Applying to a doctor of philosophy program is a competitive process that requires a compelling personal statement as part of the typical Ph.D. application package. Because a Ph.D. is more research-oriented than an applied doctorate, such as an Ed.D., emphasize your research experience, critical thinking skills and desire to contribute new knowledge to your chosen field. Explain how your research interests align with specific studies being conducted at the school where you are applying to show that you would be a good fit for the program.
State Your Reasons for Applying
Your reasons for applying should reflect an understanding of the program's curriculum and focus. For instance, Arizona State's Eller College of Business advises Ph.D. applicants to describe how their career objectives mesh with Eller's emphasis, which is preparing students for research and teaching positions in academia. Also elaborate on your motives and goals for pursuing a Ph.D. and mention specific skills that would support your success as a researcher, such as proficiency with statistical analysis software or a technical writing background.
Indicate Your Research Interests
A critical part of your personal statement is an overview of subjects you would like to investigate because research is the heart of a Ph.D. program. Faculty members seek prospective doctoral students with fresh ideas and perspectives who would be an asset to their research team. The Duke University Writing Studio advises Ph.D. applicants to mention books and articles written by faculty members in the program when discussing how they narrowed down their choice of graduate schools.
Stress Your Motivation
Completing a Ph.D. is an arduous process that requires steadfast attention, so you must show you're highly motivated and determined to succeed. Faculty admissions committees look for tenacity. For instance, the New York Stern School of Business judges motivation by how hard a Ph.D. applicant worked in the past, as evidenced by the rigor of courses taken and the academic reputation of schools previously attended. Mention your passion for learning and back it up with evidence, such as participating in a highly selective honors program as an undergraduate.
Emphasize Scholarly Work
Students seeking admission to a Ph.D. program must show evidence of being a learned scholar. Impressive accomplishments include a list of publications you’ve authored, presentations you’ve given at professional conferences and college teaching experience, for example. Johns Hopkins University Office of Pre-Professional Programs & Advising recommends including detailed information about past research endeavors, including specific contributions to the study and the name of faculty mentors. Also list successful grant-writing experience because many research projects at Ph.D. granting institutions are grant-funded.
- Writing Studio Duke University: Personal Statements for Graduate Programs in the Humanities
- How to Write the Perfect Personal Statement; Mark Alan Stewart
- Johns Hopkins University Office of Pre-Professional Programs & Advising: Personal Statement
- Peterson's: Write a Graduate School Essay that Will Knock Their Socks Off
- Teachers College Columbia University: Application Instructions
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Writing the Personal Statement
- Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology; John C. Norcross and Michael A. Sayette
- New York Stern School of Business: Ph.D.: Admissions Overview
- Arizona State Eller College Management and Organizations: Doctoral Program Application Tips
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