While I do have a good idea about which programs I would like to apply to and which faculty I would like to work with, I have recently made the decision to dedicate 1-2 years to being a research assistant in a national lab dealing with PTSD before applying to graduate school. There are a few reasons for this. First, Clinical PhD programs receive a high volume of applicants and therefore are very competitive. I believe that I have built a strong resume, but students are encouraged to have published research studies before applying. Secondly, I have been advised by my mentor to do so because many PTSD and trauma programs only accept students who are transitioning from one of the major national labs for PTSD. Finally, I would like to take 1-2 years to better identify my research interests as related to PTSD and establish better connections before applying to graduate school, as well as make sure it is something I want to do for the rest of my life!
While Personal Statements are not required by all of the schools that I am thinking of applying to, I have included in this post the guidelines that some have provided for the Personal Statement.
UCLA: (Only provides guidelines for a Statement of Purpose; similar to Personal Statement, only more focused on your research/educational experiences and less on your personal history). Please state your purpose in applying for graduate study. Describe your scholarly and research area(s) of interest, experiences that contributed to your preparation in the field, and your plans for your future occupation or profession. Briefly describe experiences that have prepared you for advanced study or research, and provide any additional information that may aid the selection committee in evaluating your preparation and aptitude for graduate study. You are encouraged to indicate specific research interests and potential faculty mentors.
UW: Please provide a statement, no more than two pages in length, about your personal history, family background, and other influences on your intellectual development. The statement should address educational, cultural, and economic opportunities and disadvantages that you have experienced, and ways those experiences have affected the development of your special interest, career plans, and future goals. Please note that this is not an academic Statement of Purpose, but a personal statement that addresses your intellectual growth and development, both inclusive of and beyond your academic goals.
Berkeley: Required, usually about 1.5 to 2 pages in length, single-spaced, typed, and an essential part of your application. It should stand alone and not repeat your Statement of Purpose. In your Personal History Statement, please describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Please include information about: How you have overcome barriers to access in higher education; Evidence of how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others; Evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education; Evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality; Evidence of your leadership among underserved populations. Make sure you indicate any challenges, hardships or obstacles you may have overcome. (This is regarded as a sign of perseverance.) Let us know if you’ve worked to support yourself through school, citing the average number of hours you worked per week. Indicate whether you’re a first generation college student, took on a leadership position, tutored or mentored underrepresented students, or took advantage of unique opportunities.