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Looking for grad school personal statement examples? Look no further! In this total guide to graduate school personal statement examples, we’ll discuss why you need a personal statement for grad school and what makes a good one. Then we’ll provide three graduate school personal statement samples from our grad school experts. After that, we’ll do a deep dive on one of our personal statement for graduate school examples. Finally, we’ll wrap up with a list of other grad school personal statements you can find online.

Why Do You Need a Personal Statement?

A personal statement is a chance for admissions committees to get to know you: your goals and passions, what you’ll bring to the program, and what you’re hoping to get out of the program.  You need to sell the admissions committee on what makes you a worthwhile applicant. The personal statement is a good chance to highlight significant things about you that don’t appear elsewhere on your application.

A personal statement is slightly different from a statement of purpose (also known as a letter of intent). A statement of purpose/letter of intent tends to be more tightly focused on your academic or professional credentials and your future research and/or professional interests.

While a personal statement also addresses your academic experiences and goals, you have more leeway to be a little more, well, personal. In a personal statement, it’s often appropriate to include information on significant life experiences or challenges that aren’t necessarily directly relevant to your field of interest.

Some programs ask for both a personal statement and a statement of purpose/letter of intent. In this case, the personal statement is likely to be much more tightly focused on your life experience and personality assets while the statement of purpose will focus in much more on your academic/research experiences and goals.

However, there’s not always a hard-and-fast demarcation between a personal statement and a statement of purpose. The two statement types should address a lot of the same themes, especially as relates to your future goals and the valuable assets you bring to the program. Some programs will ask for a personal statement but the prompt will be focused primarily on your research and professional experiences and interests. Some will ask for a statement of purpose but the prompt will be more focused on your general life experiences.

When in doubt, give the program what they are asking for in the prompt and don’t get too hung up on whether they call it a personal statement or statement of purpose. You can always call the admissions office to get more clarification on what they want you to address in your admissions essay.

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What Makes a Good Grad School Personal Statement?

A great graduate school personal statement can come in many forms and styles. However, strong grad school personal statement examples all share the same following elements:

A Clear Narrative

Above all, a good personal statement communicates clear messages about what makes you a strong applicant who is likely to have success in graduate school. So to that extent, think about a couple of key points that you want to communicate about yourself and then drill down on how you can best communicate those points. (Your key points should of course be related to what you can bring to the field and to the program specifically).

You can also decide whether to address things like setbacks or gaps in your application as part of your narrative. Have a low GPA for a couple semesters due to a health issue? Been out of a job for a while taking care of a family member? If you do decide to explain an issue like this, make sure that the overall arc is more about demonstrating positive qualities like resilience and diligence than about providing excuses.

Specific Examples

A great statement of purpose uses specific examples to illustrate its key messages. This can include anecdotes that demonstrate particular traits or even references to scholars and works that have influenced your academic trajectory to show that you are familiar and insightful about the relevant literature in your field.

Just saying “I love plants,” is pretty vague. Describing how you worked in a plant lab during undergrad and then went home and carefully cultivated your own greenhouse where you cross-bred new flower colors by hand is much more specific and vivid, which makes for better evidence.

A strong personal statement will describe why you are a good fit for the program, and why the program is a good fit for you. It’s important to identify specific things about the program that appeal to you, and how you’ll take advantage of those opportunities. It’s also a good idea to talk about specific professors you might be interested in working with. This shows that you are informed about and genuinely invested in the program.

Strong Writing

Even quantitative and science disciplines typically require some writing, so it’s important that your personal statement shows strong writing skills. Make sure that you are communicating clearly and that you don’t have any grammar and spelling errors. It’s helpful to get other people to read your statement and provide feedback. Plan on going through multiple drafts.

Another important thing here is to avoid cliches and gimmicks. Don’t deploy overused phrases and openings like “ever since I was a child.” Don’t structure your statement in a gimmicky way (i.e., writing a faux legal brief about yourself for a law school statement of purpose). The first will make your writing banal; the second is likely to make you stand out in a bad way.

Appropriate Boundaries

While you can be more personal in a personal statement than in a statement of purpose, it’s important to maintain appropriate boundaries in your writing. Don’t overshare anything too personal about relationships, bodily functions, or illegal activities. Similarly, don’t share anything that makes it seem like you may be out of control, unstable, or an otherwise risky investment. The personal statement is not a confessional booth. If you share inappropriately, you may seem like you have bad judgment, which is a huge red flag to admissions committees.

You should also be careful with how you deploy humor and jokes. Your statement doesn’t have to be totally joyless and serious, but bear in mind that the person reading the statement may not have the same sense of humor as you do. When in doubt, err towards the side of being as inoffensive as possible.

Just as being too intimate in your statement can hurt you, it’s also important not to be overly formal or staid. You should be professional, but conversational.


Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

Our graduate school experts have been kind enough to provide some successful grad school personal statement examples. We’ll provide three examples here, along with brief analysis of what makes each one successful.

Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 1

PDF of Sample Personal Statement 1 – Japanese Studies

For this Japanese Studies master’s degree, the applicant had to provide a statement of purpose outlining her academic goals and experience with Japanese and a separate personal statement describing her personal relationship with Japanese Studies and what led her to pursue a master’s degree.

Here’s what’s successful about this personal statement:

Overall, this is a very strong statement both in terms of style and content. It flows well, is memorable, and communicates that the applicant would make the most of the graduate school experience.


Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 2

PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 2 – Musical Composition

This personal statement for a Music Composition master’s degree discusses the factors that motivate the applicant to pursue graduate study.

Here’s what works well in this statement:

This is a strong, serviceable personal statement. And in truth, given that this for a masters in music composition, other elements of the application (like work samples) are probably the most important.  However, here are two small changes I would make to improve it:


Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 3

PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 3 – Public Health

This is my successful personal statement for Columbia’s Master’s program in Public Health. We’ll do a deep dive on this statement paragraph-by-paragraph in the next section, but I’ll highlight a couple of things that work in this statement here:

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Grad School Personal Statement Example: Deep Dive

Now let’s do a deep dive, paragraph-by-paragraph, on one of these sample graduate school personal statements. We’ll use my personal statement that I used when I applied to Columbia’s public health program.

Paragraph One: For twenty-three years, my grandmother (a Veterinarian and an Epidemiologist) ran the Communicable Disease Department of a mid-sized urban public health department. The stories of Grandma Betty doggedly tracking down the named sexual partners of the infected are part of our family lore. Grandma Betty would persuade people to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, encourage safer sexual practices, document the spread of infection and strive to contain and prevent it. Indeed, due to the large gay population in the city where she worked, Grandma Betty was at the forefront of the AIDS crises, and her analysis contributed greatly towards understanding how the disease was contracted and spread. My grandmother has always been a huge inspiration to me, and the reason why a career in public health was always on my radar.

This is an attention-grabbing opening anecdote that avoids most of the usual cliches about childhood dreams and proclivities. This story also subtly shows that I have a sense of public health history, given the significance of the AIDs crisis for public health as a field.

It’s good that I connect this family history to my own interests. However, if I were to revise this paragraph again, I might cut down on some of the detail because when it comes down to it, this story isn’t really about me. It’s important that even (sparingly used) anecdotes about other people ultimately reveal something about you in a personal statement.

Paragraph Two: Recent years have cemented that interest. In January 2012, my parents adopted my little brother Fred from China. Doctors in America subsequently diagnosed Fred with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). My parents were told that if Fred’s condition had been discovered in China, the (very poor) orphanage in which he spent the first 8+ years of his life would have recognized his DMD as a death sentence and denied him sustenance to hasten his demise.

Here’s another compelling anecdote to help explain my interest in public health. This is an appropriately personal detail for a personal statement—it’s a serious thing about my immediate family, but it doesn’t disclose anything that the admissions committee might find concerning or inappropriate.

If I were to take another pass through this paragraph, the main thing I would change is the last phrase. “Denied him sustenance to hasten his demise” is a little flowery. “Denied him food to hasten his death” is actually more powerful because it’s clearer and more direct.

Paragraph Three: It is not right that some people have access to the best doctors and treatment while others have no medical care. I want to pursue an MPH in Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia because studying social factors in health, with a particular focus on socio-health inequities, will prepare me to address these inequities. The interdisciplinary approach of the program appeals to me greatly as I believe interdisciplinary approaches are the most effective way to develop meaningful solutions to complex problems.

In this paragraph I make a neat and clear transition from discussing what sparked my interest in public health and health equity to what I am interested in about Columbia specifically: the interdisciplinary focus of the program, and how that focus will prepare me to solve complex health problems. This paragraph also serves as a good pivot point to start discussing my academic and professional background.

Paragraph Four: My undergraduate education has prepared me well for my chosen career. Understanding the underlying structure of a group’s culture is essential to successfully communicating with the group. In studying folklore and mythology, I’ve learned how to parse the unspoken structures of folk groups, and how those structures can be used to build bridges of understanding. For example, in a culture where most illnesses are believed to be caused by witchcraft, as is the case for the Zande people of central Africa, any successful health intervention or education program would of necessity take into account their very real belief in witchcraft.

In this paragraph, I link my undergraduate education and the skills I learned there to public health. The (very brief) analysis of tailoring health interventions to the Zande is a good way to show insight and show off the competencies I would bring to the program.

Paragraph Five: I now work in the healthcare industry for one of the largest providers of health benefits in the world. In addition to reigniting my passion for data and quantitative analytics, working for this company has immersed me in the business side of healthcare, a critical component of public health.

This brief paragraph highlights my relevant work experience in the healthcare industry. It also allows me to mention my work with data and quantitative analytics, which isn’t necessarily obvious from my academic background, which was primarily based in the social sciences.

Paragraph Six: I intend to pursue a PhD in order to become an expert in how social factors affect health, particularly as related to gender and sexuality. I intend to pursue a certificate in Sexuality, Sexual Health, and Reproduction. Working together with other experts to create effective interventions across cultures and societies, I want to help transform health landscapes both in America and abroad.

This final paragraph is about my future plans and intentions. Unfortunately, it’s a little disjointed, primarily because I discuss goals of pursuing a PhD before I talk about what certificate I want to pursue within the MPH program! Switching those two sentences and discussing my certificate goals within the MPH and then mentioning my PhD plans would make a lot more sense.

I also start two sentences in a row with “I intend,” which is repetitive.

The final sentence is a little bit generic; I might tailor it to specifically discuss a gender and sexual health issue, since that is the primary area of interest I’ve identified.

This was a successful personal statement; I got into (and attended!) the program. It has strong examples, clear organization, and outlines what interests me about the program (its interdisciplinary focus) and what competencies I would bring (a background in cultural analysis and experience with the business side of healthcare). However, a few slight tweaks would elevate this statement to the next level.


Graduate School Personal Statement Examples You Can Find Online

So you need more samples for your personal statement for graduate school? Examples are everywhere on the internet, but they aren’t all of equal quality.

Most of examples are posted as part of writing guides published online by educational institutions. We’ve rounded up some of the best ones here if you are looking for more personal statement examples for graduate school.

Penn State Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School

This selection of ten short personal statements for graduate school and fellowship programs offers an interesting mix of approaches. Some focus more on personal adversity while others focus more closely on professional work within the field.

The writing in some of these statements is a little dry, and most deploy at least a few cliches. However, these are generally strong, serviceable statements that communicate clearly why the student is interested in the field, their skills and competencies, and what about the specific program appeals to them.

Cal State Sample Graduate School Personal Statements

These are good examples of personal statements for graduate school where students deploy lots of very vivid imagery and illustrative anecdotes of life experiences. There are also helpful comments about what works in each of these essays.

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However, all of these statements are definitely pushing the boundaries of acceptable length, as all are above 1000 and one is almost 1500 words! Many programs limit you to 500 words; if you don’t have a limit, you should try to keep it to two single-spaced pages at most (which is about 1000 words).

University of Chicago Personal Statement for Graduate School Examples

These examples of successful essays to the University of Chicago law school cover a wide range of life experiences and topics. The writing in all is very vivid, and all communicate clear messages about the students’ strengths and competencies.

Note, however, that these are all essays that specifically worked for University of Chicago law school. That does not mean that they would work everywhere. In fact, one major thing to note is that many of these responses, while well-written and vivid, barely address the students’ interest in law school at all! This is something that might not work well for most graduate programs.

Wheaton College Personal Statement for Graduate School Sample 10

This successful essay for law school from a Wheaton College undergraduate does a great job tracking the student’s interest in the law in a compelling and personal way. Wheaton offers other graduate school personal statement examples, but this one offers the most persuasive case for the students’ competencies. The student accomplishes this by using clear, well-elaborated examples, showing strong and vivid writing, and highlighting positive qualities like an interest in justice and empathy without seeming grandiose or out of touch.

