engaging community and vibrant culture at NCSU, but we can work to improve it. My main goal in this role will be to pursue improvement not only in the functions of this position, but also for our community and culture! I aim to accomplish that goal by doing the roles duties promptly while listening to my fellow students and always trying new things.

For example, I could list my accomplishments or try out pointing you to my LinkedIn.


Taylor Simpson

Hello all,

My name is Taylor Simpson and I am a first-year student in the MS of Communication program. I’m writing this personal statement to accept the nomination for the VP of Communications for 2016-2017 executive term. I am honored to have been nominated for this position. I am now halfway through my graduate program and I am confident in my abilities to effectively provide a fluid stream of communication between the UGSA executive board, UGSA representatives, and the graduate student body alike.

I graduated from Grand Valley State University (in West Michigan) in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Communications Studies, and plan on working in the communications field upon my graduation from NC State next May. I have been in multiple communication roles, in several organizations — in both a volunteer and paid capacity. Specifically, this has led to extensive experience in digital communications. I’ve run e-mail marketing campaigns for several organizations, maintained e-mail list-servs and company websites, created a vast amount of newsletters, and have been maintaining several blogs for a number of years. My ultimate goal is to own and operate my own communications consulting firm after gaining further experience in the industry from an established organization. My extensive background in the communications field makes me well suited to take on the responsibilities that the VP of Communications holds and I look forward to exceeding your expectations should I be elected.

During my Bachelor’s degree, I served in a numeros amount of leadership positions that qualify me for this position, aside from my communications skill-set. I was a founding member of my school’s chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, as well as the first Vice President of Operations. I later served as the both Director of Philanthropy and the Scholarship Chair. In all of these positions, I was responsible for disseminating information not only to our 100 member chapter, but both the Greek Community and the entire student body as well. I co-created and became the Public Relations Officer of GVSU’s Library Student Association Council, which I served on for three years, and also served on several funding boards run through both the Panhellenic and Student Government. I was a member of the All-Greek funding board and the Philanthropic Events board, but served as the Head Chair of the Academic & Professional Affairs board. On these funding boards, I was able to work closely with our school’s large student government and help establish budgets and funding for projects ranging for groups in various departments.

My ultimate goal as VP of Communications is to further improve the lines of communication between the executive board, UGSA representatives, and the general graduate student body. Furthermore, to uphold the values of UGSA, and make long-lasting positive changes in our organization and community alike. I have been involved with student government since high school, and have always enjoyed the responsibility (and fun) that comes with being part of something that is so beneficial to our community. It is my hope to continue this trend here at NC State and contribute to the positive changes made by UGSA this coming term.

I hope you can all trust in my ability to adequately represent my fellow graduate students as the VP of Communications and thank you for your consideration.


Taylor Simpson


Treasurer Candidates

Federico Scholcover

Hello friends!

My name is Freddy, I am a second year student in the Psychology Department’s Human Factors and Applied Cognition PhD program. I am running for the position of Treasurer. My goal in writing this statement is to outline my skills, accomplishments, and qualifications that demonstrate my abilities to successfully fulfill the duties of the GSA Treasurer. By the end of this statement, I will have hopefully convinced you to vote for me.

I completed two degrees, with honors, at the University of Central Florida. The first, in Psychology and the second in Statistics. An emphasis in both degree programs was on how to handle a large set of information. There are really two steps in handling any information. The first is getting that set of information into a useable form. The second, is actually knowing how to interpret the information and to be able to present it to a lay audience. My time as a graduate student in Human Factors has only further emphasized these skills. As part of my research, I’m constantly merging and reconfiguring  data from different sources, with the express goal of communicating my results to others. Furthermore, many of the students I represent in the Psychology department have recognized me for my leadership abilities, electing me for the position of President for the North Carolina State University Human Factors & Ergonomics Society Student Chapter. In my position as President of the Chapter, I have helped to facilitate a doubling of Chapter events and activities while tripling of the number of funds raised from external sources since the previous academic year.

As a GSA representative, I am involved in two subcommittees: The Teaching Effectiveness Committee (TEC) and the Management Survey Subcommittee. As a member of TEC, I have made strong contributions to the direction that the committee has headed in this semester. The committee has two tasks: Hold a soiree in the Fall and an award ceremony in the Spring. I am of the opinion, and I hope those of you who attended are as well, that the soiree we held in the Fall was a successful one. As a member of the Management Survey Subcommittee, I was able to recruit two graduate students from the Industrial/Organizational Psychology PhD program whose research focus and skills aligned almost exactly with the needs of the survey.

As GSA Treasurer, I will have a single overarching goal: continue the wonderful job Mohamed has done this year, both keeping accurate records and making sure that rebates are sent out in a timely fashion. I would like to continue making sure that the Graduate Student Association is known for it’s ability to handle its business in a timely and professional manner. As a member of the executive board, I will be able to continue much of the work that I started while representing the Psychology department. The Management Survey Subcommittee, which I am a part of, have worked very hard on creating a strong survey to represent the interests of graduate students. Working as an executive board member will allow me further opportunity to help this survey make a mark. I take pride in the fact that my work has the potential to make a tangible difference in the lives of graduate students. I hope to continue making a tangible difference.  Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope to serve you all well in the coming year.

