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How to Write a Personal Statement for Graduate School

December 24

There are many steps you must take when applying to graduate school, and the personal statement portion can be intimidating. This part of the application is your chance to convey your personality and passion as well as your commitment to continuing your education, and it's just as important as your grades, test scores and academic record. It's also important to keep in mind that graduate school applicants are generally qualified and motivated, so your personal statement could be the thing that helps you stand out from the rest of the candidate pool. Piece of cake, right? Don't stress too much, we'll help you out with five things to remember when writing the personal statement required for KU's online master's in sport management program.*

Fully Answer the Prompt

Much like assembling a Lego masterpiece, making a delicate dessert, or assembling furniture, it can help to read the directions before you start. It would be unfortunate if you spent time writing an incredible personal statement but failed to actually answer the question the university asked. To guarantee that you meet all the requirements, re-read the prompt and jot down a list of every feature you need to incorporate. You can look back to this list as you draft your essay to ensure that you've included all the necessary elements. Don't forget to check the formatting requirements so that you can meet the required length and specific layout that the university requires.

Brainstorm to Create the Appropriate Impression

Your personal statement shouldn't be a repeat of what's already found elsewhere in your application. This means your GPA, coursework and awards shouldn't take the spotlight in this piece. Your personal statement should actually be personal.

With this in mind, it can be useful to ask yourself a few questions before you begin writing so you'll have an idea of what you'll want to incorporate:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Why do I want to work in sport management?
  3. How should I address my academic record?
  4. How can my experience enhance my application and what I bring to the program?
  5. Who is my audience?

After you answer these questions, ask yourself if your responses are the most appropriate and supportive answers for the topics. Do they "sell" you as a prospective candidate for this graduate program? Be sure that each idea, each sentence, supports a distinct goal in your personal statement and makes powerful selling points for you as a potential graduate student.

Create an Outline for Your Paper

Once you feel certain about the subject and approach for your personal statement, outline the specific items you'd like to incorporate in the essay. You can make this outline as thorough or minimal as you'd like, but drafting a paragraph-by-paragraph or section-by-section framework with a few features to help you recall what you want to include can be remarkably effective in keeping your thoughts organized. You'll want to ensure that your personal statement has a storyline that your audience can follow, and an outline can help you stay on task and restrict your writing from going off-topic. Be sure to keep all the sections and concepts relevant and on track so that they meet the required components as well as your intended message.

Complete a Rough Draft

Start to fill in your outlined paragraphs with your first ideas. At this stage, don't stress out too much about phrasing. You can always return to the section and fine-tune your tone and wording as you edit later. Sometimes, the hardest part of writing is just simply starting the process. You can remove a bit of the pressure by letting your first draft be imperfect and mentally lowering the stakes. As long as this first draft has the essential details, you're doing fine.

Step Away From It, Then Edit

Occasionally, when we edit our own work it can be easy to miss simple mistakes because we know what we intended to say and misread it when scanning the page. Sometimes it can also be hard to spot errors if you've repeatedly reread an essay. This is why it can be beneficial to step away from your personal statements for a few days and then return with fresh eyes. As you read through your work, be on the lookout for the following general concerns:

  • Run-on sentences or comma splices
  • Long-winded sentences or unnecessary additions
  • Overly casual language (like "get" or "got" and other everyday expressions)
  • Not fully answering the prompt
  • A clear idea but a shortage of supporting details
  • A robotic or cold tone, instead of a powerful personal voice
  • A lack of relevant skills displayed (remember the point of this process!)

Remember that universities are similar to businesses when considering candidates, so be sure that you demonstrate the possibility of a high return on investment.

Revamp Your Writing

Begin to revise your personal statement and record any concerns you may have as you are editing; it can be useful to run these by a friend, mentor or peer later on. At this stage of the writing process, you should enhance the language you use and ensure that your personal voice and tone are distinct throughout the personal statement. Even if you don't write for a living, you should still be able to convey your thoughts clearly and concisely. Be sure that you use applicable details to strengthen your answers. It may help to imagine you're answering a friend in a discussion rather than a formal writing assignment that can decide your future.

Edit and Send It On

After you've edited and fully developed your personal statement, it's time to proofread your work. Reading it out loud to yourself can make it easier to spot mistakes you may have missed. Actually hearing your writing can also help determine if the tone is too stiff or not formal enough.

The most critical part of this step is finding a dependable friend, mentor or associate to read it. For best results, give your personal statement to someone you can depend on to give you candid feedback and guidance, rather than someone who will just praise your writing. Think about sending your essay to two or three different people so that you'll gain a blend of feedback that you can consider.

If you've been conversing with an admissions advisor at your university of choice, consider reaching out to them for additional advice and evaluation for your work. Don't hesitate to get outside opinions since writing can be rather subjective.

Submit Your Statement

Once you've received the notes from your proofreaders, schedule time to evaluate their recommendations and comments and utilize them where you see fit. Spend extra time rereading your personal statement after you've made the fresh edits to ensure that there are no new errors or typos.

Once you're certain that everything is grammatically correct and your personal statement is as close to perfect as it can be, it's time to submit it! Be sure to obtain and account for any other application items, and then start the countdown to the start of term!

Advance Your Career

If you've already submitted your personal statements you may want to get ahead of the game by looking into financial aid or requesting letters of recommendation.

If you'd like to learn more about KU's online master's in sport management program,* explore the student experience, or reach out to an admissions advisor for more information.

*This program is a Master of Science in Education (M.S.E.) in health, sport management, and exercise science with an emphasis in sport management.