The personal statement is really a great vehicle for students to be able to tell their story to the admissions committee, and should be seen as a way for them to be able to stand out from the rest of the application pack. I would definitely make sure its not cliche. A lot of personal statements are almost like a biography talking about you were born here and where you went to school, we can see that on the resume.
So I would definitely recommend whether it is coming across as story for your personal statement, talking about a specific situation that made you push yourself into this new industry. In fact sometimes when I read applications, I look forward to those personal statements because there are some great stories about what experiences led them to where they are now. You don’t get that everyday and it gives us a really good insight as to who you are as a person and potentially what you hope to do with your life.
Its very important for applicants to tailor their personal statements to the school because its a way for the admissions officers to make sure that their admitting the right person. What were looking for is that you’ve done your research. That you know what our school is about, and that the school is a school and a program that can help you achieve your goals and not just because its a recognizable name. Tell them exactly what is it about this specific school that really interests you.
Is it their particular concentration areas? Is it the specific facility? Or is it particular research centers that they have in house?
These are the type of specific answers that admissions committees are hoping to get from a student’s personal statement. It takes a lot of time and a lot of thought to make it very specific to the program. I have a colleague that had done, you know, graduate admissions advising with students and as a minimum she suggests that people spend at least three months writing their personal statements. Recommendations are a very important part of the application process because its a way for people that know you and you have a relationship with to be on your side and be another advocate for you to get into the program. So you want to make sure that these people like you. You want to make sure that you’re not just getting a recommendation because they are the dean of your school or the president of your school or a higher up in a certain industry or organization.
You want to make sure that you really have a relationship with them and it doesn’t matter how, lets say low level within the industry they are or organization, as long as you feel that they would put a strong recommendation forward. One of the best recommendations that we received at the school was from a Dunkin Donuts supervisor and that may sound crazy to some people, we aren’t a Dunkin Donuts university or anything but it was a great way to show his characteristics that we wouldn’t normally be able to see in a recommendation. They were able to talk about their work ethic, and how they were great with people and communicated during conflicts you know, its Monday morning in New York and you’re trying to get your coffee it can be a little crazy, so they were able to do conflict resolution. While most schools do not require recommendation letters from academic references, the admissions committee always appreciates hearing from a colleague in the field because academic references are able to speak to your academic abilities and classroom performance in a way that perhaps an internship or work supervisor might not. And you as an applicant have the ability to sit down or contact your recommenders again and bring them up to speed on what you’ve been doing with your life since you were last in touch with them and share your reasons for wanting to do this and you know your particular strengths and weaknesses and if they are listening properly and do you think that its a good fit, then you are going to have a very strong letter of recommendation as a result of that. Its very important to give your recommenders I would say ideally at least a one month turnaround from the time that you request the letters from them to the time that they deliver them to you.
The reason being that A, your recommenders are likely very busy people, second of all, writing these letters takes a lot more time particularly if they are sincere and well thought out, and I think that at the end of the day you are asking your recommenders a favor. You are asking them to help you, and certainly in any kind of context when you are seeking someones help you never want to rush them.