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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:

  • What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story?
  • What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
  • When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
  • How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
  • If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre LSAT or GRE scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
  • Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
  • What personal characteristics (for example, integrity, compassion, and/or persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
  • What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
  • Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession or field than other applicants?
  • What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?

General advice

Answer the questions that are asked

  • If you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar.
  • Don't be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It is important to answer each question being asked, and if slightly different answers are needed, you should write separate statements. In every case, be sure your answer fits the question being asked.

Tell a story

  • Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is to bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourself memorable.

Be specific

  • Don't, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to become a lawyer, engineer, or whatever should be logical, the result of specific experience that is described in your statement. Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story.

Find an angle

  • If you're like most people, your life story lacks drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle or a "hook" is vital.

Concentrate on your opening paragraph

  • The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement.

Tell what you know

  • The middle section of your essay might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as some of your knowledge of the field. Too many people graduate with little or no knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the profession or field they hope to enter. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information. Refer to experiences (work, research, etc.), classes, conversations with people in the field, books you've read, seminars you've attended, or any other source of specific information about the career you want and why you're suited to it. Since you will have to select what you include in your statement, the choices you make are often an indication of your judgment.

Don't include some subjects

  • There are certain things best left out of personal statements. For example, references to experiences or accomplishments in high school or earlier are generally not a good idea. Don't mention potentially controversial subjects (for example, controversial religious or political issues).

Do some research, if needed

  • If a school wants to know why you're applying to it rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention.

Write well and correctly

  • Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits.

Avoid clichés

  • A medical school applicant who writes that he is good at science and wants to help other people is not exactly expressing an original thought. Stay away from often-repeated or tired statements.

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

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what should a personal statement be about

If you’re applying to graduate school, you’ll likely need to write a personal statement. But what exactly is a graduate school personal statement? And what should you write about to give yourself your best shot at admission?

In this guide, we teach you how to write a personal statement for grad school, step by step. But first, let’s go over how the personal statement differs from the statement of purpose as well as what schools look for in a great graduate school essay.

What Is a Graduate School Personal Statement?

A graduate school personal statement is an admission essay that typically focuses on your personal reasons for wanting to enter a grad program and particular field of study. Essentially, you must tell the story of who you are and how you developed your current research interests.

So is a personal statement for graduate school the same thing as a statement of purpose? Well, not always (though it can be). Here are the general distinctions between the two essay types:

  • Statement of purpose:  A formal essay that summarizes your academic and professional background, research interests, and career goals. In this essay, you’ll usually explain your reasons for applying to grad school and why you believe the program is a good fit for you (as well as why you’re a good fit for it!).
  • Personal statement: A less formal essay that focuses on your passion and motivation for wanting to enter your chosen field and program. This statement is typically more flexible than the statement of purpose, with a bigger emphasis on storytelling. Schools often encourage applicants to discuss (relevant) challenges in their lives and how they’ve overcome them.

Both the graduate school personal statement and statement of purpose are usually anywhere from one to three double-spaced pages long, depending on the program you’re applying to.

Below is a chart comparing the personal statement and statement of purpose:

Usually, the personal statement and statement of purpose are considered two different graduate school essay types.

But this isn’t always the case. While some schools consider the personal statement and statement of purpose two distinct essays, others use the names interchangeably.

For example, Michigan State University’s College of Engineering  considers them two distinct essays, while The Ohio State University uses “personal statement” to describe what is essentially a statement of purpose.

Many schools require just one essay  (and it’ll usually be the statement of purpose, as it’s the more academic one). But some, such as the University of Michigan , ask for both a personal statement and statement of purpose, while others, such as  Notre Dame’s Creative Writing MFA program , want an essay that combines the features of both!

Ultimately, the type of graduate school essay you  submit will depend entirely on where you’re applying.

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What Do Schools Look For in a Personal Statement?

Many grad schools require a personal statement in order to learn more about you, your interests, your struggles, and your motivations for wanting to enter a field of study. Through this essay, schools can get to know you on a deeper, more intimate level and learn about you in ways they can’t through transcripts and letters of recommendation alone.

But what specifically do universities look for in a great personal statement for graduate school? Here are some of the most important elements to include in your essay.

A Compelling Story

First off, your personal statement must tell a story. After all, this essay is basically your autobiography: it introduces who you are, your interests and motivations, and why you’ve decided to apply to grad school.

Unlike the statement of purpose, the personal statement should focus mostly on your personal history, from your failures to your triumphs. All experiences should tie back to your field or research area, emphasizing what you’ve learned and what this means in terms of your potential as a grad student.

Since you’re talking about yourself, be conversational in your storytelling: use an authentic voice, open up about your experiences, and maybe even throw in a joke or two. Though you’re still writing an essay for school, it’s generally OK to be a little more informal here than you would in a statement of purpose.

That said, there are a couple of things you absolutely shouldn’t do in your personal statement.

  • Open your essay with a quotation. Professors have heard the quotation before and don’t need (or want) to hear it again. Plus, quotations often take up too much space in an already short essay!
  • Use clichés. Think of unique ways to tell your story and grab readers’ attention. Schools want to see you can be creative yet honest about yourself, so avoid clichés like the plague (see what I did there?).
  • Get too creative. Your goal is to look like a serious, committed applicant—not a wacky risk taker—so write clearly and avoid any unnecessary distractions such as images, colors, and unprofessional fonts.

Most importantly, remember that your graduate school personal statement should focus on your successes. Try to use strong, encouraging words and put positive twists on difficult experiences whenever possible. It’s OK to mention your setbacks, too—just as long as you’re discussing how you ultimately overcame (or plan to overcome) them.

Inspirations for Your Research Interests

Schools don’t only want to see clearly defined research interests but also  why you have these particular interests.   While the statement of purpose elaborates on your professional goals, the personal statement explains what personally motivated you to explore your interests.

For example, in my personal statement for a Japanese Studies MA program, I wrote about my hot-and-cold relationship with the Japanese language and how a literature class and a stint abroad ultimately inspired me to keep learning.

Don’t make the mistake of going way back to the beginning to start your essay. Many applicants open their statements with something along the lines of “I fell in love with psychology when I was ten years old” or “It all started when I was in high school.” But these broad statements lack the creativity and zest needed to secure an acceptance, so avoid them at all costs.

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Your Motivation for Applying to Grad School

Your statement of purpose should explain why grad school is a practical next step in your professional life—but your personal statement should focus on what personally motivates you to take this step.

Generally, schools want answers to the following questions:

  • Why is grad school an appropriate step for you now?
  • How will a graduate degree help you achieve your goals?
  • Why didn’t you apply to grad school earlier (if you took time off after undergrad)?
  • Were there any struggles or problems you faced that prevented you from applying to grad school before?

Be honest about why you’re applying, both to grad school and the program in particular. In my graduate school essay, I discussed how my passion for Japanese literature and desire to translate it inspired me to seek advanced language training at the graduate level.

Strong Writing Skills

A great personal statement shows that you can write cogently and coherently. After all, strong writing skills are imperative for success as a grad student!

So in addition to telling a good story, make sure you use correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Use paragraphs to break up your thoughts, too. Because the personal statement is slightly less formal than the statement of purpose, feel free to play around a little with paragraph form and length.

Also, remember that  good writing doesn’t necessarily equal big words.  You’re writing about yourself, so use words that come naturally to you. Don’t grab a thesaurus and start throwing in a bunch of high-level vocabulary wherever you can; this will make your essay sound less authentic, not to mention stiff.

On the other hand, don’t get too colloquial. You’ll lose respect if you start inserting conversational words such as “gonna” and “gotta.” Therefore, look for the middle ground and write from there.

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Explanations for Any Hiccups in Your Academic Career

Lastly, the personal statement  gives applicants a chance to explain any problems or changes in their academic histories, such as low grades or gaps in education.

Because transcripts and resumes are severely limited in what information they give, schools often use the personal statement to understand your reasons for abrupt changes in your resume and/or transcripts, and to see how you’ve overcome these barriers in your education (and life).

Essentially, a personal statement equalizes the playing field by giving you full rein to explain yourself and emphasize your success over any struggles you’ve had.

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How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad School: 9-Step Guide

The personal statement is a fiercely important part of your grad school application. In this section, we teach you how to write a memorable personal statement for grad school so that you’ll have a better shot at getting accepted.

Step 1: Start Early

Personal statements (actually, grad school applications in general!) take a lot of work, so don’t put off writing your essay until the week before your deadline. Rather, try to start working on your essay at least two or three months before your application is due.

You might want to give yourself more time to write it if you’re currently in school or working a demanding job. Setting aside more time lets you work on your graduate school essay routinely without having to squeeze in too many hours each week.

If you only have a month or less until your application deadline, get started on your essay pronto! Though it’s possible to write a personal statement quickly, I recommend carving out more time so that you can put more thought and effort into what you write and how you present yourself. (Doing this also gives others more time to edit your essay for you! We’ll cover this more in later steps.)

Step 2: Read the Instructions

Perhaps the most important step is to read your program’s instructions for the personal statement. Not following these instructions could very well result in a rejection, so always read these first before you start writing! Most programs put their personal statement instructions on their application materials pages.

Your program should give you the following information:

  • What type of content your personal statement should include or generally focus on (you might even get an actual prompt to answer!)
  • How long your statement should be
  • What type of heading, if any, you must include on your statement
  • How to save and submit your statement (e.g., .docx, PDF, etc.)

For example, let’s say you’re applying to the History PhD program at UC Berkeley . In this case, your personal statement can’t exceed 1,000 words (three double-spaced pages). You must also answer this prompt :

Please describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Please include information on how you have overcome barriers to access in higher education, evidence of how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others, evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education, evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality, or evidence of your leadership among such groups.

