For me, the most difficult part of the graduate school application was the personal statement. The personal statement should be a a genuine, cohesive story about your motivation, your professional goals and why you want to pursue the respective program. It’s also an opportunity to showcase your writing abilities. I was completely overwhelmed but in the years since have come to master it. Here are some things I learned from my own experience and also from being in the field:
Your personal statement starts with you
Take time to outline the experience(s) that influenced your decision to attend graduate school. Your motivation can come in many forms: life events/changes, achievements, significant people in your life, undergraduate experience, influential books, extracurricular activities, employment experiences, travel experiences.
Stay focused and describe 1-2 experiences that influenced your decision to attend graduate school. Your personal motivation is a great way to start your statement and grab your reader’s attention. Consider the two introductions below:
“When I was eleven, my great-aunt Gretchen passed away and left me something that changed my life: a small library of about five thousand books. Some of my best days were spent arranging, sharing and getting lost in her books. Since then, I have wanted to pursue a career as a librarian, so that I could help others get lost in literature.”
“I am honored to apply for the Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) program at the University of Rhode Island because as long as I can remember I have had a love affair with books. Since I was eleven I have known I wanted to be a librarian.”
Which introduction grabs your attention? Why?
Connect to your professional goals
Once you’ve identified the personal reason you are pursuing a graduate program, connect your personal motivation to the graduate program. Think of 2-3 professional goals for pursuing the program and identify 2-4 qualities or skills you bring to the program. Do your due diligence and research what your target schools want in a candidate.
What sets this program apart from all others?
Communicate how the program will help you achieve your professional goals. The program may have: courses that align with your professional goals, required internship or practical experience, relevant current research, faculty members with expertise on specific topic.
Closing your statement
Every story has a beginning a middle and an end. Close your statement with a vision of what you hope to achieve after pursuing your graduate degree. Remember to keep your vision specific, focused and realistic. In the example above the individual expressed her love for literature in her introduction and a good closing relates back to this:
“The possibility of working with Dr. Lit on his outreach program would be an amazing opportunity and also a valuable learning experience. Further understanding of the impact of free public libraries on a community will aid my future career in library science. I can envision myself working in many capacities, including increasing education and outreach about the importance of literature to the public. I would leverage my MLIS by implementing the tools gained through practical and educational experiences at the University of Rhode Island. By developing my expertise, I aim to make my own contribution the field of library science.”
Once you have a final draft, get feedback from others. Visit your current university’s writing or career center. Show your family and friends. It is always a good idea to share your statement with someone who knows you well, like a family member or friend, and with someone who does not know you well, like faculty member or colleague. Each resource can provide honest and different feedback to make sure your personal statement is an authentic representation of you.
Today’s world is home to 795 million illiterate adults and 72 million children. Hundreds of millions more have no access to books due to a lack of resources. In the few public libraries there are in developing countries, fundamental works in world literature and sciences are often absent. In many countries where there are library, the most recent works date back to a half-century ago.
The role books and libraries play in the success of students coming from the poorest environments is really not surprising. Many women, men and children would see their futures transformed if they could access books. A book does so much more than just convey knowledge and provide an opening to something new.
Books are also an essential instrument in exercising the critical mind and in the education for democracy. Books must increasingly become an essential driver of sustainable development. Placed in a library, they move from hand-to-hand and from generation to generation.
Libraries Without Borders
Libraries Without Borders/Bibliothèques Sans Frontières (LWB) was founded to improve the book and library situation in the world around five years ago. The organization provides relief in humanitarian emergencies and the building blocks for long-term development. By promoting the access to knowledge, they wish to strengthen the aspirations for democracy, justice, and dialogue between cultures across the world."
Patrick Weil founded LWB in 2007 in France. And today, it´s one of the leading NGOs working in knowledge and culture-based development in the world and supporting libraries in developing countries. They believe that access to information and the dissemination of culture are two key under-invested components of human and economic development, and the spread of democratic practices and human rights.
LWB is present in over 20 countries. In France, it supports local initiatives through the creation of libraries to promote education, access to information and culture and the conservation of cultural heritage. Through creating and reinforcing libraries, training librarians, distributing books, supporting local publishing and designing library networks, Libraries Without Borders actively promotes access to knowledge throughout the world.
A Humanitarian Libraries Project
Michel Loots, MD is a Medical Doctor and a humanitarian entrepreneur creating and managing a humanitarian information initiative, the Humanity Libraries Project
(http://www.oneworld.org/globalprojects/humcdromm/8616/nars.htmllows/). They also offer a "basic needs library" with 1.240 publications, that´s free online (http://payson.tulane.edu:8888/projects/humcdromm/8616/nars.htmllows/) and soon on many servers in developed and developing countries.
Humanity Libraries Project is a low cost vaccination campaign against lack of knowledge. The Humanity Libraries Project offers one model for an information resource developed at low cost and made available to all for free or for a very low cost.
A huge "base" of essential knowledge has already been gathered and produced by the UN and World Bank and other publicly funded agencies at very high subsidized cost by the international taxpayers. And yet, this knowledge is not being disseminated and combined as it should be. There are several reasons for this:
- insufficient publicity and dissemination efforts
- tight, defensive copyright restrictions
- practical difficulties, which most NGOs or catalyst humanitarian entrepreneurs come up against when they try to get permission to use the information
- high prices charged by the 20 major UN organizations/the World Bank, which developing countries can´t pay.
In contrast to the problems posed by obtaining documents from UN/World Bank, the Humanity Libraries Project (funded primarily from my own funds and some grants), staffed with a team of 26 collaborators in Romania, has put 200,000 pages of material together from 70 NGOs and development organizations on one CD-ROM.
They already have 15,000 users and this alone we expect to gain 60,000 to 80,000 users in developing countries. They invite organizations to copy our concept as it is feasible.
The Book Bus
The book bus was founded by publisher Tom Maschler with the aim to supply books and make them accessible to children. In 2008, the Book Bus started delivering books to schools in Zambia and working to inspire children to read. Now, they have reading schemes in India, Zambia, Malawi and Ecuador, and more than 100,000 children now have books to read.
They library work, book donations and assisted reading program is helping strengthen the reading culture in schools resulting in a more confident reading population that is better equipped for the future. Sir Quentin Blake is on their board of trustees.
Have you read many of Sir Quentin Blake´s books? They´re smashing. If you´d like to get involved with organizations like this, or would simply like to receive a compelling personal statement of purpose to give you the best chances of success in your university or internship applications, please let us know!