Personal statement. Statement of purpose. Now a personal goals statement. Each of these terms boils down to the same thing – in order to complete your application to grad school, you have to write an essay.
As I explored in a previous blog post, if you want to solidify your chances of getting in, regardless of the name given in the application materials, you better write a kick ass essay that knocks the socks off of the admissions committee.
A few days ago, I was hanging out on Twitter, and received a question about “What is a personal goals statement for grad school and how do I write one?” (By the way, if you aren’t following me on Twitter and staying abreast of the convos about higher education, grad school, getting started on your career, and the occasional reality TV tweet-through, then you’re totally missing out!) So let’s explore this question:
What Is a Personal Goals Statement?
A personal goals statement is a short 500 word or less essay describing why you want to pursue a graduate degree, how it will help you realize your ultimate career goals, and why the program you’re applying to is your best fit. Even though “personal statement” and “statement of purpose” doesn’t lay this out explicitly, you should be presenting your case about each of these three points in ANY essay you submit to be considered for grad school.
You might be surprised at how many essays do not cover these points. Or don’t cover them clearly. Grad school admissions committees want to pick students with aptitude and promise, but they do NOT want to admit the applicant who had great grades and test scores and is unsure about what they want to do with their life. This may come as a shocker to you, but a lot of applicants disqualify themselves from getting into grad school because they haven’t done their research or soul searching on the questions of:
- Why go to grad school?
- Why now?
- What do I ultimately want to do with this degree?
- Why this program is the best to help me get a jump start on my career?
You would be very surprised. I can see this clearly in hindsight because I was the applicant with a lot of promise and couldn’t clearly convey in writing my specific interests, what I wanted to do with my life in the way of a career, or why I was applying to said illustrious graduate program.
Make it clear. Define a specific interest. Assert your passion. Shows that you are decisive and committed to this career path. This is what makes some applicants stand out from the competition and earns acceptance letters.
There is a major practical reason that admissions committees are requesting personal goals statements. There aren’t bestselling books about quarterlife crises for no reason – a lot of people consider continuing on with their education, but are unsure. They wake up with grand ideas that they “should be doing more with their lives.” So they try their hand at applying to grad school. Sometimes they don’t know what else to do besides pursue another degree. While valid and very common feelings, these are perhaps not the best or most convincing reasons to admit someone to your graduate program, in the eyes of admissions committees.
Simply put, getting into grad school, especially some of the nation’s best programs, is extremely competitive. Open slots are limited for students they can admit. No matter what kind of program you’re applying to, in the game of grad school admissions, the applicant who clearly conveys passion and intent and demonstrates a commitment to a career path with laser-focused purpose and clearly defined goals wins. Hands down.