On the other hand, if you were to apply for an MS in Mining, Geological, and Geophysical Engineering at the University of Arizona , your personal statement would follow these parameters:

Your personal statement is an opportunity to sell yourself, in terms of your research interests, research experience and research goals. Unless you have extensive research experience, most personal statements should be about two single-spaced pages. Your writing should be clear, concise, grammatically correct and professional in tone. You may convey some personal experiences that have led to your current interests or that make you a particularly promising candidate.

Clearly, grad programs can approach personal statements quite differently. Some schools consider them the same as statements of purpose and want a formal focus on academic and research interests, while others want applicants to explain more informally the challenges they’ve overcome to get to this point.

Simply put,  follow your program’s directions exactly in order to give yourself your best shot at admission.  And if any part of the instructions is unclear, don’t hesitate to contact your program!

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Step 3: Figure Out Your Angle

Your “angle,” or focus, in your graduate school personal statement will depend on a few key factors:

  • What your grad program wants you to write about
  • Your field of study and research interests
  • How much experience you have in your field

As I mentioned in step 2, it’s extremely important to  read the personal statement instructions for your program. Many times these guidelines will tell you what to include in your essay, thereby clarifying what your overall angle needs to be.

Let’s look back at the example we used above for UC Berkeley’s doctoral program in history. If you were applying here and came from a low-income family, you could discuss how you’ve overcome these financial challenges in your life to get to where you are today.

No matter the prompt, you’ll need to discuss your research interests (to some degree) in your personal statement.  How much you talk about your interests, however, will depend on whether you have to submit a separate statement of purpose. If so, you can focus less on your research plans and more on your passions and motivations for applying.

On the other hand, if your personal statement is essentially a statement of purpose, dive deep into your research interests—that is,  be specific! For example, those applying to English lit programs should think about the works, eras, and writers they want to study, and why.

More broadly, though, try to answer the question of  what you hope to accomplish, either during or after the program. Is there any particular project you want to do? Skills you want to improve? Field you want to break into?

Finally, always choose a positive angle.  Use affirmative words and phrases to highlight both your successes and overall enthusiasm for the program.

Step 4: Ask Yourself, “Why This Program? Why This Field?”

Although the statement of purpose usually answers this question directly, you’ll likely need to address this in your personal statement as well—ideally, with a less academic and more conversational tone.

As you brainstorm, try to come up with answers to the following questions:

  • What goals or experiences led you to apply to this program?
  • How will this program help you grow on a personal level?
  • What made you interested in this field? Why do you want to study it more?
  • What are your research interests? How did you develop these interests?
  • Are there any particular professors you wish to work with?

Step 5: Make an Outline

Now that you’ve brainstormed some ideas, it’s time to start outlining your essay.

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How you choose to outline your statement is up to you. Some people like drawing bubble charts for organizing their thoughts, whereas others (like myself) prefer to write a list of rough ideas in the general order they want to present them.

Even if you’re not sure whether you want to include something, just add it to your outline anyway. You can always cut it out later as you draft and edit.

Step 6: Draft Your Essay

It’s now time to start writing! Once you’ve got your outline ready, work on expanding what you’ve written into full-fledged paragraphs.

In the beginning, it’s OK to write down anything you feel is relevant, but as you continue to draft, try to look for any extraneous information you can chop.

Remember, most personal statements will be short— usually one to two double-spaced pages—so you don’t want to risk exceeding your program’s word limit. Schools want to see that you can tell a story concisely yet effectively.

If you’re having trouble coming up with a way to open your statement, try skipping around as you draft. Go ahead and jump to a paragraph you have more ideas for—it’s perfectly OK! Just make sure you start to tie all of your ideas together the closer you get to finishing your draft.

On a related note, be careful not to copy any material from your statement of purpose (if you’re required to submit two separate essays). These statements may share a little overlap but should still focus on different aspects of your (academic) life, accomplishments, and goals.

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Step 7: Get Feedback

Once you finish drafting, give your essay to people you trust for feedback. This could be a parent, friend, sibling, or mentor (such as a former or current professor).

Ask your editors to give you  specific feedback  on what you can change, both stylistically and technically, to make it more impactful. Ideally, they’ll also note any unclear, awkward, or redundant ideas/phrases and will offer you helpful suggestions for improvement.

If you’ve written a separate statement of purpose, see whether your editors are willing to check that essay over as well so that you can ensure there isn’t too much overlap between the two.

Step 8: Revise & Edit Your Essay

Once you get feedback, revise and edit your personal statement using your editors’ comments as a guide.

For example, if your editors told you your essay lacked detail, look for places in your writing where you can be more specific and that are likely to have a strong impact on the admission committee.

As you revise, keep an eye out for any awkward sentences or extraneous information. Personal statements are usually pretty brief and you don’t want to accidentally exceed the word limit. So when in doubt, take it out!

Step 9: Proofread

The final step is to proofread your draft. Start by using your computer’s spell check function to quickly find any glaring typos and grammatical errors.

Then, proofread your essay one sentence at a time. Since it’s easy to miss errors in your own writing, I recommend editing your essay from back to front (i.e., from the last sentence to the first sentence). Doing this prevents you from glossing over words and lets you pinpoint punctuation, spelling, and grammatical errors more easily.

In addition, check that you have page numbers on each page (if required—though I suggest adding them regardless) and a proper heading (again, if required) that meets the requirements of your program.

Before you submit it, see if you can get someone else (preferably one or all of your editors from step 7) to look over your final draft as well.  If anyone spots a problem with your essay, go back to step 8. If you get all thumbs ups, read over your statement one last time and then turn it in without looking back! (Seriously, don’t read it again or you’re going to want to change something.)

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The Key to a Great Graduate School Personal Statement

The personal statement is an essential part of your grad school application. Like the statement of purpose, it highlights your research interests, experiences, and goals.

But more importantly, the personal statement showcases  your unbridled passion for your field, lets you reflect on challenges you’ve faced (and subsequently overcome), and answers the overarching question of why you want to attend grad school.

A great graduate school personal statement will normally include most or all of the following elements:

  • A compelling story
  • Inspirations for your research interests
  • Your motivation for applying to grad school
  • Strong writing skills
  • Explanations for any changes or problems in your academic career

Above, we walked you through how to write a personal statement for grad school. To recap, here are the nine steps to follow:

  • Start early—at least two or three months before your application is due
  • Read your program’s instructions for the personal statement
  • Figure out your angle by brainstorming ideas
  • Ask yourself, “Why this program/field?”
  • Make an outline using charts, a list, etc.
  • Draft your essay
  • Get specific feedback from multiple editors
  • Revise and edit your essay
  • Proofread (and get other people to proofread it, too!)

What’s Next?

Need to write a statement of purpose, too? Waste no time!  Our expert guide offers tons of tips to help you come up with a statement of purpose that’s certain to impress admission committees.

Do your schools require a CV or resume?  If you’re totally lost on where to begin, read our guides to learn how to put together a great CV or resume for grad school. And for extra help, check out our four original CV and resume templates !

What do you need to submit for your grad school application?  Get the scoop on what kinds of materials you’ll need to prepare when applying to grad school .

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what should a personal statement be about

Author: Hannah Muniz

Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in English and East Asian languages and cultures. After graduation, she taught English in Japan for two years via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel. View all posts by Hannah Muniz

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How to Write a Personal Statement

A personal statement can be a key part of your college application, and you can really make yours shine by following a few tips.

[Featured Image] A lady with pink hair is holding a piece of paper with a laptop on her lap.

When you're applying to college—either to an undergraduate or graduate program—you may be asked to submit a personal statement. It's an essay that gives you the chance to share more about who you are and why you'd like to attend the university you're applying to.  

The information you provide in your personal statement can help build on your other application materials, like your transcripts and letters of recommendation, and build a more cohesive picture to help the admissions committee understand your goals.

In this article, we'll go over more about personal statements, including why they're important, what to include in one, and tips for strengthening yours.  

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement—sometimes known as a college essay —is a brief written essay you submit along with other materials when you're applying to college or university. Personal statements tend to be most common for undergraduate applications, and they're a great opportunity for an admissions committee to hear your voice directly.

Many colleges and universities in the US, especially those using Common App , provide prompts for you to use. For example, "Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea" or "Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time" [ 1 ]. If the school you're interested in attending doesn't require prompts, you will likely want to craft a response that touches on your story, your values, and your goals if possible.

In grad school, personal statements are sometimes known as letters of intent , and go into more detail about your academic and professional background, while expressing interest in attending the particular program you're applying to.

Why is a personal statement important?

Personal statements are important for a number of reasons. Whereas other materials you submit in an application can address your academic abilities (like your transcripts) or how you perform as a student (like your letters of recommendation), a personal statement is a chance to do exactly that: get more personal.

Personal statements typically:

Permit you to share things that don't fit on your resume, such as personal stories, motivations, and values

Offer schools a chance to see why you're interested in a particular field of study and what you hope to accomplish after you graduate 

Provide an opportunity for you to talk about past employment, volunteer experiences, or skills you have that complement your studies 

Allow colleges to evaluate your writing skills 

Bring life to a college application package otherwise filled with facts and figures 

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How to write a personal statement

As we mentioned earlier, you may have to respond to a prompt when drafting your personal statement—or a college or university may invite you to respond however you'd like. In either case, use the steps below to begin building your response.

Create a solid hook .

To capture the attention of an admissions committee member, start your personal statement with a hook that relates to the topic of your essay. A hook tends to be a colorful sentence or two at the very beginning that compels the reader to continue reading.

To create a captivating hook, try one of these methods:

Pose a rhetorical question. 

Provide an interesting statistic. 

Insert a quote from a well-known person.

Challenge the reader with a common misconception. 

