Graduate School: Personal Essay-Career and Professional Development Center - Carnegie Mellon University

Graduate School: Personal Essay

WRITING A PERSONAL STATEMENT:
Most applications will require you to write an essay about why you would like to attend graduate school and in particular, their institution.

PART ONE: THE INTRODUCTION
  • This is where you tell them what you want to study. For example, I wish to pursue a PhD degree in materials science and engineering with an emphasis in silicon.
  • Why you are applying to this specific school – indicate its strengths.
PART TWO: SUMMARIZE WHAT YOU HAVE DONE AS AN UNDERGRADUATE
  • Important classes you took that stimulated your desire for graduate study, such as a specific project for a class, etc.
  • Research you might have done. Indicate with whom, the title of the project, what your responsibilities were and the outcome. Write technically, professors are the people who read these statements. 
  • Work/internship experience, especially if you had any kind of responsibility for testing, designing, researching, etc.
PART THREE: WHAT YOU HAVE DONE WITH YOUR TIME
  • If you graduated and worked for a while and are returning to graduate school, indicate what you’ve been doing while working: company, work/design team, responsibilities, what you learned. You can also indicate how this has prepared you for graduate study.
PART FOUR: INDICATE WHAT YOU WANT TO STUDY IN DETAIL
  • Indicate your area of interest, then state questions you might have which are associated with the topic, i.e. what you might be interested in studying. You should have an area of emphasis selected before you write the statement.
  • Research information about the department, the professors, and their research. Are there professors whose interest areas match yours? If so, indicate this, as it demonstrates that you have done your homework and are highly motivated. 
  • End your statement in a positive and confident manner with a readiness for the challenges of graduate study.
ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS:
  • See sample essays in Don Asher's Graduate Admissions Essays.
  • Have your essay reviewed by a professor(s) and your Career Consultant.
  • Timing: summer before your senior year or fall semester of senior year.

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