Hi, prospective students! I am a second-year M.S./Ph.D. ECE graduate student and I wanted to give you advice on how to write killer goals for your Rice University Graduate Application “Personal Statement” section. If you are like me, writing about yourself isn’t your favorite task. I would rather be writing code, designing a system or even getting my teeth cleaned at a dentist rather than philosophizing on paper what I want to do with the rest of my life. With that said, being able to effectively communicate the reasons and goals for attending graduate school could make the difference between you being accepted into Rice or not.
When I realized the Rice ECE department had the exact program I was looking for, I knew it was important to spend a lot of time on my Personal Statement. I can’t remember the exact hours, but I worked on it every day after work for several weeks and revised it more times than I would like to admit to. So, my first piece of advice is to get started on it early.
My second piece of advice is to think about your audience who are likely application committee members. These people are reading a lot of applications and it is important to make yourself stand out from the rest. I decided to start my Personal Statement with an attention-grabbing opening paragraph that conveyed something interesting about me and how it relates to the reason I wanted to go to graduate school.
Third, I am sure you are aware graduate school takes a lot of time and effort. The best analogy of my first year could be described as being on an emotional roller coaster. I survived and am better for it, but there have been a few times where I needed to remind myself of all the reasons I am attending graduate school and how being here can help me accomplish my future goals. I imagine the application committee members would like to see you have these reasons and goals worked out in your head as well. Let’s face it, you are choosing to attend graduate school instead of taking a decent paying 40 hour a week job. Tell the application committee members your compelling reason for this choice.
It is also important you convey how your goals and interests align with research areas going on at Rice. Is there a particular professor or student who have authored journal articles or you have personally talked to that you found their research fascinating? What is special about Rice to make it a good fit for you?
Lastly, your Personal Statement is a demonstration of your writing skills which are important in graduate school for not only writing your thesis but also for other fellowships and grants you may apply for while here. If you can’t communicate well about yourself and the reasons you want to go to Rice for graduate school, then this could be indicative of difficulty in writing about your research. It is a good idea to get someone else to proofread your work.
I wish you the best of luck with your application and being accepted! I am going to take my own advice and start right now on several fellowship applications I want to apply for this semester.
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Jill Juneau is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Louisiana State University. She is currently in her second year in the M.S./Ph.D. program in Electrical Engineering at Rice University, working in Dr. Caleb Kemere's Neural Engineering Lab. After graduating from LSU, she worked at NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, TX as a payload engineer where she designed, maintained and integrated telemetry systems for high-altitude scientific balloon payloads. Some of her favorite activities are hiking, biking, kayaking, and birding.