Use an anecdote, which is a short story that can be true or imaginary. 

Credibility is crucial when writing a personal statement as part of your college application process. If you choose a statistic, quote, or misconception for your hook, make sure it comes from a reliable source.

Follow a narrative.

The best personal statements typically read like a story: they have a common theme, as well as a beginning, middle, and end. This type of format also helps keep your thoughts organized and improves the flow of your essay.

Common themes to consider for your personal statement include:

Special role models from your past

Life-altering events you've experienced

Unusual challenges you've faced

Accomplishments you're especially proud of

Service to others and why you enjoy it

What you've learned from traveling to a particular place

Unique ways you stand out from other candidates

Be specific.  

Admissions committees read thousands of personal statements every year, which is why being specific on yours is important. Back up your statements with examples or anecdotes.

For instance, avoid vague assertions like, "I'm interested in your school counseling program because I care about children." Instead, point out experiences you've had with children that emphasize how much you care. For instance, you might mention your summer job as a day camp counselor or your volunteer experience mentoring younger children.

Don't forget to include detail and vibrancy to keep your statement interesting. The use of detail shows how your unique voice and experiences can add value to the college or university you're applying to. 

Stay on topic.

It's natural to want to impress the members of the admissions committee that will read your personal statement. The best way to do this is to lead your readers through a cohesive, informative, and descriptive essay.

If you feel you might be going astray, check to make sure each paragraph in the body of your essay supports your introduction. Here are a few more strategies that can help keep you on track:

Know what you want to say and do research if needed. 

Create an outline listing the key points you want to share.

Read your outline aloud to confirm it makes logical sense before proceeding. 

Read your essay aloud while you're writing to confirm you're staying on topic.

Ask a trusted friend or family member to read your essay and make suggestions.

Be true to your own voice

Because of the importance of your personal statement, you could be tempted to be very formal with structure and language. However, it's better to use a more relaxed tone than you would for a classroom writing assignment. 

Remember: admissions committees really want to hear from you . Writing in your own voice will help accomplish this. To ensure your tone isn't too relaxed, write your statement as if you were speaking to an older relative or trusted teacher. This way, you'll come across as respectful, confident, and honest. 

Tips for drafting an effective personal statement

Now that you've learned a little about personal statements and how to craft them, here are a few more tips you can follow to strengthen your essay: 

1. Customize your statement.

You don't have to completely rewrite your personal statement every time you apply to a new college, but you do want to make sure that you tailor it as much as possible. For instance, if you talk about wanting to take a certain class or study a certain subject, make sure you adjust any specifics for each application.

2. Avoid cliches.

Admissions committees are ultimately looking for students who will fit the school, and who the school can help guide toward their larger goals. In that case, cliches can get in the way of a reviewer understanding what it is you want from a college education. Watch out for cliches like "making a difference," "broadening my horizons," or "the best thing that ever happened to me." 

3. Stay focused.

Try to avoid getting off-track or including tangents in your personal statement. Stay focused by writing a first draft and then re-reading what you've written. Does every paragraph flow from one point to the next? Are the ideas you're presenting cohesive?

4. Stick to topics that aren't controversial

It's best not to talk about political beliefs or inappropriate topics in your personal essay. These can be controversial, and ideally you want to share something goals-driven or values-driven with an admissions committee.

Polish your writing skills on Coursera

A stellar personal statement starts with stellar writing skills. Enhance your writing ability with a writing course from a top university, like Good with Words: Writing and Editing from the University of Michigan or Writing a Personal Essay from Wesleyan University. Get started for free to level up your writing.

Article sources

1. Common App. " 2022-2023 Common App Essay Prompts , https://www.commonapp.org/blog/2022-2023-common-app-essay-prompts." Accessed June 9, 2023.

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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what should a personal statement be about

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How to Write a Strong Personal Statement

  • Ruth Gotian
  • Ushma S. Neill

what should a personal statement be about

A few adjustments can get your application noticed.

Whether applying for a summer internship, a professional development opportunity, such as a Fulbright, an executive MBA program, or a senior leadership development course, a personal statement threads the ideas of your CV, and is longer and has a different tone and purpose than a traditional cover letter. A few adjustments to your personal statement can get your application noticed by the reviewer.

  • Make sure you’re writing what they want to hear. Most organizations that offer a fellowship or internship are using the experience as a pipeline: It’s smart to spend 10 weeks and $15,000 on someone before committing five years and $300,000. Rarely are the organizations being charitable or altruistic, so align your stated goals with theirs
  • Know when to bury the lead, and when to get to the point. It’s hard to paint a picture and explain your motivations in 200 words, but if you have two pages, give the reader a story arc or ease into your point by setting the scene.
  • Recognize that the reviewer will be reading your statement subjectively, meaning you’re being assessed on unknowable criteria. Most people on evaluation committees are reading for whether or not you’re interesting. Stated differently, do they want to go out to dinner with you to hear more? Write it so that the person reading it wants to hear more.
  • Address the elephant in the room (if there is one). Maybe your grades weren’t great in core courses, or perhaps you’ve never worked in the field you’re applying to. Make sure to address the deficiency rather than hoping the reader ignores it because they won’t. A few sentences suffice. Deficiencies do not need to be the cornerstone of the application.

At multiple points in your life, you will need to take action to transition from where you are to where you want to be. This process is layered and time-consuming, and getting yourself to stand out among the masses is an arduous but not impossible task. Having a polished resume that explains what you’ve done is the common first step. But, when an application asks for it, a personal statement can add color and depth to your list of accomplishments. It moves you from a one-dimensional indistinguishable candidate to someone with drive, interest, and nuance.

what should a personal statement be about

  • Ruth Gotian is the chief learning officer and assistant professor of education in anesthesiology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City and the author of  The Success Factor . She was named the world’s #1 emerging management thinker by Thinkers50. You can access her free list of conversation starters . RuthGotian
  • Ushma S. Neill is the Vice President, Scientific Education & Training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She runs several summer internships and is involved with the NYC Marshall Scholar Selection Committee. ushmaneill

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  • Knowledge Base
  • Applying to graduate school
  • How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples

Published on February 12, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 3, 2023.

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:

  • Your personality: what are your interests, values, and motivations?
  • Your talents: what can you bring to the program?
  • Your goals: what do you hope the program will do for you?

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

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, other interesting articles.

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:

  • A personal experience that changed your perspective
  • A story from your family’s history
  • A memorable teacher or learning experience
  • An unusual or unexpected encounter

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:

  • Is it a longstanding passion or a recent discovery?
  • Does it come naturally or have you had to work hard at it?
  • How does it fit into the rest of your life?
  • What do you think it contributes to society?

Tips for the introduction

  • Don’t start on a cliche: avoid phrases like “Ever since I was a child…” or “For as long as I can remember…”
  • Do save the introduction for last. If you’re struggling to come up with a strong opening, leave it aside, and note down any interesting ideas that occur to you as you write the rest of the personal statement.

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.

  • What first sparked your interest in the field?
  • Which classes, assignments, classmates, internships, or other activities helped you develop your knowledge and skills?
  • Where do you want to go next? How does this program fit into your future plans?

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.

  • Is your social, cultural or economic background underrepresented in the field? Show how your experiences will contribute a unique perspective.
  • Do you have gaps in your resume or lower-than-ideal grades? Explain the challenges you faced and how you dealt with them.

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.

  • Reflect on the topics or themes that you’ve focused on in your studies. What draws you to them?
  • Discuss any academic achievements, influential teachers, or other highlights of your education.
  • Talk about the questions you’d like to explore in your research and why you think they’re important.

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.

  • If your career is just getting started, show how your character is suited to the field, and explain how graduate school will help you develop your talents.
  • If you have already worked in the profession, show what you’ve achieved so far, and explain how the program will allow you to take the next step.
  • If you are planning a career change, explain what has driven this decision and how your existing experience will help you succeed.

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

  • Don’t rehash your resume by trying to summarize everything you’ve done so far; the personal statement isn’t about listing your academic or professional experience, but about reflecting, evaluating, and relating it to broader themes.
  • Do make your statements into stories: Instead of saying you’re hard-working and self-motivated, write about your internship where you took the initiative to start a new project. Instead of saying you’ve always loved reading, reflect on a novel or poem that changed your perspective.

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

  • Don’t summarize what you’ve already said. You have limited space in a personal statement, so use it wisely!
  • Do think bigger than yourself: try to express how your individual aspirations relate to your local community, your academic field, or society more broadly. It’s not just about what you’ll get out of graduate school, but about what you’ll be able to give back.

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.

If you want to know more about college essays , academic writing , and AI tools , make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

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DOs and DON’Ts When Writing a Personal Statement

(1) Pay Attention to Each School’s Prompt Hopefully, for most applicants, this is a no-brainer. The prompt for each school is first available in August/September when law schools release that year’s application. The prompts typically don’t change much year to year, so you can get a head start by looking at the previous year’s application. For many/most applicants, the prompts are similar enough that the same personal statement template can be used with minor adjustments for each school (see Tip #2 on personalization). For some applicants, however, the prompts are different enough that you should write multiple personal statements. Be sure that the personal statement you use for a school does in fact respond to the prompt for that school. The ability to follow directions is a necessity for law school applicants.

