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How to Develop a Personal Statement for Research


  • To share your interest and enthusiasm for the specific work you are applying to do
  • To demonstrate what you can contribute to the program to which you are applying
  • To state the specific lab you want to work in and why
  • To state your professional goals and what or how you hope to contribute to this program


First Steps

  • Read the personal statement question carefully and analyze what it is asking for
  • Visualize your audience: will this be read by a scientist? A physician? An administrator?
  • Make yourself as desirable to the selector as possible while being honest about yourself


The Basics

  • Your research interests as they relate to the work you are applying for
  • Year of study and current major, related academic and career goals, impressive academic credentials


Experience in the Field

  • Any special connection to this work such as prior experience or family background
  • Something unique about your research interests or an idea that fuels your own research interests.


Your Proposed Contributions to the Program and Benefits of the Program to You

  • Personal qualities that would benefit the program, demonstrated through examples
  • What you can do for them; what you seek to gain from the opportunity
  • How this specific work fits into your academic and research goals


Writing and Mechanics

Correct usage conveys your attention to detail

  • Use strong word choices, particularly verbs and adjectives
  • Use the more powerful "I am," rather than "I have always been"
  • Make positive statements: "I have experience in…" not "I don't have experience in x, but do have…”
  • Craft clear, engaging opening and closing sentences
  • Check that the opening statement is supported in the body and consistent with the closing statement
  • Organize the statement so it flows from sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph
  • Proofread for grammar, spelling, paragraph breaks, and correct punctuation


Ask Yourself

  • Does this statement show my interest in this specific program, or could it be sent to any program?
  • Does this statement describe me specifically, or could any good student in my field use this?


Additional Suggestions:

  • Reread the personal statement multiple times out loud for clarity, logic, and flow
  • Have someone else read the statement. Ask someone at the Center for Career Opportunities.
  • Share your finished personal statement with the faculty member writing your recommendations
  • Limit the statement to one and a half to two pages with at least one and a half spacing
  • Include a header with your name on each page, which will be numbered as well



  • Restating the question/topic
  • Rewriting your transcript or resume
  • Clichés such as "to make the world a better place"; instead, explain exactly how such a lofty goal will be achieved
  • Providing unrelated information, e.g., explaining when you learned you were not interested in computers
  • Using phrases like "this opportunity will be fun and interesting for me"; focus on what you can contribute
  • Any background earlier than high school

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