As a student of Social Work the world really is your oyster. Jobs are bountiful and the variety of fields within social work are vast. So what are you going to do? If you’re thinking graduate school I’d have to say good decision. Those who have a Masters in Social Work (MSW) not only get paid more, but they have even more options as to what they can do with their degree. However, applying to graduate school can be a bit daunting. The application process requires you to prove yourself to the panel of reviewers who hold your future in their hands. Of course your resume is a huge help in winning this battle; your GPA and references, too.
The personal statement, though? That’s the cornerstone to the whole she-bang. An eloquently written and sellable personal statement is going to carry you leaps and bounds – landing you a spot in graduate school and possibly even in-house scholarships. Get ahead of the curve with this course on mastering college admissions. So how do you put together a compelling personal statement?
What is a Personal Statement?
A personal statement is like a cover letter for a job, it’s your chance to jump off the paper and explain who you are, why you do what you do and why you’re a really good fit for the institution you’re applying to. Graduate school review panels see hundreds of resumes and reference letters. Most of the time they skim your resume for 15 seconds, glance at the references (which often all sound the same) and immediately form an opinion in their head about who you are and how you would fit within the program. A personal statement letter is a declaration of your ability to be an asset to the university and of your passion for the field. Ultimately, this gives you the opportunity to stand out.
5 Steps to Write a Personal Statement
1. Research the school you are applying to and do it well. Read over the school philosophy, their mission statement, the faculty bio’s in your department and the curriculum. When you take the time to do this it will show throughout your personal statement. You want the reviewer to think wow, she’d be perfect for our program. It also indicates that you took time out of your busy life to actually learn about the University instead of just pulling a name out of a hat. The desire to attend an institution for its quality and focus is a good selling point.
2. The first section of the personal statement should consist of a brief introduction of yourself. We’re talking a paragraph here, not a page. Who are you? Why did you choose to study social work? A short and very concise story is welcome here. When you read an article or a book, you know you’re going to like it within the first few lines, right? This is called the hook. You want to hook your readers into finishing your statement. In the course quality paragraph and essay writing learn more about crafting a top-notch statement.
3. The next section should include a brief description of your strengths and weaknesses as a social worker. Now, it may seem counter-intuitive to highlight your downfalls, however it’s actually beneficial. This tells the reader that you know you have some things to work on, you acknowledge it and you are attempting to address it by going to graduate school. No one is perfect, so don’t try to pretend you are. Highlight your strengths by discussing your experience in the field. When was a time you accomplished something you were proud of? Did you win any awards or receive any recognition for your work? How do these things contribute to your goal of becoming a professional social worker? Let the strong and weak balance each other out to show that you’re still a work in progress, but you’ve already had success.
4. This last section is where you need to appeal to the reader about your core values as a social worker in relation to the core values of the school. If the social work school has a heavy focus on injustice and poverty of developing nations – then explain the importance of this issue to you. Explain how you want to expand your knowledge and what you may want to do to help solve the problem once you graduate. What is your vision of social work? What do you want to study specifically? How do these coincide with the school’s philosophy? What lead you to be so interested in this particular topic? Let’s say you are interested in studying social justice as a social worker. Let’s also say that you spent time working in Africa and realized your passion. Describe the impact this experience had on your career path, and life. Need help choosing the right college for you? Get some professional guidance in the course how to choose a college.
5. The personal statement should be no more than a page long. This requires you to be very precise in the stories you tell, the accomplishments you disclose and the passion you wish to convey. Review your draft several times before attaching it to your application. As always, check for spelling and grammatical errors. Nothing says “unfit” like an applicant who didn’t even take the time to address minor mistakes. Have your current undergraduate advisor review the personal statement as well. Perhaps you forgot to include a keystone point or they have some insight as to what the school is looking for.
For more tips and tricks on how to narrow down the topics you include in your statement read through How to Write a Personal Statement. Also check out this course on college writing to help hone your writing skills.