Bateman: It isn’t easy to state it personally

By Oliver Bateman

Last week, we gave you some hot tips for picking the graduate program of your dreams…. Last week, we gave you some hot tips for picking the graduate program of your dreams. Unfortunately, that’s the easy part. Once you select a program, you need to submit an application. It takes all sorts of standardized test scores, grade marks and preapproved loans to get admitted to a program, and we can’t help you with those things. However, we can help you with the scariest aspect of the process: the personal statement.

Personal statements are what university-admissions officers rely on to separate the wheat from the chaff. Most personal statements are chaff and wind up separated from the wheat, whatever that means. However, if your personal statement is eye-catching and heart-stopping, you’re in like Flynn.

First, you must announce your intentions. A good way to do this is a simple “Hey you!” or “Listen up!” If you’re more of a formalist, try a traditional salutation like “Hello Dears” or “Dear Abby.”

With a powerhouse greeting like that, you’re sure to have them hooked. Now it’s time to reel them in, gut them and toss them in your icebox. In other words, it’s time to tell your sob story.

These admissions officers read the same old personal statement over and over again. “I was president of my high school track and debate teams, and I go to the dentist twice a year.” Nerd alert! We’d want to tear our hair out if we had to wade through this stuff. Even if you were president of your track and debate teams and are punctilious about matters of dental hygiene, you can’t tell them that because that’s what they’re expecting.

What they’re not expecting, friends, is a healthy dose of the unexpected.

Let rip with a real heartstring-tugger such as this one: “After spending 20 years in the orphanage, I decided the time had come for me to cure Lyme disease as well as cancer, and this is why I am applying for a Ph.D. in Comic Strip Studies.”

Isn’t that a humdinger? How many people do you think have the courage needed to tackle a big task like curing Lyme disease as well as cancer? How many people could do this just by writing a dissertation on phallocentrism, Bourdieu’s habitus and stereotype targeting in “Peanuts?” Have no doubt about it: The person reading your statement will never forget you.

Another thing you have to include in your personal statement is an inspiring quote. The Internet is a great place to find these, but if you’re a bit pressed for time, you can try a few of ours. We really like “It ain’t over till it’s over” and “Takes one to know one.” Here’s how you can incorporate those quotes, as well as many others, in a paragraph that will bring down the house even faster than the combination of funnyman Steve Martin and rapper Queen Latifah can:

“After I left the orphanage and decided on the AIDS-curing path that was going to change the world for the better, I said to myself, ‘It ain’t over till it’s over.’ Then, a few hours later, I realized that it ‘takes one to know one.’ That was the path less taken and the road not traveled, but this is what happens when you go for the gold. Ask not what you can do for your country according to John Fitzgerald Kennedy, but what your country can do for you. Mr. Kennedy was a man like myself who knew the value of a hard day’s work, which is why he also said that saving a penny is just like earning one. In short, I am going to hitch my wagon to a star, seize the day and never stop believing.”

If that doesn’t move the admissions officer to tears, you can be sure that there isn’t a fire in the world hot enough to warm her cold, cold heart. Oh, and notice how we just used “her” in that last sentence? You need to be extra careful about gender these days, on account of all the lawsuits, so we want you to use as many “she”s and “her”s in your personal statement as possible. Regardless of your sex, refer to yourself as “she” whenever you get a chance. Switching into the third person to write, “She has always wanted to cure Lyme disease ever since she was a little girl,” will let the reader know what a gender-conscious young person you are.

Now that you’ve followed these steps, you’re pretty much enrolled. As that old urban legend Santa Claus might say, it’s in the bag. But you still have to conclude this thing, so it’s time to fall back on those skills you honed when you were signing your friends’ high-school yearbooks. “Best wishes for a great summer” is an excellent way to sign off, although a more intimate phrase like “Hugs xoxo” demonstrates a sweetness of character that is lacking in so many of today’s dispassionate scholars.

Do keep us posted about your applications, true believers. Until next time, best wishes for a great summer.

Hugs xoxo,

The Moustache Column of America

Oliver Bateman is the kind of guy you want your daughter to marry. He’s also the presiding secretary of the Moustache Club of America, a beloved nonprofit organization that is attempting to effect profound social transformations through consciousness raising. Its statement of purpose can be found at