(2) Personalize Your Statement Most law schools want to see that you have put time and effort into researching why that school is a good fit for you. One of the ways you can demonstrate your due diligence is to include a paragraph (typically at the close of your personal statement) outlining several specific factors that have drawn you to that law school. Be specific. Important considerations to note: (a) Vague statements asserting that a law school is a good fit for you without any supporting evidence or information are useless, so do your research and work on articulating the reasons for your interest in each school. (b) You can review a school’s website to determine what you like about that school, but don’t just regurgitate information from the website. They want to know why that information is relevant to your interests and/or goals. (c) Top-ranked schools (typically, top 5 or so) pretty much know why you would like to attend, so personalization is less important unless there is something that truly differentiates that school from others to you. (d) Some schools have a separate “optional” essay allowing you to discuss why you want to attend that school. If that is the case for one of your schools, write the separate essay, and omit the personalized paragraph from your personal statement. (e) Be sure to submit the correct versions to each school. Save the school’s name in the title to help minimize any potential for error.

(3) Be Personable As you now know, one of your goals as an applicant is to let admissions committees get to know you. It is just as important that they like you. Admissions committees are in no rush to admit applicants who are arrogant, pretentious, elitist, or rude. So the tone you use in your personal statement is important. Don’t assume that you need to use a formal tone just because you think lawyers write very formally. By using a formal tone, you are actually building a wall between yourself and the admissions committee—the opposite of what you should be doing. Aim for a more conversational (but not casual) tone so that the statement flows easily for the reader. Further, forget the big words that you think make you sound smart. They actually risk making you sound arrogant, pretentious, or even unintelligent (if used improperly). Strong writing conveys intelligence without the need for big words.

(4) Tell a Story Another easy way to be both personal and personable in your personal statement is to start off with an anecdote about yourself that sets up the framework for the rest of the statement. For example, if you are highlighting certain characteristics in your statement, tell an anecdote that demonstrates those characteristics. If you are discussing a defining moment in your life, describe a scene from that experience. A well-told anecdote can immediately capture readers’ attention and draw them into your world. Even if you don’t include an anecdote in the statement, the topic that you choose should, in a sense, “tell a story” about you in a way that captures and keeps the reader’s attention.

(5) Be Concise Some schools set no limit for personal statements, but most suggest either 2–3 or 2–4 pages. Aim for two pages, double-spaced. Do not make the error of thinking that more is better. Law schools value the ability to persuasively convey information in a relatively short space. Also, keep in mind that admissions committees are reviewing thousands of applications. Don’t waste their time.

10 DON’Ts 1. DON’T just restate your résumé in narrative form. That shows no critical thinking ability. If you are going to talk about more than one achievement or experience mentioned on your résumé, then connect the dots. Find a common theme that ties those items together. 2. DON’T address your weaknesses in the personal statement. Use an addendum.The personal statement should highlight the positives about you. 3. DON’T focus on your high school activities or accomplishments. Focusing on achievements in high school can draw attention to a lack of similar achievements in college. 4. DON’T be overly dramatic. Understatement is better. 5. DON’T spend too much time talking about someone or something else. Always bring the focus back to you. 6. DON’T start your statement with a famous quotation, no matter how well you think it might fit with the theme of your personal statement. Admissions committees want to hear your words, not those of someone else. 7. DON’T use legalese or Latin phrases. 8. DON’T be careless. Be sure not to accidentally mention the wrong school in your statement. 9. DON’T use big words in an effort to impress the admissions committees. It sets the wrong tone for the statement. 10. DON’T write a position paper or opinion piece. Even written well, those types of writings are not particularly useful to admissions committees because they miss the point of the personal statement.

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How to Write a Personal Statement (with Tips and Examples)

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Hannah Yang

How to write a personal statement

Table of Contents

What is a personal statement, 6 tips on how to write a personal statement, personal statement examples (for college and university), faqs about writing personal statements, conclusion on how to write a personal statement.

How do you tell someone who you are in just a few hundred words?

It’s certainly no easy task, but it’s one almost every college applicant must do. The personal statement is a crucial part of any college or university application.

So, how do you write a compelling personal statement?

In this article, we’ll give you all the tools, tips, and examples you need to write an effective personal statement.

A personal statement is a short essay that reveals something important about who you are. It can talk about your background, your interests, your values, your goals in life, or all of the above.

Personal statements are required by many college admission offices and scholarship selection committees. They’re a key part of your application, alongside your academic transcript, standardized test scores, and extracurricular activities.

The reason application committees ask you to write a personal statement is so they can get to know who you are. 

Some personal statements have specific prompts, such as “Discuss a period of personal growth in your life” or “Tell us about a challenge or failure you’ve faced.” Others are more open-ended with prompts that essentially boil down to “Tell us about yourself.”

No matter what the prompt is, your goal is the same: to make yourself stand out to the selection committee as a strong candidate for their program.

Here are some things a personal statement can be:

It can be funny. If you have a great sense of humor, your personal statement is a great place to let that shine.  

It can be vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to open up about hardships in your life or failures you’ve experienced. Showing vulnerability can make you sound more like a real person rather than just a collection of application materials.  

It can be creative. Candidates have got into top schools with personal statements that take the form of “a day in the life” descriptions, third-person short stories, and even cooking recipes.

Now we’ve talked about what a personal statement is, let’s quickly look at what a personal statement isn’t:

It isn’t a formal academic paper. You should write the personal statement in your natural voice, using first-person pronouns like “I” and “me,” not in the formal, objective language you would use to write an academic paper.

It isn’t a five-paragraph essay. You should use as many paragraphs as you need to tell your story instead of sticking to the essay structure you learned in school.

It isn’t a resumé. You should try to describe yourself by telling a clear and cohesive story rather than providing a jumbled list of all of your accomplishments and ambitions.

personal statement definition

Here are our top six tips for writing a strong personal statement.

Tip 1: Do Some Serious Self-Reflection

The hardest part of writing a personal statement isn’t the actual process of writing it.

Before you start typing, you have to figure out what to write about. And that means taking some time to reflect on who you are and what’s important in your life.

Here are some useful questions you can use to start your self-reflection. You can either answer these on your own by writing down your answers, or you can ask a trusted friend to listen as you talk about them together.

What were the key moments that shaped your life? (e.g. an important friendship, a travel experience, an illness or injury)

What are you proud of? (e.g. you’re a good listener, you always keep your promises, you’re a talented musician)

How do you choose to spend your time? (e.g. reading, practicing soccer, spending time with your friends)

What inspires you? (e.g. your grandmother, a celebrity, your favorite song)

Doing this self-reflection is crucial for figuring out the perfect topics and anecdotes you can use to describe who you are.

Tip 2: Try to Avoid Cliché Topics

College application committees read thousands of personal statements a year. That means there are some personal statement topics they see over and over again.

Here are a few examples of common personal statement topics that have become cliché:

Winning a tournament or sports game

Volunteering in a foreign country

Moving to a new home

Becoming an older sibling

Being an immigrant or having immigrant parents

If you want to make a strong impression in the application process, you need to make your personal statement stand out from the crowd.

But if your chosen personal statement topic falls into one of these categories, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t use it. Just make sure to put a unique spin on it so it still delivers something the committee hasn’t seen before.

what should a personal statement be about

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Tip 3: Show, Don’t Tell

One common mistake you might make in your personal statement is to simply tell the reader what you want them to know about you, such as by stating “I have a fear of public speaking” or “I love to cook.”

Instead of simply stating these facts, you should show the committee what you’re talking about through a story or scene, which will make your essay much more immersive and memorable.

For example, let’s say you want the committee to know you overcame your fear of public speaking. Instead of writing “I overcame my fear of public speaking,” show them what it was like to be onstage in front of a microphone. Did your palms get clammy? Did you feel light-headed? Did you forget your words?

Or let’s say you want the committee to know you love to cook. Instead of writing “I love to cook,” show them why you love to cook. What’s your favorite dish to cook? What does the air smell like when you’re cooking it? What kitchen appliances do you use to make it?

Tip 4: Connect the Story to Why You’re Applying

Don’t forget that the purpose of your personal statement isn’t simply to tell the admissions committee who you are. That’s an important part of it, of course, but your ultimate goal is to convince them to choose you as a candidate.

That means it’s important to tie your personal story to your reasons for applying to this specific school or scholarship. Finish your essay with a strong thesis.

For example, if your story is about overcoming your fear of public speaking, you might connect that story to your ambition of becoming a politician. You can then tie that to your application by saying, “I want to apply to this school because of its fantastic politics program, which will give me a perfect opportunity to use my voice.”

Tip 5: Write in Your Own Voice

The personal statement isn’t supposed to be written in a formal tone. That’s why they’re called “personal” statements because you have to shape it to fit your own voice and style.

Don’t use complicated or overwrought language. You don’t need to fill your essay with semicolons and big words, unless that’s how you sound in real life.

One way to write in your own voice is by speaking your personal statement out loud. If it doesn’t feel natural, it may need changing. 

Tip 6: Edit, Edit, Edit!

It’s important to revise your personal statement multiple times in order to make sure it’s as close to perfect as possible.

A single typo won’t kill your application, but if your personal statement contains multiple spelling errors or egregious grammar mistakes, you won’t be putting your best foot forward.

ProWritingAid can help you make sure your personal statement is as clean as possible. In addition to catching your grammar errors, typos, and punctuation mistakes, it will also help you improve weaknesses in your writing, such as passive voice, unnecessary repetition, and more.

Let’s look at some of the best personal statements that have worked for successful candidates in the real world. 

Harvard Personal Statement Example

Love. For a word describing such a powerful emotion, it is always in the air. The word “love” has become so pervasive in everyday conversation that it hardly retains its roots in blazing passion and deep adoration. In fact, the word is thrown about so much that it becomes difficult to believe society isn’t just one huge, smitten party, with everyone holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.” In films, it’s the teenage boy’s grudging response to a doting mother. At school, it’s a habitual farewell between friends. But in my Chinese home, it’s never uttered. Watching my grandmother lie unconscious on the hospital bed, waiting for her body to shut down, was excruciatingly painful. Her final quavering breaths formed a discordant rhythm with the steady beep of hospital equipment and the unsympathetic tapping hands of the clock. That evening, I whispered—into unhearing ears—the first, and only, “I love you” I ever said to her, my rankling guilt haunting me relentlessly for weeks after her passing. My warm confession seemed anticlimactic, met with only the coldness of my surroundings—the blank room, impassive doctors, and empty silence. I struggled to understand why the “love” that so easily rolled off my tongue when bantering with friends dissipated from my vocabulary when I spoke to my family. Do Chinese people simply love less than Americans do?

