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Looking for grad school personal statement examples? Look no further! In this total guide to graduate school personal statement examples, we’ll discuss why you need a personal statement for grad school and what makes a good one. Then we’ll provide three graduate school personal statement samples from our grad school experts. After that, we’ll do a deep dive on one of our personal statement for graduate school examples. Finally, we’ll wrap up with a list of other grad school personal statements you can find online.
Why Do You Need a Personal Statement?
A personal statement is a chance for admissions committees to get to know you: your goals and passions, what you’ll bring to the program, and what you’re hoping to get out of the program. You need to sell the admissions committee on what makes you a worthwhile applicant. The personal statement is a good chance to highlight significant things about you that don’t appear elsewhere on your application.
A personal statement is slightly different from a statement of purpose (also known as a letter of intent). A statement of purpose/letter of intent tends to be more tightly focused on your academic or professional credentials and your future research and/or professional interests.
While a personal statement also addresses your academic experiences and goals, you have more leeway to be a little more, well, personal. In a personal statement, it’s often appropriate to include information on significant life experiences or challenges that aren’t necessarily directly relevant to your field of interest.
Some programs ask for both a personal statement and a statement of purpose/letter of intent. In this case, the personal statement is likely to be much more tightly focused on your life experience and personality assets while the statement of purpose will focus in much more on your academic/research experiences and goals.
However, there’s not always a hard-and-fast demarcation between a personal statement and a statement of purpose. The two statement types should address a lot of the same themes, especially as relates to your future goals and the valuable assets you bring to the program. Some programs will ask for a personal statement but the prompt will be focused primarily on your research and professional experiences and interests. Some will ask for a statement of purpose but the prompt will be more focused on your general life experiences.
When in doubt, give the program what they are asking for in the prompt and don’t get too hung up on whether they call it a personal statement or statement of purpose. You can always call the admissions office to get more clarification on what they want you to address in your admissions essay.
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What Makes a Good Grad School Personal Statement?
A great graduate school personal statement can come in many forms and styles. However, strong grad school personal statement examples all share the same following elements:
A Clear Narrative
Above all, a good personal statement communicates clear messages about what makes you a strong applicant who is likely to have success in graduate school. So to that extent, think about a couple of key points that you want to communicate about yourself and then drill down on how you can best communicate those points. (Your key points should of course be related to what you can bring to the field and to the program specifically).
You can also decide whether to address things like setbacks or gaps in your application as part of your narrative. Have a low GPA for a couple semesters due to a health issue? Been out of a job for a while taking care of a family member? If you do decide to explain an issue like this, make sure that the overall arc is more about demonstrating positive qualities like resilience and diligence than about providing excuses.
A great statement of purpose uses specific examples to illustrate its key messages. This can include anecdotes that demonstrate particular traits or even references to scholars and works that have influenced your academic trajectory to show that you are familiar and insightful about the relevant literature in your field.
Just saying “I love plants,” is pretty vague. Describing how you worked in a plant lab during undergrad and then went home and carefully cultivated your own greenhouse where you cross-bred new flower colors by hand is much more specific and vivid, which makes for better evidence.
A strong personal statement will describe why you are a good fit for the program, and why the program is a good fit for you. It’s important to identify specific things about the program that appeal to you, and how you’ll take advantage of those opportunities. It’s also a good idea to talk about specific professors you might be interested in working with. This shows that you are informed about and genuinely invested in the program.
Even quantitative and science disciplines typically require some writing, so it’s important that your personal statement shows strong writing skills. Make sure that you are communicating clearly and that you don’t have any grammar and spelling errors. It’s helpful to get other people to read your statement and provide feedback. Plan on going through multiple drafts.
Another important thing here is to avoid cliches and gimmicks. Don’t deploy overused phrases and openings like “ever since I was a child.” Don’t structure your statement in a gimmicky way (i.e., writing a faux legal brief about yourself for a law school statement of purpose). The first will make your writing banal; the second is likely to make you stand out in a bad way.
While you can be more personal in a personal statement than in a statement of purpose, it’s important to maintain appropriate boundaries in your writing. Don’t overshare anything too personal about relationships, bodily functions, or illegal activities. Similarly, don’t share anything that makes it seem like you may be out of control, unstable, or an otherwise risky investment. The personal statement is not a confessional booth. If you share inappropriately, you may seem like you have bad judgment, which is a huge red flag to admissions committees.
You should also be careful with how you deploy humor and jokes. Your statement doesn’t have to be totally joyless and serious, but bear in mind that the person reading the statement may not have the same sense of humor as you do. When in doubt, err towards the side of being as inoffensive as possible.
Just as being too intimate in your statement can hurt you, it’s also important not to be overly formal or staid. You should be professional, but conversational.
Graduate School Personal Statement Examples
Our graduate school experts have been kind enough to provide some successful grad school personal statement examples. We’ll provide three examples here, along with brief analysis of what makes each one successful.
Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 1
PDF of Sample Personal Statement 1 – Japanese Studies
For this Japanese Studies master’s degree, the applicant had to provide a statement of purpose outlining her academic goals and experience with Japanese and a separate personal statement describing her personal relationship with Japanese Studies and what led her to pursue a master’s degree.
Here’s what’s successful about this personal statement:
- An attention-grabbing beginning: The applicant begins with the statement that Japanese has never come easily to her and that it’s a brutal language to learn. Seeing as how this is an application for a Japanese Studies program, this is an intriguing beginning that makes the reader want to keep going.
- A compelling narrative: From this attention-grabbing beginning, the applicant builds a well-structured and dramatic narrative tracking her engagement with the Japanese language over time. The clear turning point is her experience studying abroad, leading to a resolution in which she has clarity about her plans. Seeing as how the applicant wants to be a translator of Japanese literature, the tight narrative structure here is a great way to show her writing skills.
