Sunday, January 22, 2012

Transforming Your Personal Statement

Hi there! My name is Kimberly Jenks, and I am a freshman majoring in Biomedical Engineering at UC Davis. I'm a frantic student balancing honors chemistry, calculus, and engineering by day, and a ninja for the UC Davis Judo Team by night. Science is my passion, and my curiosity is never left satiated, especially when it comes to black holes and time warps! 
Do you have a similar passion for a particular subject? Well, if you're a freshman, this is a great time to start volunteering at research labs and getting some hands-on experience in your field. I've conducted research for half a year, and I have loved every minute of it. It's especially fun when you train at laboratories of various fields (mine were science-related) because you end up becoming more well rounded. 
A pivotal step in getting one-on-one training in your field is taking the step to jump on the wagon. Whether it be applying for a research internship or emailing a cover letter to a professor, it's essential that you understand why your effort to get involved is important to you and how it will push you further toward achieving your goals.
Not only will you need to know this for yourself, but many internship programs and professors show curiosity about this as well. Some ask for a personal statement, while professors may want to know more about you as they write your letters of recommendation.
So here are my tips on transforming your Personal Statement from stilted to stellar!

• Look at the big picture:
Ask yourself, what do you want to get out of this internship? How will it help you accomplish your goals? What would you learn and gain from this experience? (This could range from specific laboratory or computer programming skills to friendship and cultural awareness.)
For me, my big picture was "contributing to future exploration." I absolutely love exploring the realm of science, especially outer space, and that's what I repeatedly discussed in my personal statement. I specifically elaborated on how conducting research will help me do just that. Find your niche (and make sure it's genuine—not cliché or tacky), stick to it, and relate it to your goals and aspirations. This will greatly help you stand out among the crowd of applicants.
• Write your story and Be specific:
Admission officers like to find people who exhibit their individuality. What makes you unique? How does your history set you apart from others? What brought you to find passion in your interests?
Think of an instance or two that pushed you toward your passion and goals. Was it when you made your first Lego robot, or when you toured the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the first time? Be as specific as you can (yet still concise). The more personal your essay is, the more unique it is as well.
• Give life to your essay and Use action verbs:
Regardless of your writing style, using action verbs could make all the difference in the tone of your essay. It gives a sense of life to your essay and intensifies the actions presented in the writing. For instance, I could say, "I conducted research in the biomechanics department…" OR I could use livelier vocabulary by saying, "I dived into scientific research and studied the intricacy of the human's musculoskeletal system." (The second sentence is indeed wordier, but it's far more interesting to read.)
I hope these tips will help you write a unique Personal Statement. Best of luck!


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