Home Blog FAQ: Writing your graduate school personal statement

FAQ: Writing your graduate school personal statement

June 17, 2021
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Writing a personal statement for graduate school can feel overwhelming, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be. Instead of viewing your essay as a challenge or another obstacle on your way to earning your degree, start thinking of it as an opportunity.

What’s the one thing you wished the admissions committee knew about you? Why is it important that you get accepted into this master’s program in particular? What really inspired you to pursue a career in counseling? Your graduate school personal statement is your chance to fill in gaps in your resume and explain why you’re a good fit for this program.

As you’re writing your essay, you still might have a few questions. Below, find our answers to a few of the more common ones we hear from applicants to our online master’s in clinical mental health counseling.

How long should a personal statement be?

Many universities and colleges will explicitly state how long they need your personal statement to be. Some schools also have restrictions on what kind of font, font size and line spacing your essay needs to be, so carefully read the admissions requirements to make sure you don’t make a bad impression before anyone reads the first word.

Generally speaking, your personal statement should be more than one page but no more than three. You want to answer all of the prompts given to you, thoroughly and completely, but you also want to make sure you do it without being long winded.

A great way to start is by creating an outline of all of the talking points you want to cover. Organize them in a way where they logically flow from one thought to another. This can act as a helpful guide as you write your personal statement. If you’re at the bottom of the second page, but you have only worked halfway through your outline, you might need to look for areas to trim.

What should I write about in my personal statement?

Before you start writing your personal essay, it’s important to take the time to decide what you will be writing about. Many programs will give you specific prompts to cover. For example at Marquette University, we ask applicants to focus on why they’re interested in the program and what makes them suited to the counseling profession.

Your personal statement should be a reflection of you and the program you are applying to. Be sure to research its admissions requirements, curriculum and faculty before you start writing. Be specific as you outline what stands out about the program to you and what seems relevant to your career goals.

Speaking of, this is also the perfect opportunity to discuss why you want to pursue this career and what you hope to accomplish. Explain how a past personal experience led you to this profession, or how volunteering at a local nonprofit set you on this career path. Again, it is important to be specific. That will help your personal statement stand out and allow the admissions committee to get to know you as a person and future counselor better.

This is another reason to create an outline before you start writing the essay itself. It gives you the time to reflect on what you want to say about yourself or your background and how you want to do it. It’s important not to rush through this process or quickly throw something together. Because you have a limited space, you want to make sure you’re not wasting any of it.

Should I be worried about grammar and spelling?

You should absolutely take grammar seriously as you’re writing your personal statement.

Through your personal statement, you want to show the admissions committee how important this opportunity is to you. That means showing them that you are putting in the additional work and are taking the application process seriously. When faculty and administrators read a personal statement, they want to see true excitement and a strong level of professionalism. For them, that is a strong sign that you will be a committed and successful student in the program.

If you are worried about your grammar skills, ask a friend or trusted colleague to read through your essay. A fresh set of eyes can help you catch any misspelled words or confusing sentences. They can also identify any areas where you might have missed a key part of the prompt or did not explain yourself very well. If you are struggling with a certain section, talking through it can be a big help. Sometimes talking through your thoughts and then writing them down can make the process a whole lot easier.

Find your opportunity at Marquette.

The most important thing to do as you write your personal statement for graduate school: Read the prompt carefully. Make sure you don’t accidentally skip a question or fail to meet the required word count. Your personal statement is an essential component of your application, so this is not the place to make small and very avoidable mistakes.

If you’re ready to apply to the online master’s in clinical mental health counseling at Marquette University, start with our admissions page. Here you will find all of the required application materials and upcoming deadlines. Start your application today!