This is an excerpt from a personal statement that got the applicant admitted to Harvard University. The applicant discusses her background as a Chinese-American by musing on the word “love” and what that means within her family.

The writer uses vulnerable details about her relationship with her grandmother to give the reader an understanding of where she comes from and how her family has shaped her.  

You can read the full personal statement on the Harvard Crimson website.

Tufts Personal Statement Example

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go,” and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon. Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration. Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear. I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.

This is the beginning of a personal statement by Renner Kwittken, who was admitted into Tufts University as a pre-medical student.

Renner uses a humorous anecdote about being a pickle truck driver to describe his love for nanomedicine and how he got involved in his field. You can feel his passion for medicine throughout his personal statement.

You can find Renner’s full essay on the Tufts Admissions page.

Law School Personal Statement Essay Example

For most people, the slap on the face that turns their life around is figurative. Mine was literal. Actually, it was a punch delivered by a drill sergeant at Fort Dix, New Jersey, while I was in basic training. That day’s activity, just a few weeks into the program, included instruction in “low-crawling,” a sensible method of moving from one place to another on a battlefield. I felt rather clever for having discovered that, by looking right rather than down, I eliminated my helmet’s unfortunate tendency to dig into the ground and slow my progress. I could thus advance more easily, but I also exposed my unprotected face to hostile fire. Drill sergeants are typically very good at detecting this type of laziness, and mine was an excellent drill sergeant. So, after his repeated suggestions that I correct my performance went unheeded, he drove home his point with a fist to my face. We were both stunned. This was, after all, the New Army, and striking a trainee was a career-ending move for a drill sergeant, as we were both aware. I could have reported him; arguably, I should have. I didn’t. It didn’t seem right for this good sergeant, who had not slept for almost four days, to lose his career for losing his temper with my laziness. Choosing not to report him was the first decision I remember making that made me proud.

These are the first three paragraphs of an anonymous personal statement by a Wheaton College graduate, who used this personal statement to get into a top-25 law school.

This statement describes a time the applicant faced a challenging decision while in the army. He ended up making a decision he was proud of, and as a result, the personal statement gives us a sense of his character.

You can find the full essay on the Wheaton Academics website.

Here are some common questions about how to write a personal statement.

How Long Should a Personal Statement Be?

The length of your personal statement depends on the specific program you’re applying to. The application guidelines usually specify a maximum word count or an ideal word count.  

Most personal statements are between 500–800 words. That’s a good general range to aim for if you don’t have more specific guidelines.  

Should Personal Statements Be Different for Scholarships?

Many scholarship applications will ask for personal statements with similar prompts to those of college applications.

However, the purpose of a personal statement you’d write for a scholarship application is different from the purpose of one you’d write for a college application.

For a scholarship application, your goal is to showcase why you deserve the scholarship. To do that, you need to understand the mission of the organization offering that scholarship.

For example, some scholarships are meant to help first-generation college students get their degree, while others are meant to help women break into STEM.

Consider the following questions:

Why is this organization offering scholarships?

What would their ideal scholarship candidate look like?

How do your experiences and goals overlap with those of their ideal scholarship candidate?

You can use the same personal anecdotes you’d use for any other personal statement, but you’ll have a better chance of winning the scholarship if you tailor your essay to match their specific mission.

How to Start a Personal Statement

You should start your personal statement with a “hook” that pulls the reader in. The sooner you catch the reader’s attention, the more likely they’ll want to read the entire essay.

Here are some examples of hooks you can use:

A story (e.g. When the spotlight hit my face, I tried to remind myself to breathe. )

A setting description (e.g. My bedroom floor is covered with dirty laundry, candy wrappers, and crumpled sheet music. )

A funny anecdote (e.g. When I was a little kid, my friends nicknamed me Mowgli because of my haircut. )

A surprising fact (e.g. I've lived in 37 countries .)

There you have it—our complete guide to writing a personal statement that will make you stand out to the application committee.

Here’s a quick recap: 

A personal statement is a short essay that shows an application committee who you are

Start with a strong hook that pulls the reader in

Tell a story to engage the reader 

Write in your own voice, not in a formal tone

Good luck, and happy writing!

Hannah is a speculative fiction writer who loves all things strange and surreal. She holds a BA from Yale University and lives in Colorado. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her painting watercolors, playing her ukulele, or hiking in the Rockies. Follow her work on hannahyang.com or on Twitter at @hannahxyang.

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A Complete Guide to a Perfect Personal Statement Format

Published on: Mar 26, 2019

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The process of applying to jobs, internships, and graduate programs often require each applicant to submit a personal statement about their skills and career goals. A  personal statement  is usually written in response to a specific question.

Personal statements always vary and depend on which institution you are writing for. But all types of personal statements require you to follow a specific format as you do in writing other academic papers.

In this blog, we will discuss how to write a personal statement following the correct format.

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What is a Correct Personal Statement Format?

Like other academic papers, personal statements should also be formatted and structured according to a standard set of guidelines. In this way, you can make sure all the information in your personal statement is in an organized manner.

Here are the basic guidelines that you can follow if you don’t know how to format a personal statement.

  • Personal statements are usually limited to 500 words no matter what type of statement you are writing. So, it is better to finish your personal statement within 495 - 505 words.
  • Paragraphs should be single-spaced throughout with an extra line of space from the next.
  • Times New Roman is an appropriate font style to use.
  • The size of the font must be 12pt.
  • Include your name and page number in the header of your page.

A standard formatting convention should be used to make your personal statement readable. Keep in mind that review committees go through hundreds of personal statements so it is important to make sure your personal statement stands out.

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How to Format a Personal Statement?

The requirements for writing a personal statement vary but generally, a personal statement includes certain information in the following format.

Introduction

Many personal statements start with an interesting opening statement as a way to grab the reader’s attention. In this paragraph, you can provide a highlight about yourself and connect it to the program for which you are applying.

Don’t forget to mention the program name as well as the title of the degree or position you are applying for.

Body Paragraphs

In the body paragraphs, address any specific question which might deal with your qualifications, your long term goals, or your compatibility with the program.

Each body paragraph should start with a topic sentence and inform the readers what it is focusing on. Also, provide examples from your experience and make sure these are relevant and should support your argument.

Sum up all the points discussed in the body paragraphs and reiterate your interest in the specific program or position. Mention how this degree or position is a step towards your long term goal.

Personal Statement Format Examples

If you are looking for helpful personal statement format examples, you are at the right place. Going through examples is one of the best practices to get an idea of how to write a perfect personal statement.

That’s why we have provided you with some good personal statement format examples to help you know what specific details should be included. Do not copy the following examples. You should only use them as an inspiration for your own statement.

Personal Statement Format Medical School

Medical school personal statements are a great chance to tell your story to the admission committee and provide your context on why you want to pursue medicine.

You can also review the below-mentioned example to stimulate your creativity and see what a winning medical school personal statement looks like.

Personal Statement Format Medical School (PDF)

Graduate School Personal Statement Format

Graduate school applications often require students to submit personal statements. This helps admission committees to get to know more about the person behind the application.

Know more about the graduate school personal statement format in the example below. This example will help you learn how to format a personal statement for graduate school.

Graduate School Personal Statement Format (PDF)

Personal Statement Law School Format

The personal statement is your chance to reflect upon your life and show the law admission committee who you are as an individual. So, it is important to make sure your personal statement is written well and formatted correctly.

Don’t know how to format a law school personal statement? Refer to the following law school personal statement format example and learn how you can write a perfect law school personal statement.

Personal Statement Law School Format (PDF)

Personal Statement Format for Masters

Looking for a format example of a personal statement for a master’s? Here is one to help you learn how to describe your reasons for wanting to study in a particular course.

Personal Statement Format for Masters (PDF)

Personal Statement Format for Job

Personal statement for a job is the best opportunity for you to sell yourself and highlight what makes you stand out from the others. So, it is important to make it specific, engaging, and show what you have to offer.

Take a look at this example of a personal statement format for a job to guide you throughout the writing process.

Personal Statement Format for Job (PDF)

Personal Statement Format College

A personal statement for college is written to show admission officers who you are and why you deserve to be admitted to their school. In this personal statement, you need to mention your experiences and major accomplishments in high school.

Get help from the following example of personal statement format and learn how to format a personal statement for college.

Personal Statement Format College (PDF)

Nursing School Personal Statement Format

The nursing personal school statement is an important part of the nursing school application. It is a great opportunity for you to express yourself personally and address any question that admission committees might have.

You can also browse the following example to gain inspiration and make sure you are on the right track when writing your personal statement.

Nursing School Personal Statement Format (PDF)

Personal Statement Format for University

A personal statement for university is an important document to show to the admission committee why you are a suitable candidate to study in their university.

Here is an example format for a university personal statement that you can follow to write a perfect one on your own.

Personal Statement Format for University (PDF)

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MBA Personal Statement Format

Wondering how to write a personal statement for the MBA program? Get help from this easy MBA personal statement format example and tell the admission committee why you want to pursue their MBA degree.

MBA Personal Statement Format (PDF)

Refer to the above guidelines and relevant personal statement examples  whenever you start writing a personal statement. In this way, you can make sure your personal statement is well-written and follows the required formatting guidelines.

Once you are done with writing, don’t forget to read your personal statement a number of times before you submit.

