WRITING A PERSONAL STATEMENT
The personal statement requirement for admission to a counseling program is a separate discussion due to its importance and potential complexity. According to Ding (2007), the personal statement is "one of the most important documents in the graduate school admission process” and can be the most challenging and anxiety-provoking aspect for the applicant (p. 368). The personal statement is an opportunity for you to share your reasons for choosing the counseling profession, aspects that make you an exceptional and unique applicant, qualifications and relevant experiences that will benefit both the program and the counseling profession, and your future plans after obtaining the degree. Some programs will provide specific questions or written prompts that you will need to address; others may simply ask for a personal statement and only provide general writing or submission guidelines.
Ding (2007) reviewed personal statements from successful candidates in the fields of medicine and dentistry, which are also applicable to writing a personal statement for counseling programs. Based on these findings, there are several important elements to include in a personal statement that you develop as part of your counseling program application (see Figure 7.1). First, you should explain why you want to become a counselor. Incorporate your academic or intellectual interest in counseling, your understanding of the counseling profession, and your motivation to work in counseling based on your personal or family experiences. Second, provide information about academic achievements, describe any research experiences related to the field, and discuss professional experiences (e.g., volunteer work, internships, etc.) that may suggest you are a good fit for the counseling profession. Third, your personal statement should describe any relevant life experiences. In a counseling personal statement, this may be an opportunity for you to further discuss additional life experiences that may be applicable to counseling (e.g., personal counseling, family experiences with counseling). The personal statement should also detail your future career goals and what you hope to do with your counseling degree. Lastly, the statement should comprise a description of your personality which distinguishes you from other applicants and makes you an ideal choice to be admitted into the counseling program.
The Online Writing Lab offered by Purdue University offers a multitude of guidance on developing a personal statement. Visit their website for more information at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/642/1/.
Figure 7.1 Elements of a Personal Statement.