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How to Create your Personal Statement for Psychology

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Odds are, if you are at the stage of writing a personal statement, then you are more than likely preparing applications for graduate schools in psychology. Below find out what it is, why you need one, and get some pointers on crafting a personal statement that will put your best foot forward with the admissions committees.

What is a Personal Statement?

Commonly referred to as a "statement of purpose", and by some as an "application essay", a personal statement is your opportunity to introduce and sell yourself to a desired graduate program or college. In most cases, the personal statement can serve as the defining factor that allows students to stand out in a pool of applicants with equally high GPAs and test scores. Plus, a stellar statement of purpose could also help the applications of students who have unfavorable scores and grades.

Before You Begin...

Consider the type of personal statement required of you:

Personal statements can range from a few paragraphs to several one-page essays that address different topics. They will vary widely between programs and schools, which means that you might craft quite a few of these application essays if you seek admission into various programs.

The objective of these statements all share a common thread: for the graduate committee to get a clear understanding of your career and academic aspirations as well as a sample of your writing abilities (a skill of utmost importance for comprehensive graduate study).

If Topics Are Chosen By You

The specific expectations of a statement of purpose might vary. Some schools might leave the direction and objective of the essay up to the applicant. In cases, you have the freedom to choose what you write about although, as a rule of thumb, essays should take on a professional/ academic focus rather than be personal or autobiographical. Don't confuse personal statement with a long essay about your life growing up.

Instead, demonstrate your best attributes by outlining your fit, interests, previous experiences, servant leadership, research and courses you have taken that affirmed your dedication to the field of study. If you were not given specific questions, then be sure to touch bases with all of these that are relevant to your background in a logical and consistent manner.

If Topics Are Chosen By the Program

Other schools may provide you with a list of specific questions to answer pertaining to your career objectives and how obtaining an education with the particular program may advance you towards your goals.

Examples of specific topics outlined by graduate schools in psychology include:

Explain any previous work experience or teaching experiences you have in the field of psychology and why those experiences make you a strong candidate for our program.

Explain your long-term career goals.

Why do you think this program is a good fit for you?

How do you think this program can help you further your career objectives?

How has your previous education prepared you to take on study at the graduate or professional level?

What experience do you have conducting research? Rate your interest in conducting research.

What practitioners, researchers, or authors in the field of psychology have influenced your interest in this area of study?

Reflect on these questions or topic areas for a while before starting the writing process. Review your resume for direction about skills, experiences, or even lack of experience that you'll want to identify and elaborate on in your paper. Write a list of attributes that you think describe you and consider how they are relevant to your interest in pursuing higher education.

During and After Writing...

Express Your Motivation

When developing a statement of purpose for graduate schools in psychology, you will want to write at length about your particular interests, motivation, and passion for the field of study. Consider what experiences or traits you have that make you a better candidate than the hundreds of other applicants vying to gain admission.

Back up your expression of motivation with hard facts. The admissions committee wants a well-rounded candidate with a number of professional experiences that have helped clarify their ability to handle graduate study. Simply going on and on about how bad you want to be in the program with no relevant experiences that support that claim may not win you any favor.

Be Honest and Clear

When preparing a document that is virtually serving as a personal advertisement, you will write at length about the skills you possess that strengthen your application: academic curiosity, flexibility, maturity, persistence, and professionalism among others. When elaborating on your strengths, be sure to do so with respect to their relevance and importance. Do not go on about a characteristic that could be considered minor or irrelevant.

Also, be mindful of stating your goals and interests clearly and honestly. If you are not interested in a particular area, then leave out that information. Do not express an interest or ability that you do not have. It's significant to discuss your weaknesses as well. If you have low test scores or a less-than-spectacular GPA, point that out in advance. Explain, if appropriate, why these aspects of your application are weak and follow up with a plan to rectify those aspects if you are accepted into graduate school.

Summary Points to Remember

  • At this point, you can't change your college or graduate school entrance test scores or your grade point average. You can, however, make a significant impact during the applications process by developing a well-written statement of purpose.
  • Avoid writing at length about your personal history. Stick to the qualities and experiences that are relevant to your growth and abilities in the field of psychology.
  • Answer all questions from the application and be sure to meet the page or word count requirements.
  • Be sure to clearly and honestly relate your experiences and interests, also taking time to point out both strengths and weaknesses. Share how you plan to overcome those weaknesses or use them to your advantage.
  • Ask someone else to look over your statement of purpose--an advisor or professor in your department--who can give you straightforward feedback on its content.
  • Customize each personal statement to the program or school you are applying. Elaborate on how that particular program can assist you in reaching your goals.
  • During revisions, pay attention to the strength and dynamism of your opening paragraph. Your goal is to hook the readers and give them the desire to keep reading.

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