- Specific examples that show important traits: The applicant clearly communicates both a deep passion for Japanese through examples of her continued engagement with Japanese and her determination and work ethic by highlighting the challenges she’s faced (and overcome) in her study of the language. This gives the impression that she is an engaged and dedicated student.
Overall, this is a very strong statement both in terms of style and content. It flows well, is memorable, and communicates that the applicant would make the most of the graduate school experience.
Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 2
PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 2 – Musical Composition
This personal statement for a Music Composition master’s degree discusses the factors that motivate the applicant to pursue graduate study.
Here’s what works well in this statement:
- The applicant provides two clear reasons motivating the student to pursue graduate study: her experiences with music growing up, and her family’s musical history. She then supports those two reasons with examples and analysis.
- The description of her ancestors’ engagement with music is very compelling and memorable. The applicant paints her own involvement with music as almost inevitable based on her family’s long history with musical pursuits.
- The applicant gives thoughtful analysis of the advantages she has been afforded that have allowed her to study music so extensively. We get the sense that she is insightful and empathetic—qualities that would add greatly to any academic community.
This is a strong, serviceable personal statement. And in truth, given that this for a masters in music composition, other elements of the application (like work samples) are probably the most important. However, here are two small changes I would make to improve it:
- I would probably to split the massive second paragraph into 2-3 separate paragraphs. I might use one paragraph to orient the reader to the family’s musical history, one paragraph to discuss Giacomo and Antonio, and one paragraph to discuss how the family has influenced the applicant. As it stands, it’s a little unwieldy and the second paragraph doesn’t have a super-clear focus even though it’s all loosely related to the applicant’s family history with music.
- I would also slightly shorten the anecdote about the applicant’s ancestors and expand more on how this family history has motivated the applicant’s interest in music. In what specific ways has her ancestors’ perseverance inspired her? Did she think about them during hard practice sessions? Is she interested in composing music in a style they might have played? More specific examples here would lend greater depth and clarity to the statement.
Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 3
PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 3 – Public Health
This is my successful personal statement for Columbia’s Master’s program in Public Health. We’ll do a deep dive on this statement paragraph-by-paragraph in the next section, but I’ll highlight a couple of things that work in this statement here:
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- This statement is clearly organized. Almost every paragraph has a distinct focus and message, and when I move on to a new idea, I move on to a new paragraph with a logical transitions.
- This statement covers a lot of ground in a pretty short space. I discuss my family history, my goals, my educational background, and my professional background. But because the paragraphs are organized and I use specific examples, it doesn’t feel too vague or scattered.
- In addition to including information about my personal motivations, like my family, I also include some analysis about tailoring health interventions with my example of the Zande. This is a good way to show off what kinds of insights I might bring to the program based on my academic background.
Grad School Personal Statement Example: Deep Dive
Now let’s do a deep dive, paragraph-by-paragraph, on one of these sample graduate school personal statements. We’ll use my personal statement that I used when I applied to Columbia’s public health program.
Paragraph One: For twenty-three years, my grandmother (a Veterinarian and an Epidemiologist) ran the Communicable Disease Department of a mid-sized urban public health department. The stories of Grandma Betty doggedly tracking down the named sexual partners of the infected are part of our family lore. Grandma Betty would persuade people to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, encourage safer sexual practices, document the spread of infection and strive to contain and prevent it. Indeed, due to the large gay population in the city where she worked, Grandma Betty was at the forefront of the AIDS crises, and her analysis contributed greatly towards understanding how the disease was contracted and spread. My grandmother has always been a huge inspiration to me, and the reason why a career in public health was always on my radar.
This is an attention-grabbing opening anecdote that avoids most of the usual cliches about childhood dreams and proclivities. This story also subtly shows that I have a sense of public health history, given the significance of the AIDs crisis for public health as a field.
It’s good that I connect this family history to my own interests. However, if I were to revise this paragraph again, I might cut down on some of the detail because when it comes down to it, this story isn’t really about me. It’s important that even (sparingly used) anecdotes about other people ultimately reveal something about you in a personal statement.
Paragraph Two: Recent years have cemented that interest. In January 2012, my parents adopted my little brother Fred from China. Doctors in America subsequently diagnosed Fred with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). My parents were told that if Fred’s condition had been discovered in China, the (very poor) orphanage in which he spent the first 8+ years of his life would have recognized his DMD as a death sentence and denied him sustenance to hasten his demise.
Here’s another compelling anecdote to help explain my interest in public health. This is an appropriately personal detail for a personal statement—it’s a serious thing about my immediate family, but it doesn’t disclose anything that the admissions committee might find concerning or inappropriate.
If I were to take another pass through this paragraph, the main thing I would change is the last phrase. “Denied him sustenance to hasten his demise” is a little flowery. “Denied him food to hasten his death” is actually more powerful because it’s clearer and more direct.
Paragraph Three: It is not right that some people have access to the best doctors and treatment while others have no medical care. I want to pursue an MPH in Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia because studying social factors in health, with a particular focus on socio-health inequities, will prepare me to address these inequities. The interdisciplinary approach of the program appeals to me greatly as I believe interdisciplinary approaches are the most effective way to develop meaningful solutions to complex problems.
In this paragraph I make a neat and clear transition from discussing what sparked my interest in public health and health equity to what I am interested in about Columbia specifically: the interdisciplinary focus of the program, and how that focus will prepare me to solve complex health problems. This paragraph also serves as a good pivot point to start discussing my academic and professional background.
Paragraph Four: My undergraduate education has prepared me well for my chosen career. Understanding the underlying structure of a group’s culture is essential to successfully communicating with the group. In studying folklore and mythology, I’ve learned how to parse the unspoken structures of folk groups, and how those structures can be used to build bridges of understanding. For example, in a culture where most illnesses are believed to be caused by witchcraft, as is the case for the Zande people of central Africa, any successful health intervention or education program would of necessity take into account their very real belief in witchcraft.
In this paragraph, I link my undergraduate education and the skills I learned there to public health. The (very brief) analysis of tailoring health interventions to the Zande is a good way to show insight and show off the competencies I would bring to the program.
