Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Standing Out in the Personal Statement

Entrepreneur in Tampa writes in...

I'm a former college athlete and I have a business degree (not the "typical" applicant to an MFA program). Will programs hold this against me when I apply in the Fall? Also, I'm hispanic and a first generation college graduate. Should I include this in the personal statement? I'm looking for any way to differentiate myself from the sleuth of applicants. Bottom line: I rather go away and write than become some financial consultant. I never liked business classes, so my GPA isn't stellar, but I've read that the manuscript is the most important, so I'm not too worried. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

All those things will help you, EiT. Be sure to put them in the personal statement. Programs are interested in students with a variety of backgrounds. At least the best programs are.

This brings up a question we've had in the past, but I don't know if we've had a discussion about it in the comments section. So...

Question: What did you (our readers) place in your personal statement to differentiate yourself from the pack?

8 comments:

Old Scribe said...

I don't think a business background will hold you back. As an undergraduate I studied with a lot of people who already held degrees in other fields (like engineering and business), but they hated the careers their education led to. The only thing that might actually cost you time and money is that some MFA programs require an English degree in order to get inside, but you can work around that by taking prep courses. Plus, you could pump your GPA by taking some writing/lit courses beforehand.

You are right when you say, "the manuscript is the most important." However, when applying for financial aid, being Hispanic could help you out. Plus, if you're an athlete, it shows that you've already juggled two difficult tasks and have come out on top. If you've succeeded at being an athlete/student, why can't you succeed at being a grad student/teaching assistant? Perhaps they'll see it this way as well.

Good luck--and make sure to NAIL that writing sample. Perhaps you can use your background as an athlete and/or Hispanic to make your writing sample stand out, too.

Anonymous said...

Hey Entrepreneur in Tampa,
I was also an athlete during college, and i also had a crappy finance job. I'm also a minority, btw.

What should you include? Dunno, i included my experiences growing up in this crazy household filled with immigrant uncles and grandmothers cousins etc, and how that time in my life constantly informs my work. I kinda gambled and searched for emotional reasons why i was applying, not just practical ones (escape crappy job, have more time to write, etc). I wanted them to FEEL the reasons why i absolutely had to go to X school and grow as a writer. And usually, all i had to do was summon those days when i discovered my cousin eating alone in the bathroom because the other kids made fun of his accent. Or the time when my uncle cried when his store was looted and burned.

But yea, like old scribe said, the manuscript is everything. Focus on that first. Good luck Entrepreneur in Tampa, and i hope my post helps?

Anonymous said...

uhhh, anyone else? More, please, more! It's helping me . . . I'm a woman of flava', a minority within a minority but really only if I claim it because no one assumes it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the advice. Anyway, I will definately include all those things in my personal statement. Someone also mentioned that it might be a good idea to also include diversity in the writing sample. This might be a good idea, but sometimes a lot of my writing doesn't include anything with race relations or the struggles of minorities, however I might try and put something together. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Wow...Kealey already erased my comments!

All I wonder is if anyone can recommend schools that don't reserve X amount of seats for minorities. This is not included in the handbook. If I'm to spend $1000 on applications, I don't want to be bamboozled into thinking my chances--even at 5% or so--are better than they actually are.

Sorry if this is a touchy subject, Tom, but erasing my comments doesn't change anything...

Anonymous said...

Hi roomie. Your comment is intact in the other thread--you dope! Sorry Tom.

Anonymous said...

Whar a dumbass.

Ellien Obrain said...

Your personal statement for a graduate school or professional school application will play a determining role in whether or not you are offered admission. Here's some common mistakes applicants make that mess up their personal statement. See more statement of purpose for mba