Graduate School Understanding the Question
Ever wonder why the application asks the questions it does? Need to know what the Admissions officers really want to know? Take a look at the questions below as we attempt to de-mystify the application essay.
What they mean
- This is your opportunity to offer a personal statement that will give us a clearer sense of you as an individual.
This question asks for a unique statement that will give the admissions committee a better sense of who you are. Because you can choose from among such a broad range of topics to answer this question, your choice of topic is as important as what you say about it. The question is not meant to prompt reiterations of information found in other parts of your application, nor is it meant to give you a chance to explain weaker areas of your application.
Choose a specific topic--an experience, event, or activity, for example--that has personally affected you in a direct way. Always explain how the experience, event, or activity has changed the way you think, how you feel, or who you are. Do not attempt to tell your life story; instead, focus on one or two points that help illustrate who you are. Use your personal statement to convey something positive about yourself. If you would like to explain weaknesses, such as why your junior year grades were poor, do it in an addendum rather than in the personal statement itself. If there are other items you would like to include, like newspaper articles or thesis synopses, make sure that they are not too lengthy and that they add significantly to the picture of who you are.
- What unique experiences would you contribute to this school?
Admissions committees are often looking to increase the diversity within their schools' student bodies. This question does not simply ask you to tell how you are different, but to demonstrate an ability to explain exactly how your unique background and experiences would be of benefit in the classroom.
You will likely have experiences that are similar to many other applicants, but if you can explain better than the next guy how your experiences can tangibly translate into an improved classroom experience, then you have the competitive advantage. Think carefully about which of your experiences have given you a special perspective and insight that would significantly contribute to classroom discussions.
- Write an essay that demonstrates how you think.
This question gauges your ability to deliver some real insight about a topic other than yourself. Your answer demonstrates how well you write, how critically you think, and how capable you are of intelligently discussing all sides of an issue.
You should write about an issue you are passionate about, but not one that you cannot look at objectively and analytically. For example, you can write about a political or ethical issue that you are very familiar with and have thought about before.