Wheaton College Personal Statement for Graduate School Sample 1

Based on the background information provided at the bottom of the essay, this essay was apparently successful for this applicant. However, I’ve actually included this essay because it demonstrates an extremely risky approach. While this personal statement is strikingly written and the story is very memorable, it could definitely communicate the wrong message to some admissions committees. The student’s decision not to report the drill sergeant may read incredibly poorly to some admissions committees. They may wonder if the student’s failure to report the sergeant’s violence will ultimately expose more soldiers-in-training to the same kinds of abuses. This incident perhaps reads especially poorly in light of the fact that the military has such a notable problem with violence against women being covered up and otherwise mishandled

It’s actually hard to get a complete picture of the student’s true motivations from this essay, and what we have might raise real questions about the student’s character to some admissions committees. This student took a risk and it paid off, but it could have just as easily backfired spectacularly.


Key Takeaways: Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

In this guide, we discussed why you need a personal statement and how it differs from a statement of purpose. (It’s more personal!)

We also discussed what you’ll find in a strong sample personal statement for graduate school:

Then, we provided three strong graduate school personal statement examples for different fields, along with analysis. We did a deep-dive on the third statement.

Finally, we provided a list of other sample grad school personal statements online.

What’s Next?

Want more advice on writing a personal statement ? See our guide.

Writing a graduate school statement of purpose? See our statement of purpose samples  and a nine-step process for writing the best statement of purpose possible .

If you’re writing a graduate school CV or resume, see our how-to guide to writing a CV , a how-to guide to writing a resume , our list of sample resumes and CVs , resume and CV templates , and a special guide for writing resume objectives .

Need stellar graduate school recommendation letters ? See our guide.

See our 29 tips for successfully applying to graduate school .

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Author: Ellen McCammon

Ellen is a public health graduate student and education expert. She has extensive experience mentoring students of all ages to reach their goals and in-depth knowledge on a variety of health topics. View all posts by Ellen McCammon

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How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

Published on February 12, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 28, 2022.

A personal statement is a short essay of around 500–1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you’re applying.

To write a successful personal statement for a graduate school application , don’t just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to demonstrate three things:

This article guides you through some winning strategies to build a strong, well-structured personal statement for a master’s or PhD application. You can download the full examples below.

Urban Planning Psychology History

Attend one of our upcoming livestreams and have your draft reviewed by an admissions essay coach. We’ll tell you if you’re on the right track and explain how you can strengthen your case.

Want some extra inspiration? Watch recordings of past grad school essay livestreams.

Table of contents

Getting started with your personal statement, the introduction: start with an attention-grabbing opening, the main body: craft your narrative, the conclusion: look ahead, revising, editing, and proofreading your personal statement, frequently asked questions, want some extra inspiration.

Before you start writing, the first step is to understand exactly what’s expected of you. If the application gives you a question or prompt for your personal statement, the most important thing is to respond to it directly.

For example, you might be asked to focus on the development of your personal identity; challenges you have faced in your life; or your career motivations. This will shape your focus and emphasis—but you still need to find your own unique approach to answering it.

There’s no universal template for a personal statement; it’s your chance to be creative and let your own voice shine through. But there are strategies you can use to build a compelling, well-structured story.

The first paragraph of your personal statement should set the tone and lead smoothly into the story you want to tell.

Strategy 1: Open with a concrete scene

An effective way to catch the reader’s attention is to set up a scene that illustrates something about your character and interests. If you’re stuck, try thinking about:

To write an effective scene, try to go beyond straightforward description; start with an intriguing sentence that pulls the reader in, and give concrete details to create a convincing atmosphere.

Strategy 2: Open with your motivations

To emphasize your enthusiasm and commitment, you can start by explaining your interest in the subject you want to study or the career path you want to follow.

Just stating that it interests you isn’t enough: first, you need to figure out why you’re interested in this field:

Tips for the introduction

Once you’ve set up the main themes of your personal statement, you’ll delve into more detail about your experiences and motivations.

To structure the body of your personal statement, there are various strategies you can use.

Strategy 1: Describe your development over time

One of the simplest strategies is to give a chronological overview of key experiences that have led you to apply for graduate school.

Don’t try to include absolutely everything you’ve done—pick out highlights that are relevant to your application. Aim to craft a compelling narrative that shows how you’ve changed and actively developed yourself.

My interest in psychology was first sparked early in my high school career. Though somewhat scientifically inclined, I found that what interested me most was not the equations we learned about in physics and chemistry, but the motivations and perceptions of my fellow students, and the subtle social dynamics that I observed inside and outside the classroom. I wanted to learn how our identities, beliefs, and behaviours are shaped through our interactions with others, so I decided to major in Social Psychology. My undergraduate studies deepened my understanding of, and fascination with, the interplay between an individual mind and its social context.During my studies, I acquired a solid foundation of knowledge about concepts like social influence and group dynamics, but I also took classes on various topics not strictly related to my major. I was particularly interested in how other fields intersect with psychology—the classes I took on media studies, biology, and literature all enhanced my understanding of psychological concepts by providing different lenses through which to look at the issues involved.

Strategy 2: Own your challenges and obstacles

If your path to graduate school hasn’t been easy or straightforward, you can turn this into a strength, and structure your personal statement as a story of overcoming obstacles.

Don’t focus too heavily on negatives, but use them to highlight your positive qualities. Resilience, resourcefulness and perseverance make you a promising graduate school candidate.

Growing up working class, urban decay becomes depressingly familiar. The sight of a row of abandoned houses does not surprise me, but it continues to bother me. Since high school, I have been determined to pursue a career in urban planning. While people of my background experience the consequences of urban planning decisions first-hand, we are underrepresented in the field itself. Ironically, given my motivation, my economic background has made my studies challenging. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship for my undergraduate studies, but after graduation I took jobs in unrelated fields to help support my parents. In the three years since, I have not lost my ambition. Now I am keen to resume my studies, and I believe I can bring an invaluable perspective to the table: that of the people most impacted by the decisions of urban planners.

Strategy 3: Demonstrate your knowledge of the field

Especially if you’re applying for a PhD or another research-focused program, it’s a good idea to show your familiarity with the subject and the department. Your personal statement can focus on the area you want to specialize in and reflect on why it matters to you.

The personal statement isn’t a research proposal , so don’t go overboard on detail—but it’s a great opportunity to show your enthusiasm for the field and your capacity for original thinking.

In applying for this research program, my intention is to build on the multidisciplinary approach I have taken in my studies so far, combining knowledge from disparate fields of study to better understand psychological concepts and issues. The Media Psychology program stands out to me as the perfect environment for this kind of research, given its researchers’ openness to collaboration across diverse fields. I am impressed by the department’s innovative interdisciplinary projects that focus on the shifting landscape of media and technology, and I hope that my own work can follow a similarly trailblazing approach. More specifically, I want to develop my understanding of the intersection of psychology and media studies, and explore how media psychology theories and methods might be applied to neurodivergent minds. I am interested not only in media psychology but also in psychological disorders, and how the two interact. This is something I touched on during my undergraduate studies and that I’m excited to delve into further.

Strategy 4: Discuss your professional ambitions

Especially if you’re applying for a more professionally-oriented program (such as an MBA), it’s a good idea to focus on concrete goals and how the program will help you achieve them.

Don’t just state the position you want to achieve. You should demonstrate that you’ve put plenty of thought into your career plans and show why you’re well-suited to this profession.

One thing that fascinated me about the field during my undergraduate studies was the sheer number of different elements whose interactions constitute a person’s experience of an urban environment. Any number of factors could transform the scene I described at the beginning: What if there were no bus route? Better community outreach in the neighborhood? Worse law enforcement? More or fewer jobs available in the area? Some of these factors are out of the hands of an urban planner, but without taking them all into consideration, the planner has an incomplete picture of their task. Through further study I hope to develop my understanding of how these disparate elements combine and interact to create the urban environment. I am interested in the social, psychological and political effects our surroundings have on our lives. My studies will allow me to work on projects directly affecting the kinds of working-class urban communities I know well. I believe I can bring my own experiences, as well as my education, to bear upon the problem of improving infrastructure and quality of life in these communities.

Tips for the main body

Your conclusion should bring the focus back to the program and what you hope to get out of it, whether that’s developing practical skills, exploring intellectual questions, or both.

Emphasize the fit with your specific interests, showing why this program would be the best way to achieve your aims.

Strategy 1: What do you want to know?

If you’re applying for a more academic or research-focused program, end on a note of curiosity: what do you hope to learn, and why do you think this is the best place to learn it?

If there are specific classes or faculty members that you’re excited to learn from, this is the place to express your enthusiasm.

Strategy 2: What do you want to do?

If you’re applying for a program that focuses more on professional training, your conclusion can look to your career aspirations: what role do you want to play in society, and why is this program the best choice to help you get there?

Tips for the conclusion

You’ll be expected to do a lot of writing in graduate school, so make a good first impression: leave yourself plenty of time to revise and polish the text.

Your style doesn’t have to be as formal as other kinds of academic writing, but it should be clear, direct and coherent. Make sure that each paragraph flows smoothly from the last, using topic sentences and transitions to create clear connections between each part.

Don’t be afraid to rewrite and restructure as much as necessary. Since you have a lot of freedom in the structure of a personal statement, you can experiment and move information around to see what works best.

Finally, it’s essential to carefully proofread your personal statement and fix any language errors. Before you submit your application, consider investing in professional personal statement editing . For $150, you have the peace of mind that your personal statement is grammatically correct, strong in term of your arguments, and free of awkward mistakes.

A statement of purpose is usually more formal, focusing on your academic or professional goals. It shouldn’t include anything that isn’t directly relevant to the application.

A personal statement can often be more creative. It might tell a story that isn’t directly related to the application, but that shows something about your personality, values, and motivations.

However, both types of document have the same overall goal: to demonstrate your potential as a graduate student and s how why you’re a great match for the program.

The typical length of a personal statement for graduate school applications is between 500 and 1,000 words.

Different programs have different requirements, so always check if there’s a minimum or maximum length and stick to the guidelines. If there is no recommended word count, aim for no more than 1-2 pages.

If you’re applying to multiple graduate school programs, you should tailor your personal statement to each application.

Some applications provide a prompt or question. In this case, you might have to write a new personal statement from scratch: the most important task is to respond to what you have been asked.

If there’s no prompt or guidelines, you can re-use the same idea for your personal statement – but change the details wherever relevant, making sure to emphasize why you’re applying to this specific program.

If the application also includes other essays, such as a statement of purpose , you might have to revise your personal statement to avoid repeating the same information.

During our livestream sessions, we invite students to submit their personal statement drafts and receive live feedback from our essay coaches. Check out recordings of our past sessions:

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Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School

Personal Statements

Preparing a well-written and effective personal statement (sometimes referred to as statements of purpose or personal essays) that clearly articulates your preparation, goals, and motivation for pursuing that specific graduate degree is critically important. You will need to spend a considerable amount of time and effort in crafting these statements. The focus, structure, and length of personal statements vary from program to program. Some will have prompts or questions you need to answer, while others will leave the topic open-ended. The length varies widely as well. Read instructions carefully and make sure to adhere to all parameters laid out in the application guidelines.

Clear writing is the result of clear thinking. The first and most important task is to decide on a message. Consider carefully which two or three points you wish to impress upon the reader, remembering that your audience is composed of academics who are experts in their fields. Your statement should show that you are able to think logically and express your thoughts in a clear and concise manner. Remember that the reader already has a record of your activities and your transcript; avoid simply restating your resume and transcript. Writing your statement will take time; start early and give yourself more than enough time for revisions. If no prompts are given, you can use the questions below to begin brainstorming content to include in your statement; for more information, see our Writing Personal Statement presentation Prezi  and our three-minute video on Writing Personal Statements .

After you’ve written a first draft, start the work of editing, refining, simplifying, and polishing. Provide specific examples that will help illustrate your points and convey your interests, intentions, and motivations. Is any section, sentence, or word superfluous, ambiguous, apologetic, or awkward? Are your verbs strong and active? Have you removed most of the qualifiers? Are you sure that each activity or interest you mention supports one of your main ideas? Spelling and grammatical errors are inexcusable. Don’t rely on spell-check to catch all errors; read your statement aloud and have it reviewed by multiple people whose opinion you trust. If possible, have your statement reviewed by a writing tutor. For individual assistance with writing your personal statement, consult with the writing tutor in your residential college  or the Writing Center within the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning .

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How to Write a Strong Personal Statement for Graduate School

A student sits on his laptop at the Silo at UC Davis.

You’ve made the exciting decision to pursue a graduate degree. Congratulations! There are a wide range of graduate programs to explore , and once you’ve selected the right program for you, it’s time to begin the graduate application process. 

The statement of purpose and personal history statement are key components of the UC Davis graduate school application . With fewer than 4,000 characters allowed for each essay, these statements can seem particularly daunting. However, each one has a specific purpose for showcasing your academic journey and creating a holistic application.

Below, we’ve analyzed the differences between the statement of purpose and personal history statement and provided tips for writing these graduate school admissions essays. 

Statement of Purpose and Personal History: What’s the Difference?

A student examines chemicals through a beaker while wearing a lab coat and goggles.

The statement of purpose shares your academic objectives with the admissions committee and explains why you want to obtain a graduate degree. The personal history statement provides background about who you are and how your experiences have shaped your interests and ability to overcome challenges. Each essay has specific goals to showcase your experience, passion and story. 

