“Your personal statement should showcase your strengths and provide an overview of your background, goals, academic and professional aspirations, and a commitment to public service. The personal statement should be approximately two to four pages. If you wish to address any weaknesses in your application, it is better to write a separate, succinct, fact-based explanation as an addendum.” You have two to four pages to say what you need to say, which is a wide range and gives you space to work with. Just because they give you four pages doesn’t mean you need to fill the full four pages. A well written and concise statement is better than filling it the to the max. Let’s start with the last phrase which is critical to this application component, “a commitment to public service.” Think hard about what your commitment to public service actually is. What they’re really asking is: what draws you to this work? Why have you chosen to pursue a career in public service? When answering, don’t fall into platitudes, like “I want to serve my country” or “I care about using policy to improve the lives of others.” Go personal. The personal statement is the place where your application comes alive and you become more than test scores and transcripts. If you’re having trouble articulating what it is that really motivates you, sit down with a friend or family member and have them interview you, probing for stories that have influenced you along the way. This should draw out the elements of public service that stimulate you the most, the elements that cause you to want to get up in the morning and work long days. Again, the more personal the better. Show the depth of your personality and the basis for your commitment to public service. “Goals, academic and professional aspirations.“ This is another section that trips up many applicants. Make sure you’re clear in your goals, that you describe them in a compelling way, and that they make sense, particularly for this program. Academic and professional aspirations may be slightly different from other goals or they may be one and the same; I find it most helpful to think of them all together. One way to tackle this is to lay out 3, 5, 10 and 20 year goals. You may not choose to write about all of them, but it’s a way to think about where you’re going, where you want to end up, and everything along the way. Once you think you have a good set of goals to include in the personal statement, run them by someone else alongside the articulation of your commitment to public service and make sure the two complement each other. Finally, your talk about your background. This is just another space Woodrow Wilson is allowing you to tell your story. Hopefully, your answer is linked to your commitment to public service and you can tell them about where you come from and/or what you’ve done academically and professionally. How does what you are saying support the arc, or continuity, of your story? You want the admissions officer reading your statement to get a sense of you as a person, what makes you tick and why. You want to give them facts that support your claims and goals. Don’t regurgitate your resume or your transcripts–they have those in front of them. If you need ideas, mention a job you had or a course you took (only if you have more to say about it). Was it a pivotal time for you? Did it shift they way you thought about something? If yes, then feel free to mention. Finally, think about this: if you had 3 minutes of time in front of the person making the decision about your acceptance, would what you say to sway them? Why you? Make sure to include this in your personal statement. (Note: Contrary to some other programs that may encourage you to address weaknesses in your application in the personal statement, WWS specifically tells you not to do this and instead discuss those in an addendum. Pay attention to this and don’t include this in the Statement. Following the rules is the #1 rule of these applications.) Once you feel happy with the content of your statement, have a few friends read it over to make sure they come away with the message you intended. Ask them what their take-aways were after reading your statement and what they’ve learned about you as an applicant. This will provide valuable insight into how compelling your essay is. After you’ve made any adjustments these conversations generate, next ask 2-3 people (and it could be the same people) to read it over for grammar errors and typos. There is no excuse for these mistakes in your personal statement. Don’t give the admissions officer any reason to discount your otherwise great story!