July 21, 2010

Personal Statement Inspiration

Knowing that I had applied to grad school this past fall, a friend of mine recently asked me how I went about writing my personal and professional statements for the UCLA MSW program. It's incredibly challenging to give a "statement of purpose" or describe exactly why you want to pursue a particular profession, but I found that reading the stories of others was the best way to help me articulate answers to the following questions:

1. Describe the significant relationships and life experiences that have influenced your decision to seek a career in a helping profession.

2. What values affected your decision to enter the social work? How are these values reflected in social work practice?

3. Describe your experiences with diverse populations and groups, and how those experiences have contributed to your interest in social work. Which population (defined by culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and psychological and physical functioning) would you like to serve?

4. What are your expectations of graduate education in terms of your own development? Indicate any problem or limitations that should be taken into account in planning your graduate program.

I conducted a lot of research and drew on many sources for inspiration, but one website I consistently went back to was Harvard Business School's "Portrait Project" which features most students from the incoming class. All participants answer the following simple yet thought-provoking question:

"What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

The responses are truly moving, and vary from poems to songs to anecdotes. I found Jonathan Wilkins response among the best (I'm a runner, what can I say?). For all of you who are struggling with ways to answer those tricky questions, I hope the Portrait Project provides some help!

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