Tips to Rock Your Personal Statement

By: Sam Saxena Behavioral Sciences and Health Education

One of my favorite Rollins memories came at Visit Emory, weeks before I had committed to Emory for grad school. I met my academic advisor and while we were chatting, she was able to repeat a line to me straight out of my personal statement, word for word. I was floored and flattered at the same time, but of course highly appreciative. After all, it took me 18 months to write my personal statement (but not in the way you think). She later told me that my personal statement really stuck out, and I asked for some of the reasons why, with the intent of writing a blog post to help prospective students. However, I realized that not only are these tips helpful for a personal statement, but they can also be applied to life in general, and help you find success in grad school and beyond. 

Tip 1: “Tell the story in your own voice.

How this helps your personal statement: It’s so easy to write to an audience. A lot of times we want to write what we think the admissions team wants to hear instead of what we actually want to say. However, in doing so, the essay becomes cookie-cutter, and sounds like everyone else’s essay. What sets you apart?

What this means off the page: Be authentic. Much like admissions counselors, people can tell when you’re not being genuine, or trying to be something you’re not. Don’t be afraid of being who you really are – people will respect you for it!

 

Tip 2: “Thoughtful without being overly long.

How this helps your personal statement: People on the admissions team are reading thousands of essays throughout the application season – your single-spaced 4.5 page paper will likely not arouse any excitement. Say what you need to say, and try to avoid the fluff.

What this means off the page: Somewhere during our educational lives, many of us were conditioned to think “longer is better”, but that’s certainly not the case. Getting your point across succinctly, whether in writing or verbally, is a valuable skill.

 

Tip 3: “Use concrete examples.

How this helps your personal statement: In your personal statement, you will talk about why you want to get an MPH. Talk about the moment you realized you wanted an MPH, or when you fell in love with public health. Talk about the work you did to lead you here, and be specific – let your passion shine through!

What this means off the page: Have you ever had to submit a paper without a rubric? There might be nothing more frustrating. If you speak vaguely, or write in broad generalizations, it’s easy to lose your audience. Specific, concrete examples just land better, whether you’re interviewing for a job, or even telling a story at a dinner party.

 

Tip 4: “Clear about how RSPH would help you reach your goals.

How this helps your personal statement: When crafting a personal statement, write with purpose. There’s a reason you want this degree and are willing to work hard for two years to obtain it. Be clear about what those reasons are, and why Rollins is the right place for you.

What this means off the page: It’s great to set long-term goals for yourself, but I would encourage anyone reading this to focus more on their next step than their 5-year plan. The best advice I received from an old professor was, “Don’t go to graduate school just for the sake of going. Go, because it can help you do what you want to do, better.” I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted my career to look like after grad school, (still not sure!) but I knew that getting my MPH was the next right step.  

 

Tip 5: “It should come naturally.” Disclaimer: This is a tip that I came up with.

How this helps your personal statement: I think this ties the previous four tips together nicely. You’re clearly interested in public health, and applying to get your MPH for a reason. Everyone has a unique story, so take this opportunity to tell yours.

What this means off the page: Earlier, I said it took me 18 months to write my personal statement. It was roughly 18 months between the time I realized I wanted to get an MPH in health education and the time I applied to programs. During those 18 months, I had several conversations with people about why I wanted to go to grad school and what I wanted to study. When it came time to actually write my personal statement, I just wrote down what I had been telling people all along. It was one of the easiest things I’ve ever written because I knew what I wanted to say for so long. Like I said, you’re coming here for a reason, and you know this is the field you want to be in. You absolutely belong at Rollins, just use your personal statement to say why that’s true!

 

Special thanks to Meghan Sullivan, BSHE ADAP, for providing tips/quotes 1-4.