Support from Current Students
Each year ISSI has about 45 Graduate Students in Residence; they share offices with others working on similar topics from different disciplines or schools. Read the testimonials below to learn more about the scholarly community at ISSI and the peer/staff/faculty support for Graduate Students in Residence. This community and support are especially valuable for our BIPOC students who often feel isolated in their departments and schools in the #HWI that is UCB.
In addition to our grad students in residence, many other grad students are involved with ISSI's Centers. Undergraduates benefit from ISSI research mini-grants, from our summer workshop in qualitative methods, and by serving as research assistants for our faculty and graduate students. ISSI is also home to the Graduate Fellows Program (GFP), which provides intensive training and support for about 12 students each year.
How To Write a Standout Personal Statement
A personal statement is a crucial part of applying to college or for a job. It's where you can talk about yourself and show the people in charge why you're the best fit for the program or position. If you succeed at writing an excellent one, it can help you get accepted or hired!
In this article, we'll talk about how to write a great essay that will help you to get your dream job or into your top-choice college. We'll cover the important things you need to include, like talking about yourself, your skills, and your experiences. We'll also cover such important points as how to finish it off strong, and how to make sure there aren't any mistakes in your text. Just in case you're struggling with this task, you might be tempted to buy personal statement online.
Write a personal introduction
The introduction is the first section of your text, and it sets the tone for the rest of the essay. It's essential to make a strong first impression and grab the reader's attention from the start. The introduction should be concise and engaging, and it should highlight your personality and the reasons why you are interested in the college or job.
To write an effective introduction, consider the following tips:
Start with a hook: Use a creative opening sentence that captures the reader's attention and makes them want to keep reading.
Expand on relevant skills, interests, and experiences
The next section of your essay should expand on what you will be bringing to the desired program or position. This is where you can showcase your strengths and demonstrate why you are the ideal candidate for the position. The key is to provide specific examples that highlight your skills and experiences and show how they relate to the college or job.
To write this section in an interesting and effective manner, consider the following tips:
Write a strong conclusion
The conclusion is the last section of your personal statement, and it's your final chance to make a lasting impression on the reader. A strong conclusion should summarize your main points and leave the reader with a sense of your personality and strengths. To write an effective conclusion, consider the following tips:
Proofread and edit
Once you've written your personal statement, it's important to proofread and edit it thoroughly. This will ensure that your statement is error-free and reads smoothly. Here are some tips to keep in mind when proofreading and editing the text:
"The ISSI – as a workspace and collegial environment – has been an indispensable source of support for my work and meeting deadlines and goals set by my department. I was able to engage with my officemates about research opportunities both on and off campus, interrogate my epistemological allegiances by discussing my project with students from other research clusters, and make space for underrepresented undergraduate students that I have been mentoring during my office tenure.
Beyond this multitude of positive opportunities, it bears outlining that the ISSI serves as a space for URM graduate students who may not feel as comfortable in their departments. As the Division for Equity and Inclusion may already recognize, many of our departments still have a long way to go when it comes to crafting an equitable space for students and their research. Our offices provide a reprieve from daily microaggressions, discrimination, and invalidation of our work.
With all of these factors in mind, I implore UC Berkeley administration to consider how disbanding ISSI will leave a vacuum of support for graduate students of color which will ultimately hurt recruitment and retention of these very same populations."
"ISSI provides a resource for graduate students, scholars, and visiting academics that no other space at UC Berkeley does. It provides physical space so academics can consistently and productively get their work done, both on their own and collaboratively, and it brings people together for intellectually stimulating events, and social support and community. It draws people from multiple disciplines, and multiple locations, including visiting scholars from across the world, at all stages of their academic career. It is a particularly warm and welcoming space for students and scholars of color, and for the scholarship and community they contribute to our campus. I have learned and gained so much from colleagues at ISSI, and I view it as an intellectual home, to which I hoped to regularly return. ...ISSI does not provide a list of benefits that could or should be fragmented and scattered to different buildings and institutes on campus. It provides a network of support for scholars across campus, at every point of their academic journey, in one place. ISSI leadership has done all they could to ensure their financial and intellectual sustainability. Please respond to these efforts by doing what you can to preserve this institute as a whole, in a way that continues to serve those who are least served by our current campus resources."
