daily californian logo


Apply to The Daily Californian!

How not to write a graduate school personal statement

article image



We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

The essays are coming! The essays are coming! Well, actually, not really. You still have some time to write that Pulitzer Prize-winning, God-defying personal statement. It doesn’t matter how much you polish those test scores or flaunt that GPA, they’re not enough to get you into the graduate school of your dreams. A convincing personal statement elevates your application from the rest, so here’s how not to write one.

Being in love with the internet

We know how much you love memes. We at the Clog live for memes, too, but writing an essay as important as these ones warrants a break from the internet. We understand that starting a paper as monumental as this can take at least two hours of Facebook and Snapchat to get to the first page, but don’t even think about beginning “Stranger Things,” either. Break up with the internet this time, you guys don’t share the same long-term goals.

Don’t proofread

Like most things in life, proofreading an essay stops being cute when it takes place between 3 to 5 a.m. Make sure you have enough time to reread your work or even get another set of eyes to look through it before submission. You don’t want to turn in a paper with 2 Chainz lyrics all over it from the night before. Trust us, you don’t. Also be sure that you understand all the words you’re using in your essay. Reading the writings of Mr. Thesaurus is painful, and there’s nothing worse than reading the writings of a Mr. Thesaurus who didn’t proofread.

Getting too personal

Yes, it is a “personal statement,” thus your response is somewhat personal. But don’t get too deep. The admissions officer doesn’t want to read something that should be posted discretely on Tumblr. But you don’t want to be too impersonal either. It should be more than a concise summary of your resume. Do just that, and your personal statement will become the literary equivalent of sleeping pills. Find a proper balance between the two.

Giving up after an all-nighter

You shouldn’t be writing this thing the night before, anyhow. But if you are, make sure that you’re well-rested enough to take on a long night of work, especially if you’re starting from scratch. Don’t do the thing where you give up at 4 a.m. and take a “nap.” You’ll wake up panicked and with only 10 minutes to spare. Get some rest and take something (legal) like coffee that’ll keep you up into the wee hours of the night.


All of a sudden, doing laundry looks like a great deal of fun. Watching an entire television series in one night sounds enticing. Maybe you’ll make a nice salmon dinner with soup and salad for you and your roommates. You know that feeling you get when your paper is due in three days. Our point is don’t procrastinate. Yeah, you’ve heard it before. You’re probably procrastinating right now by reading this. If you procrastinate, you will fail and die. So don’t do it, especially not on something this important.

Get started early on those graduate school essays. May luck (and time) be on your side.

Contact Karina Pauletti at [email protected].

SEPTEMBER 26, 2016