A friend is applying to PhD programs and asked me for my application materials; I thought it would be helpful to share them here in case anyone else in the world is interested.
If you’re going to use these, please note that I don’t remember if this is exactly the final version, and that formatting requirements are different at every program. More generally, I make no promises and you should use these materials at your own risk.
That said, I do think that the general formula is a good one. A good personal statement should answer three key questions:
- Why are you interested in this general field?
- Why are you interested in this particular program?
- How do you know that you will be successful if admitted?
Ideally, you should try to put these in something of a narrative format that flows and describes the evolution of your interests and skills. However, remember that your essay will be read by people who are tired and over-worked, so don’t try to be too subtle – there’s nothing wrong with some summary sentences or paragraphs that emphasize that you’ve thought about the answer to these three questions. If you’re interested in doing a PhD in my rough area of research (civil and environmental engineering, water systems, hydroclimate, climate adaptation, etc) I’d be happy to discuss further.
Finally, shout out to Humberto Jaramillo, who was a first-year graduate student at Yale who helped me write this essay. He, in turn, got help from others – pass it on!