Saturday, March 23, 2019

Graduate School Series: Personal Statement

Hello readers! One of the most important documents for Grad school is the Personal Statement. Why is it important? It allows for potentiat schools to see what kind of person you are. Many graduate schools will require this document. Some programs will list specific directions to follow when writing this document. It is important that you follow their instructions. For the personal statement, I recommend writing several drafts and making multiple edits. Checking for grammar and incorrect spelling is very important. It is very helpful to get feedback from professors or anyone who has been through this experience/ who is talented in writing. I formatted my personal statement per APA guidelines because my area of study uses APA style. Some programs may prefer MLA style.

This is how I structured my personal statement:

  • First paragraph: I explained a little about myself and what program that I’m applying to. I talked about why I am applying to the program and I wrote about my research interests ( how my research interests relates to the program).
  • Second paragraph: I explained why I am interested in my research topic.
  • Third paragraph: I wrote about my research experience
  • Fourth paragraph: I wrote about how my unpaid work experience has helped me be prepared for graduate school ( leadership positions, assisting a professor, working with a variety of people).
  • Fifth paragraph: I wrote about future goals after graduate school. I wrote how the graduate school could help me reach those goals.
  • Sixth paragraph : I wrote about three faculty that I hoped to work with.

My personal statement ended up being one page ( double spaced 12 times new Roman font). Some personal statements can be longer. The length of the personal statement will be determined by the requirements of the program. Some programs may want a specific word count or page count. Mine was short because I haven’t had tons of experience that would relate to graduate school. I also watched a lot of YouTube videos and I asked advice from professors. My professors were nice and gave me their personal statements as examples ( this helped me how to organize my personal statement).

~Liu Miao~

Monday, March 11, 2019

Graduate School Series: Application process

 Note : This is based on my application for an United States graduate school and everyone has their own experience / thoughts about the application process. This post is meant for the general graduate school application process and it is not to be specific towards a specific program/ degree. This is why I give general advice that could apply to those who are applying to a variety of graduate programs.

First, I used an excel spreadsheet to keep track of all the schools I wanted to apply. You could use Google spreedsheets if you didn't have Microsoft Excel. My professor recommended doing this because it can be hard to keep track of which deadline go with each school and sometimes schools require different documents. Horizontally I wrote: location, deadline, number of recommendations letters, documents needed ( transcript, CV, writing sample), Personal Statement, GRE scores, Name of the degree, school website.

Vertically, I wrote name of school. So my excel sheet looked like this. I have included a picture of a table that I created in powerpoint. (I didn't knw how to include a picture of my spreedsheet but the table has the same format)

Things I learned from the application process:

  • it’s never too late to start looking at graduate schools. I started looking at school during my junior/3rd year of college.
  • Double Check Deadlines. This is very important because every program has a deadline and deadline can vary depending on the program. Also deadlines vary depending if you are pursuing a masters or doctoral degree.
  • Check to see if your program accepts new students in the spring or is it only fall acceptance.
  • Find out if your program requires the GRE. If it does require it, I would start studying it. I recommend scheduling the test early because seats went fast when I took the GRE during the fall semester. I had my test scheduled in March and took it in September. Then I rescheduled to take it a month later ( October). There is a 21-22 day wait period before you can re take the test. Some programs require official scores from ETS so you need to take the test in enough time before the deadline because it can take awhile for ETS to send the official scores to the school and the school needs to process those scores ( according to one graduate program I looked at).
  • Start writing your personal statement early . I recommend writing multiple drafts. Many programs require this. I received great advice from my professors and a great friend about structuring a personal statement. If you get your personal statement done early, you can have professors and friends give you feedback.
  • Recommendation Letter. I try to give my professors two months in advance of the deadline. Also give your professors specific instruction on how the letter should be sent ( email, regular mail, submit letter to an online link, etc).
  • Also try to talk with someone who has gone through this experience. This can be friends or professors or bloggers. I was very fortunate to have professors and a friend who were willing to give me advice and answer questions . I was able to ask those in the blogging community who have been/ currently in graduate school. It is very helpful to have someone to ask questions/ advice about graduate school.

I would love to hear which graduate schools that you are applying to? If you are already in graduate school, what is one tip that you would share about the application process?

Have a great week!!

~Liu Miao~