A statement of educational and career objectives -- more commonly known as a personal statement -- can be the deciding factor in whether or not you get into the school of your choice or get the job of your dreams. Such a statement clearly describes your accomplishments and aligns them with your aspirations. It makes a strong case for why you are an excellent candidate for whatever position you are applying.
The first thing your statement must do is clearly indicate its purpose. That is, your statement must identify the position for which you are applying. In his book, "Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach," Miami University technical and communications professor Paul V. Anderson states that when identifying your purpose, the clearer you are, the better. Anderson advises against simply identifying the position generically by writing “consider me for a spot in your graduate program.” Be specific. Write, “consider me for a fellowship in your twentieth-century American Masters in literature program.”
Your statement must indicate some continuity between your future objectives and your past accomplishments. This requirement allows you to brag about your experiences a bit. The University of Idaho's Graduate Admissions department recommends that you choose those experiences that demonstrate your “fit” for the position. For example, if you’re applying for a sales job, include details about your past sales experience at a department store, or even a brief anecdote about the time you participated in a bake sale. Use your experiences to build yourself up as the ideal candidate.
Potential schools and employers aren’t just looking to help you out by admitting you; they’re also looking for something in return. Anderson argues that candidates who are able to offer something to an education program or a would-be job are the best candidates. In your statement, articulate goals that align closely with the goals of the program or job to which you are applying. For example, if a school emphasizes community service, you might write something along the lines of, “I believe Sample University’s commitment to outreach aligns closely with my personal goals of being involved in my home community.” It’s important to be honest about how you see your goals lining up with the goals of the organization.
The concept of “fit” is a tricky one for many applicants to grasp. On the one hand, when you’re applying for school or for a job, you’d be glad if any school or job accepted you. On the other hand, to ensure a long, happy tenure at either a school or a job, it’s crucial that you fit the place and the place fits you. In your statement of objectives, show that you’ve spent a good bit of time reflecting on how well you will fit in the position. Purdue's Online Writing Lab recommends doing some research on the schools to which you are applying. Research and consider things like institutional mission statements and personalities, as well as individual teachers, students, or fellow employees with whom you will spend a lot of time. Indicate to the recipient of your statement exactly why you and the place to which you are submitting your statement are a match made in heaven.
- Technical Communication: A Reader-Centered Approach (7th Edition); Paul V. Anderson
- University of Idaho Graduate Admissions: Statement of Career Objectives
- Purdue OWL: Writing the Personal Statement
Samuel Hamilton has been writing since 2002. His work has appeared in “The Penn,” “The Antithesis,” “New Growth Arts Review" and “Deek” magazine. Hamilton holds a Master of Arts in English education from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Master of Arts in composition from the University of Florida.