How to Write a Strong Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose should highlight your academic preparation , motivation and interests, along with any specializations and career goals that contribute to your program of study. As you write your statement of purpose, it should encompass some of the following:

The statement of purpose should also address why you want to pursue the particular graduate degree program at the university and what your goals are in pursuing a degree. Remember, the statement of purpose should explain exactly that, your purpose for becoming a graduate student. This is the primary way it stands apart from your personal history statement. 

What to Include in Your Personal History Statement

A student smiles as she inspects yellow liquid underneath a microscope, while her professor watches on.

The personal history statement helps the reader learn more about you as an individual and potential graduate student. Use this opportunity to describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Tell a story that  includes any experiences, challenges or opportunities relevant to your academic journey. Consider how your life experiences contribute to the social, intellectual, or cultural diversity within a campus community and your chosen field.

A strong personal history statement begins with an authentic voice and personal narrative. This can reflect your journey to graduate school, any obstacles you’ve encountered, and how you've overcome challenges. Talk about your personal goals and dreams. Explain what motivates and drives you toward this degree. The more your personal statement tells your school about you as an individual, the more it will stand out. Don't write something to impress someone else. This includes language, style and tone. Authenticity is important and resonates well. Tell the truth, in your voice, from your perspective. Use your story to connect.

More Tips and Resources for Applying to Graduate School

Applying to graduate school may be daunting to some, but UC Davis has a variety of resources to help you create a strong graduate school application. Check out the Applying to Graduate School: A Guide and Handbook for ideas and worksheets on how to construct your essays. Or visit our Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services website for more graduate school prep resources. 

Paul David Terry is the assistant director of special interest and affinity networks and alumni diversity lead at the Cal Aggie Alumni Association. He oversees the UC Davis Health Improving OUTcomes blog and enjoys cycling and brewing ginger beer.

Heidi Kerr works as the content and media manager at UC Davis’ Graduate Studies. She has worked as a communications professional at multiple higher education institutions and is passionate about promoting student success.

The authors acknowledge current and former leaders from Pre-Graduate/Law Advising in Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services, especially Annalisa Teixeira, Ph.D. and Cloe Le Gall-Scoville, Ph.D., who granted us permission to reference Applying to Graduate School: A Guide and Workbook .

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How to Write a Stand-Out Personal Statement for Your Graduate School Application

How to write a personal statement for grad school

While deciding to embark on the path to graduate school is an exciting first step toward advancing your career, the application process can sometimes feel daunting and confusing.

One major part of the application that most schools require is a personal statement. Writing a personal statement can be an arduous task: After all, most people don’t necessarily enjoy writing about themselves, let alone at length.

A compelling personal statement, however, can help bring your application to the top of the admissions pile. Below, we’ve outlined what you need to know about crafting a personal statement to make your application shine.

What Is a Personal Statement?

The point of a personal statement is for the admissions board to gain a deeper understanding of who you are apart from your education and work experience. It explains why you’re the right fit for the program and a worthwhile applicant. It’s also an opportunity to highlight important factors that may not be readily available in the rest of your application.

A personal statement is different from a statement of purpose (if you’re asked for that as well). A statement of purpose will touch on your academic and career goals, as well as your past credentials. While those should also be discussed in your personal statement, it’s more about your life experiences and how they’ve shaped you and your journey to graduate school.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing a Personal Statement

Before you start crafting your essay, there are a few prompts you can ask yourself to help clarify what you want to accomplish.

Top Tips for Writing a Graduate School Personal Statement

Pick a few points to emphasize about yourself . Introduce yourself to the admissions board. Select key factors about your background that you want the university to know — elements that reveal what kind of person you are and demonstrate why you’re a strong candidate for the school and field of study.

Be very specific . Again, a personal statement is all about communicating what distinguishes you from other applicants. To accomplish that, you need to share specific anecdotes that underscore your statements. If you say you’re a strong leader, present an example of a time you’ve proven that skill through work, school or your personal life. These specific, personal stories provide a deeper understanding of who you are and prove your intentions.

Do your research . Demonstrate what attracted you to the program. If there is a specific faculty member or class that caught your attention, or another aspect of the program that greatly interests you, convey it. This shows you’ve truly researched the school and have a passion for the program.

“Whatever the topic may be, I would recommend writing in a manner that reflects or parallels the institution’s and/or department’s missions, goals and values,” said Moises Cortés, a graduate/international credentials analyst for the Office of Graduate Admission at USC .

Address any gaps or discrepancies . Explain any factors that may have impacted your academic career. If you had an illness or any other personal hardships that affected your grades or work, discuss them. If there is a discrepancy between your grades and your test scores, you can also take the time to go over any extenuating circumstances.

Strike the right tone . While it’s important to give readers a glimpse of your personality, avoid oversharing or revealing intimate details of your life experiences. You should also avoid making jokes or using humorous cliches. Maintain a professional tone throughout your writing.

Start strong and finish strong . As with any piece of writing, you want to draw in your readers immediately. Make sure to start off with an interesting and captivating introduction. Similarly, your conclusion should be a well-written, engaging finish to the essay that highlights any important points.

“ For a personal statement, I think the first and last paragraphs are most important and should always relate the program they are applying to their own experiences and ideas,” Hoon H. Kang, a graduate/international credential analyst with the Office of Graduate Admission, told USC Online.

Proofread, proofread and proofread again . We can’t emphasize enough the importance of rereading your work. Your personal statement is also an analysis of your writing skills, so ensure you have proper grammar and spelling throughout. In addition, we recommend having multiple people look over your statement before submission. They can help with the proofreading (a second person always catches a mistake the writer may miss), give advice about the statement’s structure and content, and confirm it’s the proper recommended length.

Once you’ve considered all of the above and reviewed and edited your personal statement to perfection, it’s time to submit and check off any remaining application requirements, including your resume and letters of recommendation .

Personal statements are arguably one of the most challenging aspects of applying to graduate school, so make sure to revel in this accomplishment and acknowledge your successes.

For more information, visit the  Office of Graduate Admission at USC  and explore  USC Online ’s master’s degrees, doctoral programs and graduate certificates.

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Writing the Personal Statement

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This handout provides information about writing personal statements for academic and other positions.

The personal statement, your opportunity to sell yourself in the application process, generally falls into one of two categories:

1. The general, comprehensive personal statement:

This allows you maximum freedom in terms of what you write and is the type of statement often prepared for standard medical or law school application forms.

2. The response to very specific questions:

Often, business and graduate school applications ask specific questions, and your statement should respond specifically to the question being asked. Some business school applications favor multiple essays, typically asking for responses to three or more questions.

Questions to ask yourself before you write:

General advice

Answer the questions that are asked

Tell a story

Be specific

Find an angle

Concentrate on your opening paragraph

Tell what you know

Don't include some subjects

Do some research, if needed

Write well and correctly

Avoid clichés

For more information on writing a personal statement, see the personal statement vidcast .

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A personal statement stands out from other educational documents in that it’s intended to be personal, as the name suggests. It offers the admissions committee a glimpse of your personality and not just your abilities and accomplishments. 

A personal statement requires just the right amount of vulnerability, accompanied by passion and enthusiasm. But first, you need to know what is a personal statement. Let’s take a look.

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is a personal essay required by selection committees for jobs, scholarships, or universities. It is a summary of your accomplishments, interests, experiences, and goals.  

A personal statement is often confused with a statement of purpose, but these are completely different documents. 

A statement of purpose highlights your career path, academic and professional achievements, and motivations for choosing a particular field of study in a much more formal manner. 

A personal statement, on the other hand, emphasizes both academic achievements and personal aspects. 

An effective personal statement answers questions like:

What are my strengths and weaknesses?

What are my talents and accomplishments?

Why am I applying to the school of my choice?

What are the experiences that piqued my interest in my chosen field of study?

What are the special aspects of the school I’m applying to?

How to write a personal statement

Similar to most writing assignments, breaking down a personal statement into smaller parts can make the writing process much easier. A personal statement follows the standard format of the introduction, body, and conclusion, but you need not write them in that order. 

We recommend writing the introduction at the end, as it’s the most challenging part and requires a higher level of creativity. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty about how to write a personal statement for grad school or for college:

1. Craft an attractive hook or introduction.

Starting your introduction with your name is the biggest mistake you can make. The admissions committee already has access to your personal information and academic credentials and is looking to gain deeper insights into your personality, interests, and motivations. 

To make a strong impression, it’s better to begin with what motivated you to study your chosen field or why you’re interested in studying at a particular university. Let’s look at an example:

One summer while running around in my backyard, I fell down and scraped my knee. My grandfather, being an established doctor, carefully bandaged my wound. His calm, prompt, and comforting demeanor left a lasting impression on me. It sparked my interest in medicine.

2. Elaborate on your accomplishments, relevant skills, and experience.

A personal statement should be authentic to you and should help you stand out amongst your peers. You have to sell yourself to the admissions committee and let them know your skills, accomplishments, and talents without sounding conceited. 

A good way to do this is to avoid mentioning academic achievements which are already mentioned in your transcripts. Instead, mention qualities and insights you’ve gained over the years with the help of real-life experiences. For example:

Leading my school’s basketball team taught me the values of teamwork, coordination, agreeableness, and leadership.  

You can also mention insights gained from a job or internship, a paper or a journal that had an impact on you or a course or session you conducted that taught you something new. 

Working as a nurse in the children’s hospital was an eye-opening experience for me. It not only made me a kinder, more compassionate person but also taught me practical skills such as suturing a wound. 

3. Draft a logical conclusion.

Make sure to tie the conclusion with the body of the personal statement to create a story arc. The concluding statements should carry information about how your chosen field of study or the facilities provided by the universities will be useful to you in your professional career.

Make sure to use emphatic and expressive language to make your personal statement more impactful. For example:

Gaining hands-on experience with the state-of-the-art operating machine provided by your medical department will give me a head-start in my chosen field of neuroscience. 

4. Edit and proofread.

Just like it is with any other important document, proofreading your personal statement is crucial. It ensures that your statement is free of errors and presents you in the best possible light.

You have a few options for proofreading your personal statement. One option is to proofread it yourself, but it can be difficult to catch all of your own mistakes. Another option is to ask a friend or family member to proofread it for you. They can provide a fresh perspective and may catch errors that you missed.

If you want to take your proofreading to the next level, it’s a good idea to have your work proofread by a professional. A personal statement editing service has the critical eye and experience necessary to catch even the most subtle errors.

Note : Although its content and structure remain the same, the length and complexity of a personal statement depending on its purpose. Personal statements for universities and scholarships are typically longer and more detailed as compared to those required for jobs.

Tips for writing a personal statement

Let’s take a look at the tips and tricks to write a personal statement along with relevant examples:

1. Keep it personal.

Although there are certain rules to be followed when writing a personal statement, it is important not to lose your own voice. The admissions committee wants to get to know you as a person and not just as a student.

2. Avoid unnecessarily complicated language.

Using appropriate technical terms in your field can showcase your expertise and understanding of the subject matter to the admissions committee. But overusing or misusing jargon can confuse, or even put them off.

3. Avoid simply listing achievements and experiences.

While highlighting your achievements and experiences is essential, simply listing them is not enough. It’s important to provide insights into what you’ve learned from these experiences since the admissions committee already has access to your transcripts and wants to know more about your personality.

4. Keep a light, positive tone.

Even when writing about a serious topic such as “How I overcame homelessness”, the tone should be inspirational and insightful.

5. Use action words.

Make use of action words to make your text more conversational and engaging. For instance, instead of writing “I was the captain of the volleyball team and we won many tournaments” you can say “As the volleyball captain, I consistently lead my team to victory”. 

Personal statement example

Let’s better understand how to write an impactful personal statement with the help of an effective personal statement example:

As a child, I always found it difficult to relate to children my age. I was quiet, timid, and very vulnerable. I was 17 when I was first diagnosed with depression. With the help of professionals, I was not only able to function better but was also able to integrate into groups. 

The effects of therapy and medication amazed me. The underrated field of psychology had a powerful impact on me. It helped me understand myself as well as those around me better. This is why, when it came to choosing a field of study, I chose abnormal psychology.

In college, I not only topped my course but also conducted drives and free therapy sessions to help those in need. I also published a paper on the effects of appreciation and criticism on mental health. 

I believe that my experiences with mental illness will give me a unique perspective in the field of abnormal psychology. I believe I’ll be able to provide more effective and practical solutions to patients because of my own struggles. My goal is to make a difference in the lives of others by helping them overcome their struggles and find happiness.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do i start a personal statement, do i put my name on a personal statement, how do i structure my personal statement, what to avoid in a personal statement.

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Personal Statement for Graduate School

Personal Statement for Graduate School

Personal Statement for Graduate School

A Personal Statement for Graduate School is one of the requirements for admission to a Graduate Program. Most universities ask students to submit a Personal Statement along with the application kit. In addition to and going beyond your Transcripts and Academic Scores, Admission Panels like to scratch the surface and see a deeper ‘you’ – who you are and what you are. Personal Statements are subjective and a form of art. While there are basic ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts,’ there are no distinct guidelines that universities set, and you can use your imagination and writing skills as you see fit.

