How I Structured My Personal Statement
The personal statement was one of the most daunting parts of my application process. I was lucky to start early and have a lot of guidance because I applied for the NSF GRFP before submitting my grad school application, and once I had one personal statement, it was easy to modify it for other universities.
In this post I am going to share how I structured my engineering grad school personal statement and how I addressed my rocky start in school. My overall goal in my personal statement was to show my progression from a highschool student who was interested in engineering to a qualified graduate school applicant with the potential to be a successful researcher. I broke this down into 7 steps and included some excerpts from my personal statement to show how I did this.
The origin story – I discussed my initial interest in prosthetics and how that led me to decide I wanted to be an engineer.
My poor freshman year GPA – I mentioned my rocky start and painted my transfer in a positive light. I said
“I quickly realized that university was not a great culture fit for me. I decided to transfer to Texas State University and change my major to electrical engineering”
What led me to want a PhD – I talked about how the environment at my NASA internship was more appealing than my corporate internship. I clearly expressed what it was about that environment that I liked.
“Working at NASA allowed me to work with people who value knowledge and research and who are excited to learn and share what they have learned. I knew that this was the environment I wanted to work in and decided that I wanted to pursue a PhD”
Undergrad research and other experiences – After discussing why I wanted to do my PhD, I talked about what I did to gain more exposure to research and build my skills as a researcher
“The determination I had to pursue graduate school and a research career motivated me to seek out undergraduate research experiences”
Contributions and accomplishments – This part was uncomfortable but so important. Rather than just saying that I did these internships and research experiences, I Explicitly stated the outcomes. I said things like
“This work led to my first three conference papers”
“As a result of this work, I was invited to present at the Department of Agriculture’s Small Producers Conference and the SRC TECHCON 2018 conference, where I was both a poster presenter and one of eight Undergraduate Innovation Session presenters”
Impact and research interest discussion – I expressed how I wanted my work as an engineer to go beyond myself and how I intended to do this by improving medical devices. I tied the research fields I was interested in to my desire to help people through engineering.
Tie to the university or opportunity – I ended my statement by discussing why that specific university or fellowship would be a good fit for my interests and what I would bring to the university.
Some of my personal statements could be a few pages but others were only 1 page. I made sure every sentence packed a punch and tried not to hold back on bragging about myself.
If you are applying to graduate school this fall, book a free 30 minute consultation here! I help other engineers organize their applications, communicate their experience in a way that is attractive to graduate programs and help them navigate the many steps in the process!