Go Pack!

Federico Scholcover

Secretary Candidates

Rachel Atkins

Hello everyone,

My name is Rachel Atkins and I am extremely excited to be running for the position of Secretary of the university-wide Graduate Student Association (GSA). I am currently in the final stages of completing the second year of my master’s work here at NC State in the Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (MEAS) department, and will be continuing in the same program to pursue my PhD. My current research projects involve using innovative technologies to assess student engagement with learning tools in geoscience classrooms, which has allowed me to collaborate with researchers at multiple other institutions.

I currently hold the position of President of our MEAS departmental graduate student association (summer 2015-present). I have also previously served as the MEAS GSA Secretary during the 2014-2015 academic year. Prior to NC State, I was also a very active member in my undergraduate departmental Geology Club, and served as president for my Junior and Senior years as well. I enjoy being involved at my university and being able to make a difference in the lives of other students.

In addition to my experience with student associations, I am also the Lead Teaching Assistant of an introductory course (summer 2015-present), giving me the opportunity to manage the lab materials and content as well as the seven classroom TA’s. With an undergraduate background and graduate experience with teaching, I have a particular interest in serving on the Teaching Effectiveness Committee.

My experiences with other student associations have provided me with the tools to excel as an executive board member. I enjoy organization along with detailed record keeping, which are necessary skills of a successful secretary of any organization. If elected, I promise to bring excitement and organization to every project I am involved in!

Thank you for your consideration,
Rachel Atkins

Public Relations Officer Candidates

Caitlin Grimes

To my fellow GSA and Graduate Students:

My name is Caitlin Grimes and I am a 1st year M.A. student in the communication program here at NC State. Though this is my first year at this institution, I bring a wealth of experience and insight from my undergraduate years. I served all four years in Student Government at Marshall University. I served a senator for the College of Liberal Arts where I helped pass numerous bills and well as lobby the state legislature not to cut funding from higher education. I served as recording historian for the Senate executive board my junior year. In my senior year, I served as the chief of staff for the executive branch, where I planned the Homecoming parade and served on numerous committees, such as the Policy & Assessment Committee and Student Conduct & Welfare committee. While on the Policy & Assessment committee, I helped to restructure the assessment structure at the university as well as restructure the grade appeal process.

A great deal of my professional and personal experience has been gained through communication and public relation roles for political non-profits or independent companies. I have a passionate desire to get individuals involved in political decisions that concern them, as well as increased transparency in already established governing systems. In the role as Public Relations officer, I would work tirelessly to increase student engagement on top of the already impressive increase by Charlena Wynn.

In addition to GSA, I have participated in numerous clubs and organizations in my college years. In undergrad, I served as the founder and president of the Women’s Lacrosse Team, where it was my goal to get women who would have otherwise not been introduced to the sport of lacrosse in West Virginia. I participated in Alpha Kappa Psi, a business fraternity, where I worked to include students of non-traditional business majors into the fraternity. Currently, in graduate school, I serve as the advisor for the Wakeboarding & Ski club and the chapter chair for the America’s Future Foundation, a professional networking society here in Raleigh.

As the Public Relations Officer, I would make it my goal to ensure the voice of the GSA makes it out to all of the graduate community, no matter the program. It is my hope that a constant brand of diversity and inclusively will help increase participation in graduate activities and events. I will work with the Publicity committee achieve all of its goals in the next term, as well as make an effort to work to achieve all the goals of my fellow board members.

I hope I can count on your support.


Caitlin Grimes

(By Tracy Bennett, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures)

A filmed personal statement might have helped Elle Woods get into Harvard Law School, but in the real world, you’re better off sticking to these tips.

If you have seen the 2001 film, Legally Blonde, you might remember that Elle Woods, played by Reese Witherspoon, creates a video for her admissions essay to Harvard Law School. As she sits in a hot tub, she states that she will be an “amazing lawyer” because she can discuss important issues, such as the brand of toilet paper used in her sorority house, and she uses “legal jargon in everyday life” to object when men harass her. She can also recall details at the “drop of a hat,” including the recent events on a soap opera. (If you haven’t seen the movie or simply want a good laugh, you can view the clip on YouTube.)

Although the Harvard committee granted Elle admission, you will probably want to take your essay in a different direction. While you cannot change your grade point average or entrance exam scores, you have complete control over the contents of your personal statement. There are many applicants and few spots, so work diligently to persuade readers that you fit their program given your qualifications, interests and professional goals. Use the tips below to prepare and refine your essay.