It should be noted that a Personal Statement is not about Academics; it is about presenting your true nature that would otherwise go unnoticed in daily life. This is, of course, if a university is not specific about what you are required to write. In certain cases, Personal Statements can be academic and experience-oriented. Therefore, it is always advisable to read your university’s instructions and look for specific questions being asked or points to cover. This resource guide will walk you through all aspects of a Personal Statement for grad school, including how to write, a template, an example, and FAQs.

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What is a Personal Statement for Graduate School

A simple yet often asked question is, “what is a Personal Statement for Graduate School”? The answer, in a sense, is rather self-descriptive. Just like how your unique signature, a grad school Personal Statement can be thought of as a signature of your inner and true self. It is a written form of who you are, what you value, how you think, and your identity stamp. Beyond a name you have and a signature you scribble, a Personal Statement expounds your true nature – not one that is dictated by and dedicated to people around you. To apply to graduate schools, a Personal Statement presents an opportunity for you to allow others into your mind and try and understand you beyond a Curriculum Vitae or Biodata and, and of course, an Application Form. Increasingly, grad schools have made Personal Statements an important part of the decision-making process (for admissions) because standardized test scores can only show your academic prowess and precious little else. Consequently, if you want to leave your mark and offer something that goes beyond Transcripts, a Personal Statement is the way to go about doing so. In general terms, Personal Statements can be categorized into two categories – one being Academic and Technical and the other being Character-based and Personal. The former would require your focus and emphasize your academics, goals, research, and experience; the latter warrants a personal insight into everything that is quite the opposite.

personal statement for graduate school written

Personal Statement for Graduate School Template

A good Personal Statement for Graduate School Template must demonstrate what you have learned throughout life – skills, values, morals, ethics, and qualities – and how these have prepared you for attending college. To do so, it is always best to prepare a custom Template of your own, as there is no set graduate school Personal Statement Format or Template cast in stone. Note down your Topic, Theme, Key Points, Highlights, and Keywords before you start writing your Personal Statement. Unless surefooted, try not to rush it out the door in a few hours or a day. Also, it is important to review what you have written, checking for mistakes and points you may have overlooked.

Sections of a Personal Statement

Technically, there are three major sections you must cover when writing your Personal Statement. While this is just a thumb-rule, you are at liberty to structure your Personal Statement as you wish, provided the intent and purpose is served. Remember to write with sincerity and maturity.

The three typical sections of a Personal Statement for Graduate School are:

In addition to the three major sections of a Personal Statement for Graduate School, it is important to include points that illustrate your attributes and traits. Draw upon events and experiences that inspired you to reach where you are and eventually apply for the Program you are writing for. Showcase your ability to work under duress or in strenuous situations and the values you have picked up along your life journey.

Do make a note that some Universities have a specific requirement for Personal Statements. You may be asked to write about:

It is, therefore, necessary to read the instructions given to you carefully.

personal statement for graduate school written

How to write a Personal Statement for Grad School

How to write a Personal Statement for grad school is a question of targeting what is expected out of you. Before you start, understand what kind of Personal Statement you are to prepare by taking note of specific questions that may have been asked. In general, writing a Personal Statement becomes easier when you know certain basic rules and have a topic you actually can write about. You should factor in a few tips and best practices before you get down to writing your Personal Statement. Here are a few that serve as guidelines; not all of them need to make their way into your Personal Statement:

Important: While the question of how to write a Personal Statement has been addressed, an integral part of making it a compelling read lies in reviewing your essay. Consider this flow: First, write a rough copy of your Personal Statement as your thoughts flow and then turn this copy into the first draft. Revise this draft several times, making changes as you do, and prepare a second draft ensuring you have covered everything. Continue to revise the second draft and get a friend, family member, teacher/professor/mentor, or colleague to read it and provide you with feedback and suggestions. Once you have made changes to this second draft (if needed), write a final draft and review it at least a couple of times before you are ready to submit it. While reviewing, check your grammar, style, sentence structure, and spelling mistakes and typos.

personal statement for graduate school written

What to Avoid When Writing a Personal Statement for Graduate School

It is very easy to get carried away when writing a Personal Statement for a Graduate School. One must always bear in mind the intent of a Personal Statement – it is not written for entertainment or amusement, neither is it a work of fiction or a novel. There are a few points and clichés you must try and avoid:

Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School

There are plenty of Personal Statement examples for graduate school you can find on the internet. Writing one that focuses on your academic or professional credentials is comparatively easier than a more personal one. Here is a sample Personal Statement for graduate school that can make for a compelling and memorable read: 

“Growing up the small town of Grand Junction, Colorado, had its ups and downs. As a child, I always aspired to be a musician, but musicians of fame were hard to come by in this rather quaint town, for me to awe and marvel. Quite naturally, my exposure to music and its stars was restricted to the few hours I was allowed to gape, complete with an open mouth, at the television. My excitement for music used to lead me to the bathroom often. I used to croon long and loud, and I was rather relieved to have found an audience in my neighbors. After all, they did not complain as my sister did, and I did not make much of our dog seeking shelter under the bed each time I broke into song. In the two elementary schools I attended, there were very gifted kids. Some aced their studies, some could brush replicas of our beautiful mountains on canvas, a few could shake a leg to racy tunes with form and enthusiasm, and then some took to athletics and sports, as fish would take to the water. Unfortunately for me, most of this brigade could not carry a tune in a bucket! I felt isolated and alone, with hardly anyone who shared my passion and love for music. A few years on, my voice broke, and I was elated, thinking that I had come closer to becoming the next Elvis Presley. My bathroom singing grew longer and louder than yore, but gradually, the neighbors seemed to have had enough of it and soon enough resorted to snide remarks at every opportunity. I, of course, made light of it and put it down to their envy. What I did not fathom is that my voice had changed completely but horridly. Years later, I was tactfully told that I had sounded akin to a frog crying out for help. But when we moved to Denver, all that changed. Let loose in a big city, and with a few more years added to my age, I devoured all the Jazz, Blues, Pop, Soft Rock, Country, Hip Hop, and of course, Classical Music I possibly could. For me, it was a dream come true; heavenly, I surmised. With overflowing levels of enthusiasm, I wasted no time signing up for the school band. In time, I gradually became obsessed with personal success on the stage – the key to social acceptance and ‘fitting-in’ at a new school. Consequently, I was compelled to make my mark and be the celebrated hero on stage, as some were in the sports arena. It was now that my academics took a back seat. I practiced singing long and hard, often in open parks and places that were peaceful and tranquil. Within weeks, however, my world came crashing down. At a talent show, I was booed off stage and had to live with the shame of featuring at the bottom of the winner’s list. Dejected and rejected, I decided to hang in the horn. My academics, who had suffered a beating due to my foolhardiness, became a priority once again. But this time, it too had lost its zing; I treated it more like a job than a joy. No matter what I did from thereon, I always looked at myself as a failure because I couldn’t sing. That view held ground for a whole term until one day, and I was told something that turned my life around. After an event that had just concluded at school, in which the school band had played, I stepped up to Mark, the lead vocalist, and said, “you know what? I would trade places with you any day!”. Astonished, he said, “if I were as talented as you, I would have stood out and achieved something by now.” At that moment, I was incredulous. What was he talking about, I wondered? But then I realized that others around me had recognized my talent, not as a vocalist, but as a musician. Their confidence in my talent prompted me to realize I could still be a musician, still end up on stage, but not sing! Instead of singing, I espied I should teach vocals and music to others. Being fairly gifted in academics allowed me to cradle the theory of music and vocals quickly. I listened to world-renowned singers, concentrated on guitar riffs and techniques, paid attention to percussion instruments in various genres of the subject, and compiled my arsenal of lessons. I signed up at local music clubs and registered with the Denver Musicians Association. I began teaching the school band a thing or two, polished their gig, and composed a few tunes, catapulting them to fame. During school breaks, I casually taught kids who had angelic voices but precious little guidance on what to do with them. I had now acquired flexibility, adaptability, discipline, and drive – all of which determined my success. It is this understanding and intellect that has made me a better student, friend, and of course, singer. I have now grown in stature and become a far rounded person than I thought I was. Instead of aiming for fame, perfection, and social acceptance, I am now at liberty to concentrate on the things I love. All of this change has re-inspired me to express myself better and turn a weakness into a strength. After all, a gift is still a gift – and we must cherish every gift we are blessed with. While I secretly continue to harbor a desire to be the world’s best singer, I am more than happy to settle for making the world’s best singers.”

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FAQs about Personal Statement for Graduate School

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Additional Resources for writing Personal Statement for Graduate School

While you should compose and write your own Personal Statement for graduate school from scratch, there are some resources you could look into for ideas and suggestions to give you an easier start. But having said that, be warned that reading more samples of Personal Statements can leave you confused and frustrated. Make sure you know how much to look for and where and when to stop.

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How to Write a Winning Personal Statement

Writing a Winning Personal Statement for Grad School Tips and Advice for Standing Out as a Graduate Program Candidate

Applying to graduate school can be a significant step toward reaching academic and career goals, which can make the admissions process even more intimidating. Along with gathering letters of recommendation, taking exams and submitting transcripts, prospective graduate students typically have to write personal statements to include with their applications. The personal statement is an oft-elusive element of the grad school application, but it fulfills a specific and significant need in the eyes of admissions committees. By learning about the personal statement and its role, getting familiar with this essay's key elements and soaking in tons of advice from an admissions expert, graduate school applicants can prepare to write outstanding personal essays that can help them land spots in their ideal graduate programs.

Personal Statement Example

Additional resources, what's the personal statement on a grad school app.

Graduate school applications often have prospective students include personal statements. These help admissions committees get to know the person behind each application. A personal statement is a short essay that introduces a grad school candidate and his or her personal reasons for applying to a particular program. While metrics such as GPA and test scores can give an admissions committee an idea of a student's qualifications, they are impersonal and don't indicate whether a candidate would be a good fit for a given program. "Metrics only show one small part of the entire picture," says career coach and former university admissions representative Meg Radunich. "Graduate programs care about the person behind the standardized test score and grade point average. A personal statement is the only part of the application where a candidate gets to make their own case for what they can add to the cohort of incoming first year students."

personal statement for graduate school written

Students may get applications that ask for statements of purpose, or statements of intent, as well as personal statements. With such similar names, it's no surprise that many students wonder whether there is a difference. Depending on the program and writing prompt, a personal statement and a statement of purpose may fill the same need in the eyes of the admissions committee. In cases where both are required, however, things can get a little tricky. In general, the statement of purpose focuses more on a student's reasons for applying to that particular graduate program and may address topics such as career and research goals, how his or her academic track record demonstrates qualification for that particular school or program of study and how a given program will impact the student's future.

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By contrast, personal statements usually lend more freedom when it comes to content and form and are intended to give the admissions committee a glimpse into a candidate's personality. This narrative essay combines specific, self-reflective anecdotes with details about past experiences (internships, volunteer experiences, etc.) and a clear delineation of a student's goals and interest in the prospective graduate program to provide a fuller picture of the applicant. This combination, often unaccompanied by an explicit writing prompt or set of instructions, can make even the most practiced essay writers freeze up. Familiarizing themselves with the ins and outs of writing strong personal statements for graduate school can alleviate stress and ease the process of sending out those applications.

Components of a Successful Personal Statement

Because personal statements are individual to the applicant, there is no one-size-fits-all way to write them. However, there are a few key elements of strong personal statements that prospective graduate students should keep in mind as they write.

When writing personal statements, students may feel pressured to tell admissions committees everything about themselves. People are multifaceted, and it seems extra important to hit all your personality highlights and accomplishments. However, the personal essay isn't meant to be an autobiography or a long-form reiteration of the applicant's resume. "One major mistake I see all the time is students who try to tell too much in the personal statement," says Radunich. "Tell one or two specific stories or scenarios really well instead of having a broad focus and attempting to tell your life story. The goal of the essay is to get an interview, one-on-one face time that will you allow you to divulge more. Use that personal statement to tease them just enough so they feel like they need to get you in for an interview to learn the rest of your story."

The best personal statements have clear purposes and easily draw readers in. Students should be cautious about turning their personal statements into risky or edgy creative writing projects and instead maintain a strong narrative structure using anecdotes for support when necessary. "Everyone loves a coming-of-age story," Radunich says. "Remember that the faculty have a vested interest in admitting students who will be fun for them to work with and watch grow." Applicants should determine which key points about themselves are most important to make and then choose situations or experiences that demonstrate those points. This serves as the main content of the personal statement. It's important that students remember to keep anecdotes relevant to the specific programs to which they are applying and to make it clear how the experiences led them to those programs.

Along with a focused narrative, grad school applicants should demonstrate for the admissions committee why they want to attend this program and how doing so relates to their place academically, locally and globally. Radunich notes that strong personal statements show that candidates understand the "big picture" of the profession and the true meaning and impact they will have in their communities.

Applicants often feel as if they have to show how highly accomplished and impressive they are in their personal statements, but Radunich stresses the significance of being honest and vulnerable. "It helps the reader connect. Admissions deans read enough essays from 23-year-old applicants who brag about their accomplishments and think they have life figured out." Acknowledging faults or weaknesses shows the committee that an applicant is self-aware, teachable and eager to grow.

