How to write a personal statement

Many applicants ask what we are looking for in the personal statement. Ideally, they want a blue print of what to say. It is much easier to answer with what not to say. First off, don’t start with a quote. It’s a worn out approach. Second, don’t say it’s always been your dream to go to Georgetown because while that might be true, I really don’t care. At the very least, replace Georgetown with University of Denver–but better yet, write a personal statement specific to each school rather than using the ctrl+find replace trick. While personal statements are personal, you walk a fine line with how personal to actually be. My general rule is if it is relevant to the questions below, it is acceptable. If your approach to personal hygiene really is valid reason to go to grad school then by all means, spill the beans, we’re all adults here. Which leads me to my next point, we should all be adults here. We’re looking for capable mature and prepared students who are ready for careers in international relations. Our preference is for you to demonstrate why you’re eager to make an adult career related decision.

  • What is your career goal upon completing your graduate degree and what are your long term career goals?
  • Explain why you have chosen to pursue a graduate degree and how the program you have chosen will prepare you to reach your specific career goals.
  • How will the Josef Korbel School help you achieve your goals?

The biggest mistake made by yours truly when he applied to graduate school? I used big words, lots of them and the bigger  and more obscure the better. Now that I’m reading lots of these statements, I cringe when I see big academic sounding words because most of the time it just confuses me and the rest of the admissions committee. Keep it simple so you don’t confuse the reader. If you have to look up the word you’re about to use on, think twice about actually using it.

Good personal statements are common. They are clear, they are easy to read and they make it easy to understand why someone is interested in studying international relations. They are more than a regurgitation of the resume and transcripts.

Great personal statements are rare. They offer all the aforementioned traits, but they also draw in the reader and make us excited to learn more about the applicant. They are personal but not intrusive, they are well written and engaging. They have examples that make sense. More than anything, they leave me smiling because I can’t wait to meet the author.

Got questions about the personal statement? Shoot me an email or a phone call.

Brad Miller




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