Paragraph Five: I now work in the healthcare industry for one of the largest providers of health benefits in the world. In addition to reigniting my passion for data and quantitative analytics, working for this company has immersed me in the business side of healthcare, a critical component of public health.
This brief paragraph highlights my relevant work experience in the healthcare industry. It also allows me to mention my work with data and quantitative analytics, which isn’t necessarily obvious from my academic background, which was primarily based in the social sciences.
Paragraph Six: I intend to pursue a PhD in order to become an expert in how social factors affect health, particularly as related to gender and sexuality. I intend to pursue a certificate in Sexuality, Sexual Health, and Reproduction. Working together with other experts to create effective interventions across cultures and societies, I want to help transform health landscapes both in America and abroad.
This final paragraph is about my future plans and intentions. Unfortunately, it’s a little disjointed, primarily because I discuss goals of pursuing a PhD before I talk about what certificate I want to pursue within the MPH program! Switching those two sentences and discussing my certificate goals within the MPH and then mentioning my PhD plans would make a lot more sense.
I also start two sentences in a row with “I intend,” which is repetitive.
The final sentence is a little bit generic; I might tailor it to specifically discuss a gender and sexual health issue, since that is the primary area of interest I’ve identified.
This was a successful personal statement; I got into (and attended!) the program. It has strong examples, clear organization, and outlines what interests me about the program (its interdisciplinary focus) and what competencies I would bring (a background in cultural analysis and experience with the business side of healthcare). However, a few slight tweaks would elevate this statement to the next level.
Graduate School Personal Statement Examples You Can Find Online
So you need more samples for your personal statement for graduate school? Examples are everywhere on the internet, but they aren’t all of equal quality.
Most of examples are posted as part of writing guides published online by educational institutions. We’ve rounded up some of the best ones here if you are looking for more personal statement examples for graduate school.
Penn State Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School
This selection of ten short personal statements for graduate school and fellowship programs offers an interesting mix of approaches. Some focus more on personal adversity while others focus more closely on professional work within the field.
The writing in some of these statements is a little dry, and most deploy at least a few cliches. However, these are generally strong, serviceable statements that communicate clearly why the student is interested in the field, their skills and competencies, and what about the specific program appeals to them.
Cal State Sample Graduate School Personal Statements
These are good examples of personal statements for graduate school where students deploy lots of very vivid imagery and illustrative anecdotes of life experiences. There are also helpful comments about what works in each of these essays.
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However, all of these statements are definitely pushing the boundaries of acceptable length, as all are above 1000 and one is almost 1500 words! Many programs limit you to 500 words; if you don’t have a limit, you should try to keep it to two single-spaced pages at most (which is about 1000 words).
University of Chicago Personal Statement for Graduate School Examples
These examples of successful essays to the University of Chicago law school cover a wide range of life experiences and topics. The writing in all is very vivid, and all communicate clear messages about the students’ strengths and competencies.
Note, however, that these are all essays that specifically worked for University of Chicago law school. That does not mean that they would work everywhere. In fact, one major thing to note is that many of these responses, while well-written and vivid, barely address the students’ interest in law school at all! This is something that might not work well for most graduate programs.
Wheaton College Personal Statement for Graduate School Sample 10
This successful essay for law school from a Wheaton College undergraduate does a great job tracking the student’s interest in the law in a compelling and personal way. Wheaton offers other graduate school personal statement examples, but this one offers the most persuasive case for the students’ competencies. The student accomplishes this by using clear, well-elaborated examples, showing strong and vivid writing, and highlighting positive qualities like an interest in justice and empathy without seeming grandiose or out of touch.
Wheaton College Personal Statement for Graduate School Sample 1
Based on the background information provided at the bottom of the essay, this essay was apparently successful for this applicant. However, I’ve actually included this essay because it demonstrates an extremely risky approach. While this personal statement is strikingly written and the story is very memorable, it could definitely communicate the wrong message to some admissions committees. The student’s decision not to report the drill sergeant may read incredibly poorly to some admissions committees. They may wonder if the student’s failure to report the sergeant’s violence will ultimately expose more soldiers-in-training to the same kinds of abuses. This incident perhaps reads especially poorly in light of the fact that the military has such a notable problem with violence against women being covered up and otherwise mishandled
It’s actually hard to get a complete picture of the student’s true motivations from this essay, and what we have might raise real questions about the student’s character to some admissions committees. This student took a risk and it paid off, but it could have just as easily backfired spectacularly.
Key Takeaways: Graduate School Personal Statement Examples
In this guide, we discussed why you need a personal statement and how it differs from a statement of purpose. (It’s more personal!)
We also discussed what you’ll find in a strong sample personal statement for graduate school:
- A clear narrative about the applicant and why they are qualified for graduate study.
- Specific examples to support that narrative.
- Compelling reasons why the applicant and the program are a good fit for each other.
- Strong writing, including clear organization and error-free, cliche-free language.
- Appropriate boundaries—sharing without over-sharing.
Then, we provided three strong graduate school personal statement examples for different fields, along with analysis. We did a deep-dive on the third statement.
Finally, we provided a list of other sample grad school personal statements online.
Want more advice on writing a personal statement ? See our guide.
Writing a graduate school statement of purpose? See our statement of purpose samples and a nine-step process for writing the best statement of purpose possible .
If you’re writing a graduate school CV or resume, see our how-to guide to writing a CV , a how-to guide to writing a resume , our list of sample resumes and CVs , resume and CV templates , and a special guide for writing resume objectives .
Need stellar graduate school recommendation letters ? See our guide.
See our 29 tips for successfully applying to graduate school .