Strong personal statements demonstrate awareness of audience and how content may be received. Radunich advises applicants to think about their essays from admissions deans' perspectives: What would and wouldn't you want to read it if you were in their shoes? As they write, students should remember that admissions personnel must read many personal statements and sort through thousands of applications. Being conscious of how words or stories may be perceived by those with experiences different from their own can be invaluable to students.

One of the biggest keys to writing a successful personal statement is in the name itself. This essay is meant to be personal and completely unique to the writer. "You have full control over this part of your application," Radunich says, urging students to avoid coming across as desperate in their essays. "Fight the urge to ‘shape shift' into whom you think that program wants you to be. You're not going to be a perfect fit for every single graduate program. Be you, and if a graduate program doesn't get it, you most likely aren't going to be happy in that program for the next three or more years." Many applicants may have similar metrics, but each student has different experiences to write about in a personal statement. Students should commit to their experiences and own them rather than err too far on the side of safety, something Radunich says is a common pitfall.

Applicants must take time to ensure their personal statements are tight and free of errors. Radunich stresses the importance of proofreading. "Do not even bother sending in an application with a personal statement that has spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. This personal statement is a reflection of the quality of work you will submit for the program."

One of the hardest parts of writing a personal statement is getting started. These steps and strategies can help prospective graduate students push through the initial hesitation and get on their way to writing winning personal statements.

Writing a personal statement can be intimidating, which may make it difficult for applicants to get started. Having enough time to ruminate and write is also valuable and can give students the opportunity to choose a strong point of view rather than feel pushed to write about the first thing that comes to mind. Radunich emphasizes that students who aren't sure what to write about or how to approach writing about themselves should do some considerable brainstorming and get input from those who know them well. Students are often self-critical, especially in high-stakes situations, and they may not realize the positive qualities they may have that stand out to others.

Radunich also offers tips for getting in the mindset of admissions personnel: "They're reading the personal statement and gauging the candidate's fitness for the program. Can this person deal with stress and persevere? Does he/she have grit? Has this person overcome adversity, and does that give us confidence that they can handle the three demanding years of law school? Can this person handle receiving feedback, or will he/she drop out after the slightest bit of challenge or criticism? Can this student tolerate differing viewpoints and be open to growth?" Considering these questions can help guide students through the writing process.

It may also help students to look at example personal statements and see how these key considerations play out in an actual essay. Take a look at this example personal statement from a prospective grad student.

As I approached the convention hall, I wondered if I had gotten the room number wrong. I couldn't hear any signs of life, and I was losing my nerve to open the door and risk embarrassing myself. As I imagined a security guard striding up and chiding me for being somewhere I shouldn't be, a hand reached past me and pushed the door open, jolting me back to the real world. I peeked in. More hands. Hundreds of them. Hands were flying, waving, articulating, dancing . I was at once taken by awe and fear.

You can do this.

I had never planned on taking American Sign Language, and I certainly hadn't planned on it taking my heart. In my first term of college, I signed up for German, a language I had loved the sound of since I was a child. A week before classes began, however, the course section was cut. In my frustration, I decided I would take the first available language class in the course register. In hindsight, that probably wasn't the smartest approach, but it was a decision that completely altered my supposedly set-in-stone plan of becoming a linguist. The complexities of nonverbal language floored me, and I found myself thinking about hand signs while writing essays on Saussure's linguistic signs. I rearranged my schedule so I could take improv classes to help with my facial and body expressions. Theater! That was completely out of character, but I suddenly found myself compelled toward anything that would help immerse me in ASL and deaf culture.

Except actually getting involved in the community.

I knew going to my first deaf convention would be intimidating. My hands shake when I'm anxious, and nothing brings on nerves quite like throwing yourself into a situation where you are a total outsider. Between my limited vocabulary, quaking fingers and fear-frozen face, would anyone be able to understand me? What was I doing here? I had been studying American Sign Language for nearly three years and had somehow managed to avoid spontaneous conversation with the deaf community, and I was terrified. Workbook exercises and casual conversations with classmates — who had roughly the same ASL vocabulary and relied on the same linguistic crutches as I did — had become increasingly comfortable, but immersing myself in deaf culture and community was something entirely different. I was afraid. However, American Sign Language and deaf studies had captured my heart, and I knew this fear was a huge barrier I needed to get past in order to continue working toward my goal of becoming an advocate and deaf studies educator.

It must have been pretty obvious that I was both hearing and petrified, because I was immediately greeted by someone who, very formally and slowly, asked if I was a student and offered to accompany me. This small gesture is representative of how I became so fond of deaf culture in such a short period of time. The hearing community tends toward posturing, indirect communication and a sometimes isolating emphasis on individualism, and my limited experiences within the deaf community have been the opposite. The straightforward communication that exists in a beautifully nuanced and perspicacious language and the welcoming enthusiasm to grow the community is something I intend to be part of. I am an outsider, and I have much to learn, but I want to do everything I can to encourage understanding and exchange between the deaf and hearing communities and make hearing spaces more inclusive, especially for those who have more experience as outsiders than I do.

My devotion to language and learning about culture through communication hasn't changed, but the path by which I want to pursue that passion has. My foray into deaf studies and American Sign Language may have started as an accident, but no matter how nervous I still get when my fingers fumble or I have to spell something out, I am humbled and grateful that this accident led me to a calling that could have remained unheard my whole life.

Brainstorming is an important step in writing a convincing personal essay, and Coggle may be just the tool to help. Coggle is a mind-mapping app that helps users organize their thoughts in visual, nonlinear ways. Users can easily share with collaborators, such as writing coaches, advisers or friends.

Inspiration may strike at any time. Students can make sure they're prepared to jot down any personal statement ideas, gather inspiration and organize their thoughts with Evernote , a popular note-taking app.

Writing personal statements requires distraction-free writing time. However, most students do their writing on their most distracting devices. FocusWriter is a simple tool that helps mitigate the distraction problem by hiding computer interfaces and substituting a clean, clear digital writing environment.

This web browser add-on makes checking grammar quick and easy. Grammarly scans users' text and provides context-specific suggestions and corrections. Detailed explanations of each suggestion help users improve their writing over time.

This subject-specific book is a guide to writing personal statements for graduate school. It includes tons of tips and examples to help students write their application essays.

Microsoft's OneNote app is one of the most popular among those who like to use outlines to gather and organize their thoughts, but its many features make it a great prewriting tool for writers of all organizational preferences.

Mindomo can help grad school candidates brainstorm and pinpoint key elements to include in their personal statements. The app's mind maps, concept maps and outlines help users easily visualize and organize their ideas.

Students who are looking for an advanced editing tool to help them power through their grad school applications might want to look into ProWritingAid , a comprehensive application that helps with basic and advanced editing and addresses issues in style, word choice and structure.

The academic writing standby, Purdue OWL , weighs in on the 10 essential dos and don'ts of personal statement writing.

The UNR Writing Center offers this extensive, alphabetized list of tips on writing, from academic voice to writing introductions, to help with the writing process. Students should also consider consulting their own undergraduate schools' campus writing centers for help as well.

UNC provides specific guidance for students writing personal statements and other significant academic essays. The guidance on this page is not exclusive to UNC, so students from many different schools may find these tips helpful.

Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences provides this online manual to help students understand and successfully write personal statements and other graduate admissions and scholarship essays. The easy-to-navigate chapters provide many examples and tips to meet a range of criteria.

Purdue University

Writing a Personal Statement

Student sitting outside doing research.

Many applications will include a personal essay, in which you describe "where you're coming from" – your interests, why you want to obtain a graduate degree, career goals, and so on. To personalize your application, you may wish to state your motivations for wanting to do graduate work and describe any particularly formative experiences (for example, an undergraduate research project) that led you to decide to enter graduate school. The essay should be of reasonable length, commonly one or two pages; do not write an autobiography that continues for many pages. People screening these essays may have hundreds to read, and long essays are not generally well-received.

Also, check your spelling and grammar carefully. An essay that is full of grammatical and spelling errors can automatically doom your application because such an essay denotes carelessness and a lack of commitment to doing things well. Identify faculty members with whom you would consider working in your essay. This will help route your application to appropriate faculty members who will be reading through applicant files. Be sure to contact the individuals to whom you refer in your essay.

Personal Statement Resources

Purdue Online Writing Lab: Writing the CV

University of California Berkeley: Graduate School Statement of Purpose

University of Washington: Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School (PDF)

Peterson's: What Should I Write About In My Graduate Personal Statement?

USA Today: 10 Tips For Writing A Grad School Personal Statement

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How to Write a Successful Personal Statement for Graduate School

Strategies for winning over admissions committees.

A personal statement for graduate school is an opportunity to showcase what you will bring to the graduate program and to explain how the program fits into your larger career goals.

Some programs will ask you to write a single essay covering both your personal background and what you wish to study in graduate school. Others, however, will require both a personal statement and a statement of purpose . The personal statement should focus on you and your background, while the statement of purpose should focus on your research or what you plan to study in graduate school. Follow these strategies to craft a stellar personal statement that will stand out in admissions offices. 

Key Takeaways

Structuring a Personal Statement

Your personal statement should include an introduction and a summary of your previous experience (including your coursework, research experience, and relevant work experience). Additionally, if you’re not covering these topics in a separate statement of purpose, you should also discuss why you want to go to graduate school, what you wish to study as a graduate student, and why this particular graduate program is right for you.

Starting Your Essay

Personal statements can begin in a few different ways. Some students start their essay by discussing their personal background or sharing a compelling anecdote that explains why they are interested in graduate school. Other students simply begin their essay by talking plainly about their academic experiences and interest in graduate school. There’s no “one size fits all” answer here, so feel free to choose the introduction that works best for your essay.

Sometimes, the introduction of a personal statement is the toughest part to write. If you’re experiencing writer’s block, remember that you  don’t  have to start with the introduction. By the time you’ve finished writing the rest of the essay, you may have a much better idea of the type of introduction your essay needs.

Summarizing Your Previous Experience

In your personal statement, you’ll want to talk about your previous academic experience and how it has prepared you for graduate school. You can talk about courses you’ve enjoyed (especially any advanced coursework), research projects you may have worked on, or internships and work experience that are relevant for graduate school.

When describing your previous experience, be sure to not just write about what you did but also what you learned and how the experience contributed to your interest in graduate school. For example, if you gained research experience by assisting a graduate student with their research project, don’t just describe what the project was about. Instead, be as specific as possible about skills you picked up (for example, gaining experience using lab techniques or a particular academic database). Additionally, write about how your past experiences sparked your curiosity and helped you decide that graduate school is the right choice for you.

Remember that you can also talk about non-academic experiences such as volunteer work or part-time jobs. When you mention these experiences, highlight how they show transferable skills (i.e. skills that will also be valuable in your graduate program, such as communication skills or interpersonal skills). For example, if you supervised a group of students as a camp counselor, you might talk about how this experience helped you develop leadership skills. If you had a part-time job while in college, you might talk about challenges you resolved at work and how they demonstrate your problem-solving ability.

If you faced significant obstacles while in college, your personal statement can also be a place to discuss the experience (if you feel comfortable doing so) and its influence on you.

Writing About Why You Want to Attend Graduate School

In your personal statement, you should also talk about your future goals: what you want to study in graduate school, and how this ties into your larger goals for your future career. Graduate school is a big commitment, so professors will want to see that you have thought through your decision carefully and that graduate education is truly necessary for the career you want to pursue.

When talking about why you want to go to graduate school, it’s good to be as specific as possible about why the school you’re applying to would be a good match for your career goals. If you’re applying to a program that involves a significant amount of research (such as PhD programs and some Master’s programs), it’s important to talk about the research topics you’re most interested in studying while in graduate school. For programs involving research, it’s also a good idea to read the department’s website to learn about faculty members’ research topics and then customize your personal statement accordingly for each school. In your personal statement, you can mention several professors you might want to work with and explain how their research matches up with what you’d like to study.

Mistakes To Avoid

What A Successful Personal Statement Looks Like

Some of the most compelling admissions essays are ones in which students are able to draw a clear connection between their past experiences (coursework, jobs, or life experiences) and their motivation for attending graduate school. If you can show readers that you're both well-qualified and passionate about your proposed course of study, you’re far more likely to capture the attention of admissions committees.

If you’re looking for inspiration, read  sample graduate admissions essays . In one  sample essay , the writer talks about the shift in her academic interests—while she initially studied chemistry, she is now planning to go to law school. This essay is successful because the writer clearly explains why she is interested in switching fields and demonstrates her passion for studying law. In addition, the writer highlights transferable skills that will be relevant to the legal profession (such as explaining how working as a resident assistant in her college dorm helped her to develop interpersonal skills and gain experience resolving conflicts). This provides an important take-home lesson for writing a personal statement: you can talk about past experience that isn’t directly related to academics, as long as you explain how this experience has helped to prepare you for graduate study.