Writing a personal statement isn't easy, knowing that any mistake can risk your admission to your dream college. But a secure way is to get a professionally written personal statement.  

Hire our pro essay writing service that has a qualified team ready to craft an impressive personal statement for you.

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How to Write a Compelling Grad School Personal Statement

what should a personal statement be about

Your graduate school personal statement is your opportunity to make a lasting impression on admissions committees. It is your chance to demonstrate why you are the perfect candidate for your desired program. But often, the task of writing a personal statement can be overwhelming.

To help guide you through this process, here are some valuable tips compiled by UK Online recruitment specialists.

Tips Before You Start Writing 

Be authentic and reflect.

Before you put pen to paper, take some time to reflect on your life experiences, academic journey, and career aspirations. Be authentic and true to yourself in your writing. Highlight the unique aspects of your life that have led you to this point. The admissions committee is interested in who you are as an individual.

Demonstrate Motivation 

Showcase your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree. Explain what drives you, why you are passionate about your chosen field, and how this program fits into your long-term goals. Admissions committees want to see that you have a clear sense of purpose and a genuine interest in the subject.

Highlight Experiences 

Your personal statement is the perfect place to highlight your academic and extracurricular experiences that have prepared you for this program. Discuss any research, internships, or projects that have influenced your decision to pursue graduate studies. Connect these experiences to your future academic and career goals.

Convey Writing Skills 

Effective communication is a crucial skill for graduate students. Your personal statement should showcase your writing abilities. Ensure your statement is well-structured, free of grammatical errors, and flows logically. Seek feedback from peers or writing centers to enhance its quality.

Make an Impression

Your opening paragraph is your chance to make a memorable first impression. Craft an engaging introduction that captivates the reader's attention. Use a powerful anecdote, a thought-provoking question, or a striking statement to draw them in. Admissions committees review numerous applications, so standing out from the beginning is vital.

Things You Should Include in Your Personal Statement

Introduction.

Your introduction should provide a glimpse of your personality and what motivates you. It sets the tone for the entire personal statement, so make it compelling.

Personal Background

Share your academic history and personal background. Discuss your achievements, academic journey, and relevant experiences. Explain how your background has led you to the point of applying for this specific program.

Motivation and Goals

Clearly articulate your reasons for pursuing this graduate program. What are your short-term and long-term goals? Explain how the program aligns with your aspirations. This section should convey your enthusiasm and commitment.

Relevance of Experience

Highlight the experiences, internships, or research projects that have contributed to your readiness for this program. Connect these experiences to the skills and knowledge you will bring to the graduate program. Show that you are well-prepared.

Unique Qualities

Discuss what makes you unique. Mention your unique qualities, skills, or attributes that set you apart from other applicants. This is your chance to stand out and show why you're a valuable addition to the program.

In your conclusion, summarize your key points and reiterate your passion for the program. Express your enthusiasm for the opportunity to join the institution. End on a positive note and leave the reader with a memorable impression.

Remember to be authentic, showcase your motivation, highlight your experiences, convey your writing skills, and make a lasting impression. Craft a personal statement that reflects your unique journey and demonstrates your readiness for graduate studies. Best of luck with your application!

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What Should A Personal Statement Include?

By Laura Brown on 21st September 2020

Writing a personal statement is creating a hook which enraptures the reader and makes the prospect read it till the end. It is a part in which you tell about yourself in detail considering the field and courses you applied for.

What Is A Personal Statement?

A personal statement which is also called as an admission or application essay is understood as the personal summary given to prospective organisations which help you stand out from the rest. To some people, the personal statement is more like a personal introduction submitted to a selection committee. Generally, a personal statement should have 500-600 words .

A personal statement is a necessary document to be submitted at the time of admission with university applications. So, what should a personal statement include? Every student must know things to include in a personal statement.

Generally, it includes a picture of you as in a written portrait. It is basically an invitation for the reader to know about you and how you are a perfect fit for a particular field of study. Moreover, it should give an idea about your priorities and judgement and lastly your story.

Do You Know What Should A Personal Statement Include?

Are you seeking for what to include in a personal statement for uni or what to include in a personal statement CV, keep reading, you are on the right page.

What Should A Personal Statement Include

5 Things To Include In A Personal Statement

Here is a list of five things every student should include in a personal statement.

1. Explain Why To Choose This Course

A personal statement is your passport. So imagine you get the customisation of the passport, do it in such a way that it goes to the point. Give your readers an idea of why you are choosing this course, what your desires are, and why you will be a good fit in this department.

Make them aware with your aspirations, and this is the first component of your question what should a personal statement include.

2. Tell Why You Are A Good Fit

It is a part which needs much of your focus because it describes why you want to pursue it and how your existing skills and abilities would help you. Talk about your academic score, your subject and field of interest, your leadership skills, and other things you are good at.

Explain why you will be a good fit for the program and detail almost everything that can lift your profile. This is another addition in what to include in a personal statement for uni.

3. Demonstrate Skills & Extracurricular

Being good at academics is just a single factor. Another addition to the collection is about your skills, social life, and extracurricular activities. If you add this in your statement, the admission counsellor will be able to see you as an applicant who can contribute to the greater community of students.

4. Tell Your Influences

Telling the institute what inspires you or what influence you to go on this track is another fact. Create a story which tells the reader as to what your aim is to be as you decide to get into this field or profession.

Tell the admission officer which personalities influence your life, and by having this, you can have a high impact in choosing the course. This component can also be added for the people who want to know what to include in a personal statement CV. But if you are not familiar with this document, you should consult Crowd Writer UK.

5. Demonstrate Your Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is essential whether you’re writing a personal statement or wondering how to write a conclusion for an essay . Critical thinking is understood as the analysis of facts to form an opinion or judgement.

Tell the admission officer about your rational, sceptical, unbiased analysis, or evaluation of evidence which proves that you have the capability to think out of the box.  

Don’t worry if you lack critical thinking skills, because it can be improved over time. Contact the experts at Crowd Writer and buy personal statement writing service . The pros here exactly know what should a personal statement include and offer the best services at low prices.

In conclusion, be sure that you check all the components discussed above for transcending while writing your statement for academic or employment purpose.

No matter whether you are looking for a research proposal writing service or want to know how to structure a literature review , Crowd Writer is the answer to all of your problems. So why wait? Contact the pros today and leave all your worries behind.

Laura Brown

Laura Brown, a senior content writer who writes actionable blogs at Crowd Writer.

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How To Start a Personal Statement? | Writing Tips and Samples

EssayEdge > Blog > How To Start a Personal Statement? | Writing Tips and Samples

After making up all your ideas and expectations on applying to the educational institution, you may face the real tasks that you must do. Thus, you will come up with the question of how to start a personal statement . It is a little necessary step that you must do on the way to achieving a global goal of getting the admission offer.

Writing the whole essay is kind of a tough thing, but you have to start writing it to understand that the process is on and it doesn’t seem to be as frightening as you thought before.

Table of Contents:

How to begin a personal statement: process preparation

The beginning is always the most difficult and important part of doing something. However, to get the result, you should start the process. The same regards to your personal statement. Think over your life experiences, important points that you want to mention, recollect your best achievements in studying and everyday routine. It all matters if you want to get an excellent essay. You can write down a list of the things you want to tell the admissions committee. When everything is in front of your eyes, it will be easier to understand what exactly must be included in your essay. Preparing to write in advance would also simplify everything. Having some tips and examples in your mind can help you to cope with the task. You can read articles and blogs about personal statement , ask your admitted peers about their experiences of writing such an essay. Take into consideration that the writing process is long-lasting and get ready to spend time on doing it well.

Begin the writing with the thought that you will certainly deal with all the given tasks and, finally, you will get an excellent result. Don’t be afraid to try several times until you are pleased with the text.

It is better to write the beginning of your essay last as you will have the whole picture of your essay right in front of you. Therefore it will be simpler for you to understand what exactly you want to include in your essay. If you are not sure about a piece of information that you want to include, ask someone who knows you well to tell you whether that point of your life is worth including in your personal statement opening or not.

Personal statement introduction 

The introduction is the most important paragraph of your personal statement as it formulates the first impression of the whole writing. That’s why it is essential to concentrate on it and write it in the right way. You shouldn’t write general statements or information that might be the same for every applicant. Be special. Be unique. Focus on catchy data. Your task is to commit the most impressive part of your life into the words. Evaluate the significance of your application, catch the attention of the reader, explain why you are writing the essay, what is your purpose of the application.

It is good to start writing with an impressive background fact: describe the situation that had an impact on your decision of applying to the educational institution or tell the impressive story from your life that considered your opinion about future specialization. It is up to you how to begin a personal statement, but memorize that this information must be uncommon and regarding exactly you. Make a try to write everything in the evaluating, not describing tone. Provide the reader with the consequence of the depicted information.

Starting a personal statement: tips on doing it

When you have collected all the thoughts on writing your essay together, you may come up with the question of how to start off a personal statement. Here are several tips for you to deal with the given task.

  • Start with the attention-grabbing fact As mentioned above, tell the story that will differentiate you among other applicants, put the value out of it: what it brought into your life, how it influenced you. Try to catch the reader’s attention to it.
  • Leave doubts – just start Even if you can’t remember something unusual, you should start writing. Recollect everything that somehow made an impact on you. It can be a talk while having family dinner, a film you watched and understood that the main character is your ideal prototype.
  • Write like you Don’t try to pretend you are someone else, just naturally write the essay as you want to tell it to your closest person. It will transform into the essay paragraph further. At the beginning, the manner you write doesn’t matter.
  • Be sincere It is not good to act as an ideal one, tell about the failures that happened to you. In no case, you mustn’t use someone’s background or life experience, projecting it on your life. You know, the admission committee can check everything.
  • Ask for help, if you feel like that There is nothing bad about asking for help. You can refer to your parents or friends to hear their impressions of your essay. They can also help you to remember something valuable that you can use. Moreover, you can appeal for help from a personal statement editor to find out specific features about your essay.
  • Try not to preach to the reader with your experience Even though you managed to do something out of the ordinary, don’t evaluate your actions like something mind-blowing. It may only spoil the impression of you as a person. Try only to provide the information and don’t view it from the wrong perspective.
  • Don’t use cliche introductions For every admission tutor, it seems to be the same from essay to essay. Try to stand out from the crowd and introduce yourself as an uncommon personality. That will work in your favor.