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Author: Ellen McCammon
Ellen is a public health graduate student and education expert. She has extensive experience mentoring students of all ages to reach their goals and in-depth knowledge on a variety of health topics. View all posts by Ellen McCammon
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Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School
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Preparing a well-written and effective personal statement (sometimes referred to as statements of purpose or personal essays) that clearly articulates your preparation, goals, and motivation for pursuing that specific graduate degree is critically important. You will need to spend a considerable amount of time and effort in crafting these statements. The focus, structure, and length of personal statements vary from program to program. Some will have prompts or questions you need to answer, while others will leave the topic open-ended. The length varies widely as well. Read instructions carefully and make sure to adhere to all parameters laid out in the application guidelines.
Clear writing is the result of clear thinking. The first and most important task is to decide on a message. Consider carefully which two or three points you wish to impress upon the reader, remembering that your audience is composed of academics who are experts in their fields. Your statement should show that you are able to think logically and express your thoughts in a clear and concise manner. Remember that the reader already has a record of your activities and your transcript; avoid simply restating your resume and transcript. Writing your statement will take time; start early and give yourself more than enough time for revisions. If no prompts are given, you can use the questions below to begin brainstorming content to include in your statement; for more information, see our Writing Personal Statement presentation Prezi and our three-minute video on Writing Personal Statements .
- What experiences and academic preparation do you have that are relevant to the degree you’re seeking?
- Why are you choosing to pursue a graduate degree at this time?
- Why do you want to pursue this particular degree and how will this degree and the specific program fit into your career plans and your long-term goals?
- What specific topics are you aiming to explore and what does the current literature say about those topics?
After you’ve written a first draft, start the work of editing, refining, simplifying, and polishing. Provide specific examples that will help illustrate your points and convey your interests, intentions, and motivations. Is any section, sentence, or word superfluous, ambiguous, apologetic, or awkward? Are your verbs strong and active? Have you removed most of the qualifiers? Are you sure that each activity or interest you mention supports one of your main ideas? Spelling and grammatical errors are inexcusable. Don’t rely on spell-check to catch all errors; read your statement aloud and have it reviewed by multiple people whose opinion you trust. If possible, have your statement reviewed by a writing tutor. For individual assistance with writing your personal statement, consult with the writing tutor in your residential college or the Writing Center within the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning .
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- How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples
How to Write Your Personal Statement | Strategies & Examples
Published on February 12, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 28, 2022.
A personal statement is a short essay of around 500–1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you’re applying.
To write a successful personal statement for a graduate school application , don’t just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to demonstrate three things:
- 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
Attend one of our upcoming livestreams and have your draft reviewed by an admissions essay coach. We’ll tell you if you’re on the right track and explain how you can strengthen your case.
Want some extra inspiration? Watch recordings of past grad school essay livestreams.
Table of contents
Getting started with your personal statement, the introduction: start with an attention-grabbing opening, the main body: craft your narrative, the conclusion: look ahead, revising, editing, and proofreading your personal statement, frequently asked questions, want some extra inspiration.
Before you start writing, the first step is to understand exactly what’s expected of you. If the application gives you a question or prompt for your personal statement, the most important thing is to respond to it directly.
For example, you might be asked to focus on the development of your personal identity; challenges you have faced in your life; or your career motivations. This will shape your focus and emphasis—but you still need to find your own unique approach to answering it.
There’s no universal template for a personal statement; it’s your chance to be creative and let your own voice shine through. But there are strategies you can use to build a compelling, well-structured story.
The first paragraph of your personal statement should set the tone and lead smoothly into the story you want to tell.
Strategy 1: Open with a concrete scene
An effective way to catch the reader’s attention is to set up a scene that illustrates something about your character and interests. If you’re stuck, try thinking about:
- 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.
During our livestream sessions, we invite students to submit their personal statement drafts and receive live feedback from our essay coaches. Check out recordings of our past sessions:
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How to Write a Stand-Out Personal Statement for Your Graduate School Application
While deciding to embark on the path to graduate school is an exciting first step toward advancing your career, the application process can sometimes feel daunting and confusing.
One major part of the application that most schools require is a personal statement. Writing a personal statement can be an arduous task: After all, most people don’t necessarily enjoy writing about themselves, let alone at length.
A compelling personal statement, however, can help bring your application to the top of the admissions pile. Below, we’ve outlined what you need to know about crafting a personal statement to make your application shine.
What Is a Personal Statement?
The point of a personal statement is for the admissions board to gain a deeper understanding of who you are apart from your education and work experience. It explains why you’re the right fit for the program and a worthwhile applicant. It’s also an opportunity to highlight important factors that may not be readily available in the rest of your application.
A personal statement is different from a statement of purpose (if you’re asked for that as well). A statement of purpose will touch on your academic and career goals, as well as your past credentials. While those should also be discussed in your personal statement, it’s more about your life experiences and how they’ve shaped you and your journey to graduate school.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing a Personal Statement
Before you start crafting your essay, there are a few prompts you can ask yourself to help clarify what you want to accomplish.
- What are the key points you want to communicate about yourself?
- What personal characteristics or skills do you have that make you a strong candidate for this field?
- What exactly are your career goals, and how does graduate school play into them?
- What have you learned about this field already? When did you first choose to follow this path, and what do you enjoy about it?
- What do you think is important for the admissions board to know specifically about you?
- Are there any discrepancies or causes for concern in your application you need to address? For example, is there a career and schooling gap, or a low GPA at one point? This is the time to discuss whether a personal hardship may have affected your academics or career.
- Have you dealt with any unusual obstacles or difficulties in your life? How have they affected and shaped you?
- What sets you apart and makes you unique from other graduate school applicants?
- What factors in your life have brought you to where you are today?
Top Tips for Writing a Graduate School Personal Statement
Pick a few points to emphasize about yourself . Introduce yourself to the admissions board. Select key factors about your background that you want the university to know — elements that reveal what kind of person you are and demonstrate why you’re a strong candidate for the school and field of study.
Be very specific . Again, a personal statement is all about communicating what distinguishes you from other applicants. To accomplish that, you need to share specific anecdotes that underscore your statements. If you say you’re a strong leader, present an example of a time you’ve proven that skill through work, school or your personal life. These specific, personal stories provide a deeper understanding of who you are and prove your intentions.
