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Marquette University
Career Services Center

Holthusen Hall, First Floor
1324 W. Wisconsin Avenue
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
Phone: (414) 288-7423
Fax: (414) 288-5302
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Personal Statement

Both post-grad service and post-grad education often require essays or personal statements. The tips below will help in either situation. These tips were gleaned from a lecture by Don Asher on “Graduate Admissions Essays” at Marquette University in March 2010.

The overall application package will represent who “you” are to people whom you will most likely not know personally. The written expression of your qualities as an applicant will often be a very important way for decision makers to get to know why you are an acceptable candidate for their program. Thus, it is essential to take great care in preparing this part of your application.


  • Intellectual influences: Answer with at least a full sentence but no more than a half page.
  • What writer and which particular articles in your field of study have had the greatest influence on the
    development of your thought?
  • Who were your favorite professors in college and why? How has each influenced you?
  • What is the best paper or exam you ever wrote in your major and what makes it good?
  • What do you consider the most important book, play, article, or film you have ever read/seen, and
    how has it influenced you?
  • What is the single most important concept you have learned in college?
  • What are some encouraging words others have said to or about you through the years?
  • Where were you and what were you doing when you first thought of pursuing this particular direction
    of graduate study or volunteer position?
  • What were you doing when you decided to pursue this particular area of graduate study or volunteer position?
  • How has your interest evolved and what specific turning points can you identify?
  • What work experiences have led you to believe you would like to pursue graduate education?
  • What experiences as a volunteer or traveler have influenced your career direction?
  • What experiences from your family life have contributed to this choice?
  • Academic background (for graduate/professional school)
  • How have you prepared yourself to succeed in graduate school?
  • What body of relevant knowledge will you take with you?
  • What study or lab skills have you honed to date?
  • What personal attributes or physical characteristics make you particularly likely to succeed in your new career?
  • What is your biggest accomplishment to date? Make a list of many things you are proud of to get you thinking.


  • Prepare an outline and create a draft
  • Answer all the questions being asked
  • Make sure your essay has a theme or a thesis
  • Provide evidence to support your claims
  • Make your introduction unique
  • Write clearly and make sure it is easy to read
  • Be honest and confident, and be yourself
  • Be interesting and positive
  • Make sure your essay is organized, coherent, and concise
  • Write about yourself and use examples from your own life experiences
  • Use a mixture of long and short sentences
  • Discuss your future goals
  • Mention any hobbies, past jobs, community service, or research experience
  • Speak in the first person (I.)
  • Mention weaknesses without making excuses
  • Discuss why you’re interested in the school and/or program
  • Show, don’t tell (use examples to demonstrate your abilities)
  • Ask for help
  • Proofread and revise your statement at least three times
  • Have others proofread your essay


  • Grammar or spelling errors
  • Wordiness of use of jargon (don’t try to impress the readers by using big words)
  • Foul or inappropriate language
  • Repetition or including pieces irrelevant to essay
  • Generalization, clichés, or gimmicks
  • Negativity, defensiveness, or arrogance
  • Focus on other people rather than yourself and your story
  • Simply repeating your resume or making lists of accomplishments, awards, skills, or personal qualities