Ask Becky

Considering office culture and graduate school.

I’m making a career pivot to a new industry, and I’d like to find more BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, International, Single Parent alums to talk with about the climate and culture in their fields. —Climatologist

Dear Climatologist:

Mawrter Connect is the enhanced personal and professional networking community exclusively for Bryn Mawr students and alums. One of the greatest benefits of this online community is the ability to connect with others around shared identities, affinities, and affiliations.

During the sign-up process, and any time thereafter in your Account Profile settings, you can self-identify race/ethnicity and LGBTQIA+, which are searchable filters in Explore the Community. Another question (“With which groups do you affiliate?”) includes a range of options, such as Single Parent, Posse Scholar, International Student, McBride, Veteran, and more. Each of these options may also be selected in the search filter, to make it easier for individuals to reach out to those with shared affiliations.

The search filters in Mawrter Connect use Boolean and logic, narrowing a search by telling the database that all keywords used must be found. As such, I recommend starting broadly, with one important filter and then adding more choices if you need to narrow down further. If you select too many options all at once, you may find fewer alums than you hope for initially. With more than 1,330 active. alumnae/i (as of March 2021), Mawrter Connect has an excellent representation across all of these fields, as well as industries, geographic locations, and majors. Unlike LinkedIn, you can send a direct email introduction to anyone you find in the community. Learn more about Mawrter Connect by visiting the About and FAQ pages at the top of the screen.

I’m planning to apply to graduate school but am uncertain about what is best to include in personal statements. —Confused

Dear Confused:

This is a really common question! To start, this is a good opportunity to share that alums can schedule appointments about graduate and professional school; career coaching isn’t just for resumes and job search. We can review goals, the overall process and timeline for applying, and strategies for requesting recommendation letters (especially if you’ve been out of school for a while). I can also provide feedback and guidance on application essays.

The typical personal statement is meant to help an admissions professional or faculty member assess your readiness—your competencies and motivations—to succeed in their program. Bottom line: the most important rule of writing application essays is to answer the question asked. Seems obvious, right? While there are common elements in most personal statements, every program has its own lens, and you cannot fall into the trap of writing a one-fits-all essay. So I’ll ask for a link to the program’s website and a copy of the specific prompt they gave you, so I can frame my feedback around how well I think you answered. The most common elements of an effective personal statement are:

  1. Describe why you are interested in pursuing this particular discipline/course of study and degree.
  2. Provide an overview and highlights of your educational background, as well as work, volunteer or other experiences, and how they have prepared you for success in this program.
  3. What are your short- and long-term career goals? How will this program position you to pursue them?
  4. Why are you particularly interested in this program and institution? Be specific about what attracts you—including faculty and scholarship. specific courses, internships or field experiences, research opportunities; special networks, etc.

Click here to schedule an appointment with me. (Interested in health professions? Contact the Health Professions Advising Office.)

Need help navigating the world of work? Career guru (and Bryn Mawr’s senior associate director of Alumnae/i Career Services) Becky Ross takes your questions at Please keep your questions succinct.