Personal Statements: Going Back to the Basics

Writing a personal statement for Graduate School, Medical School or Law School is an important step in the acceptance process. Your personal statement allows the review boards to understand who you are: your goals, your personality, and why you want enter a post-secondary program. But a trend among some students when they are writing their personal statements is they have forgotten how to write! So when writing the first draft of your personal statement you need to go back to the basics. Think middle school/high school basics of writing.

First, think about what you want to say in your personal statement. Do you want to focus on why you want to be a doctor, what contributions you will make to the world of anthropology, how your liberal arts degree translates to medical know-how, or many other possibilities. Pick a focus then stay on it.

Second, make an outline of your topic. For the purposes of the first draft of your personal statement keep it to a five paragraph essay outline. Then as you revise your draft you can add and delete paragraphs and sentences. The five paragraphs will help you stay on topic and not get too long. Your personal statement does not have to be a book but long enough to make a statement about who you are. Check the length the graduate school wants.

Third, while the personal statement focuses on you, you do not want to start every sentence with ‘I’. If you do this then the writing becomes monotonous and boring. Keep the readers interest by varying sentence structure, word usage, and sentence length. Limiting yourself to two “I” sentences per paragraph is a good rule to observe when writing.

Fourth, (and a very important basic) in all the writing stages of your personal statement review it for spelling and grammar. A simple mistake can make a review board cringe. Who wants a doctor that cannot spell physician or a doctorate candidate who keeps writing run on sentences? As future doctors, MBAs, and PhDs you are the best and brightest, make sure the review board thinks that as well.

These were just a few tips to help you get started on your personal statement. Remember to start writing it months in advance before you have to submit it. This will allow you to have several drafts behind you and to have several people review it as well. For more great tips check out this website: Ten Do’s and Don’ts for Your Statement of Purpose


Testing Your Way to Graduate School

When preparing for Graduate, Law, or Medical school you have several different steps you have to complete before you can begin your degree. Among those steps is taking the appropriate test for admittance. There are a variety of tests you could possibly take, but you need to choose the right one. To discover this contact the graduate or professional school of your choice, each has their own preferred tests and they will tell you which ones they accept. Below you find a brief description of some of the different tests. The majority of them cover general topics including math and written knowledge.

General Records Exam (GRE)—one of the most commonly accepted graduate exams. It tests your knowledge in math, reading comprehension and other general knowledge you have learned over the course of your studies.

Miller’s Analogy Test (MAT)—tests your knowledge of different subject matter through analogies. ex.  Shoe is to foot as tire is to wheel.

Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)—measures basic verbal, mathematical, and analytical writing skills that you have developed over a long period of time in your education and work.

Law School Admission Test (LSAT)—tests your reading and verbal reasoning skills.

Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)—tests your written, mathematical, and knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine

To find out more about the various exams you can take come by the Career Center. The Center for Student Learning also offers study sessions to help you prepare for your graduate school exam, click here for more information. Also check out these websites for information about scheduling your exam date:

You have 6 Months Until Graduation, Now what?

Among the college population there are several thousand of you entering into your final semester at the College of Charleston, but do you have any idea what you are going to be doing after May? If not, the Career Center can help you with determining your post graduation plans. Below I have listed several options available for the new or about to be new graduate.

1. Full-Time Employment

This is the most common option new graduates seek after graduation (also the option most parents like). The Career Center offers several resources to help you find full-time employment. First, check out CISTERNonline our job search database. Second, FutureQuest which is the Spring Career Fair (Feb 20) with nearly a hundred companies on-campus to recruit students. And last one of our best resources is the staff of the Career Center. We can sit down with you and help you with the job search process.

2. A Gap Year Experience

If you want to wait a while before entering into the ‘real’ world, but want to have a meaningful experience then a gap year may be what you need. Travel the world, teach in a foreign country, work for a non-profit or other meaningful experiences. Check out our gap year page for more ideas and information, click here.

3. Graduate/Medical/Law School

This is another option many students choose after graduation. I will note that many application deadlines for graduate schools have passed by this point. If you are interested in graduate school, Click Here for more information about finding programs, admission tests, and more.


Can you think of other options for the post-graduation experience? Share them!

Selecting a Graduate School

Graduate school is a big step in the development of your career aspirations. For some of you, you realized from the beginning of your undergraduate years that you were destined to seek post-secondary education in the form of a graduate degree or at a professional school. Others of you discovered this later in your undergraduate years while others decide after they have been in the ‘real’ world a few years or more. Whenever you decided to take the route of graduate or professional school it is a big step in your development. And a step that takes careful consideration into all of its aspects.

There are several factors you should keep in mind about graduate/professional school.

First, do you need to attend graduate/professional school in order to reach your career goals. Are you just going to put off going into the ‘real’ work world a few more years or does your goal of becoming a dentist or college professor require you to gain more education? Determining the answer to that question determines whether you need to go to graduate school.

The second factor you should keep in mind when deciding about graduate school has several components: quality of education received, requirements needed to enter and complete the program, and if the program is accredited.

  • The quality of education is clear and straightforward. Does the program provide you with the needed information to be a success in your chosen career field? Each program at each school is going to be a little different and may stress different areas. If the area you want to focus on is not a focused area at the school you choose the quality may not be what you need.
  • The Requirements. When trying to gain entrance into a school you need to be aware of all the entrance requirements including personal statements, test scores, GPA, etc. These are essential for gaining acceptance into your top choice. Also look at the requirements to complete the program. Some programs will require exit exams while others will require you to write a thesis. Still others will require extended internships or other similar experiences. Research the programs you are interested in to determine the various requirements.
  • Accreditation. This in part is related to the quality. If a school or program is accredited by the governing body of that profession then you can be assured that you will receive a quality education.

On the Career Center’s website we offer a lot of different links to help you in your search for the right graduate program for you. Click here for more information.