personal statement

Personal Satement Grad School
Personal Statement Writing Workshop – Grad School
We will discuss the grad school application process and tips for writing an appealing personal statement for grad school applications.

This workshop is ideal for university students hoping to go to graduate school, but not sure where to start their application process. Over the course of this 1.5 hours workshop, you will gain:


  • An overview of the application process and expectations
  • Tips on how to make the most of each aspect of your application
  • Insight into what the selection committee wants
  • Things to think about to help you to build a coherent and convincing personal narrative
  • Understanding of the overall structure of a personal statement
  • Opportunity to ask personalized questions to the speaker
  • Personal Statement Writing Template to take home


In addition to these insights, attendees will have a chance to submit a personalized application related question in advance of the workshop that will either be addressed during the workshop or within the Google Classroom community that all attendees will have access to upon registration.

This workshop is completely ONLINE, which mean there is a LIVE STREAM with the speaker every second Saturday of the month at 10:30am between September 2022 and January 2023, followed by access to Google Classroom portal where you can share ideas and resources, as well as have access to a personal statement writing template. This means that the personal statement writing support extends beyond the workshop to a supportive community of students working towards the same goal.


Meet our CEO: Interview with Lisa Pfau

Lisa Pfau is the founder, CEO, and Sr. Coach at PFAU Academic Writing. We discussed how she came to be an entrepreneur, writer, coach, and teacher. We also talk about her own experiences writing papers and applying for Grad School, and how she uses those experiences inform the coaching she provides to clients. As the economy continues to be hit by COVID, investing in further education is a great use of your time and energy.

DSC05764 300x200 Meet our CEO: Interview with Lisa Pfau

Lisa currently assists high school, college, and university students to improve their research in writing skills through a combination of individual coaching sessions and writing courses. Lisa cares deeply about her students and PFAU team members, viewing success as a collaborative effort where everyone learns from and grows together. She feels grateful to wake up each morning, and use her creativity and passion for learning to build something meaningful.


What inspired you to take this career path?


I kind of stumbled into teaching. It was something that I was always doing – helping a friend or classmates with an essay – until eventually I became a Teaching Assistant in my Master’s degree and began to tutor high school and college students on the side. It was at this point that I realized there was a real deficit in solid writing skills, and educational supports to guide students in the art of writing. Still, since I enjoyed teaching and editing so much, I didn’t really consider it a career until I underwent a really difficult life transition and really had nothing to lose in starting my own academic coaching business – something that had been on my mind for quite some time, but that I never really took seriously.


What are you favorite aspects of teaching students? 


My favorite part of teaching is the relationships that I build with my students. I love seeing them succeed and gain confidence in their own special skill set. For example, one of my long-time students, who original came to me because he was failing his classes and had been put on academic probation, was just accepted into the Toronto Police Service and started training this month. I had the honor of being one of his references, and it was such a treat to reflect on how far he has come. It was been inspiring to watch him over the years improve not only his research and writing skills and graduate with an A- average, but also to see his overall growth in confidence and work ethic. He had a dream, and now he is making it happen. I couldn’t be prouder!


What do you think is currently lacking in the current education system?


When I took my first TAship at the University of Toronto, I failed a bunch of students because of their poor writing skills. The Professor told me that I had to raise everyone’s grades by one whole grade point average, and that I needed to lower my expectations given that Grade 13 in Ontario had recently been discontinued. The results were good for the students in the short-term, but that moment sticks in my memory as I wondering about the long-term impact of such leniency. I am still grateful for the predominantly red marked up thesis drafts that I would receive from my Undergraduate supervisor because of how much it taught me to be more mindful in my written communication. I know that we focus a lot on presentation skills and oral communication, but writing is such an important skill set that is often overlooked. I mean, most people are online for the majority of the day, and a huge percentage of content is written, even the videos that we love are often scripted ahead of time. So, to give a long-winded response – I think attention to fundamentals of written communication and critical thinking are overlooked, especially in high school.


What kind of help can students expect at PFAU Academic Writing?

