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Tips for Writing a Personal Statement

Young man working at bench

Your personal statement is an important part of your application. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your interest in the program, to explain any issues that might be seen on your transcript, and for you to distinguish yourself from other applicants.


  • Demonstrate your understanding of the specific program and why you are interested in participating in a research experience. Focus on what you want to do and what you want to learn.
  • Structure your statement like an essay – have an introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • Aim for around 250-500 words (1-2 pages, 12pt font, double spaced). Be concise, but give yourself enough words to let us know about who you are. Be honest and professional.
  • Use your own words. Don’t plagiarize.
  • Go to your Writing Lab for help – typos and grammar errors will reflect badly on your application and on the seriousness of your commitment to the program.
  • Ask a faculty member and/or friend to read your statement and give you comments.
  • Important: It might be difficult, but it is important to discuss issues on your transcript (D, F, W, and gaps). Explain the challenges, how you overcame them, and how they made you stronger. A compelling explanation will make your application more competitive. Also, without an explanation, the selection committee may have concerns about your ability to succeed in the program.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Why would a selection committee be interested in you? What makes you a strong candidate? Present evidence of personal characteristics that make you believe you will be a productive member of a research group.
  • How and when did you become interested in this area of science? What in particular gets you excited about pursuing this further?
  • Are there any issues in your transcript or academic background that should be explained? How can you demonstrate that, despite (or because of) these issues, you are ready to be successful in a rigorous research program?
  • Have you had to overcome any hardships or obstacles? How have these made you stronger?
  • Have you participated in other science programs? Clubs?

More tips:

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Parkland College | University of Illinois