"I learned of the ISSI space while I was studying for my qualifying exam. I met with various ISSI students that had already qualified that had similar readings to mine, and we would go over the literature together. ISSI provided a supportive, scholarly community that helped me get through my qualifying exam and allowed me to see myself as a scholar too.
After qualifying I did not think I would be able to get my dissertation proposal done so soon. But my office mate and I worked on our dissertation proposals together nearly every day. We brainstormed our ideas and encouraged each other along the writing process. We read each other’s drafts and discussed the overlapping readings across our work. We are in different programs; the interdisciplinary nature of our work proved invaluable to our thinking. We both advanced to candidacy this year in large part due to the supportive office space we cultivated through ISSI.
This year, I have kept up my progress on my dissertation. My office mate and I still write together: we outline our projects and read each other's drafts. I also started a writing group with a group of undergraduates that I mentor through the McNair Scholars Program. We would get together to talk through their research proposals in one of the ISSI conference rooms."
"... It bears outlining that the ISSI serves as a space for URM graduate students who may not feel as comfortable in their departments. As the Division for Equity and Inclusion may already recognize, many of our departments still have a long way to go when it comes to crafting an equitable space for students and their research. Our offices provide a reprieve from daily microaggressions, discrimination, and invalidation of our work.- Xavier Durham, PhD Student, Sociology, and ISSI Graduate Student in Residence
"An office space in ISSI has been invaluable to my time as a doctoral student. During the semester before I advanced to candidacy in particular, I regularly spent days, evenings, and weekends in ISSI. The space enabled quiet, independent study and a space to co-work, talk, and meet with peers from my own department and others. I also held mock oral exams and practice sessions in ISSI. I have appreciated the sense of community and peers, learned from the ISSI talks and colloquia, and having a central, secure place to keep my books and have an office. "
"I have greatly enjoyed having an office in ISSI because it makes for a quiet and and productive workspace. I also enjoy being around so many people with different academic backgrounds who I often have conversations with either in the shared spaces in the building or outside. A lot of these conversations, especially with people in Sociology, African-American Studies, and Social Work have helped to shape my research interests. Further, ISSI provides one of the few spaces for students of color to gather, work, and build community, especially for those of us in less diverse programs. As the University has made continued promises to center diversity and inclusion, it should begin by supporting those efforts that have already been established."
"I was introduced to more sociologists and higher education researchers through my shared ISSI office space, and could rely on my office as a focused working environment when I had spare time between meetings or classes. Because I met many more advanced PhD candidates, I also received helpful job market insights and advice about organizing my orals committee. I chose Berkeley's Graduate School of Education in part so that I would have opportunities for continued engagement in the field of sociology. ISSI has been instrumental to the realization of this reason for choosing Berkeley, and has been uniquely supportive of my interdisciplinary developments."
Take action now to support the institute and build social justice futures at Cal! Click here to sign our petition and/or add your testimonial to our website.
"ISSI has provided the cherished academic community space that I never knew I needed. As a doctoral candidate braving through the dissertation phase of my program, I had become used to questioning the value of my work in isolation, meeting smaller level milestones with no one to celebrate, and receiving publication and award acceptances that sometimes felt like they only amounted to a new line on the CV when there is no one to affirm that accomplishment. My cohort’s weekly gatherings make me feel so seen and affirmed by a group of fellow graduate students of color who value my work and believe in my success. I have a safe space to share the highs and lows of this journey with folks who really understand. Navigating the academy as a Black woman is hard! Yet, having this collective of folks who pour into me in the various phases of this struggle is so rewarding. We provide detailed feedback on each others’ work, we provide encouragement and celebrations on each other’s latest accomplishments, and we learn the importance of collective wisdom as we work together to reimagine new ways to produce research that affirms the layered truths of our identities. We speak about the sticky feelings of our dual identities as researchers and community members. We hold space for the discomfort of the data collection process. We let each other know we are not alone in these feelings and provide resources to support each other’s process. I am so grateful for my cohort, and find myself leaving every gathering with so much joy. I feel truly blessed to have this community of folks who genuinely wish me well, whose progression through milestones is an invitation to cheer them on with the same rigor that they cheer me on. ISSI’s Graduate Fellows Program is so important because students of color do not get to feel this level of structured comradeship anywhere else. I have participated in a number of similarly modeled programs across campus but the spirit with which ISSI holds space, allowing students to be their whole selves and preparing us for the realities of academic life in the most authentic and unfiltered ways, is what makes this collective space so special. That is so rare, and so necessary for our survival on this campus."