Writing a personal statement for graduate school can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. By demonstrating your qualifications and enthusiasm and seeking feedback on drafts from professors and other on-campus resources, you can write a strong personal statement that shows who you are and why you’re a good candidate for graduate school.

Sources and Further Reading

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How To Make/Create a Statement of Purpose for Grad School [Templates + Examples] 2023

A statement of purpose for grad school is a common requirement when pursuing higher studies. A statement of purpose is similar to a personal statement, both are short essays that explore an individual’s personal experience and principles in depth.    

how to makecreate a statement of purpose for grad school

Table of Content

Build a statement of purpose – step-by-step instructions, statement of purpose for grad school templates & examples, graduate school statement of purpose template, masters statement of purpose template, academic statement of purpose template, undergraduate statement of purpose template, simple statement of purpose template, step 1:   choose a statement of purpose template.

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Step 2: Download a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School Application

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Ste p 3:  Insert a Header

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Step 4:    Provide a Thought-Provoking Title

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Step 5:  Write a Brief Introductory Paragraph

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Step 6:  Expound on Your Purpose

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Step 7: Summarize and Conclude 

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Step 8:  Save and Download Your Statement 

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A Guide to Writing a Personal Statement for Grad School Applications

Hailey Spinks

Congratulations! You made it through undergrad, and you’ve decided to apply to graduate school. Grad school can be a great way to progress your career path, upgrade your earning potential, and get a whole new perspective on your subject area—making the application process all the more daunting. As part of the application process, you’ll likely be required to write and submit a personal statement. 

A personal statement is a short essay between two and three pages long explaining why you’re applying to the program and what makes you a strong applicant. A personal statement allows you to differentiate yourself by sharing a little bit about what makes you unique. Writing your personal statement for grad school is the best way to show off your personality, which doesn’t always come through in the other parts of the application process. 

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What is a personal statement? 

The point of a personal statement is for the admission committee to better understand who you are outside of your professional and academic experience. It’s also an opportunity to share information that they won’t find in your other application documents. 

A personal statement is different from a statement of purpose. A statement of purpose expands upon your career and academic goals, while a personal statement explains why you’re the right person for the program. You can still share your academic and career goals in a personal statement, but you should focus on explaining how you came to those goals and what accomplishing them would mean to you. 

A personal statement for grad school applications is also not the same as a personal statement that you would submit alongside a résumé . While a personal statement for your CV focuses on your professional accomplishments and gives a quick overview of who you are as a potential employee, a personal statement for grad school is a more in-depth look at who you are outside of being an employee or a student. It provides a deeper glance at what you bring to the table and why you’re a good prospect for the program.

Brainstorm before you write your personal statement

Sitting down and taking some time to reflect is the first step to writing an outstanding personal statement. Writing prompts can help you get into the right frame of mind and begin your brainstorming process. Here are some ideas: 

The answers to these questions will serve as the foundation of your personal statement.  You can also try other calming prompts to ease any nervousness you feel about beginning the writing process.

What makes a strong personal statement?

The best personal statements capture who you are as a person and give the reader a sense that they know you once they’re finished reading. You have a story to offer that no one else does, and the more authentic you are, the better your essay will flow. 

Your personal statement should have a sense of completeness. You don’t want to leave your readers wanting more. You want to provide your audience with all the information they might need to make a decision on your application. The beginning of your essay should be relevant until the end, with supporting body paragraphs in between. 

And finally, a personal statement should be mistake-free. Your grammar and spelling need to be perfect, and the diction and syntax in your essay need to be purposeful. 

7 dos and 3 don’ts for writing a personal statement

1 include examples.

If you’re spending your essay telling the admissions committee that you’re driven and compassionate, provide anecdotes that back up your claim. For example, you can prove that you’re driven by sharing that you balanced a job with school to pay down student loans, or you could talk about a time when you went above and beyond for a particular project. You can prove that you’re creative by giving an example of a time you offered an innovative solution to a problem that came up. You don’t want to say, “I’m smart and reliable.” You want to show that you are.  

2 Be yourself

It’s easy to tell when someone is exaggerating, hedging, or pretending to be someone they’re not. And this comes through especially in writing. Be authentic when crafting your personal statement. 

3 Do your research

Just as you would for a job interview, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Before writing your personal statement, you should have a concrete idea of what the university and program offers, what they value, and the kind of applicants they’re looking for. 

4 Grab their attention 

As the initial impression of your paper, your hook is everything—make it interesting! 

Stay away from rote phrases like “I’m writing to you today to . . . ” and throw them right into the action. Think of an instance that shaped you and jump right into the story. Keep it short, engaging, and illustrative of the qualities and motivations you will explore later in your statement.

5 Remember your audience

One of the biggest mistakes people make in personal statements is trying to be humorous or sarcastic. In writing, these tones often fail and fall flat. Remember who you’re writing for, and stay professional. 

6 Address the prompt

Though most schools will give you the freedom to make your personal statement about whatever you want (as long as it’s within the guidelines of the general answer they’re seeking), some will require you to answer a specific question. If that’s the case, remember to keep your personal statement tailored to the prompt and be direct with your answers. 

7 Revise and proofread

Make sure your statement is clear and flows smoothly between sentences and paragraphs. Read it out loud, and read it to a friend or family member to get feedback. Also, be sure your copy is clean—any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes can distract the reader and detract from the message you’re trying to deliver. 

1 Don’t be presumptuous

Of course you want to showcase what makes you a great applicant, but make sure you don’t overdo it. Just because you might think you’d be a good fit for the program doesn’t mean the admissions office will see it that way. 

Presumptuous: “I know my personal statement for grad school is the best, and I have no doubt that I’ll get in everywhere I apply.”

Confident: “I put a lot of effort into my personal statement for grad school, and I know it is well-written and authentic.” 

2 Don’t use platitudes or cliché s

You don’t want to oversimplify important life events by using a platitude, nor do you want to use clichés in place of opportunities for authenticity. Everyone uses them; that’s how they got to be cliché s! Avoid starting your essay with a quote, definition, or anything else that signals the obvious fact that time has passed and you’re now applying for graduate school. For example: “from a young age . . . ” or “I’ve always been interested in . . . ” 

3 Don’t overshare

This isn’t an autobiography or a session with a close confidant. Pick an example or two of life events that shaped you and your desire to apply to grad school, but don’t tell your whole life story. There’s also no need to get into the nitty-gritty with the admissions committee. Keep your personal statement inspiring, and remember what you’re trying to convey. 

Crafting your personal statement

You might want to begin your writing process with an outline detailing what you plan to include in your personal statement. Writing an outline might seem annoying, but it can be beneficial in the long run. 

Your paper should end up between two and three pages long, and should include:

Your introduction should include a hook that captures your reader’s attention and makes them want to keep reading. Admission committees read countless personal statements, so make yours stand out. 

Body paragraphs should include examples of characteristics you want to come through in your personal statement, whether that be an anecdote about a challenge you overcame or something broader. Let these paragraphs explain your motivations for applying, and provide examples of your ability to excel in the program.  

Your conclusion is an opportunity to discuss future plans and explain why acceptance into your desired program would benefit you. The conclusion is also a great time to summarize the key pieces of your previous paragraphs, weave them together, and complete your argument. For example, if you previously explained a challenging moment in your life, your conclusion should emphasize what you got out of that experience and how it has prepared you for this opportunity. 

The final sentence of your concluding paragraph should be just as good as your hook. You want the audience to remember your paper, so leave them with something to ponder. Perhaps your last sentence inspires the reader or evokes a strong emotion. Either way, your final statement needs to give a sense of completion. 

After you finish writing, don’t forget to proofread and revise until your final draft is polished and clear. 

Remember to bring something different to the table and provide the admissions committee with something new and valuable to know about you that they can’t access elsewhere. Stay authentic, be engaging, and prove that you’re exactly the kind of person grad schools want in their program. 

personal statement for graduate school written

How to Write a Personal Statement for Graduate School

[geo-in-name] Personal Statement for Graduate School

Graduate school applications often require a letter of intent, personal statement, or similar essay. These may highlight your personality, interests, accomplishments, and goals, as they relate to what you want to study and why you want to attend that school to do it.

Writing a personal statement for grad school could be one of your biggest opportunities. You can use it to show the school who you are and why they should consider your application. Because it’s something of a first impression, it’s important to make sure your essay is thought out, well organized, and well written. Here are some tips for creating a standout application essay or letter of intent for graduate school .

What Is the Difference Between a Letter of Intent and Personal Statement?

The first step in writing an effective application essay is identifying exactly what you’re meant to be writing. Is your application asking you for a letter of intent, a personal statement, or a statement of purpose? Or are they asking for more than one of these? The basic content of each option is similar. They all talk about your intention to study at that school, and why you might be a good fit. Despite these similarities, there are some key differences which should guide your approach to composing them.

While some programs may only ask for one of these pieces, it’s possible that your selected school might want a few of them. If you’re asked for a personal statement and a statement of purpose, it’s important to think what makes each one different. One strategy to make it a little easier could be to delineate between your “personal” and “academic” achievements. For example, you could write your statement of purpose about the academic and professional experience that makes you a good candidate for that program. Your personal statement might focus on the personal experiences that shaped your character, and led you to choosing that field and that school.

Southern New Hampshire University

ARE THERE GRAD SCHOOLS THAT DON’T REQUIRE PERSONAL STATEMENTS? Absolutely! One way of dealing with the headache of personal statements is to avoid them completely! Below, find some of the most popularly applied-to graduate schools that may not require personal statements:

Graduate Schools That May Not Require Personal Statements:

Getting Ready To Write Your Graduate School Application Essay

When you’re getting ready to write your personal essay , you will first need to think about a few key points.

All of this should be informed by the particular school you’re writing the essay for. So before you begin, be sure to read the essay requirements carefully, and research the school and the program in question.

How to Format Personal Statement for Grad School?

Thinking about how you’ll structure your essay early on could be an advantage when it comes to writing and revising. One good way to do this could be by drafting an outline of your ideas. By doing this, you could make sure your ideas are organized effectively, and see how it all fits together, even before you start writing.

Chances are you learned the basics of essay structure in high school. But in case you’re out of practice—for example, if you spent the last few years knee deep in math or computer science—here’s a refresher.

Do You Sign a Personal Statement for Graduate School?

If you’re writing a letter of intent , the above should still apply. However, you’ll need to do this as a formal letter. That should include a header containing the date, the recipient’s name and address, your name and address, and a salutation, as well as a closing and personal statement signature.

How Long Should a Personal Statement Be for Grad School?

While every school will have its own requirements, generally a personal statement should fall between 250 and 750 words. This is roughly one half to one full page.

First, double check to see if the school provides specific guidelines. If they don’t, then try to be as clear and succinct as possible while still answering the question. Does your personal statement cover all the key points? Is it clear what you are trying to say? Did you repeat yourself? If your answers are yes, yes and no, then your personal essay is likely the right length.

Capella University Graduate Programs

Writing Style For Your Personal Statement

In addition to telling the school about yourself and your goals, a personal essay demonstrates your writing ability to your school. As such, you’ll want to put your best foot forward with an effective writing style. Here are some tips to consider while you write.

Editing Your Grad School Application Essay

One of the most important aspects of the writing process is revision. Don’t be surprised if this takes more than one draft to do! Many writers revise over several rounds before settling on a finished product. Here’s a brief guide on the revision process and what to look for.

Final Advice

Writing personal statement for grad school is only one piece of the application puzzle. But it’s more than that. It’s an opportunity to show your chosen school your writing expertise, your passion for your subject, and who you are as a person. Keep in mind what the application is asking you for and what you’re trying to tell them. Take time to edit carefully, and your essay could potentially set your application apart.

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Personal Statement For Graduate School Example

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How to Write a Graduate School Personal Statement

Statement of purpose, personal statement, candidate’s admission statement … these terms send a shiver down the spine of many prospective graduate students who feel at a loss for how to write about themselves effectively.

A graduate school personal statement or similar type of application essay, however, is your opportunity to show the admissions committee what you’re made of. They want to know why you’re applying to their graduate program, and the application essay is your chance to communicate that to them as clearly and compellingly as you can.

[ GOOD TO KNOW:  How long should I study for the GRE?   ]

How do graduate schools use your application essay?

The graduate school personal statement serves two basic purposes. First, they show whether you know how to write a clear, coherent essay that’s logically and grammatically correct. These days, students’ writing ability is often presumed deficient unless proven otherwise.

Second, the application essay gives you the opportunity to present the admissions committee with more of a “three-dimensional” perspective of yourself as a deserving candidate than GPA and GRE numbers possibly can.

What you choose to write sends clear signals about what’s important to you and what your values are. You can explain why you really want to pursue graduate work and outline the career path it will enable you to follow. Your essay also enables you to address things that may warrant explanation, such as a dubious grade in an otherwise creditable record.

What does the admissions committee look for?

Reading your graduate school personal statement or statement of purpose is the best way for the admissions committee to determine whether you would be a good fit for their program. Remember, they’re trying to get a holistic view of your intellectual character, your ambitions, and your academic skills. So, don’t hesitate to go beyond narrow academic experience when searching for essay topics.