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Personal statement introduction example

Personal statement introduction is a strong statement that formulates the whole mood of the writing. Don’t neglect using successful examples just to see how it works. Below you can find an example which demonstrates student’s motivation and interest in studying certain program at the university.

I’m interested in studying the Linguistics program because I’m sure that this is exactly that one thing that certainly will make my life fully completed. 

My curiosity in this program is an explainable thing. Since childhood, I’ve been interested in people’s communication. Moreover, I even remember the moment when I pronounced the first word out of my mouth and the happiness of the people around. Whenever someone was speaking, I was just wondering how it works. Why do we hear some sounds and understand them as a piece of particular information? How does it produce the point of social connection? Languages are a kind of bridge that can connect people from all over the world. For me, studying branches of linguistics is a tool to help people from different corners of the world to find the key to understanding each other.

In this personal statement introduction example, you can find the applicant’s background, a catchy and interesting fact about spelling the first word out, and the connection to future specialization.

Starting a personal statement is a challenging step in every applicant’s life, but having enough patience and motivation can help you to deal with all the difficulties that may come up while writing. Don’t be afraid to use help, start beforehand and everything will be fine. Remember that the number of admitted students who coped with everything reached their goal and acquired success is huge and you can easily become one of them.

More information on how to start personal statement and other significant tips about admission essays you can find in the EssayEdge blog.

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Kerri Evans receives funding from receives funding from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Institutefor Clinical & Translational Research (ICTR) and the William T. Grant Foundation.

Ishara Casellas Connors receives funding from the William T. Grant Foundation and University of Maryland, Baltimore, Institutefor Clinical & Translational Research (ICTR), and the National Center forAdvancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) Clinical Translational ScienceAward (CTSA).

Lisa Unangst receives funding from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Institute for Clinical & Translational Research (ICTR) and the William T. Grant Foundation.

Texas A&M University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

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Pursuing higher education is often a pathway to higher income and overall better well-being . College graduates are less likely to rely on public benefits . Therefore, it’s beneficial for education leaders and policymakers to help newcomers – including asylum-seekers and refugees – to access higher education in the U.S., whether it be community college, taking advanced English courses, obtaining a certificate through training programs or going to a four-year university.

Despite these clear benefits, we have found that higher education can often be an elusive goal for people who’ve fled their homeland in search of a better life in the U.S.

We all study policy and education issues that affect refugees. Over the past year and a half, the three of us – Kerri Evans , Ishara Casellas Connors and Lisa Unangst – teamed up to learn more about higher education pathways for refugees, asylum-seekers, recent Afghan parolees and people with temporary protected status , in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. area.

We partnered with Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area , one of the largest refugee resettlement agencies on the East Coast. We as researchers established a community advisory board of local refugees and other immigrants to guide the research process.

While our findings have implications for all refugees and asylum-seekers, we see our findings as particularly relevant for the nearly 77,000 Afghans who entered the U.S. with temporary immigration statuses from 2021 to 2023. Most arrived with parole status , which allows temporary stay and work in the U.S. for only two years. After that, renewals are needed. Parole status confers no option for lawful permanent resident status, unlike what happens when people fleeing their homeland arrive with official refugee status .

Enrolling in college can be difficult for this population because of the uncertainty of their immigrant status and future in the U.S.

Obstacles to higher learning

To identify the barriers to higher education for refugees in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., area, our research team interviewed 82 immigrants, all of whom were over 18 at time of arrival in the U.S., and two-thirds of whom were from Afghanistan and arrived since 2021.

We also interviewed 22 people who work for the Lutheran resettlement agency, the majority of whom were refugees or other immigrants who were resettled through the program in prior years. In reviewing the findings with the research team, the community advisory board implemented an additional survey to enhance our research by using both qualitative and quantitative data . Forty-three people – ages 22-55 – who would like to attend college in the U.S. chose to answer the survey, and 37 of them were from Afghanistan.

Through our research, we identified three main barriers for adult asylum-seekers and other immigrants who wanted to go to college or get advanced degrees.

1. Getting their degrees recognized

The process of getting degrees recognized is lengthy, difficult and involves a fee for immigrants.

More than half of participants experienced a barrier with either certifying the degrees they already earned back home or with curriculum requirements that differed from those of their home country. For instance, U.S. colleges may not accept high school and college degrees from other countries. Or participants may not meet all of the requirements for internships or to take specific courses in the U.S.

A female resettlement staff member who is from Afghanistan explained that the problem is having documents from their home country, such as diplomas and work credentials, evaluated here in the U.S.

“For example … let’s say, they have their bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in Afghanistan,” the resettlement staff member said. “But when they arrive in here, somehow, (the degrees are) lost,” she continued, explaining that immigrants often choose to attend college all over again and get the degree in the U.S.

2. Insufficient guidance

Half of the Afghan migrants we interviewed indicated they would like more help applying to college and graduate school programs than they’re getting.

Without guidance, many said they had lost precious time trying to navigate the higher education system. Some said they wanted more help with writing college application essays. Two-thirds of the Afghans wanted a personal connection with university alums or professors who could guide them through the college application process and be a mentor during their time in college.

Young African American and Asian college students work together at a library.

3. Financial

Newly resettled refugees and others who were forced to flee their country struggle to pay their bills as they restart their lives in the U.S. Often they are relegated to low-wage jobs.

Nearly three-quarters of the 43 migrants said they couldn’t afford college tuition for themselves. About two-thirds indicated they would need information about scholarships and other financial resources in order to reconsider applying for college – information that is not always easily available for those who aren’t graduating from high schools in the U.S.

“I have to pay for rent. I have to pay for a car. I have to pay for oil. I have to pay for everything,” said one male from Afghanistan, reflecting on the fact that there is no money left for tuition payments. “Whatever I’m earning is a zero.”

Another male from Afghanistan observed: “We do have families. We have to support them, and at the same time, education fees are so high here.”

A group of students studying together in the library.

To overcome these barriers, our research team and community advisory board members recommend the following strategies:

• Identify scholarships for which immigrants and refugees would be eligible and share them with those who are interested.

• Educate resettlement staff on the nuances of legal status for in-state tuition so they can help asylum-seekers and refugees to determine if they are eligible.

• Create webinars and videos that include an overview of U.S. higher education and the financial aid rules for immigrants and refugees .

• Recruit mentors to help asylum-seekers and refugees apply to college.

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  • Immigrant students
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The Washington Post

The Washington Post

The most memorable lines from the third Republican presidential debate

Posted: November 9, 2023 | Last updated: November 9, 2023

Republican presidential candidates again traded pointed barbs onstage during the party’s third primary debate on Wednesday night.

As in the two previous debates, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy lashed out not only against his opponents but also the Republican Party leadership, Ukraine and even the debate’s moderators. And while most candidates shied away from criticizing former president Donald Trump — who holds a commanding lead in polling and did not participate in the debate — former New Jersey governor Chris Christie went after him, arguing that someone who faces as many indictments as the former president should not be the Republican nominee for president.

Here are some of the most memorable lines from the third Republican debate:

1. ‘I wear heels. They’re not for a fashion statement. They’re for ammunition.’

That was what former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley said in response to entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who made a dig at her and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — and their choice of footwear .

“Do you want a leader from a different generation [who] is going to put this country first, or do you want Dick Cheney in three-inch heels onstage?” Ramaswamy said. “In which case, we’ve got two of them onstage tonight.”

Ramaswamy’s comment was a clear reference not only to Haley — the only woman on the stage, and the only candidate clearly wearing high heels — but also to DeSantis, who faces allegations that he wears boots with added insoles to make him appear taller.

Haley wasted no time in snapping back at Ramaswamy: “I wear heels. They’re not for a fashion statement. They’re for ammunition.”

2. ‘Spending the next year and a half of their life, focusing on keeping themselves out of jail and courtrooms’

Christie — the resident Trump critic among the Republicans running for president in 2024 — did not hold back on Wednesday when speaking about Trump and his legal troubles .

“I’ll say this about Donald Trump: Anybody who’s going to be spending the next year and a half of their life focusing on keeping themselves out of jail and courtrooms cannot lead this party or this country,” Christie said.

Christie has sought to establish distance between him and Trump — despite once being a close ally of the former president.

3. ‘Leave my daughter out of your voice. … You’re just scum.’

Haley told Ramaswamy to keep her daughter’s name “out of your voice” during a contentious moment on the debate stage.

Ramaswamy was asked how he could ban TikTok — the popular Chinese-owned social media app that has drawn scrutiny across the U.S. government — if he is an active user himself.

Before explaining that the social media platform is important to reach younger generations of Americans, Ramaswamy replied to a moderator’s question that he wanted to “laugh at why Nikki Haley didn’t answer your question, which is about looking at families in the eye.”

“In the last debate she made fun of me for actually joining TikTok while her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time,” he said. “So you might want to take care of your family first.”

As the crowd loudly booed Ramaswamy, an angry Haley told Ramaswamy to leave her daughter, who is 25, out of it.

“Leave my daughter out of your voice,” she said. “You’re just scum.”

