Posted December 29, 2014 by

Personal Statements & Resumes: How They Work Together

Ryan Hickey

Ryan Hickey, Managing Editor of Peterson’s & EssayEdge

One of the most common mistakes that grad school applicants make is viewing their personal statement essay as an extended version of their resume. Besides being redundant, this misstep means that students are losing out on a critical opportunity to set themselves apart from other applicants.

Personal statements and resumes are meant to work together as part of a student’s overall application. A well-written, thoughtful personal statement and a detailed, organized resume will complement each other, working in tandem to paint a flattering portrait of the applicant.

Depth Perception

The key difference between resumes and personal statements is simple: Resumes offer a brief, surface-level explanation of your experience, while a personal statement allows you to discuss the most minute details of those experiences. The resume is essentially a list of academic and professional highlights. The personal statement is where you show off what all those bullet points actually mean.

Let’s break it down a bit further.

Your resume should contain the key details of your academic and professional life to date in a format that’s easy to navigate yet keeps readers wanting more. The absolute essentials:

  • Educational background, including your GPA, relevant coursework, awards, and any academic highlights.
  • Work history, including both paid and unpaid work. Be sure to use active words and details to give an attention-grabbing account of each position rather than a dull list of minute tasks.
  • Activities, including involvement in clubs and organizations, community groups, and recreational activities.

Your personal statement, on the other hand, is a bit more complex. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Keep it personal! Remember, this is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Avoid generalizations and make an effort to really communicate why you are special and deserving of a spot in the program.
  • Don’t repeat yourself. Keep your resume close at hand when writing your personal statement, and make sure you’re not wasting space by repeating information that you’ve already shared. Instead, think about how you can expand on generalities and answer questions that your resume may have inspired.
  • Wrap it up. Your resume has provided recruiters with a neat and tidy list of your accomplishments. Now use your personal statement to explain how those disparate experiences have worked together to make you the person you are today.

Connecting the Past and Present

Ultimately, your resume and personal statement are a powerful pair because they bring together your past and present in a way that is easy for even a stranger to process. While your resume provides relevant details of your educational and professional history, your personal statement is about who you are today. Speak to how you’re prepared for graduate study, why you’re ready to undertake the challenge, and even what you have planned for the future. Recruiters will appreciate this comprehensive insight into who you are, and if all goes well, they’ll soon be welcoming you into their program.

By Ryan Hickey, Managing Editor of Petersons & EssayEdge

About the Author

Ryan Hickey is the Managing Editor of Peterson’s & EssayEdge and is an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants.

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