Feel free to discuss events or successes outside of school that have nonetheless helped to define your professional or academic life. If you have overcome significant obstacles, say so. If you were honored with an award, describe the award and what you did to achieve recognition.

Learn how to write about yourself

Preparation pays off when considering how to write your graduate school personal statement, so start early. Review your goals and aspirations, write several drafts, and talk to students and professors to gain insight about yourself. Then, give some thought to your goals and how to articulate them compellingly in a statement of purpose.

How will you accomplish those goals? What can you contribute to the graduate school community? What can you contribute to this particular degree program? If you can answer these questions in a clear and concise manner, you shouldn’t be at a loss when it comes time to put pen to paper and write your application essay.

The Most Common Personal Statement Mistake

The wrong question: “ why i want to go to grad school ”.

Should you explain, at some point in your personal statement, why you want to go to grad school? Of course! Grad schools don’t want to admit someone who applies grudgingly, or who only wants to attend because the real world is scary and grad school seems like a good way to pass the time. But is that the primary goal of your essay? Absolutely not.

“Why I want to go to grad school” is a fundamentally forward-thinking question. To answer it, you have to talk about what you want to do and who you want to become. You might have promising visions and compelling aspirations, but grad schools don’t admit the person you’ll become. They admit the person you are right now. That’s who they want to get to know through this piece of your application.

The Real Question: “ Why You Should Accept Me Into Your Program ”

The question you primarily need to answer is, “Why should you accept me into your program?” You don’t want your personal statement to sound like a sales pitch, because nobody likes being sold to and grad schools aren’t stupid. But a sales pitch is exactly what your personal statement is.

Grad schools want someone who’s hardworking, competent, and mature, and going on and on about why you want to go to grad school won’t give admissions officers reason to believe you’re any of those things. If anything, an essay devoted entirely to explaining why its author wants to go to grad school runs a risk of making that author seem less mature.

The fundamental question that your essay needs to answer — “Why should you accept me into your program?” — can be broken down into three sub-questions:

Explain why you’re an excellent candidate.

Illustrate why you want to go to that grad school.

Clarify why you you’re applying to grad school now, as opposed to three years from now or three years ago.

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Personal Statement for Graduate School

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Explain the reasons for pursuing the Master of Business Program. Address your short-term and long-term goals and how the program will help you achieve those goals? incorporate the following information in your essay: Highest Position attained Responsibilities of your position The number of years of service you had with the United States Armed Forces if any.

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Writing Center

Personal statements.

What is the Personal Statement?

Graduate schools, fellowships, grants, and other competitive programs often require each applicant to submit a short essay about her history and goals. These essays are sometimes written in response to very specific questions; sometimes, they’re written in response to a generic prompt. In both cases, the good personal statement carefully balances its author’s history and aspirations.

Unlike much academic writing, personal statements are not necessarily thesis-driven. They tend to offer instead a narrative of development or illustrate a match between applicant and program. This does not mean the statement should narrate the applicant’s resume. Applicants should ask instead how the statement can enhance a particular element of the resume. Each applicant should ask how she might tell a compelling story about how and why she was drawn to a particular field of study, program, or career path.

How to Write a Personal Statement

Start by examining the prompt. Oftentimes, applicants are asked very specific questions about why they are applying to a particular program and what, specifically, qualifies them to be part of that program. Think about the question you’ve been asked. Also, no matter how tempting it is, do not submit the same personal statement to multiple programs if those programs are asking different questions. Tailor each statement to each question.

Decide how your experience is different, interesting, or special. Personal statements succeed when they are specific. Don’t say you want to go to medical school because you want to help people or you want to be a veterinarian because you like animals. Instead, tell a story about Megan, the seven-year-old leukemia patient you met when you volunteered in the cancer ward of Boston Children’s Hospital in April 2008. Or, instead, describe how you watched Dr. Phillips, the local veterinarian in the Chicago suburb where you grew up, reset the broken leg of your neighbor’s Irish Setter, Morris, after the dog had been hit by beat-up Camaro on Oak Street.

Research the program. The program you’re applying to is also unique in some ways, and you should make it clear that you chose it carefully from among its competitors. Think about how your goals will best be served by this particular fellowship, internship, or university. Again, be specific. Any MBA program will grant you the “skills you need” to succeed in the business world. What will this specific MBA program do? Is the actuarial class taught by the president of the Casualty Actuarial Society? That would be important if you’re more interested in becoming a casualty actuary instead of a pension or health actuary.

Make your goals clear. Just as your past is interesting and specific, so is your future. What do you plan to do, and how will this program help you do it? Do you want to develop long-term convection models for the eastern seaboard? Or become a choreographer for a major ballet company? How do you plan to get there, and how does this particular program fit into that plan?

Once you’ve thought about your history and your goals, start writing. It’s often very tempting to put this off. Writing a personal statement is stressful. But it’s important to start writing as soon as possible—especially because you’ll be revising again and again. Show how your personal history relates to your goals, and how you’re a good fit for this particular program. If your first attempt looks halting and a little half-baked, don’t worry. The first draft is supposed to look this way.

Revision is where the real work begins. Read through what you’ve written. Ask yourself what works and what doesn’t:

After looking over your writing, rewrite. Then, rewrite again.

More Revision

Once you feel the personal statement says what you want it to say, show it to somebody. The Writing Center can be useful here. It might also be useful to get feedback from a professional in your field. Many personal statement conventions are discipline-specific. What works in the hard sciences might not work in the humanities; what works for business majors might not work for artists.

Social Psychology Ph.D. Personal Statement  (pdf)

Medical School Personal Statement  (pdf)

School of Pharmacy Personal Statement  (pdf)

NEAG School of Education Personal Statement  (pdf)

English Ph.D. Statement of Purpose  (pdf)

Instructions on personal statements from other universities

Indiana University

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personal statement for graduate school written

As part of your application for graduate school , you will be required to write a personal statement to accompany your application.

For most students, this can be quite a challenge. To make matters worse, the personal statement plays a significant role in determining whether you will be admitted into graduate school, and therefore, getting it wrong could mess up your entire career path .

If you are in the process of applying for graduate school and are wondering how to go about writing your personal statement, this article will teach you everything you need to know about creating a high quality personal statement.

We will also show you three examples of successful graduate school personal statements so that you will have an idea of the kind of personal statement you should be aiming for.

Before that, however, let’s start by understanding what exactly the personal statement is.


If you have ever applied for graduate school, you have probably come across the personal statement. A personal statement on a grad school application is basically a short essay that allows you to introduce yourself to the grad school and explain why you are interested in pursuing a particular program in that school.

When applying for grad school, you also provide your test scores and your GPA. So, why does the university still need a personal statement to determine if you are a good fit for the program you are applying for?

While your test scores and GPA show your qualifications and your mental aptitude , they don’t give a complete picture of who you are as a person.

The personal statement gives you a chance to express yourself to the university and make a case for yourself on why you are a good fit for the program you are interested in, as well as the value you will add to the crop of first year students joining university that year.

On top of your test scores and GPA, the personal statement gives you a chance to tell the admissions committee what your goals are, what you are passionate about, what you intend or hope to gain by taking the program you are applying for, as well as what favorable thing you are bringing to the program.

In other words, you are being asked to make a case for why that opportunity should be given to you instead of another candidate. Since this is an open-ended document, this is your chance to highlight important facts about yourself and personal strengths that you might be unable to highlight anywhere else in your application.

personal statement for graduate school written


Sometimes, grad school applicants confuse between the personal statement and the statement of purpose , which is sometimes referred to as a letter of intent. However, the two are different documents, even though both play a role in getting you admitted to grad school.

The statement of purpose has a great focus on your credentials, both academic and professional, as well as your future professional intentions. In other words, the statement of purpose is a bit formal and rigid. It doesn’t really take into account who you are as a person.

While the personal statement can also talk about your academic and professional qualifications, you have the freedom to talk about matters that are a bit more personal, such as life experiences that made you into the person you are today, as well as any experiences that might have shaped your interest in the field you are applying for.

This is what helps the personal statement to give the admissions committee a better picture of who you are.

Unfortunately, the freedom you have when it comes to writing the personal statement can sometimes make it even more challenging to write, because you don’t have any set of instructions to guide you.

It’s good to note that, depending on the university you are applying to, you might be asked to write both the personal statement and the letter of intent.


Considering personal statements don’t come with any set of instructions to guide grad school applicants, there is no one size fits all approach to writing the personal statement.

That said, there are still qualities that contribute to a great personal statement, regardless of whatever form or style you choose for your personal statement.

Below, let’s look at some tips that will help you come up with an amazing personal statement and increase your chances of having your grad school application approved.

Make Sure Your Personal Statement Has A Clear Narrative

One of the downsides of having the freedom to write whatever you want in your personal statement is that you might be tempted to tell the admissions committee everything about yourself.

Everyone has multiple things that make them the person they are, and you might feel that to give the admissions committee a complete picture of who you are, you need to tell them about everything you have done in life and all the significant highlights in your life.

The problem with this is that it leaves the admissions committee overwhelmed. At the end of the day, a personal statement that tries to tell everything doesn’t accomplish anything.

So, what should you do?

Before you start writing your personal statement, sit down and think about the message you want your personal statement to communicate. Of course, this message needs to be one that will make you come across as a strong applicant.

For instance, you might want to focus on your passion for the program or field, experiences that made you interested in the field, something big you want to achieve in that field, and so on. You might also decide to address some aspect of your application that might raise questions in the minds of the admissions committee.

For instance, if you have some setbacks in your application (such as low GPA in a certain semester because you dealing with an illness), you can use the personal statement to address such issues and put the admissions committee at ease.

Once you have figured out the message you want to communicate, you can now think about the best way to pass this message.

The point here is to get the admissions committee interested in your narrative enough to grant you an interview , where you can share more about yourself and convince them to give you the opportunity to pursue the program you are applying for.

Use Specific Examples

If you want your personal statement to be effective, don’t just mention your strengths, your passions, and so on. Instead, you want to include specific examples and anecdotes that demonstrate these strengths and passions.

The idea is to show rather than tell. For instance, don’t just say you love architecture. Instead, describe how you used to build miniature versions of some of the most magnificent buildings in your city using various materials and sell them. Such a description is more powerful.

It shows that your love for architecture is not just a baseless claim, but something that you are actually passionate about.

Show That You Are A Good For The Program

The reason you are writing the personal statement is to show that you are a good fit for the program you are applying for, so don’t forget to show that in your personal statement. Are there things about the program that you find appealing?

Talk about them. Do you have certain strengths and skills that boost your chances of performing well in that program? Talk about them. Do you admire certain individuals in that field? Talk about them.

The aim is to show the admissions committee that by approving your application, they won’t have wasted an opportunity that would have been better given to someone else.

Showcase Your Writing Skills

Regardless of the program you are applying for, you will need to do some kind of writing, and therefore, you can treat your personal statement as a chance to showcase your strong writing skills .

Make sure that your personal statement passes your message in a clear way, avoid using tired clichés, and make sure that your personal statement is free of spelling and grammatical errors.

Once you are done writing your personal statement, go through it a couple times to make sure that it looks professional.

You can even have a trusted friend look it over for you. They are more likely to catch errors and mistakes that you might have missed.

Keep Your Audience In Mind

When writing your personal statement, don’t get carried away too much and forget that you are not writing for yourself, but for the admissions committee.

This means that when writing the personal statement, you should put yourself in the shoes of someone who is part of the admissions committee and think of the kind of content you would want to read if you were in that position.

Some opinions and perspectives that might seem okay to you as a student might not sound so good to someone else.

Therefore, take a moment to think about how your audience will perceive whatever you are writing down, otherwise you might end up sabotaging yourself.

Maintain Appropriate Boundaries

Just because the personal statement puts more focus on who you are as a person doesn’t mean that you are free to share each and everything about yourself.

Ultimately, the personal statement is still a professional document, and therefore, you should maintain appropriate boundaries as you write.

For instance, you might want to avoid talking about illegal or inappropriate activities you might have engaged in, things that are too personal for you, such as your relationships, or information that might end up presenting you as a risky investment.

If you decide to use jokes and humor in your writing, you should be careful to ensure that your humor might not be perceived as offensive by whoever is going to read your personal statement.

Try as much as possible to keep your writing as appropriate as possible, and if you find yourself in doubt, err towards the side of caution.


Now that you know the important things to keep in mind when writing your personal statements, let us take a look at 3 examples of successful graduate school personal statements. You can use these examples as inspiration to come up with your own personal statement.

