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Personal Statements for Graduate College Fellowship Competitions FAQ

1. Does the Graduate College require Personal Statements as part of nominations for Graduate College recruitment fellowships this year? 

No, they are no longer required for this year’s (2021-22’s) competitions.

2. Given that Personal Statements are no longer required for the 2021-22 competitions, why and how should departments use Personal Statements in this year’s applications?

The Graduate College will require Personal Statements for our recruitment fellowships starting in 2022-23, and we are encouraging departments to use Personal Statements in their admissions decisions.  Therefore, the Graduate College encourages departments to use the Personal Statement in this year’s admissions process in order to learn from the process and then to convey any lessons learned to the Graduate College (through this survey).  The Graduate College and the Fellowship Board will take those lessons into account in deciding how best to implement a Personal Statement requirement for next year’s fellowship competitions.

3. Why is the Graduate College moving toward a requirement for a Personal Statement in its nomination packages for recruitment fellowships? 

National momentum around holistic review in admissions has prompted conversations about alternative predictors of academic success. Holistic review considers both quantitative data and qualitative indicators to obtain a fuller picture of each applicant’s attributes and potential to thrive as graduate students. Many universities across the country are now requiring Personal Statements as part of undergraduate and graduate admissions packets (for more information, see the Council of Graduate Schools’ Holistic Review in Graduate Admissions and the Graduate College’s Holistic Review Toolkit). Whereas an academic Statement of Purpose encourages the articulation of research interests, a Personal Statement supports a more reflective process that allows students to consider the personal strengths they bring to graduate school and the experiences they have had that can contribute to graduate education beyond mere academics. The University of Illinois considers this new approach to the admissions process a step in the right direction, and the Graduate College therefore wishes to apply it toward the selection process for our recruitment fellowships.

4. When will Personal Statements be required?

Personal Statements will be required for all Graduate College recruitment fellowship competitions starting in 2022-23.

5. Can departments offer feedback to the Graduate College regarding the move toward requiring Personal Statements?

Yes, the Graduate College has created this survey, and we invite departments to complete it following the 2021-22 admissions season. The Graduate College is interested in a department’s reflections as to what impact the Personal Statement had on the year’s admission process and in any recommendations on how to word the question or use the question in our fellowship competitions moving forward.