It’s Personal: How to Write the Statement

Planning and writing the personal statement can be challenging. Even though it is the most general question, it is the most challenging. The challenge comes in creating a package which entails your passions, goals, experiences, skills, and uniqueness. It is also difficult to put all of this into just a page and a half, but it can be done. It is about telling the story of how you have used your passion for the subject you want to study and applied it to your different experiences. Imagine if there was nothing else in your application packet but this statement, what should the admission committee read to know that you deserve to be at their institution. Here are some general tips and advice on approaching the personal statement.

  • Be Personal
    • It’s about telling YOUR story. The only way to do that is to give unique details about your life. What pathway has influenced your passions and goals? Was it a childhood experience or special people in your life? When did you become interested in this topic?
  • Past Experience
    • What have you learned about this field or what experiences have you had? Have you done internships or summer programs that lead to the realization of the topic you wanted to study?
  • Leveraging Past Experience
    • What skills (technical and leadership) did you acquire? How did you overcome obstacles and challenges? What was your solution? What did you learn?
  • Toot Your Horn
    • Highlight some of your non-academic experiences and accomplishments that have helped you prepare for graduate school. Discuss your characteristics and discuss ways in which they make you a successful candidate.
  • Be Specific
    • What makes this program you are applying for special? Research the school and what makes the program unique. Is there a professor you have identified you would like to work with or a special program the school sponsors?
  • Begin Strong, End Strong
    • The first paragraph is the place you convince the admission committee why they should keep reading. The concluding paragraph is where you convince them that you deserve to be a student at the institution.
  • Be Concise, Be Correct
    • Remember that hundreds of applications are received during a cycle. Make sure your essay is within the word limit. You want to ensure a reviewer doesn’t see multiple pages and immediately gets discouraged.
    • Proofread – proofread – proofread. I have been guilty of this sometimes because re-reading can be tedious, but it is worth it. It is important that your grammar and spelling are correct.

Be honest and confident. You are one-of-a-kind so do not be afraid to share your experience! Continue reading

Mirror Talk

When you feel overwhelmed, spend a few minutes for self-reflection. This is important because it is a reminder of your greatness. We sometimes forget the journey and how hard we have worked to get to this point. Often there are so many little setbacks that we forget the few but ground-breaking strides.

Today when the motivation is lost, look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself this question:

Do you know how unbelievably brilliant you are? 

Rise Up, Rise Above and Rise Beyond. 

Up, Above and Beyond the doubt. 

The only person who can question your ability is YOU. Don’t doubt it! #selfreflection

Studying F.A.S.T for Exams

So it’s that time of the semester and you are wondering, how are you going to have the time to read entire text books and prepare for exams? It’s all about finding your study style. It is easy for us to cram days before an exam so that we know what we need in order to get that passing grade. But what happens after the exam? Sometimes, you forget everything. It has certainly happened to me. I forgot everything because I did not take the time to understand the subject. I found that when I took the time to truly understand the topic, I was able to approach the exam with a different view.

In taking a high level approach to my notes, I asked myself some key questions to summarize what I was reading.

  1. What is the general idea of the topic? What is the objective?
    1. Basically if I could right a synopsis in one line, what would it be.
  2. What are the key aspects? Pros, cons and key points
    1. This provides more detail such as key findings.
  3. What was discovered? What does it all mean? 
    1. What conclusions have been drawn or can be drawn

Whether you are a visual or auditory learner or learn better by doing, here are a few other tips to consider:

  • Stay abreast of current lectures
    • At the end of the day, take a few minutes just to review day’s lectures. If there is something you do not understand, your review will help identify it.
  • In the midst of frustration, take step back
    • Sometimes you may feel as if you are hitting a wall with a topic, this is when it is important to speak up and ask questions. Talk to your professor or teaching assistant for guidance on how to approach parts of a review that may be challenging.
  • Host a study group
    • This is a great way to spend time with your friends. Meet in the library or coffee shop and make this a recurring meeting.
    • Form a homework group with you classmates. Sometimes everybody may not know the answer for everything but often times, enough of you know the answer for some things.
  • Avoid lengthy notes
    • Be brief and precise.
    • Use flash cards (highlight 3 main points)
  • Learning by doing
    • Sometimes it helps to have a little practice. Try answering the questions at the end of a chapter or in a practice exam.
  • Length of study time
    • Avoid studying multiple hours at once. Take a short break after about an hour to help your mind reset. You don’t want to burn yourself out before the real race even begins.

When it comes to preparing and studying for exams, you have to listen to you body and your mind. Be mindful of your saturation point and limits. Most importantly, don’t forget to study F.A.S.T.

  • Focus on the key points and takeaways
  • Alternate where you study
  • Surround yourself with people who you can not only ask for help, but uplift you
  • Timing is important. Take time for rest and self-care.

What methods do you use to study?