For students, personal statements are one of the most difficult
and most important documents they will ever write. We have the
resources to boost your confidence and the know-how to help you
write a powerful personal statement.
Professor Stacy Hubbard from UB's department of English breaks
down what you should include in your personal statement.
- Origins of interest in a particular field. This could be
a book you read, a lecture you attended or an experience you
- Ways in which you have developed your interest.
Additional reading, experiments, internships, coursework, summer
jobs, science fairs, travel experiences, writing projects, etc.
Give some details about what you gained from a particular course or
how a particular project or paper has helped you to develop
- Reasons for changes in your interests and goals. These
chances could be addressed in positive, rather than negative,
terms. Instead of saying "I became bored with engineering and
switched to physics," try "Through a bridge-design project, I
discovered a new interest in thermodynamics and decided to focus my
studies on physics."
- Reasons for inconsistencies in your record. If
there is anything unusual or problematic in your record (poor
grades, several school transfers, time away from school, etc.) this
information needs to be explained in as positive a way, as
possible. If you were immature and screwed up, then you matured and
shaped up, say so and point to the proof (improved grades, a
stellar recent employment record, etc.). Remember, failure of one
kind or another, if you learn from it, is good preparation for
- Special skills you have developed, relevant to the planned
research. This could be general knowledge of a field
acquired through reading and study or special practical skills
(data analysis, fossil preservation, interviewing techniques,
writing skills, etc.) that will qualify you to conduct a particular
type of research. Be specific about how you acquired these skills
and at what level you possess them.
- Character traits, talents or extra-curricular activities
outside the field that help to qualify you. If you are
particularly tenacious about overcoming obstacles, creative at
problem-solving, adaptable to unfamiliar circumstances or just
great at organizing teams of people, these qualities can be
mentioned as relevant to the research experience. Sometimes the
evidence for these traits may be other than academic; Have you have
overcome a disability or disadvantage of some kind in your life?
Have you persisted in a particularly challenging task? Have lived
in different parts of the world and adapted to difference cultures?
Have you organized teams of volunteers in the community? Make clear
what traits have been developed by these experiences and how these
will help you in the research experience. Acknowledge your
strengths, but do so humbly.
- Knowledge and/or skills that you hope to acquire through
participation in this opportunity. What is particularly
intriguing to you about this opportunity? How will it help you to
acquire new skills or carry forward your own research
- Emerging and ongoing questions. What kinds of
unsolved puzzles, problems or potential research paths are of
interest to you? Which of these have you explored in school or
extra-curricular projects? What sorts of projects do you hope to
pursue in the future?
- Future plans and goals. Do you plan to go to
graduate or professional school and in what field? What are your
post-graduation goals and why? How would this research opportunity
help you to achieve those goals?