Applications & personal statements
Application materials like personal statements, resumes, and cover letters are an integral part of packaging your experience, academics, and interests in a meaningful way. The UW Career and Internship Center is a great resource to support you through the brainstorming, writing, and completion processes of your application materials. Here are some additional tips for telling your story for programs at UW and beyond!
Since most majors at the UW require an application, many students are required to turn in personal statement essays and/or short answer responses to get into their major. For example, every application for the College of Engineering requires a short answer question that asks them to share the unique perspective that they can bring to the engineering classroom.
Applications are not restricted to UW though — they are required for scholarship essays, internships, and jobs! That being said, here is an overview about how to organize an application like this:
- Section 1: What do I want to do and why? E.g. Why is this your field of interest, and what led you to explore this major?
- Section 2: Why am I prepared to do this?
- Internships, coursework, and special projects that contribute to the student’s learning
- Section 3: Why is your institution the best place for me to study X and achieve X?
- Highlight specific things about the university/place/program in question
- Section 4: What will I do with this in the future?
The personal statement is a place to describe motivations and provide insight about the perspective you'll bring to the program, which could be related to your academic interests, identity, or past research/internship experience.
Although resumes can be personalized or designed based on the student’s area of study/conventions of the discipline, there are some tips that will apply to every resume:
- Keep it short and relevant to the job: Resumes should (typically) fit on one page, and the top part should include your name and contact information (at least your phone number and email address). Feel free to add links to your portfolio, LinkedIn, GitHub, or other outlets that are relevant to your discipline of interest.
- Break it up: Choose relevant section headings to break up your experience (e.g. Education/ Projects Leadership Experience / Working Experience / Skills). Try to incorporate buzzwords from job description into the resume.
- Keep is consistent: The headings should be in the same font size and style to improve readability for a recruiter. Leave some white space above headlines to improve readability.
- Use action verbs: Instead of saying “Helped organize event for office party,” try, “Proactively organized an annual donor event and interacted with professional staff, caterers, and attendees.”
Typically, cover letters include information about how you found out about the job (this is a good place to name drop references/job fair recruiters/etc.), the extent of and reasons for your interest in the job, and a few examples of experiences that have prepared you for the job. Here are two great videos from the UW Career and Internship Center that can help you structure your cover letter and guide you through what to include in your cover letter.
Cover letters are not a reiteration of the resume. Instead, hey are meant to highlight relevant experiences that convey how you’d be an asset to the company, project, or internship you want to join.
Here are a few general tips for cover letters:
- Include your contact information: Your resume and cover letter might get separated during the recruiting process, and you want to make it easy for them to reach you!
- Provide signposts for reader: e.g. “I’ve had X, Y, and Z experiences that will prepare me for this job/internship”
- Switch passive voice to active voice: Don’t give the project so much credit – take ownership/agency of the skills you develop”
- Address a specific person: e.g. “Dear (recruiter name)” vs. “To whom it may concern”
- Explain how your current skills translate in the context of the job (these are often called transferable skills)
- End by thanking the person for their time.
- Include a signature.
Things to Remember
Writing about yourself can be difficult, especially if you are more accustomed to the conventions of academic writing. Use the application as an opportunity to discuss your skills, motivations, and experiences.
- If you've applied to a program of opportunity before, see if you can get feedback about what could be improved about your past application.
- Keep the prompt in mind – it might be helpful to paste the guiding questions at the top of the document and check in about if you're answering every part of the prompt.
- Keep application deadlines in mind!