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How To Write A Personal Statement For Graduate School

by | Jun 17, 2020

How to Write a Personal Statement for Graduate SchoolWhen applying to graduate school, many students find themselves stuck on the personal statement requirement. They wonder what they should write about, how to start, and how long the statement should be. Since the goal of any personal statement is to help an admissions committee understand you as an individual, there is no perfect template for writing one. However, you can follow some guidelines to make the task less daunting. 

Like many graduate programs, the Master of Legal Studies in Compliance and Risk Management at Seattle University School of Law requires a personal statement as part of the application process. This is your chance to show the admissions committee who you are and how you plan to use your degree. Don’t let this opportunity become a stumbling block. If you are struggling with how to write a personal statement for graduate school, this guide will help.  

What Is A Personal Statement?

A personal statement is an essay you write to help an admissions committee get to know you, learn about your accomplishments, and understand your goals. 

Some programs ask specific questions, while others simply ask for a statement and leave the topic to your discretion. Applicants to Seattle University School of Law are asked to complete a personal statement briefly introducing themselves, including their professional goals and an explanation of why they are interested in the program.

A good personal statement focuses on something special or distinctive about you and your career. You might include details of your life and career and discuss why you decided to pursue a Master of Legal Studies. Most importantly, be sure to include a vision for your future. What will your MLS in Compliance and Risk Management help you accomplish in your life and for society? 

Remember that the goal is to share new information with the admissions committee. Avoid restating information like grades, job history, or accomplishments that are already listed in other parts of your application. Instead, use your personal statement to interpret these bullet points for your committee. For example, your grades show that you achieved high marks in undergraduate school, but they don’t explain that you did so while working two part-time jobs. Give the admissions committee context to better understand your career, academic achievements, and goals.

How To Start A Personal Statement

Every great essay starts with a hook—an interesting and engaging first line that catches the reader’s attention. For a personal statement, the hook should introduce an admissions committee to the point of your essay. Most students can start with a clear statement about why they want to study compliance and risk management. 

If writing the first paragraph or first-line feels daunting, skip it. Write the rest of your statement and then go back and write your introduction at the end. 

How Long Should A Personal Statement Be?

There is no perfect length for a personal statement. We recommend one or two double-spaced pages or between 250 and 500 words. Statements of this length give most applicants enough room to discuss the most important points without wandering off-topic. 

Your personal statement is the right length if you’ve explained: 

  • Why you want to study compliance and risk management
  • Who you are and what makes you a unique candidate
  • Why you chose to apply at Seattle University School of Law

Some applicants may cover these topics in a single page, while others need more space.

Throughout your statement focus on specifics, not generalities. Specific details help you stand out as an individual. The following examples show how you can transform bland statements by including details:  

Instead of: “I’ve been interested in risk management for a long time.” 

Say: “When a company I worked with faced a lawsuit due to improper documentation…”

Instead of: “This degree will help me meet my career goals.” 

Say: “With an MLS in Compliance and Risk Management I will have the tools to ensure that my company minimizes risk by following documentation guidelines.”

How To End A Personal Statement

Conclusions are almost as difficult to write as introductions. You might feel pressure to leave a big impact or say something profound. In reality, the best conclusions clearly restate your main point. 

You might also take this opportunity to look to the future. What big goal will your MLS help you achieve? You can finish by reiterating the personal attributes or experience that will help you succeed as a graduate student. 

Whatever you write, be concise. A few sentences should be enough to wrap up your statement.

Step-By-Step Guide To Writing A Personal Statement For Graduate School 

Choose your topic – In general, your essay should be about who you are and why you want to study compliance and risk management at Seattle University School of Law. You might choose to focus on a specific story or aspect of your life to illustrate these points.

  1. Create An Outline – Write a list of the points, ideas, or anecdotes you would like to share and then organize them in a logical order.
  2. Write The Middle First – Skip the introduction and write the body of your statement first. 
  3. Write The Conclusion – Craft a conclusion that reiterates the main point of your statement and looks to the future.
  4. Complete The Introduction – With the topic of your statement clear in your mind, go back and write the introduction.
  5. Edit and Revise – Reread your statement and make changes to improve clarity and consistency. Give it to a trusted friend, colleague, or advisor to read and give feedback.
  6. Proofread – When your statement is finished, proofread carefully to catch any spelling or grammatical errors.

When your personal statement is as polished as you know how to make it, submit it along with the rest of your application. Ready to advance your career and enhance your leadership potential?
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