Uchechi works at JarusHub
Universities receive admission applications from thousands of aspiring students. For instance, Harvard University had 39, 041 applications for her undergraduate programs in 2018 and accepted only 5.4%, University of Oxford had 24, 645 graduate students applying and accepting 0.215% in 2015/2016 session. What about the California Institute of Technology? She had an acceptance rate of 8%. In 2017, Wharton Business School had an acceptance rate of 19.3% while London Business School in 2015 had an acceptance rate of 26%. What about the renowned Harvard Business School? In 2017, she had 11%! Although, these are for schools that reveal her acceptance rates. What these statistics tell us is that it is highly competitive and rigorous to get admitted into top graduate programs globally. And even for less prestigious institutions, as the numbers of applications will swell.
Just like you don’t automatically get a job because you graduated with a first class, getting accepted into graduate studies goes beyond one’s grades – which are usually impressive. These are the factors that play during the application process:
· Letters of recommendation
· English proficiency tests’ results (this depends on the school and nationality of applicant).
· Results of standardised tests (GMAT/GRE/SAT/TOEFL/IELTS/LSAT)
· Personal Statement/Statement of Purpose
The first five can make your application a success. How you deal with the last – personal statement/statement of purpose – can mar the application.
WHAT IS A PERSONAL STATEMENT/STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
A personal statement is an essay that describes the process of your strengths. Whether you are applying for a scholarship, graduate study or an MBA program, you would be required to write a personal statement where you will have to create a logical connection between your past, present and future. This includes your undergraduate experience (or high school for aspiring undergrads), work experience and future aspirations.
On the other hand, statement of purpose is an aspect of one’s application to a graduate school or a professional program that tells the admissions committee who you are, what you intend doing and the impact in the society. You also need to explain how the school will help your career aspirations. There are usually little or differences between both. Some schools term it “personal statement”, others say “Goals”, “Essay” etc.
A SoP or PS is needed to convince admission officers or scholarship awarding bodies on why you should be chosen. The requirements differ across institutions, disciplines and departments. But the underlying theme remains: Tell us why you should be given the scholarship or admission? The bodies in charge of accepting your PS or SoP want to see your enthusiasm, charisma, desire and character. The essay should not only be convincing but also exhibit innate attributes. See your SoP/PS as a cover letter conveying why you are the right fit for the job position. Admission officers don’t usually desire individuals with no record of doing something extra-ordinary, but rather they desire individuals who are balanced and have a fair view of the world. Ditto for scholarship board members who desire to see why you want the sponsorship and what you would do with it.
Furthermore, applicants should see this write-up as the opportunity to explain why they are the right candidates for the program and why the program suits them. As this provides the occasion to further discuss your strengths, competencies, values, goals and experiences. This makes you a unique candidate and not just making up the numbers.
For an undergraduate program, tutors are not only interested in your academic ability but also potential. They desire to see you are truly engaged to the course of study. These include relevant extracurricular activities, engagement with the course of subject. Don’t write your personal statement as a checklist of required achievements but explain what motivated you to apply for the course and how your life experiences align with it.
WHAT TO DO WHEN WRITING A PERSONAL STATEMENT
Although there is no standardized personal statement format, it is good to structure it in such a way that it could easily achieve the purpose. A good example of a personal statement should take the following into consideration.
Be Objective: Don’t write out-of-point. Write in a logical manner that conveys your experience and what it means to you.
Lessons Learnt: Give meaning to your experiences; what you learnt and how it affected your career, education and life. Also, extrapolate those experiences into the future.
Specific: Be specific. Narrate experiences with words that can be explained properly and aligns with the statement.
No Negativity: If you desire to mention a herculean in your personal statement, it is important to describe it using the STAR method. Describe the situation and how it affected you, the task at hand during this period, the action you took to mitigate it and the result achieved. Through this process you present yourself as an over-comer even in difficult situations.
WHAT TO DO WHEN WRITING A STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
- RESEARCH SKILLS: Discuss the research you have conducted, title of the work, your responsibilities, with whom were you working with, and the outcome. It is important you display technicality as professors are likely to read these statements. Use terms they are familiar with as it portends someone who has some knowledge in the field (PS. You don’t have more knowledge than they do).
- WORK EXPERIENCE: Discuss your work experience(s) and how it deals with the aspect of research. You might be asking, what if my work experience is different from my graduate program? Take them through what you did, how it affected you and what you learnt. Also, pinpoint the fact that you have been in a different industry, and such an experience(s) broadens your thought and industry outlook.
- RELEVANT OFF-WORK EXPERIENCE: Discuss your activities beyond the workplace. If you graduated and worked prior to opting for graduate studies, describe what you have doing: Could it be volunteering or prepping a group of students for exams? Include it and indicate how the experience; why you did it and how it helped you.
- ELABORATE ON YOUR ACADEMIC INTERESTS: Here, you talk more on what you would like to study in graduate school in detail to convince the faculty that you understand the scope of research in their discipline, and are engaged with current research themes.
a) Mention your area of research interests. You could hypothetically define a problem you would like to address, and questions that arises from researches around.
b) Research on the web for information about the faculties and departments you’re interested in, the staff and their research portfolio. Do they align with yours? If yes, mention it. You could also mention the researcher you desire to work with.
c) Finalise your statement on a positive note, indicating your motivation and willingness for the challenges ahead.
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