For those who are applying to graduate programs in language teaching in the US, it’s that time of the year to craft your personal statement as part of your application. Here are a few tips for making a statement that will stand out to your readers:
- DO…organize your statement as a ‘deductive’-style essay: with an introduction paragraph, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The introduction should engage the readers but also make a fairly direct statement about why you are a good fit for the program. The body paragraphs can then provide specific supporting information for your qualifications, interests and goals, while the conclusion can restate how these qualifications will match well with the program you are applying to.
- DO…highlight your past educational and professional experiences that have brought you to a career in language teaching. If you are an experienced language teacher, highlight your accomplishments, what you have learned from them, and how they have influenced your teaching identity and philosophy. If you have little experience teaching so far, describe what experience you do have and why it has inspired you to learn and do more in this profession.
- DO…tailor your statement to the specific program. Write about what you hope to learn from the program and how your participation and strengths will contribute to the program. Most departments want to see that an applicant is ready to take advantage of the resources in the program (e.g. relationships with faculty, other departments or institutes, internships, specific coursework topics, etc.) and realize their own full potential with those resources.
- DO…provide specific examples of your achievements, goals, and experiences that help to tell the story of your journey towards becoming a language teacher, curriculum development, or future administrator.
- DO…write your statement well before the deadline, so you have time to revise and refine it before you submit it.
- Don’t…exaggerate or misrepresent your own teaching experience. If you have little experience so far, be honest about this.
- Don’t…just list facts and statistics about yourself. Write also about what you have learned about your own interests and goals, and how these relate to the future.
- Don’t…wait until the end of your essay to state why you want to attend the program. Readers want to see your ‘thesis’ near the beginning of the statement.
- Don’t…ask someone else to write your statement for you! Readers will expect writing styles to naturally vary, and understand that bilingual and multilingual writers may have a unique writing ‘accent’. Do, however, revise and edit carefully for common errors and for typos.
- Don’t… write it at the last minute.
In the end, faculty who are reviewing graduate program applications want to see a clearly written statement of who you are now, how you got to this point, and where you want to go, all in the context of your (future) professional identity as a language teacher.
Good luck with your application!
Keli Yerian, LTS Director