Graduate School

Guidelines for Graduate School Writing

At the UMW Writing Center, we offer support for undergraduate, future graduate, and graduate students. Through face-to-face or virtual communication, every aspect and experience pertaining to the writing process can be learned and strengthened through our services. Our mission is to expand basic or advanced writing skills in a safe space that fosters development.

Make sure graduate school is for you. 

  • Ensure you are prepared to invest substantial time, energy, and money.
  • Are you ready to stay in school for several more years?
  • Are you comfortable with initiating and carrying out independent research?
  • For more information, contact the UMW Career Center at 540-654-5646, or email for further questions.

How UMW Writing Consultants can help future graduate students:

  • Provide feedback on all types of graduate level writing: essays, theses, dissertations, resumes, cover letters, and personal statements.
  • Bring attention to inconsistencies in grammar and punctuation, organization, clarity, and citations.
  • Work towards clarity based on the assignment instructions and expectations.

(Adapted from Indiana University of Pennsylvania) 

You want to apply to graduate school. How do you write a personal statement? 

The process of applying to graduate school is intimidating. The added stress of collecting letters of recommendation, gathering transcripts, and applying in a timely fashion can become overwhelming. When applying, a personal statement is often something admission boards permit in order to become familiar with the applicant; it also acts as an opportunity to address or explain unshared issues, such as a gap in education. A personal statement is not always required by every graduate program, but it is suggested. Here are some tips for writing a unique personal statement:

  • Research requirements: Find out whether the university has a specific format or question. Word limits and guidelines could be specified as well.
  • Be relevant: Write about experiences that are relevant to your desired program of study. Think of recent activities that could be translated into pertinent topics for a statement.
  • Be specific: Before writing, research the program you wish to attend, and be clear as to what you are interested in and why. Your personal statement should act as an explanation for why you are a good fit for the program.

(Adapted from Indeed Career Guide)

What should you include in your personal statement? 

  • What inspired you: Was there an influential experience or event that encouraged you to apply to this program? Is there a personal interest or passion that would relate to your field of study? Explain why you selected this program.
  • Highlight your accomplishments: Are there workplace promotions you are proud of? Are you a member of clubs or associations? Did you receive awards? Highlight these accomplishments in your personal statement, but make sure it is within a relevant time frame.
  • Share your future plans: How do you plan on advancing in your career? Are you switching careers or entering a new field of study? Are you beginning to pursue a lifelong passion? Do you have other long-term goals that this program will help you accomplish?

(Adapted from Wiley Education Services)

You have written your personal statement. Now what? 

Review, proofread, and proofread again. After reviewing the statement, have someone else take a glance at it. This can be a difficult step in the writing process, and it is no doubt one of the scariest things about writing something so personal. Sharing your writing will allow for creativity to blossom, and it will be beneficial to receive constructive feedback. After another person has reviewed the statement, make an appointment at the Writing Center. Here, we will celebrate the statement’s strengths and provide suggestions for improvement.