"The ISSI has been an academic home for me for many years. Our department does not have the space to offer offices to graduate students, so I applied to the ISSI and was offered a beautiful writing space with three other peers from different departments on campus. At the ISSI, I’ve connected with other graduate students and faculty that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to connect with any other way. I have attended inspiring talks and have connected with faculty from other universities whose work influences my own. Being at the ISSI has become a community for me, where I feel supported and have a network of folks who I can come to for advice. It is one of the only spaces on campus where I can get answers to my questions about ethnography and qualitative work. Closing it would put many of us at a great disadvantage. It would ruin the very little space we have on campus to explore specific research methods that take into consideration the nuances and details of social problems in our everyday lives. At a time when social inequality is ever more present; the ISSI has a significant role to play."
"ISSI gave me a literal home, a lovely office that I used as a graduate student in residence - that was just the physical space. But that physical space gave me a transdisciplinary community of scholars that critiqued and validated my work and surrounded me with practical knowledge by being around scholars in various stages of their careers.
And then, as a Graduate Fellow, I had the benefit of being in a seminar that took a realistic, history-informed approach to preparing one for the academy. We understood the traditions and expectations, how they are evolving and what that might really mean for faculty of color. At ISSI the unspoken was spoken - a big help for first-generation doctoral students. As a Graduate Fellow I was able to grow in the company of many scholars steeped in critical methodologies. They were interrogating their own disciplines. The environment was intellectually rigorous and provided a much-needed home for scholars that felt excluded from their home departments for various reasons.
ISSI is a strong anti-racist institution, supporting anti-racist scholars who can thrive in the academy and who are contributing to scholarship and teaching that expand the academy. The illustrious alumni speak to only one small aspect of what ISSI contributes to UC Berkeley and beyond."
"I attended the Center for Right-Wing Studies' conference this fall, and it was an incredible experience as an undergraduate that encouraged me to continue research into online extremism. CRWS is a research center in an extremely niche but increasingly relevant field that we are lucky to have at UC Berkeley, and it would be tragic to lose its home at the ISSI. We are constantly fighting the rise of fascism and right-wing extremism, and cutting support for the ISSI would be a devastating blow to the area of academia committed to understanding and countering these trends."- Saya Abney, UC Berkeley undergraduate
"The ISSI space and community have been integral to my success in a doctoral program at UC Berkeley. As a person with lived experience of homelessness, including as a doctoral student at Berkeley, I needed the stability that having a safe and consistent space to access and call my own at ISSI has provided me. I am immensely grateful for the interdisciplinary scholarly community at ISSI and the opportunity to explore ideas from multiple perspectives. ISSI has been fundamental to sustaining my personal health and wellbeing in addition to my professional growth and confidence. All my thanks to the staff and colleagues at ISSI who support and maintain this vital resource for scholars at UC Berkeley."
"The ISSI is the only remaining safe space for Black, Brown, and queer students to turn to for a sense of 'home' away from our often hostile departments. This is one of the few place where we can thrive as scholars, especially for those of us studying topics around critical inequity and social injustice that are marginalized in mainstream academia. More than anything, the ISSI offers us - Black, Brown, and queer students - a place where we can be ourselves. The ISSI is a place where we can be comfortable, brave, and let our guard down. It's an invaluable and irreplaceable place and feeling; closing it would be a huge loss to UC Berkeley's non-White, non-hegemonic student communities."
"My ISSI space has contributed enormously to my accomplishments over the last year. I met with my co-author in my ISSI office and utilized the space to collaboratively write with them. The office also provided the privacy needed to assemble quality Ford Foundation and National Science Foundation grant applications and a creative space for my future research ideas to grow. I was awarded both grants and believe the Joseph A. Myers office within ISSI was pivotal in my successes this past year."
