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About the Personal Statement assignment, about the assignment memo requirements

by Steve Krause on September 7th, 2014

This is where we’ll start talking about the personal statement assignment and also about the assignment memo requirements.

The first thing you need to do is review the assignment, which I link to above. I think it’s pretty straight-forward, though you will note that the specific audience/purpose/direction for your personal statement is going to depend on your specific audience/purpose for your personal statement.

To get started on the “how to” aspect of writing personal statements, take a look at these readings:

What sort of general advice can you get from both of these different but similar set of instructions? What does this advice say about the usual mission/purpose of a “personal statement?” Alsoif you have other suggestions for readings on how to write a personal statement (just do a search on Google and see what you get!), pass them along to us in the conversation.

As for the assignment memos, read on:


One of the important and reoccurring themes of this term is the importance of practicing your writing for each given “scenario.”  What I mean is writing in the professional world always always always involves some actual audience and some actual purpose.  It is not “like” writing for school in all kinds of different ways which we’ll be talking about this semester, though I think this piece from the site CollegeHumor kind of makes visible what I’m talking about: “If Everyone Still Wrote Like They Did in College.” We’ll talk about this transition from college to the workplace when we read and discuss the essay from Chris Anson and Lee Forsberg “Moving Beyond the Academic Community: Transitional Stages in Professional Writing.”

So, to use the personal statement assignment as an example:  I’m not the audience for this!  For this assignment, I am asking you to provide the audience and purpose because you need to decide on what you’re going to write a personal statement for– though I can give you some advice/tips on that if you’re stuck. For some assignments (like the email assignment and the formal report and recommendation), I create some scenarios for different audiences and purposes. But except in a sort of tongue and cheek way in the last assignment, the audience is always not me for the things you write.

However, each of these assignments needs to be handed in with an assignment memo, and the audience for that assignment memo is me.  This is the document where you will write directly and specifically to me about the assignment you just completed.

Now, most large companies and organizations have specific memo formats they expect all of their employees to use. Here’s a link to the Google Document that will serve as the format/example I expect everyone in this class to use.  A few highlights about this document:

  • You will use Google Docs to complete these memos and you will “hand in” a link to your memo on emuonline.
  • You will follow this format and write your memos in a “normal” font.
  • Be sure to title your memos appropriately. This one is called “Assignment Title Memo” because it’s meant to serve as a generic example, but you would want to title the memo for the Personal Statement assignment “Personal Statement Assignment Memo” or something similar.
  • The description of what your memo should be about is the general format these should follow, though you can vary it to fit your specific needs to the assignments.
  • Like all the other writings this semester, your memos should be “error free;” if there are too many errors, I will deduct 10% from your assignment and ask you to revise your memo.


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  1. Natasha Wickenheiser permalink

    Although this is one of the assignments I’m most looking forward to–for educational purposes–it’s also a little intimidating. Both of the “How to Write a Personal Statement” directions stress the importance of self-evaluation in order to highlight things that set ourselves apart from others. Both sets of guidelines also mention that most of our stories tend to be rather uneventful. Mine, too, is uneventful. Once I find a personal statement prompt, I know I’ll have to do some heavy thinking about what makes me special as an applicant.

    I like that we have the opportunity to submit memos for each of the assignments. Too often, there is not a forum for students to express the challenges or insight gained through completing an assignment. I hope that by sharing these thoughts and feelings, I can begin to improve my problem-solving approach for different types of writing assignments.

  2. LeeAnne Baumdraher permalink

    I’m a little unclear. Is there a separate memo assignment, or is this just an introduction to the memo, so that we can use it for the personal statement?

    • Steve Krause permalink

      Every assignment has a memo. You can use this example for the personal statement, but you will also want to use this example for the other assignments too. The memo needs to be formatted like this and it needs to be a separate document.

      Does that help?

      • LeeAnne Baumdraher permalink

        This helps. Thank you.

        “Be sure to title your memos appropriately. This one is called “Assignment Title Memo” because it’s meant to serve as a generic example, but you would want to title the memo for the Personal Statement assignment “Personal Statement Assignment Memo” or something similar.” <—- This is what tripped me up. It sounded like the memo this week had its own assignment attached, not just the personal statement.

        Thanks for clearing things up!

  3. Ashleigh Swinehart permalink

    Do we need to post our memo here so others can follow the link and review it? I see we have to submit a link to the final piece to EMU Online, but I am a little confused as to how it will be seen…

    • Ashleigh Swinehart permalink

      Disregard my question. I got it answered.

  4. Chelsea Idzior permalink

    After reading these instructions, it definitely seems like the personal statement needs to be about your life, or something you have experienced, it needs to be…well, personal. It doesn’t sound like they want you just reiterating everything on your resume and explaining the awesome grades you got in college and how you never skipped class once! They want to know that you passionate about your field of study, and a hard worker, and all that good stuff, but they wanted it explained to them through experiences and challenges you have dealt with in your life, not by just saying: “I’m a hard worker with great people skills!”

    I am especially excited for this assignment because it will be great practice for me to write my personal statement for law school. I have looked up some requirements of the personal statement for law schools I am interested in and their guidelines ring pretty true to those above–they want to hear about experiences and challenges and what has shaped you to be where you are at in your life today.

    • Steve Krause permalink

      I think that’s pretty accurate, but what your personal statement looks like is also a bit of a variable depending on the specifics of the purpose of the personal statement. For our MA program in Written Communication, we’re kind of vague in describing what we want from students in personal statements because we are generally looking for what you’re talking about here, Chelsea– how your personal experiences have lead you to the program. When students ask me for advice on what could/should be in a personal statement, I generally suggest that it should include something about what you’re hoping to get out of the program.

      However, some calls for personal statements are surprisingly specific regarding what they’re looking for. I might be wrong about this, but I think the MS program at EMU for dietetics is an example of that– at least I seem to recall that from a student from the recent past.

      So while I think you do generally want to include this kind of “personal” information and detail in your personal statement, let the specifics of the particular personal statement be your guide. If you want to apply for law school at the University of Michigan, take a look at their guidelines and follow them.

  5. Jessica Kane permalink

    The personal statement feels like a daunting task. Unfortunately, I’ve had a very “eventful” life, but in a more negative sense than, say, someone who has had a great deal of travel for enrichment purposes. Shinning a favorable light on these may prove to be quite difficult but I’m excited for the challenge and interested in the result.

  6. Melanie Waller permalink

    It has been a long time since I have written a personal statement. My life has mainly been focused on one main field of study and that is food. I have spent most of my life in the foodservice department and at times it seems boring. I am also a great secretary, but the things I learned many years ago now no longer exist in both food and secretary fields. It might be a tough challenge to write an exciting statement, when my values and beliefs are so old fashioned, but I will give it my all.

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