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Personal Statement 
6th-Dec-2007 09:18 pm
Feet Pyramid
I wasn't planning on doing this, but I just wanted a few opinions. This is a quick rough draft of my personal statement and I was wondering how it sounds. I'm applying to PsyD and MA programs in Clinical Psychology.

Four years ago my life changed drastically. After experiencing more than eighteen years of poverty, violence, and substance abuse from my parents, my maternal grandparents took me in and quite literally saved my life. I can still remember the day I moved all my things in; I felt an enormous weight lift off my shoulders and I knew everything would be okay.
Looking back on my life, I realize I have overcome many hardships. When I was nine I lost a very close cousin to drunk driving, which resulted in me campaigning against driving under the influence in high school and college. Because of the turbulence and instability at home, I engrossed myself in books and school, and I graduated high school with honors. After taking a year off school and moving in with my grandparents, I left to attend Tennessee State University, in Nashville, Tennessee, which was a historical African American university. However, due to financial hardships, I was unable to attend class but was given the opportunity to work as a Resident Assistant in order to increase diversity on the campus. I left for Eastern Illinois University the following semester.
My time in Nashville helped me grow spiritually and mentally. I went there without knowing a soul, adapted quickly, and made friends I’ll never forget. It opened my eyes to a new culture I hadn’t had the chance to experience often.
My financial burdens didn’t improve and I accepted an on-campus job as a Night Assistant working the overnight shift nearly every night for two years. During this time, I was also working a part-time day job at the police department, taking 16-18 credits each semester, and was able to maintain a 3.0 GPA. Over the summer, I worked full-time and took additional classes so that I wouldn’t be too far behind. Finally, halfway through my junior year, I quit my jobs and put all my focus on school.
During the summer of 2007 I jumped at the chance to go on the trip of a lifetime. I went to Europe for a Multi-Cultural Human Behavior course with a group of students and two Psychology department faculty members. I traveled to six countries, experienced many different cultures, including those of my own heritage, and interacted with the locals in Maastricht, Holland. I funded this trip entirely on my own and formed close relationships with both of my professors. Like my Nashville experience, this trip opened my eyes to issues and societies around the world. I have become much more aware of everything around me.
Now, as a senior, I am working a part-time job so that I can concentrate on my studies. I am on the Dean’s List with a 4.0 GPA and I’m excited to see where I end up this summer. I'm graduating with my BA after only three and a half years. I have overcome so much, and I’m proud to be a positive role model for my younger siblings and cousins as the first person to get a college degree and then attend graduate school. I am very passionate about helping others with their own personal hardships, and psychology has always been something I'm eager to learn more about.


Thanks in advance!
Comments 
7th-Dec-2007 04:13 am (UTC)
I'm applying to clinical programs too :D

What questions are your programs asking that prompted you to write this? To put it another way, is this supposed to be a personal/diversity statement or a statement of purpose? If it's the former, then seeing your statement of purpose would really help. If it's the latter, I can still help, but it might take me a bit longer.
7th-Dec-2007 04:18 am (UTC)
They just asked for a personal statement, no statement of purpose. I'm limited to 500-600 words and it's hard to fit it all!
7th-Dec-2007 04:23 am (UTC)
Okay, is there any other place on the application where you're supposed to talk about your interests within psychology, what you want to do in grad school, and why you picked that program to apply to?
7th-Dec-2007 04:27 am (UTC)
Nope, just a personal statement. I'll have to change it then. Good thing I posted this here!
7th-Dec-2007 06:41 am (UTC)
Okay, I suggest a total rewrite. Not because what you've written is bad (it's not bad at all), but because it's not what clinical programs want to know. Here are a few tips. I've got my Insider's Guide section on writing personal statements in front of me, so you know I'm not just talking out of my butt :D

Even though it says "personal statement," think of this as a "statement of purpose" or "professional statement" instead. Try to answer these questions: Why do you want to go to grad school? How did you become interested in clinical psychology? What is your current area of interest, and how did you discover it? What research and clinical experience have you had, and what skills have those experiences taught you that will help you succeed as a graduate student? What are your career goals? Why did you choose this particular program? What do you want to do there? Which faculty do you most want to work with, and why? How will graduate education at this particular program aid you in achieving your career goals?

Some quotes from the Insider's Guide:
"Graduate selection committees value clarity, focus, and passion in personal statements."
"The personal statement is a prime opportunity to induce a match with the research and clinical interests of a faculty member."
Avoid the "Three H's: Humor, Hyperbole and Hard luck stories."
"A prevalent theme among these 'kisses of death' was damaging personal statements that were a) overly altruistic, b) excessively disclosing, or c) professionally inappropriate. Examples of overly altruistic statements were 'I want to help all people live happy lives' and 'I want to help people because of how very much I have been helped.' Examples of excessive self-disclosure were 'being a recovering drug addict daughter of a sexually deviant and alcoholic mother'...."

I'm not saying your personal experiences aren't legit or weren't difficult (you've overcome so much!); it's just that admissions committees want to know about other stuff. If you want, you can look at my SOP for an example. I'm applying to research-focused programs, but this format works for the PsyD as well. Hope this helps some!
8th-Dec-2007 09:42 pm (UTC)
I can't thank you enough! This actually really helped a lot. I feel like such an amateur when it comes to this stuff, but it's all coming together!

Thank you again, really. I appreciate it! :)
7th-Dec-2007 04:23 am (UTC)
Even though this is a personal statement and not a statement of purpose, the focus should be on your academic and research interests. What will you study or specialize in at grad school? Have you worked at any psychology-related jobs? Your trip sounds great but I have no sense of your interests or future goals.

I realize that you have a complicated life story to tell and possibly some explaining to do about GPAs, but is there anywhere else you could describe your past (e.g. an addendum, an Extenuating Circumstances section, etc.) instead of the personal statement? You really need to use this space to show off how prepared you are for clinical psychology in a way that doesn't involve your difficult family situation.
7th-Dec-2007 04:28 am (UTC)
Hmm, it doesn't ask for anything else besides the personal statement. I'll definitely go through and change it then.
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