Do your research . Demonstrate what attracted you to the program. If there is a specific faculty member or class that caught your attention, or another aspect of the program that greatly interests you, convey it. This shows you’ve truly researched the school and have a passion for the program.
“Whatever the topic may be, I would recommend writing in a manner that reflects or parallels the institution’s and/or department’s missions, goals and values,” said Moises Cortés, a graduate/international credentials analyst for the Office of Graduate Admission at USC .
Address any gaps or discrepancies . Explain any factors that may have impacted your academic career. If you had an illness or any other personal hardships that affected your grades or work, discuss them. If there is a discrepancy between your grades and your test scores, you can also take the time to go over any extenuating circumstances.
Strike the right tone . While it’s important to give readers a glimpse of your personality, avoid oversharing or revealing intimate details of your life experiences. You should also avoid making jokes or using humorous cliches. Maintain a professional tone throughout your writing.
Start strong and finish strong . As with any piece of writing, you want to draw in your readers immediately. Make sure to start off with an interesting and captivating introduction. Similarly, your conclusion should be a well-written, engaging finish to the essay that highlights any important points.
“ For a personal statement, I think the first and last paragraphs are most important and should always relate the program they are applying to their own experiences and ideas,” Hoon H. Kang, a graduate/international credential analyst with the Office of Graduate Admission, told USC Online.
Proofread, proofread and proofread again . We can’t emphasize enough the importance of rereading your work. Your personal statement is also an analysis of your writing skills, so ensure you have proper grammar and spelling throughout. In addition, we recommend having multiple people look over your statement before submission. They can help with the proofreading (a second person always catches a mistake the writer may miss), give advice about the statement’s structure and content, and confirm it’s the proper recommended length.
Once you’ve considered all of the above and reviewed and edited your personal statement to perfection, it’s time to submit and check off any remaining application requirements, including your resume and letters of recommendation .
Personal statements are arguably one of the most challenging aspects of applying to graduate school, so make sure to revel in this accomplishment and acknowledge your successes.
For more information, visit the Office of Graduate Admission at USC and explore USC Online ’s master’s degrees, doctoral programs and graduate certificates.
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Writing a Winning Personal Statement for Grad School Tips and Advice for Standing Out as a Graduate Program Candidate
Applying to graduate school can be a significant step toward reaching academic and career goals, which can make the admissions process even more intimidating. Along with gathering letters of recommendation, taking exams and submitting transcripts, prospective graduate students typically have to write personal statements to include with their applications. The personal statement is an oft-elusive element of the grad school application, but it fulfills a specific and significant need in the eyes of admissions committees. By learning about the personal statement and its role, getting familiar with this essay's key elements and soaking in tons of advice from an admissions expert, graduate school applicants can prepare to write outstanding personal essays that can help them land spots in their ideal graduate programs.
- What is a Personal Statement?
- Personal Statement Components
- How to Write a Winning Statement
Personal Statement Example
Additional resources, what's the personal statement on a grad school app.
Graduate school applications often have prospective students include personal statements. These help admissions committees get to know the person behind each application. A personal statement is a short essay that introduces a grad school candidate and his or her personal reasons for applying to a particular program. While metrics such as GPA and test scores can give an admissions committee an idea of a student's qualifications, they are impersonal and don't indicate whether a candidate would be a good fit for a given program. "Metrics only show one small part of the entire picture," says career coach and former university admissions representative Meg Radunich. "Graduate programs care about the person behind the standardized test score and grade point average. A personal statement is the only part of the application where a candidate gets to make their own case for what they can add to the cohort of incoming first year students."
Students may get applications that ask for statements of purpose, or statements of intent, as well as personal statements. With such similar names, it's no surprise that many students wonder whether there is a difference. Depending on the program and writing prompt, a personal statement and a statement of purpose may fill the same need in the eyes of the admissions committee. In cases where both are required, however, things can get a little tricky. In general, the statement of purpose focuses more on a student's reasons for applying to that particular graduate program and may address topics such as career and research goals, how his or her academic track record demonstrates qualification for that particular school or program of study and how a given program will impact the student's future.
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By contrast, personal statements usually lend more freedom when it comes to content and form and are intended to give the admissions committee a glimpse into a candidate's personality. This narrative essay combines specific, self-reflective anecdotes with details about past experiences (internships, volunteer experiences, etc.) and a clear delineation of a student's goals and interest in the prospective graduate program to provide a fuller picture of the applicant. This combination, often unaccompanied by an explicit writing prompt or set of instructions, can make even the most practiced essay writers freeze up. Familiarizing themselves with the ins and outs of writing strong personal statements for graduate school can alleviate stress and ease the process of sending out those applications.
Components of a Successful Personal Statement
Because personal statements are individual to the applicant, there is no one-size-fits-all way to write them. However, there are a few key elements of strong personal statements that prospective graduate students should keep in mind as they write.
- Broad Understanding
- Vulnerability and Sincerity
- Awareness of Audience
When writing personal statements, students may feel pressured to tell admissions committees everything about themselves. People are multifaceted, and it seems extra important to hit all your personality highlights and accomplishments. However, the personal essay isn't meant to be an autobiography or a long-form reiteration of the applicant's resume. "One major mistake I see all the time is students who try to tell too much in the personal statement," says Radunich. "Tell one or two specific stories or scenarios really well instead of having a broad focus and attempting to tell your life story. The goal of the essay is to get an interview, one-on-one face time that will you allow you to divulge more. Use that personal statement to tease them just enough so they feel like they need to get you in for an interview to learn the rest of your story."
- An MFA program applicant could build his statement around a sculpture class reluctantly taken during sophomore year of undergraduate study that encouraged him to experiment and ultimately changed his art style and approach. This is more telling and interesting than meandering through a lifelong love of art that began at childhood.
- Students should try to keep the scope of their personal statements within the past few years, as admissions committees are generally most interested in applicants' undergraduate experiences.