Take action now to support the institute and build social justice futures at Cal! Click here to sign our petition and/or add your testimonial to our website.
"ISSI does incredibly important work. The project I am working on has opened my eyes in infinite ways, and has expanded my worldview tenfold. My work with ISSI has transformed me into a more empathetic and thoughtful person, while simultaneously teaching me invaluable research skills."- Anoushka Singal, Undergraduate Student, UC Berkeley; URAP Apprentice Fall 2020
"As a student parent of two young children, having an office space at ISSI was essential in my success last year. The ISSI office space offered me a quiet place where I can focus, write, and make progress on my work. Moreover, I was able to use a conference room at ISSI to conduct preliminary interviews for my dissertation. The ISSI community has also been beneficial as graduate students who I share office space with have made suggestions about resources to further my dissertation work and provided support as I began gathering data for my dissertation."
"Graduate school can be alienating and mystifying at the same time. I have held an office at ISSI for many years now, and having a home base on campus where I can connect with other advanced graduate students of color has been vital for my survival at U.C. Berkeley. The staff at ISSI have also gone out of their way to support me (for example, by showing up to practice talks and giving feedback that my professors appreciated because they hadn't thought of it). I have seen them willingly provide this support not just to me, but also to numerous other grad students *who are not even in the fellowship program*. Without this support, many more grad students at Berkeley will feel without a home and without much needed support and guidance. Please don't close ISSI. "
"The ISSI has been an invaluable resource for me in writing up my dissertation. It served as a physical space that supported my writing when my department was unable to provide me office space. I was able to carry on collaborative projects only due to conference rooms I could reserve at the ISSI. Aside from bringing together and supporting a diverse set of students and faculty who work around allied issues, the ISSI is a unique platform for students, providing space and resources (and thus power) for students to develop their own initiatives and seek mentorship outside their home department."
"The ISSI is the only remaining safe space for Black, Brown, and queer students to turn to for a sense of 'home' away from our often hostile departments...More than anything, the ISSI offers us - Black, Brown, and queer students - a place where we can be ourselves. The ISSI is a place where we can be comfortable, brave, and let our guard down. "- Meghna Mukherjee, Phd Candidate, Sociology; ISSI Graduate Student in Residence 2019-present; CER instructor 2019 and 2020
"The ISSI has housed me as a scholar, as a fellow, and as a community member. My work is more rigorous, more expansive, and more impactful because of its programs and multi-scalar community (alumni, students, professors at every level, professionals, community members). As a first-generation, low income, Native American scholar, it has made THE difference for me as a student, researcher, writer, and activist. I support it. I am proud of it, and I’m passionate about its mission and praxis."
"ISSI’s GFP has provided me with a critical, yet intimate, intellectual space to share my work and build with other junior and senior scholars across disciplines. As the University moves to engage important social issues and scholarly questions across traditional academic disciplines, it should look to ISSI as an exemplar of such engagement."
"Given the scarce amount of space and resources on campus for graduate students, I've deeply appreciated and benefited from all that ISSI offers to us. I'm also thankful for the truly interdisciplinary community the ISSI fosters."
"My URAP position at ISSI was my first research experience. The Institute’s focus on collaborative work and community was apparent and taught me the importance of interdisciplinary research and how scholarship relates to social justice. The work ISSI does and the community they have built is important and should continue to be supported."- Louise Curtis, UC Berkeley Undergraduate; URAP apprentice at ISSI, 2018
Take action now to support the institute and build social justice futures at Cal! Click here to sign our petition and/or add your testimonial to our website.
"My office space at ISSI greatly improved the quality of my experience as a graduate student at Cal! It is extremely, extremely, important to have a workspace that doesn’t require students to move books and supplies from place to place. I became much more productive in my scholarly work and in my teaching duties and am grateful for the space. I also found that attending the various talks by the ISSI community of scholars has been helpful since several of the talks overlapped with my work in various ways! I also met and had conversations with other graduate students in residence who are not in my department. I find it important and helpful to be able to have conversations about my work with scholars from other disciplines to test how my work in ethnic studies translates. Overall, I enjoyed and benefited greatly from the ISSI community and space in general as well as the Graduate Fellows Program."