I think the best way to find out the true answer to this question would be to ask one of my past or current students, but I will try to answer this. I think I see each students an unique individual, and as such, I try to provide the resources and support necessary to help each student succeed in achieving their individual goals – whether it be passing a class, getting an A, graduating university, getting into a great school, or gaining and marketing their transferable skills in order to get a job. I still find this the hardest question to answer because honestly at work I am just myself – Lisa P. I just sit down, figure out what someone needs to succeed, and put a plan together to make that happen, and then, get on the ride with them and help them along the way when gaps show up. So, I suppose a student can expect compassionate, kind, inclusive, professional (I do know my stuff – or so I’ve been told), and individualized support with a focus on getting results.

Lisa’s Book Recommendations and Resources

The Adventues of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain


Thank you, Lisa, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 


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To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.

Applying to Grad School during COVID-19: Interview with Yiwei Jin

We interviewed Yiwei Jin, a grad school admissions coach at PFAU: Academic Writing, for our podcast, “Breath in, Write out”. We discussed how the grad school application process has been affected by COVID-19 and what prospective students can do to improve their applications.

Yiwei recently graduated with an MA in Political Science from the University of Toronto, specializing in Asian studies and comparative politics, and is currently interning at the Asia Pacific Foundation in Vancouver. He starts Law School at UofT in the Fall. He loves helping students get ahead by identifying areas of improvement and working to enhance their ability to write creative and effective application letters.

Why don’t you tell us a bit about the changes that you’ve noticed in the grad school application process?

Sure. So, in terms of what’s changed for the grad school application process, there’s a couple of things. The first thing is that some grad schools are evaluating students GPA differently now that some students aren’t having the fall or winter term classes graded as, as they were before. Some of the grading in schools has been affected differently. So graduate schools with that in mind, are already changing that.

What does that mean their grading has changed and like why are they doing that?

Right. So, I think schools are cognizant of the fact that students’ grades are going to be affected. Some schools are just giving pass or fail grades. For students during this winter term, other schools are still giving out the grades, but then the students might not be doing as well, because of all that’s happening. You have to check with the schools and see what exactly they’re doing.

What part of the application process is the most difficult that students might want to focus more attention on?

Right. So, I think by the time that you’re applying to grad school, the transcripts are at least partly finished. You can’t really go back in time and change your course grades, but the reference letters and the writing samples or their personal statements are something that the students can do something about at this point. I think the most important thing that can help them stand out among the pool of applicants, is the personal statement or the research proposal.

What do you think can help someone with their personal statement?

I think the first thing with anything is to start early. It’s a really short piece of writing, but then that shouldn’t make you think that you can just maybe spend a day on it and then be done with it. This is going to be a long writing process because writing about yourself is going to be one of the most difficult things. So keep in mind that this writing process is going to take you through many drafts.

What about content?

A personal statement is what the name suggests. It’s supposed to be personal. You’re trying to showcase some other aspects of who you are, other than your grades. You don’t need to say how diligent of the student you are because that shows through your transcript. It’s a place for you to showcase who you are and the qualities that will make you a good applicant. Always think of things that you have done, actual examples. Start from concrete examples, from talking about what you did instead of who you are.

I was wondering if you could just briefly touch upon the basics of references, about how many someone applying would want to have and what kind?

It depends on the school. Some schools ask for two, some schools ask for four. So, first of all, it’s really important that you check with the school. It also depends on what stage of school you’re in. Someone who’s just going through undergrad can have that mentality of I’m going to get some references. For graduates, it’s really about thinking back in terms of who all of your professors are, the level of how familiar you are with them and how familiar they are with you because it really is a two-way street.

I think there are two basic conditions for a good reference source. The first one is that they need to know you, well, you need to have a body of work that they can refer to. Either it’s a research project that you worked on, discussions in class, or if you went to their office hours really frequently. The second thing is that that professor needs to be established. Ideally, they need to have an established record of teaching other students. If you’re starting out, in undergrad, and this is something you’re thinking about, it’s good to get to know more about these professors, but not in a selfish way because they can figure that out, but try to build a relationship with them.

For more advice about the application process, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

Both the written, visual, audio and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

How to Apply for Grad School during COVID-19: 1st Podcast Episode Live!
GradSchoolapps 1024x205 How to Apply for Grad School during COVID 19: 1st Podcast Episode Live!

We discuss the trials and tribulations of applying for graduate school during a pandemic with PFAU Academic Writing applications coach, Yiwei Jin.


Impact of COVID-19 on GPA

What makes a strong personal statement

What to look for in a good reference

Putting together an applications checklist

The art of selling yourself to the right schools



To get more help with your grad school applications, book a 20 minute consultation with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.