Colleges and universities in the United States have specific requirements when applying to a master’s program. Most do not differ by discipline. The exception is that you may need particular courses at the undergraduate level to meet the admission criteria. If so, these will be stipulated in the admission requirements for the chosen major. One of the standard requirements is the inclusion of a personal statement (sometimes called a statement of purpose) along with letters of recommendation (usually two or three), transcripts, research, and work experience. Your research, work experience, special abilities, and skills can be in the form of a résumé.
Each prospective school on your list typically provides a guideline of what to include in the personal statement. The School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina (UNC) states that you need to upload the Statement of Purpose with your application. The statement should address what interests you about the field of information science and what problems or issues you would like to influence upon graduation. While answering this question, you can relate how prior experiences, research, and education have prepared you to meet these goals with a graduate degree.
Some schools stipulate the length of the statement in words, whereas others are silent or vague. The Department of Information Science at the University of North Texas in Denton states that the length needs to be one page. UNC is silent on the preferred word count. Texas A&M International University in Laredo offers an M.S. in Information Science – their graduate school requires the personal statement to be a minimum of 300 words.
Is there an optimum length for the statement?
How much should you write when the school doesn’t specify it? Penn State states that 500 to 800 words are customary, as are one and two-page limits. Depending on the font, you could easily have 600 to 700 words on a page. Penn further advises that if the limit is 1,500 words, you do not need to write the maximum. They recommend a font of 12 and no less than 10 in Times or Bookman.
Whatever the required or recommended length, there are ways to impress the reader while remaining personal. It is not an autobiography. In the opening, as in public speaking, you want to capture the reader’s (listener’s) attention. One way is to state why you have a passion for information science—relate any personal events or experiences that steered you to this field. What motivates you to choose information science as a career? However, do not present yourself as an expert or overly confident. You can and should mention any awards or recognition received in academics or your personal life (if applicable). Winning a tennis tournament as a teenager may not be the type of accomplishment worth noting.
There are many online resources for personal statements. Check these out to see what advice you can glean. Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, established in 1885, has information about career and life planning. They have a Personal Statement Guide for review. If you type personal statement in the search box from the homepage, you will arrive at a link to a pdf document.
The Graduate School of Arts and Science at Harvard University emphasizes the importance of the statement of purpose – as they call it. The school suggests that how and what you write will affect your acceptance chances. It would be best to elaborate on your research interests, qualifications, experiences related to information science, and your aspirations. The school does not provide a preferred length.
Another research area is the program and school to which you apply. What impresses you about the institution and its information science program? Do they offer a specialty that fascinates you? There might be concentrations in library science or information science, or a combination of both. The University of Illinois-Urbana, for example, has an M.S. in Library and Information Sciences. You want to give the reader the impression that their school is primo. During your school review, you may find that a particular school performs research in an area that interests you. Make this known in the statement. Moreover, there might be a Practicum or professional field experience in the information science graduate program that attracts you.
In conclusion, the definitive answer to the captioned is that the statement of purpose or personal statement is crucial to the application process. Take your time composing it, reread it, have a colleague or professor read it. How you present yourself in the statement may result in acceptance or denial to a graduate program. Consult with faculty or counselors at your undergraduate school for advice.