"During my first year at Berkeley, I felt untethered, adrift, and unsure. My affiliation with ISSI towards the close of my first year of study helped anchor me; ISSI has again contributed to greater confidence on my part this last year and has positively impacted my work productivity.
I was very excited to be sharing my office and hallway, specifically with other people of color from other disciplines this semester and also a good friend who has become family. It is a gift to know that I am expected in the office and will be missed if I am not around.
I also cannot overstate the importance of the meeting and work space we were offered this last year to aid my research group. I am able to manage my undergraduate student assistants and also keep a hand on my research and writing in the same space without interruption on most days. ISSI has been life-changing for my work and my capacity as a Cal student."
"ISSI, through its physical space and scholars, was crucial to the development of my research skills as an undergraduate student. Although the walls may seem a little dusty, the work that is done within them has strong implications for students' understanding of societal issues and data. The quantitative skills that we gain from working with ISSI's graduate students are complemented by learning to research and appreciate social context, which is a very coveted and useful combination in today's data-driven job market. Learning the importance of social context from ISSI sets our undergraduates apart in both the academic and professional spheres. Aside from the influential projects that the Institute supports (my research on child welfare with Matty Lichtenstein was a large factor in my pursuit of government work and law school), the physical space that ISSI provides to its scholars cannot be replaced if the building loses funding. The cozy rooms offer a unique space for students of societal issues to work and host meetings, since the main campus does not offer as much exclusive space to them compared to those of other departments."
"As an aspiring social epidemiologist, ISSI was a large part of my decision to attend Berkeley.”- Jessica Lutz, MPH Student, UC Berkeley SPH, Epidemiology & Biostatistics
"Having office space to read, write, brainstorm and community to attend events and think with was FUNDAMENTAL to all of my accomplishments last year!"
"As a visiting PhD student from UCLA Sociology, I am so grateful for the intellectual home and physical work space ISSI provides. My research on women's health and Medicaid in the United States has been so enriched by the scholarly community there. The loss of ISSI would be considerable for UCB and affiliated scholars of inequality."
“The ISSI has been the most supportive space for me as a graduate student. Seeing the success of its alumni has fueled my career aspirations and has illuminated the path for my work. The space it offers is the only place where I’ve seen scholars of color be their true, fearless and fullest selves. It’s contributions to social change are clearly evident in the wealth of scholarship and advocacy that its members achieve. Without it, a legacy of critical thinking and radical scholarly work will fall by the wayside.”
"The CER Summer Workshop at ISSI was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley. I was able to be a part of a community of like-minded scholars who supported one another in their research endeavors. It is through this program that I have been able to develop what is now my Honors Thesis under the mentorship of one of the workshop facilitators. Without ISSI and these kinds of programs, the university continues to uphold a legacy of gatekeeping that affects historically underrepresented students on campus."- Diego A. Holguin, Sociology & Ethnic Studies Undergraduate, UCB; CER Summer Workshop 2019 Participant
"I have provided narratives about the amazing necessity of Night Out/Night Off [a program sponsored by ISSI], and it is through the provision of mediums to study societal issues that many marginalized students like myself find solace in graduate school. I wholeheartedly appreciate and support the efforts to sustain the ISSI, and hope to conduct research with the amazing researchers there in the near future."
"ISSI is exactly what UC Berkeley CANNOT AFFORD TO CUT.
Especially considering the recent work around the Morrill Act and the necessity to consider what part of the endowment is actually generated by the sale of Native lands and the responsibility of the university to continue to steward this actively, the ISSI is essential.
Especially considering the rise of right wing nationalism and exclusionary policies and dangers that are cropping up in a highly polarized informational environment, the ISSI is essential."
"SWAG [Writing Group] was a big help in getting writing accountability and much needed socialization as a PhD student. I made friends with my officemate, and we created a mini Zoom SWAG that kind of turned into a women-of-color group that helped me keep on track and feel a lot less lonely during spring and summer quarantine."
