Crafting Your Personal Statement

An outline to get you started.

  • Introduction
    • attention grabber
    • provide some context
    • state goals
  • Academic (intellectual) evolution and interests
    • establish your knowledge base
    • what scholars have influenced your thinking?
    • offer some commentary here
    • why are you interested in this area?
    • why this career path?
    • how do you intend to contribute?
    • an epiphany on your PASSION
  • Research experience
    • include “big picture” of project – what you did, why and what you achieved, but also distill from your work….
    • direct skills you’ve learned, including ways of thinking about complex problems
  • Special highlights: qualities + experiences
    • what other relevant things do you have to share?
    • mention things you’re really good at (give examples)
    • explain how your experiences have led you to your PASSION
    • why will you succeed at your goal?
  • Why here?
    • people + place
    • weave together your interests and theirs
  • Conclusion
    • recap strengths – nail your case that you are the best choice.
    • recap fit – you will fit great with their people.
    • recap your goal – this is what you want to do.


Pearls of Wisdom

Alumni scholar post: By Katelyn Blair, McNair Scholar ’12

Hey McNair Scholars!

This is a short and sweet note from someone in your shoes not long ago. I remember doing the Summer Research Institute and being anxious and hoping I was worthy of acceptance into a Ph.D. program.

Now, I am done with year 1 of my Ph.D. program and I have 1 1/2 years to go. I am serving on a committee this summer as a student representative of the Ph.D. program. The topic of the committee is: Recruitment. Did you catch that? Ph.D. programs are racking their brains trying to figure out HOW TO RECRUIT YOU.

I know, this seems unbelievable. We do all of this work to get accepted to Ph.D. programs and we hope and pray that they will notice us. I just wanted to let you know that Ph.D. programs want YOU to notice THEM, too.

The street goes both ways.

I hope you find a little joy in the idea that Ph.D. programs are working hard to recruit students and be appealing, just as students are working hard to be noticed. No one has the “upper hand” here.

Remember, without awesome students like you, Ph.D. programs cannot exist.

Have a great summer,

Katelyn Blair
MSW/Ph.D. Student
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Social Welfare
2012 McNair Scholar

Katelyn and Jared

Two of our CMU McNair Alumni and current Ph.D. students in Wisconsin – Katelyn and Jared. They sent me this pic and said they miss their “McNair family” :)

P.S. If you want to hear more about UWM (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), I’d be happy to speak with you. We have a joint MSW/Ph.D. program, and starting next year, we have a Ph.D. program in Criminal Justice and Social Work (Ph.D. in Social Welfare).