Personal Statement Example 1

It would be grandiose for me to claim that I had a clear plan for what I was going to do in life from an early age. However, I was certain of one thing – whatever I was going to do, it would definitely revolve around books. My love for books began early. As a young boy, I remember spending hours in my father’s library, lost into the endless worlds conjured by the words of various authors. This love for books and words was cemented when I joined college for my undergraduate studies. While I majored in both English and Theater, I quickly realized that my greatest focus was on the former. One of my professors was heavily indulged in critical theory, and as a result of my relationship with this professor, I gradually found myself intrigued with critical theory as well. With encourage from this professor, I started exploring the analysis of non-canon works such as graphic novels, romance novels, and fan-authored fiction. While I certainly was a fan of classical works, exploring and analyzing new works felt quite refreshing. Following my graduation, I was fortunate enough to hold a variety of odd jobs here and there. While I worked a couple of these jobs, there are a few that stood out to me, and as you might have guessed, they had something to do with my passion for the written word. The jobs that stood out for me include working as an editor for a marketing firm, working as a blogger for a civil society organization, and working as a freelance ghostwriter for clients I found on Upwork. While I enjoyed these three jobs, because they involved doing something that was dear to me, I noticed that I still missed the part of me that I left in undergrad. The part that involved dissembling a piece of writing and putting it back out into the universe as something new. After a few years of soul searching and introspection, I finally came to the conclusion that the best option for me was to proceed to graduate school. This would allow me to get back to what I loved most and hone my skills. I mentioned that early in life, I didn’t have a pretty concrete idea of what I was going to do with my adult life. Since then, however, I have had a chance to experience life, and I now know what I want with my life. I believe that graduate education at XYZ University will set me on the right path towards what I want to do with my life. Following my graduate education at XYZ University, my life will go in one of three directions: pursuing a PHD in English literature, pursuing a career as a teacher, or pursuing a career in book publishing. Graduate studies will lay a foundation for all three options. As such, I am certain that pursuing a graduate education at XYZ University presents the best path towards the achievement of my professional aspirations.

Personal Statement Example 2

I remember the first time the fire of my interest in law was sparked. I was attending a careers fair, and I ended up talking to a solicitor from one of the law firms from downtown. As he spoke to me about his experiences in various cases, I was fascinated by the fact that his work involved using logical arguments to protect vulnerable people from difficult and unfair situations. So fascinated was I by this that I requested him to allow me to shadow him for a day or two and experience what it was like working as a solicitor. Fortunately, he allowed me to do this for two weeks. Over the course of this period, I attended client meetings with him, sat in court, and provided assistance with office tasks. By the end of the two weeks, I was sold – I was definitely going to pursue a career in law. This is what led me to pursue a degree in law, which I will be completing in a few months’ time. While pursuing my law degree, I have also had the opportunity of interning for two different law firms in downtown Manhattan. During these internships, I got to experience many different sides of a law career. Ultimately, however, I realized that my strongest interest lies in criminology. Not only am I interested in the laws that determine whether a person’s actions amount to a criminal offense or not, but also in the factors that lead to people committing criminal offenses.  I am applying for this course because I believe that graduate studies in criminal law are crucial in helping me attain my dream of setting up an organization whose objective will be to alleviate the factors that lead most people into a life of crime, and in so doing, make a change in society.

Personal Statement Example 3

When I was 14, I happened to take a trip to rural Brazil with a certain environmental conservation group. Two things have remained stuck in my mind from that trip. The first one is the burning of forests in order to clear land for farming. The second one is the preservation of trees alongside major roads in rural Brazil, not because of the ecological value of the trees, but because the trees act as hedges, protecting the ranches and farms alongside the highways from disturbance. These two things acted to me as a real-life representation of the clash between environmental and economic concerns and got me interested in taking action to preserve the environment. My interest in environmental conservation was cemented when I took a geography class and further understood the relationship between economics and the environment. In this course, I saw numerous examples of cases where people favored economic growth over environmental preservation, even though this almost always led to the destruction of huge ecosystems. From this, I felt that it was my obligation to do something, and I vowed that I would spend my life championing for environmental conservation. Driven by this conviction, I pursued a degree in environmental management, which has been crucial in helping me understand the economic and social factors that influence the formation of environmental policy. I also registered a non-profit organization whose objective is to champion for environmental conservation. Since its registration, this organization has been able to raise over $100,000, which we have channeled into an environmental conservation project in Kenya. The project is aimed at bringing local farmers on board in environmental conservation efforts by rewarding them for engaging in various environmentally beneficial activities. My aim is to become an advisor to governments on matters concerning environmental conservation. I believe a graduate education in environmental studies will be critical in helping me achieve this, which is why I am applying for this program. This program will help me to understand the clash between economic growth and environmental conservation even better, which will be helpful in coming up with more sustainable solutions to ensure that the environment and ecological systems are preserved, while at the same time ensuring that people are able to continue deriving an income from natural resources.


The personal statement is an important essay that allows you to give the admissions committee a better picture of who you are as a person and make a case for why you deserve a spot in the program you are applying for.

If you want to write an effective personal statement, make sure your personal statement has a clear narrative, use specific examples and anecdotes to make your statement more powerful, show why you are a good fit for the program, keep your audience in mind, showcase your strong writing skills, and maintain appropriate boundaries when writing.

You can use the three examples provided above as sources of inspiration to help you come up with your own personal statement.

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How to write a personal statement for graduate school

How to write a personal statement for graduate school - Paperpal

If you’re a young academic at the cusp of your graduate studies, you will need to prepare a compelling personal statement as a part of your grad school application.Are you wondering how to write a winning personal statement for graduate school? This post is for you!

Your personal statement for graduate school showcases your story, interests, goals, and intent for pursuing a particular program. The admissions committee of your target grad school will examine your personal statement to assess if you can write well and think logically. They will also use it to gauge if you will be a good fit for the school.

Your application will be one among hundreds, from students with similar academic achievements. Your personal statement for grad school therefore provides an opportunity to set your application apart.

Tips for writing your personal statement for grad school

Here are some simple but important points to help answer the oft-asked question of how to write a personal statement for grad school.

Write in your own voice

Because it is a “personal” statement for graduation school, each such essay is unique. Write it in your own style, offering unique perspectives and narrating meaningful experiences. Mention specific instances that made you question fundamental issues or notice knowledge gaps.

Check the requirements and format for specific applications

While you want to have a unique style, you cannot go overboard and get too creative with the format when writing a personal statement for grad school! Adhere to character limits and prompts that might be provided by the grad school, e.g.,

Please describe what inspires your decision for becoming a wildlife biologist, including your aptitude and motivation, the basis for your interest in wildlife, and your future career goals. [5,000 characters]

The specifics of a personal statement for grad school may vary depending on the institute, including essay prompts. Be sure to tailor each application according to each school carefully.

Use an impressive opening

The opening line of your personal statement for grad school should draw a reader in from the beginning (a so-called “hook”). Avoid generic or clichéd statements, e.g., “ From a very young age, I have wanted to help people .” Instead, come up with refreshing and unique sentences.

personal statement for graduate school written

Add a personal touch

Consider using a personal story if it truly has relevance to your application. Highlighting a personal connection that motivated you to consider a particular program can work in your favor! Hook the reader, highlight how your studies and activities so far match the program of your choice, and conclude by reinforcing your vision.

Still confused about how to write a personal statement for grad school? Consider the following excerpt from a sample personal statement for graduate school:

My interest in the conservation of indigenous crop resources stems from a distinct childhood memory. I remember my grandmother picking kareel buds (which ended up in a fiery pickle that I relished) from a prickly bush, muttering how these bushes are getting increasingly harder to find. Fifteen years later, kareel bushes have vanished from my village and adjoining districts. This “loss” is going unnoticed in Western Uttar Pradesh, India, as cash crops have overrun the landscape. Drought-resistant Capparis decidua or kareel might be one of many important genetic resources that are rapidly disappearing with modern agriculture, worsening the problem of monoculture in a dryland area.

My passion for preserving such valuable resources led me to volunteer with a non-governmental organization, ________, which focuses on tribal and rural communities in dryland regions of India. In my stint there, my colleagues often commented on my uncanny ability to accurately identify and differentiate plant taxa. I hope that this unique ability will help me further in my plant conservation pursuit. The master’s program in plant genetic resources at _________offers courses in plant taxonomy, and formal plant identification is one of the skills I hope to hone through these learnings.

Having only just begun to understand the reasons for agrobiodiversity erosion, I am looking forward to gaining deeper and broader insights into the subject. I believe that this master’s program at ________ will equip me with the knowledge and expertise to address the loss of underutilized and lesser-known plants, helping me realize my dream of re-introducing kareel —and perhaps other lost plants—back to their native lands!

Editing and proofreading

After you finish the final draft, re-read it carefully. Ask friends or mentors to read your personal statement for grad school and point out writing errors and gaps in flow or logic, as well as scope for improvement.

It is clear that skillful writing underpins the success of a personal statement for grad school. Besides human assistance, you could also explore intelligent tools to support your writing. Using AI-based smart tools can help refine your writing and make the process more efficient. Paperpal is a great tool for this, as it provides suggestions and recommendations for language improvements while you write any academic text. A tool for researchers like Paperpal can enrich and improve your essays and help you write faster.

To conclude

Your personal statement for graduate school complements your application. An effective personal statement will convey what kind of contribution you want to make, and how and why it is the right place and program for you. We hope these tips help you with how to write a personal statement for grad school, because a well-written personal statement can make all the difference for that perfect grad school application package!

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How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad School

A female student sitting in the park and smiling while writing in a notebook

Finally, you’ve begun the search for that ideal graduate school program! That journey may have started while you were earning work experience, learning more about the industry you’re involved in, and about the educational paths that can help you reach promotions, better salaries, and more responsibility at your job. Then, the enjoyment begins with researching suitable schools and determining why their offered graduate school program is a good fit for your aspirations.

Then comes the dreaded personal statement. Perhaps the most challenging part of graduate school admissions is the writing requirement. Learning how to write a personal statement for grad school doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking — if you follow the steps below, you will be well on your way to writing an impactful personal statement and impressing the admissions committee members. Note: A personal statement is different from a statement of purpose. You can learn more about them here .

What exactly is a personal statement?

A personal statement is usually a required written document that contains the reasons for applying to any graduate program and is over 1000 words long. Oftentimes, the school will provide bullet points, making their expectations clear in regards to the content of your personal statement. These bullet points will probably remind you to draw the connection between the graduate school program you’re applying to and your short or long-term goals, why you’re choosing that specific concentration or track, the reasons for choosing the university, some background information, and more. The personal statement should sound convincing, display the level of research you’ve done into a program, and be able to strongly convey why you belong at the institution. Consider it a combination of descriptive and persuasive writing, one that will play a large part of helping you gain admission into a graduate school program, besides any required test scores (GMAT, GRE, LSAT, etc.) and GPA.

Step 1: Study Your Resume and Work Experience.

Most schools limit the length of your personal statement to around 1000 words. If that’s the case, then it’s possible that your resume and work experience says a lot more than the space you are provided. Go over your resume and connect your past experiences with the degree program you’re applying to. Can you draw any connections between working with others, learning more about management, and reaching goals, when it comes to your MBA application? Being able to elaborate on certain experiences will help solidify the reasons for pursuing a graduate program. With so little space, you want to make sure that every word counts. Study your resume and work experience, and make notes on what you can implement into your personal statement.

Step 2: Evaluate Your Goals and Research Degree Programs.

Before learning how to write a personal statement for grad school, you have to reach the point on why you want to attend a specific program. You will definitely need to include that in writing in some part of your personal statement – Why do you want to pursue a JD? MBA? EdM? MSW? There are numerous graduate school programs and degrees, and you need to connect your goals with a specific type of degree. This will then allow you to find a suitable school and program that aligns with your goals.

Step 3: Research the School.

An expected conclusion for any personal statement wraps up your writing and confirms your decision to apply to a specific school. Sometimes, the penultimate paragraph will also contain information about the program. For example, are you pursuing an EdM? This could mean having to decide from various concentrations – Curriculum Design, Educational Policy, Social Studies Education, and more. Which concentration applies to you, and why? The schools’ curriculum and program and whether it includes hands-on experience, a practicum, a research capstone, and more, could be a reason for applying to the program. Displaying that you did your research in any school you’re applying to is an important contribution to any personal statement. In short, be ready to write about the school, and connect their program and resources to your goals.

Important Reminders:

By following these steps and tips, you will surely have a great final piece and a strong personal statement to contribute to the rest of your graduate school application. For more tips and examples of well written personal statements, click here . Happy writing!

Chris Kado

For over a decade, Chris has supported students across the globe in fulfilling their college aspirations. Chris started out as a college admissions consultant, where he helped community college students reduce their loan obligations by constructing comprehensive transfer strategies, maximizing the use of CLEP and AP credits, and scoring scholarships. ‍ During his graduate studies at Harvard, Chris held numerous roles in education, including working as a research assistant and advising students on the college admissions process. Chris holds extensive experience in essay development and preparation for the SAT and SAT Subject Tests. His guidance has enabled students to gain admission into diverse programs at institutions including UC Berkeley, Princeton, the University of Chicago, Michigan, Harvard, Fashion Institute of Technology, Embry-Riddle, Notre Dame, and Duke. ‍ Chris holds an Master's in History from Harvard University and is currently working towards a Master's in Education at UIUC. He also received a College Advising Program Certificate from Columbia University, completed the Independent Educational Consultant Certificate from University of California Irvine, and earned the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) from Cambridge. Nowadays, Chris continues to serve a full-time role as a College Counselor for WeAdmit, write insightful articles for Magoosh, and teach at Education First summer camps!

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