4. ‘This should be Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogan and Elon Musk’

Ramaswamy also attacked the debate moderators — NBC News anchors Lester Holt and Kristen Welker, and radio host Hugh Hewitt. Ramaswamy appeared to suggest that it was disappointing that the Republican Party would work with NBC News, which is not a conservative network.

“Think about who’s moderating this debate,” Ramaswamy said. “This should be Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogan and Elon Musk — we’d have 10 times the viewership asking questions that GOP primary voters actually care about bringing more people into our party.”

Ramaswamy has built a campaign around framing himself as the next generation’s Trump and has long blasted the “mainstream media.” He has aligned himself with some of the most right-wing networks, but has appeared as a guest across networks.

5. ‘[Ukraine] has celebrated a Nazi in its ranks, a comedian in cargo pants — a man called Zelensky’

Ramaswamy did not stop at blasting the moderators. The entrepreneur also lashed out against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — who is leading his nation in its war against Russia — by calling him a Nazi.

“[Ukraine] has celebrated a Nazi in its ranks, a comedian in cargo pants — a man called Zelensky,” Ramaswamy said. Zelensky himself is Jewish, and this is a frequent Russian conspiracy theory used to attack him.

For months, Ramaswamy has criticized U.S. support for the Ukrainian war effort and opposed proposals to send more funds to the war-torn nation.

“Ukraine is not a paragon of Democracy,” Ramaswamy said during the debate.

6. ‘Putin and President Xi are salivating at the thought that someone like that could become president’

In response to Ramaswamy’s multiple attacks on Ukraine, Haley said the leaders of Russia and China are “salivating” at the thought of someone like him winning the presidency. Earlier in the debate, Ramaswamy had called Haley a “war hawk” on Ukraine.

“I am telling you: [Vladimir] Putin and President Xi [Jinping] are salivating at the thought that someone like that could become president,” Haley said of Ramaswamy.

7. ‘We’ve become a party of losers’

Ramaswamy also took aim at the Republican Party broadly and its chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, saying there’s a “cancer in the Republican establishment.”

“We’ve become a party of losers,” he said. “I mean, since Ronna McDaniel took over as chairwoman of the RNC in 2017, we have lost 2018, 2020, 2022.”

Ramaswamy pointed to the major losses Republicans suffered in Tuesday’s elections — including a Democratic governor winning reelection in ruby-red Kentucky and Democrats winning control of both chambers of the Virginia legislature in a blow to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin (and to the buzz around his presidential ambitions).

“We got trounced last night in 2023,” Ramaswamy said. “And I think that we have to have accountability in our party.”

The most memorable lines from the third Republican presidential debate

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  1. 16 Winning Personal Statement Examples (And Why They Work)

    Jennifer Herrity Updated July 31, 2023 A personal statement, also sometimes known as a professional statement or resume summary, is one of the most important documents you will write when applying to schools or jobs. An exceptional personal statement can increase your chances of admission or getting a job offer.

  2. The Personal Statement

    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.

  3. How To Write a Good Personal Statement (With Examples)

    A personal statement is a short essay that provides a relevant autobiographical account of your qualifications. It serves as an opportunity to give an honest representation of who you are and who you hope a program can give you the chance to become. Personal statements vary in length and can be as short as 100 words or closer to 1,000.

  4. How to Write a Stand-Out Personal Statement for Grad School

    Personal statement: A less formal essay that focuses on your passion and motivation for wanting to enter your chosen field and program. This statement is typically more flexible than the statement of purpose, with a bigger emphasis on storytelling.

  5. How to Write a Personal Statement

    A personal statement—sometimes known as a college essay —is a brief written essay you submit along with other materials when you're applying to college or university. Personal statements tend to be most common for undergraduate applications, and they're a great opportunity for an admissions committee to hear your voice directly.

  6. Personal statement dos and don'ts

    The personal statement is your opportunity to talk about you, and why you want to enrol on a particular course. Use these easy-to-digest bullet points to help you decide what you should and shouldn't include in your personal statement. Shona Barrie - Director of Admissions, University of Stirling

  7. How to Write a Strong Personal Statement

    Address the elephant in the room (if there is one). Maybe your grades weren't great in core courses, or perhaps you've never worked in the field you're applying to. Make sure to address the ...

  8. How To Write Your Undergraduate Personal Statement

    Just start by showing your enthusiasm for the subject, showcasing your knowledge and understanding, and sharing your ambitions of what you want to achieve. Avoid cliches! Remember, this opening part is simply about introducing yourself, so let the admissions tutor reading your personal statement get to know you. Keep it relevant and simple.

  9. How to Write a Powerful Personal Statement

    You could write about the following elements, where relevant, in the body of your personal statement: Your achievements and experience: Write about your degrees, certifications, awards, years of industry experience and positions you have held that relate to the job's responsibilities or the university's educational offerings.

  10. How to Write Your Personal Statement

    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.

  11. How to Write a Powerful Personal Statement

    There are no set rules for how to write a personal statement—a lot of your writing choices depend on the assignment and reader—but they typically fall between 400 and 1,000 words, rarely exceeding a single page. Personal statements can be either open or prompted. Open personal statements are when you, the writer, get to choose the main topic.

  12. DOs and DON'Ts When Writing a Personal Statement

    Use an addendum.The personal statement should highlight the positives about you. 3. DON'T focus on your high school activities or accomplishments. Focusing on achievements in high school can draw attention to a lack of similar achievements in college. 4. DON'T be overly dramatic. Understatement is better. 5.

  13. How to write a personal statement

    Start with an opening sentence that hooks the reader. Put the most important information at the beginning of your personal statement (e.g. why you're applying for the role and what makes you suitable) Mention any skills and experience you have that are relevant to the job. Finish off with a summary of your professional goals.

  14. How to Write a Personal Statement (with Tips and Examples)

    Tip 4: Connect the Story to Why You're Applying. Don't forget that the purpose of your personal statement isn't simply to tell the admissions committee who you are. That's an important part of it, of course, but your ultimate goal is to convince them to choose you as a candidate.

  15. Personal Statement Format + Examples

    What is the Correct Personal Statement Format? There's no single required format for the Common App or Coalition, but we'd generally recommend keeping it simple and standard. Regarding font choice, things like Times New Roman or Georgia (what this is written in) won't fail you.

  16. Personal Statement: Examples & How to Write (+Format Tips)

    A personal statement is most often a letter that goes with your application for med school, law school, or other higher learning institutions. It's a special cover letter for college, designed to show the great passion needed to get into one of the toughest school experiences on the planet.

  17. How To Start a Personal Statement in 5 Steps (With Tips)

    Personal mission, ethics or core values. Academic or professional goals. Volunteer or work experience. 2. Include relevant background information. After dividing the elements of your personal statement, you can write about your experience, accomplishments and any goals you have regarding your education.

  18. Personal Statement Format

    Paragraphs should be single-spaced throughout with an extra line of space from the next. Times New Roman is an appropriate font style to use. The size of the font must be 12pt. Include your name and page number in the header of your page. A standard formatting convention should be used to make your personal statement readable.

  19. How To Write a Personal Statement on a CV (with Examples)

    Therefore, it should be compelling, attention-grabbing and tailored to the particular position. Here are three steps to take to create a compelling and effective personal statement: 1. State who you are. Start with a statement detailing where you are in your career. This should communicate your current position in your profession and field of ...

  20. How to Write a Compelling Grad School Personal Statement

    Conclusion. In your conclusion, summarize your key points and reiterate your passion for the program. Express your enthusiasm for the opportunity to join the institution. End on a positive note and leave the reader with a memorable impression. Remember to be authentic, showcase your motivation, highlight your experiences, convey your writing ...

  21. How Long Should Your Personal Statement Be?

    Making sure your personal statement is the "right" length What's the right length for your personal statement? Is there a "right" length? In this article, you'll find both simple and somewhat more nuanced answers to those questions, as well as tips on how to structure your personal statement in ways that take advantage of the "right" length.

  22. What Should A Personal Statement Include?

    5 Things To Include In A Personal Statement. Here is a list of five things every student should include in a personal statement. 1. Explain Why To Choose This Course. A personal statement is your passport. So imagine you get the customisation of the passport, do it in such a way that it goes to the point. Give your readers an idea of why you ...

  23. How To Start a Personal Statement?

    Here are several tips for you to deal with the given task. Start with the attention-grabbing fact. As mentioned above, tell the story that will differentiate you among other applicants, put the value out of it: what it brought into your life, how it influenced you. Try to catch the reader's attention to it.

  24. CRediT author statement

    Methodology. Development or design of methodology; creation of models. Software. Programming, software development; designing computer programs; implementation of the computer code and supporting algorithms; testing of existing code components. Validation. Verification, whether as a part of the activity or separate, of the overall replication ...

  25. Build A Personal Web3 Brand: A Guide for C-Level & HR Leaders

    Step 3: Crafting your personal brand statement. Before creating a personal brand statement, it's important to have a mission statement. A brand mission statement communicates to the public, customers, and clients the essence of your organization's purpose; it articulates the company's function from an internal viewpoint.

  26. Higher education can be elusive for asylum-seekers and immigrants

    Pursuing higher education is often a pathway to higher income and overall better well-being. College graduates are less likely to rely on public benefits. Therefore, it's beneficial for ...

  27. Should scientists include their race, gender, or other personal ...

    But Wojcik's colleagues argued that their paper, about the need for multiracial participants in genetics studies, should include a "positionality statement" from each author describing how their identity might influence their work. The practice is becoming increasingly common in scientific papers, to applause from some researchers and ...

  28. The most memorable lines from the third Republican presidential ...

    Here are some of the most memorable lines from the third Republican debate: choice of footwear. allegations. and his legal troubles. contentious moment.