After you are somewhat satisfied with your statement, the first person you should show your it to is one of your recommendation writers who is in the field that you hope to enter. While it can be tempting to hold your statement close to your chest and avoid showing it to anyone, someone in your academic discipline will be able to let you know if you’re on the right track. Allowing this person to give you feedback early in your writing process, will help you avoid spending time perfecting a statement that isn’t a good fit for the program you’re applying to. When showing anyone an early draft, make this clear when you ask for a meeting to discuss it. Tell your reader explicitly that it is an early draft and be clear about the kind of feedback you’re seeking. Explain that you’d like them to give you general feedback about whether or not your statement would be appropriate for the program you’re applying to. One caution though: even though this statement may not be perfect, make sure that it’s free of evident typos, it answers the questions asked by the application, and that it’s a complete draft.
After you’ve gotten feedback from a recommendation writer and have revised your statement with this feedback in mind, show your work to others in your intended field—like the other people writing your recommendations, for example. (Don’t be intimated to contact them—they’re expecting it!) Keep on revising. At this point, it can be challenging to manage the feedback you’re receiving since some readers may disagree with each other. This is common and should be expected! At the end of the day, different readers will have different opinions. At the end of the day, you’ll need to use your best judgment to navigate conflicting advice and to write a statement that represents your own experiences and unique voice.
At any point doing this process, consider visiting your university’s writing center. UW-Madison students can visit the Writing Center for an individual appointment—either in person or online. Writing Center instructors are trained to work with students seeking help with personal statements and see dozens of students applying to graduate school every semester. Since UW Madison’s Writing Center instructors are graduate students (or have graduated from graduate programs), they can give you valuable insight into the application process and all of the writing associated with it.
You might also want to check out the Writing Center’s free workshops: Writing Personal Essays for Graduate School Applications and Writing Personal Essays for Professional School Applications.
Before you send out your statement, show it to a few friends or family members outside of your intended discipline. They can help you proofread it and catch any errors that you may have missed. (After you’ve gone through a few rounds of revisions, it can be hard to see your own work with fresh eyes.) Once you’re happy with your statement, send it out and wait for the acceptances to roll in!
Asher, Donald. Graduate Admissions Essays: Write Your Way into the Graduate School of Your Choice. 4th ed., Ten Speed Press. 2012.
“Graduate School Application Essays.” MIT Career Advising and Professional Development, https://capd.mit.edu/grad-and-med-school/apply-graduate-school/graduate-school-application-essays. Accessed 1 July 2019.
Stetlzer, Richard J. How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School. 3rd ed., Princeton: Peterson’s Guides. 1997.
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