"ISSI provided all Graduate Students campus-wide a quiet space to study, prepare for Qualifying Exams, write theses or dissertation manuscripts, etc. on a regular basis, usually Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am to 2 pm throughout the year. The space and the total quiet, the energy and the camaraderie were without parallel. No matter what the discipline, the project, the age/gender/race, all of us worked together even though we rarely spoke during those sessions in the Troy Duster Room: a friendly nod or a brief "hello", then down to work and at the end, "later" or "see you"! The peace of excited knowledge and the kinetic energy, encouraged by the ISSI staff's welcoming greetings at the front door was Nirvana for anxious, unsure graduate students. Only at ISSI could these encounters take place and produce post-docs, faculty members, executives and leaders for the future. Thank you."- Omowale Fowles, Public Health Fiscal Policy Student, UCB
"My sister is a grad student (Karen Villegas), and she found her space at ISSI. As a visiting McNair Scholar I was able to receive welcoming help on my research and enjoy a space where I was able to learn from Grad students. My favorite thing about ISSI was seeing the wall with the pictures of the grad students and reading about them and their research."
"ISSI has been another academic space of growth to me since 2015, offering me a scholarship for a summer workshop through the Center for Ethnographic Research as a Cal undergrad and generously providing me with office space in 2019-20 as I transitioned from UCLA PhD student to UCLA PhD candidate. The work ISSI does is vital to the community and has clearly defined large portions of my research career. Saving ISSI is not only important, but necessary, for supporting scholarship and racial justice at UC Berkeley."
"The Institute for the Study of Societal Issues provided me with the invaluable opportunity to conduct research and learn about how child welfare has progressed in the United States and California over the past 50 years. Research was such an integral part of my undergraduate experience, and it would be a disappointment and a detriment to future undergraduate students who want to participate in social justice research."
"ISSI has sponsored the project I'm working on, which has been invaluable in developing and adding to my skillset. The work ISSI does and opportunities it provides are critical!"- Raymond Wang, Undergraduate, URAP Apprentice for research
"ISSI is my home on campus. It is an invaluable space to work and think with others. It has incalculably enriched my scholarship."
"ISSI is where I work."
"I am working with a colleague I met at the ISSI (a visiting faculty member from UCSF) to draft a grant proposal."
"I am currently an undergraduate student working with a professor through the URAP program. Not only does this experience allow me to form a meaningful connection with other peers, scholars, and experts, but the research experience is simply invaluable. I've learned about accessing archives, oral history, and questions of ethics within research. I personally am extremely passionate about the topic I am researching with my mentor. UC Berkeley is a world renowned research institution that I take immense pride in attending, but shutting down ISSI would deprive so many individuals of experience in a field, whether or not they plan to pursue a research career in the future."- Isabel Shiao, URAP student, fall '20 , UC Berkeley
"Finding the ISSI during my second year at UCB opened me up to collaborative writing spaces, shared offices, semester-long series of visiting talks and relationship building that I couldn't find elsewhere on campus. As a student studying Disability Studies in Education, the ISSI staff, scholars, and colleagues were the first community on campus to welcome me. With the inequitable distribution of work space in my program, the ability to apply and have a space to work on campus changed my trajectory dramatically. I believe the ISSI supports conversations and relationships that are critical to retaining the interdisciplinary nature of Justice work at UC Berkeley."
"During my first year of my undergraduate studies, I knew I had interest in historical research, but I wasn't sure how to think about academia or how I could make my way towards this world. The opportunity to try my hand at historical research at ISSI was extremely influential in my continued interest in the field. I will always value the mentorship I received here for showing me that research was a possibility from as early as freshman year, that I could guide what I worked on based on my interests, and that I could pursue this type of work in a supportive, comfortable environment."
"As an ISSI Graduate Fellow, the community of other GFP Fellows has offered me support in the form of feedback on my writing and ideas, a group of scholars to think with, and emotional support in the form of camaraderie. Moreover, I developed a close relationship with my officemate (who is not a Fellow), who now joins me in a virtual writing group Monday - Friday with other doctoral students from other disciplines. I also worked on Saturdays and Sundays with other ISSI grad students in residence; it was great to have company for working over the weekends."
"My experience as a URAP student with a professor of the ISSI was an amazing opportunity to learn more about research on social and historical topics. Our weekly meetings at the institute with the teacher were really fruitful and I hope other students will have the opportunity also to enjoy the URAP experience I had at the ISSI institute."- Marie Adriaenssen Ortiz, Exchange Undergraduate Student & URAP Student at UCB