1. Just get started.

Yes, your first sentence should be compelling and attention-grabbing, but if you attempt to identify your opening line immediately you will probably induce writer’s block. Make an outline or free write. You can tweak the introduction later once you are more aware of your noteworthy accomplishments or the defining events that have led to your career interests.

2. Articulate your reasons for selecting your chosen career.

Although these essays are often called personal statements, they are not an autobiography. Instead, view it as an essay about your journey as an emerging scholar. Provide evidence to demonstrate that you have actively confirmed your interests and that earning an advanced degree will help you achieve these goals. Describe the courses, articles, professors, research, service projects, internships, shadowing or co-curricular activities that have shaped your aspirations. Avoid references to high school accomplishments, gimmicks or clichés such as, “I have always wanted to be a _________.” Cautiously address controversial topics. It is one thing to demonstrate your knowledge of the field by referencing a current debate. It is quite another thing to offend your readers with excessive political or religious rhetoric.

3. Be specific.

For example, it is not enough to say that you aspire to be a social worker because you want to help children. You could do this in a variety of occupations. Similarly, anyone can say that they are interested in law. Earn credibility by demonstrating this passion. Have you worked at a law firm or participated in student government, Model UN and/or mock trial?

4. One size does not fit all.

Unless it is a common application system, such as those used by law, physical therapy and medical schools, you should describe your rationale for selecting the program among other alternatives. By the way, most of the schools that use a common application system will require supplemental essays that inquire about this. For the time being, you may omit it from your initial personal statement. Each institution has its own values, mission and faculty. What led you to select its particular program over others? Was it an emphasis in a particular area (e.g., rural practice, technology) or the research interests of a professor? Was your interest heightened by a conversation with its alumni?

5. Whatever your reasons for applying, be sincere.

Briefly mention any noteworthy and appealing features that attracted you to the program or institution, but do not go overboard. Committee members already know the prestigious awards that they have won, and most of your competition will mention these same attributes. If you offer excessive praise, you may only appear disingenuous.

6. Describe your professional interests, particularly as they relate to research.

If you identified faculty members who share your interest in a topic, describe your desire to work with them. Be specific, but keep your options open, too. Committee members will roll their eyes if you say you are interested in every research area of its faculty. On the other hand, if your interests are too narrow, they may question your ability to collaborate with professors.

7. Demonstrate your motivation and capacity to succeed.

Graduate schools are not only selecting students, but they are also choosing future ambassadors of their program. Persuade them that you will contribute to their reputation as an institution throughout your academic studies and professional career. Avoid summarizing other parts of your application. Instead, you should provide them with concrete examples including relevant publications, presentations, classroom assignments and employment experiences. For example, describing a service project could demonstrate your compassion, which some medical schools value. If you collaborated with others on a research topic, describe your specific contribution. Research in particular is valuable to your readers because you will more than likely need to immerse yourself in this activity during your graduate studies, especially if you are a Ph.D. candidate.

If you have any blemishes in your application, such as low test scores, criminal convictions or poor grades, think carefully before you offer a rationale. If you were to survey career coaches and faculty, some would advise you to describe anomalies because, if you do not, you leave it open to imagination. Others, however, would only encourage you to share details if the graduate program requests it. Advisers on this side of the camp fear that graduate programs may perceive such descriptions as potential liabilities or excuses, especially if your grades were repeatedly low. For example, while committee members may empathize if you reveal that you struggle with test anxiety, they may still question your ability to succeed. Most graduate programs entail tests, and many occupations require individuals to pass licensing examinations before they can enter the fields. Applicants’ inability to perform in this arena may jeopardize the professional standing of the institution.

If you elect to include this information, be brief and positive. Keep it simple and do not be defensive. Perhaps your academic ability improved once you discovered your passion. Maybe you persisted despite a serious illness or death in your family. If you decide not to address these anomalies yourself, consider asking one of your trusted references to include the topic from a positive standpoint in your letter of recommendation.

8. Be concise.

Personal statements are generally no more than two pages. If the sentence is not essential to your thesis, remove it. Also eliminate unnecessary words, such as “in order to,” “I believe” and “the fact is.”

9. Carefully proofread and refine the essay.

Any errors reflect your ability as a writer. Confirm that you used transitions, diverse sentence structures, first person and active voice. Substitute weak words, such as “love,” with a more professional, powerful alternative. Let it sit overnight. Then, read it aloud or backward. Have a consultant at your campus writing center or a professor critique the essay.

10. Enjoy the writing process.

Preparing a personal statement confirms your desire to attend graduate school and clarifies your interests or goals, which is why professional schools require it. A few years from now, this will prove helpful in your professional job search as you write cover letters and respond to interview questions.

Billie Streufert is director of the Academic Success Center at the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota. With nearly 10 years of experience in career and academic advising, she is passionate about helping individuals discover and achieve their goals. She is eager to connect with students via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and her blog.

Billie Streufert, grad school, Harvard, personal statement, University of Sioux Falls, CAMPUS LIFE, CAREER PATH, VOICES FROM CAMPUS 


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