The best personal statements have clear purposes and easily draw readers in. Students should be cautious about turning their personal statements into risky or edgy creative writing projects and instead maintain a strong narrative structure using anecdotes for support when necessary. "Everyone loves a coming-of-age story," Radunich says. "Remember that the faculty have a vested interest in admitting students who will be fun for them to work with and watch grow." Applicants should determine which key points about themselves are most important to make and then choose situations or experiences that demonstrate those points. This serves as the main content of the personal statement. It's important that students remember to keep anecdotes relevant to the specific programs to which they are applying and to make it clear how the experiences led them to those programs.
- A prospective engineering student who volunteered abroad might set the scene by writing about how working with members of the local community who had their own innovations based on supplies that were readily available in their area, like flip phone batteries and dismantled mopeds, challenged her exclusively Western understanding of infrastructure and exposed holes in her knowledge.
- She could follow up with brief but concrete examples that showcase both hard and soft skills relevant to her program of study, like how experience as a resident assistant affirmed her desire to help people, and her senior thesis project pushed her to reach out to others and collaborate for the sake of better research.
Along with a focused narrative, grad school applicants should demonstrate for the admissions committee why they want to attend this program and how doing so relates to their place academically, locally and globally. Radunich notes that strong personal statements show that candidates understand the "big picture" of the profession and the true meaning and impact they will have in their communities.
Applicants often feel as if they have to show how highly accomplished and impressive they are in their personal statements, but Radunich stresses the significance of being honest and vulnerable. "It helps the reader connect. Admissions deans read enough essays from 23-year-old applicants who brag about their accomplishments and think they have life figured out." Acknowledging faults or weaknesses shows the committee that an applicant is self-aware, teachable and eager to grow.
- "One medical school candidate I worked with wanted to become a psychiatrist due to her own personal experience with anxiety in high school," recalls Radunich. "Instead of hiding this experience, she owned it. Her personal statement was phenomenal as a result."
- Vulnerability should be presented as something that leads to growth rather than an excuse for doing poorly in certain academic areas.
Strong personal statements demonstrate awareness of audience and how content may be received. Radunich advises applicants to think about their essays from admissions deans' perspectives: What would and wouldn't you want to read it if you were in their shoes? As they write, students should remember that admissions personnel must read many personal statements and sort through thousands of applications. Being conscious of how words or stories may be perceived by those with experiences different from their own can be invaluable to students.
- Radunich cites a time when she worked with a student who wrote about her experience providing medical care in a developing country as part of her medical school application: "The student had good intentions, but in writing she sounded patronizing and even condescending when describing her interactions with patients. She had no idea. Remember that people who see the world differently from you will be reading this essay."
One of the biggest keys to writing a successful personal statement is in the name itself. This essay is meant to be personal and completely unique to the writer. "You have full control over this part of your application," Radunich says, urging students to avoid coming across as desperate in their essays. "Fight the urge to ‘shape shift' into whom you think that program wants you to be. You're not going to be a perfect fit for every single graduate program. Be you, and if a graduate program doesn't get it, you most likely aren't going to be happy in that program for the next three or more years." Many applicants may have similar metrics, but each student has different experiences to write about in a personal statement. Students should commit to their experiences and own them rather than err too far on the side of safety, something Radunich says is a common pitfall.
- "Students also make a mistake when they play it safe and write personal statements that have been played out. For example, medical students tend to cite experiencing illnesses, watching family members struggle with their health or wanting to help people as the reason why they want to become a doctor. Admissions deans have to read thousands of these. Make it personal and offbeat. Give them something new to read."
Applicants must take time to ensure their personal statements are tight and free of errors. Radunich stresses the importance of proofreading. "Do not even bother sending in an application with a personal statement that has spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. This personal statement is a reflection of the quality of work you will submit for the program."
One of the hardest parts of writing a personal statement is getting started. These steps and strategies can help prospective graduate students push through the initial hesitation and get on their way to writing winning personal statements.
- Read the instructions. Some applications provide little in the way of guidance, asking prospective students to expand on why they want to apply to the program or supply information on their backgrounds and interests. Others, however, give specific guidelines on content, format, word count and submission method. It's crucial that applicants read and understand what is expected of their personal statements. It won't matter how beautifully crafted the statement is if it doesn't address the prompt or disregards stated length requirements.
- Self-reflect. Before sitting down to write, students should spend a good amount of time thinking about their strengths and what they want to convey to admissions committees. Radunich says it's essential for students to really dwell on what makes them special. "Take time to reflect on your personal brand. What qualities do you bring to a cohort of graduate students that this program doesn't know they need?" When students are confident in their positive qualities, it can make it easier to convince admissions officers the value they bring to any given graduate program.
- Talk to friends and family. Sometimes figuring out how to write about oneself or what elements to highlight can be tough. Radunich says that this is where friends and family can be extremely helpful. She recommends talking those who know you best. "Ask the people who have been with you throughout your journey to provide feedback on who you are and what they've observed. Use them to provide feedback on what you have to offer a graduate program. How would they describe you in five words? This is your ‘essence self' — what makes you stand apart from others."
- Be authentic. "We hear this all the time, but it's the best advice," says Radunich. "Admissions personnel can smell a phony. They know when you're using words outside of your vocabulary or when you're exaggerating what an experience meant to you. They read thousands of personal statements per year and also see which applicants show up as the people they said they were once they're admitted. Don't sell yourself to an admissions panel; present a polished yet real account of who you are and what you care about. This way, the right school will recognize what you bring to the table."
- Keep it relevant. The focus should remain on why the student is qualified and wants to apply to that particular program. Admissions personnel want to get familiar with their applicants, but they mostly want to make sure they choose students who value the program and have specific reasons for applying. For instance, a student may be drawn to a program because one or two faculty members conduct research that aligns with that student's interests. That is something worth mentioning in a statement. Anecdotes and stories bring a personal element, but it's also important to include practical, academic- and career-focused details, too.
