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Personal History and Diversity Statement (UCs)


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At some UC schools, they want a Personal History/Diversity Statement (UCSB and UCD for Computer Science) in addition to the SOP.

UC Davis Prompt: The purpose of this essay is to get know you as an individual and potential graduate student. Please describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. You may include any educational, familial, cultural, economic, or social experiences, challenges, community service, outreach activities, residency and citizenship, first-generation college status, or opportunities relevant to your academic journey; how your life experiences contribute to the social, intellectual, or cultural diversity within a campus community and your chosen field; or how you might serve educationally underrepresented and underserved segments of society with your graduate education.

UCSB Prompt: UC Santa Barbara is interested in a diverse and inclusive graduate student population. Please describe any aspects of your personal background, accomplishments, or achievements that you feel are important in evaluating your application for graduate study. For example, please describe if you have experienced economic challenges in achieving higher education, such as being financially responsible for family members or dependents, having to work significant hours during undergraduate schooling or coming from a family background of limited income. Please describe if you have any unusual or varied life experiences that might contribute to the diversity of the graduate group, such as fluency in other languages, experience living in bicultural communities, academic research interests focusing on cultural, societal, or educational problems as they affect underserved segments of society, or evidence of an intention to use the graduate degree toward serving disadvantaged individuals or populations.

 

Do you think the CS departments even care about this? Sure I could write a couple sentences about studying abroad for a summer (language classes, nothing relevant to CS study). But nothing to fill out 1-2 pages.

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You don't have to fill the entire 1-2 pages if you don't have that much to say. Just say what you have to say. You don't need to limit yourself to things relevant to CS studies because the whole point of this essay is for the school to learn more about you outside of your field of study!

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Hmm, I'm guessing it's something the university cares more about than the department, sort of like general GRE scores. I guess I'll write a short "essay" about my time abroad, and maybe try to find a way to tie it together with my CS studies (even though my language study is quite irrelevant).

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It's not as serious as the SOP, but I would spend a decent amount of time writing it. You can look at it as a more personal extension of your research interests (which is what I did, also used it to highlight language training and teaching experience). It's also a good place to account for any peccadilloes in your record (I mentioned taking 2 quarters off in undergrad, why, and how I "bettered" myself because of the experience). This frees up space to be purely academic in your SOP. Also, the personal statement will be read by different fellowship granters. So even if it's not the biggest deal, I would still take it fairly seriously in that light. 

Don't fill 1-2 pages with fluff. Write as much as you need to get your points across.

You should worry more about UCD's sneaky application mini-essays than the personal statement. Just a heads up.

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Oh yeah, teaching experience is good to talk about that. I have a lot of that.

I have some stuff to explain with some awkwardness in my academic history, but that actually is better fit to put into my SOP in my case.

I only see a couple mini-essays, and they look like they'll be very easy to tackle once my two essays are done.

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I think the mini-essays annoyed me because I wasn't expecting them. They were repetitive and made the Davis application take twice as long as all the others. However, I'm now a happy PhD student at Davis, so I guess I can't complain much!

Good luck!

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I don't think they are necessarily the determining factors, but I think they are definitely important. I got into UCR last season and was given a fairly nice fellowship, I was told all those small (and annoying) extra mini statements are what they used to determine who got fellowships. 

 

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I have to write one for UCSC. These are their instructions:

"The Personal History Statement is required of all applicants.This statement will be used in conjunction with your application for graduate admission and financial support. Please note that the Personal History Statement should not duplicate the Statement of Purpose.

UC Santa Cruz is interested in a diverse and inclusive graduate student population. In an essay, discuss how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Please include any educational, familial, cultural, economic, or social experiences, challenges, or opportunities relevant to your academic journey; how you might contribute to social or cultural diversity within your chosen field; and/or how you might serve underrepresented segments of society with your degree.
Recommended length is a concise 1-3 pages, single-spaced."

I'm bit confused on how much to emphasize my "minority" status (I'm female and Mexican-American/hispanic) since I don't feel it's particularly affected my academic journey. Of course I want to include it if it'll help me but I don't want to be disingenuous about it either. I'm not sure what to write about other than that either. My time abroad? Volunteer work?

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I'm going to talk about my ethnic background just a bit in mine. Instead I'm going to focus my essay on my experience working with other cultures in their own country, how I have changed from it, and how I'm going to bring it back to the states. I'm not sure how relevant it would be to my academic journey but I'm sure I can spin it somehow.

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