- Get feedback from outside sources. It's helpful for students to ask other people to read their personal statements. As Radunich points out, this can help students see how their statements may be perceived by others, and another set of eyes can help a student determine whether or not the essay is engaging and well-organized. Friends, family members, teachers and writing center staff can all be great resources.
- Use specific examples. Grad school applicants should do their best to avoid using general statements or listing their experiences and qualifications. "Use specific examples and strong storytelling to pull the reader into your life and care about you by the end," suggests Radunich. "For example, if you're applying to medical school, give us one specific, personal story about something that happened while volunteering at the hospital that changed your worldview, challenged you and confirmed your goal of being a doctor."
- Address potential shortcomings. The personal statement is an excellent opportunity for a candidate whose metrics aren't top notch to stand out and plead his or her case. "If the student earned less-than-stellar grades during their undergraduate education," notes Radunich, "(the student) can provide some context in the personal statement." Students may not feel this is necessary or be comfortable with this, but it is an option. Applicants should be cautious about how they address any weak points; explanations should not sound like excuses but should be framed in a way that demonstrates perseverance, improvement or the learning that followed those challenges.
- Use space efficiently. Personal statements are generally pretty short, often ranging between 500 and 1,000 words. This means that filler words and phrases, such as "the truth is," or "it's my personal belief that," take up valuable space that could be used to compel admissions into requesting an interview. It's important to convey a clear image in a few paragraphs, so be both concise and precise. In statements allowing longer word counts, keep in mind that more isn't always better. Admissions committees read thousands of personal essays each year, and longer ones may be at greater risk of being skimmed through rather than thoroughly read.
- Draft, edit, repeat. Depending on the program, a student's personal statement can carry considerable weight. It shouldn't be thrown together at the last minute. Allowing for adequate time to write multiple drafts, edit and thoroughly proofread is a must. Have other people proofread and check for grammar before sending in the application; they may catch errors that were glossed over in earlier drafts.
Writing a personal statement can be intimidating, which may make it difficult for applicants to get started. Having enough time to ruminate and write is also valuable and can give students the opportunity to choose a strong point of view rather than feel pushed to write about the first thing that comes to mind. Radunich emphasizes that students who aren't sure what to write about or how to approach writing about themselves should do some considerable brainstorming and get input from those who know them well. Students are often self-critical, especially in high-stakes situations, and they may not realize the positive qualities they may have that stand out to others.
Radunich also offers tips for getting in the mindset of admissions personnel: "They're reading the personal statement and gauging the candidate's fitness for the program. Can this person deal with stress and persevere? Does he/she have grit? Has this person overcome adversity, and does that give us confidence that they can handle the three demanding years of law school? Can this person handle receiving feedback, or will he/she drop out after the slightest bit of challenge or criticism? Can this student tolerate differing viewpoints and be open to growth?" Considering these questions can help guide students through the writing process.
It may also help students to look at example personal statements and see how these key considerations play out in an actual essay. Take a look at this example personal statement from a prospective grad student.
As I approached the convention hall, I wondered if I had gotten the room number wrong. I couldn't hear any signs of life, and I was losing my nerve to open the door and risk embarrassing myself. As I imagined a security guard striding up and chiding me for being somewhere I shouldn't be, a hand reached past me and pushed the door open, jolting me back to the real world. I peeked in. More hands. Hundreds of them. Hands were flying, waving, articulating, dancing . I was at once taken by awe and fear.
You can do this.
I had never planned on taking American Sign Language, and I certainly hadn't planned on it taking my heart. In my first term of college, I signed up for German, a language I had loved the sound of since I was a child. A week before classes began, however, the course section was cut. In my frustration, I decided I would take the first available language class in the course register. In hindsight, that probably wasn't the smartest approach, but it was a decision that completely altered my supposedly set-in-stone plan of becoming a linguist. The complexities of nonverbal language floored me, and I found myself thinking about hand signs while writing essays on Saussure's linguistic signs. I rearranged my schedule so I could take improv classes to help with my facial and body expressions. Theater! That was completely out of character, but I suddenly found myself compelled toward anything that would help immerse me in ASL and deaf culture.
Except actually getting involved in the community.
I knew going to my first deaf convention would be intimidating. My hands shake when I'm anxious, and nothing brings on nerves quite like throwing yourself into a situation where you are a total outsider. Between my limited vocabulary, quaking fingers and fear-frozen face, would anyone be able to understand me? What was I doing here? I had been studying American Sign Language for nearly three years and had somehow managed to avoid spontaneous conversation with the deaf community, and I was terrified. Workbook exercises and casual conversations with classmates — who had roughly the same ASL vocabulary and relied on the same linguistic crutches as I did — had become increasingly comfortable, but immersing myself in deaf culture and community was something entirely different. I was afraid. However, American Sign Language and deaf studies had captured my heart, and I knew this fear was a huge barrier I needed to get past in order to continue working toward my goal of becoming an advocate and deaf studies educator.
It must have been pretty obvious that I was both hearing and petrified, because I was immediately greeted by someone who, very formally and slowly, asked if I was a student and offered to accompany me. This small gesture is representative of how I became so fond of deaf culture in such a short period of time. The hearing community tends toward posturing, indirect communication and a sometimes isolating emphasis on individualism, and my limited experiences within the deaf community have been the opposite. The straightforward communication that exists in a beautifully nuanced and perspicacious language and the welcoming enthusiasm to grow the community is something I intend to be part of. I am an outsider, and I have much to learn, but I want to do everything I can to encourage understanding and exchange between the deaf and hearing communities and make hearing spaces more inclusive, especially for those who have more experience as outsiders than I do.
My devotion to language and learning about culture through communication hasn't changed, but the path by which I want to pursue that passion has. My foray into deaf studies and American Sign Language may have started as an accident, but no matter how nervous I still get when my fingers fumble or I have to spell something out, I am humbled and grateful that this accident led me to a calling that could have remained unheard my whole life.
Brainstorming is an important step in writing a convincing personal essay, and Coggle may be just the tool to help. Coggle is a mind-mapping app that helps users organize their thoughts in visual, nonlinear ways. Users can easily share with collaborators, such as writing coaches, advisers or friends.
Inspiration may strike at any time. Students can make sure they're prepared to jot down any personal statement ideas, gather inspiration and organize their thoughts with Evernote , a popular note-taking app.
Writing personal statements requires distraction-free writing time. However, most students do their writing on their most distracting devices. FocusWriter is a simple tool that helps mitigate the distraction problem by hiding computer interfaces and substituting a clean, clear digital writing environment.
This web browser add-on makes checking grammar quick and easy. Grammarly scans users' text and provides context-specific suggestions and corrections. Detailed explanations of each suggestion help users improve their writing over time.
This subject-specific book is a guide to writing personal statements for graduate school. It includes tons of tips and examples to help students write their application essays.
Microsoft's OneNote app is one of the most popular among those who like to use outlines to gather and organize their thoughts, but its many features make it a great prewriting tool for writers of all organizational preferences.
Mindomo can help grad school candidates brainstorm and pinpoint key elements to include in their personal statements. The app's mind maps, concept maps and outlines help users easily visualize and organize their ideas.
Students who are looking for an advanced editing tool to help them power through their grad school applications might want to look into ProWritingAid , a comprehensive application that helps with basic and advanced editing and addresses issues in style, word choice and structure.
The academic writing standby, Purdue OWL , weighs in on the 10 essential dos and don'ts of personal statement writing.
The UNR Writing Center offers this extensive, alphabetized list of tips on writing, from academic voice to writing introductions, to help with the writing process. Students should also consider consulting their own undergraduate schools' campus writing centers for help as well.
UNC provides specific guidance for students writing personal statements and other significant academic essays. The guidance on this page is not exclusive to UNC, so students from many different schools may find these tips helpful.
Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences provides this online manual to help students understand and successfully write personal statements and other graduate admissions and scholarship essays. The easy-to-navigate chapters provide many examples and tips to meet a range of criteria.
How to Write a Strong Personal Statement for Graduate School
- by Heidi Kerr and Paul David Terry
- November 10, 2020
You’ve made the exciting decision to pursue a graduate degree. Congratulations! There are a wide range of graduate programs to explore , and once you’ve selected the right program for you, it’s time to begin the graduate application process.
The statement of purpose and personal history statement are key components of the UC Davis graduate school application . With fewer than 4,000 characters allowed for each essay, these statements can seem particularly daunting. However, each one has a specific purpose for showcasing your academic journey and creating a holistic application.
Below, we’ve analyzed the differences between the statement of purpose and personal history statement and provided tips for writing these graduate school admissions essays.
Statement of Purpose and Personal History: What’s the Difference?
The statement of purpose shares your academic objectives with the admissions committee and explains why you want to obtain a graduate degree. The personal history statement provides background about who you are and how your experiences have shaped your interests and ability to overcome challenges. Each essay has specific goals to showcase your experience, passion and story.
How to Write a Strong Statement of Purpose
The statement of purpose should highlight your academic preparation , motivation and interests, along with any specializations and career goals that contribute to your program of study. As you write your statement of purpose, it should encompass some of the following:
- Academic and research experiences - Include any relevant academic studies or research pursuits, internships or employment, presentations, publications, teaching, and travel or study abroad experiences that prepare you for this graduate program. Explain your motivation or passion for these experiences and how they can enrich your graduate study.
- Interests, specializations, and career goals - Highlight your research interests, disciplinary subfields, area(s) of specialization, and professional objectives.
- Fit - Explain how your preparation, experiences, and interests match the specific resources and characteristics of your graduate program at UC Davis. Identify specific faculty within your desired graduate program with whom you would like to work and how their interests match your own.
The statement of purpose should also address why you want to pursue the particular graduate degree program at the university and what your goals are in pursuing a degree. Remember, the statement of purpose should explain exactly that, your purpose for becoming a graduate student. This is the primary way it stands apart from your personal history statement.
What to Include in Your Personal History Statement
The personal history statement helps the reader learn more about you as an individual and potential graduate student. Use this opportunity to describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Tell a story that includes any experiences, challenges or opportunities relevant to your academic journey. Consider how your life experiences contribute to the social, intellectual, or cultural diversity within a campus community and your chosen field.
A strong personal history statement begins with an authentic voice and personal narrative. This can reflect your journey to graduate school, any obstacles you’ve encountered, and how you've overcome challenges. Talk about your personal goals and dreams. Explain what motivates and drives you toward this degree. The more your personal statement tells your school about you as an individual, the more it will stand out. Don't write something to impress someone else. This includes language, style and tone. Authenticity is important and resonates well. Tell the truth, in your voice, from your perspective. Use your story to connect.
More Tips and Resources for Applying to Graduate School
Applying to graduate school may be daunting to some, but UC Davis has a variety of resources to help you create a strong graduate school application. Check out the Applying to Graduate School: A Guide and Handbook for ideas and worksheets on how to construct your essays. Or visit our Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services website for more graduate school prep resources.
Paul David Terry is the assistant director of special interest and affinity networks and alumni diversity lead at the Cal Aggie Alumni Association. He oversees the UC Davis Health Improving OUTcomes blog and enjoys cycling and brewing ginger beer.
Heidi Kerr works as the content and media manager at UC Davis’ Graduate Studies. She has worked as a communications professional at multiple higher education institutions and is passionate about promoting student success.
The authors acknowledge current and former leaders from Pre-Graduate/Law Advising in Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services, especially Annalisa Teixeira, Ph.D. and Cloe Le Gall-Scoville, Ph.D., who granted us permission to reference Applying to Graduate School: A Guide and Workbook .
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How to write a personal statement
If you want to give current article to your teenage child you might be right. But adults can be interested in it too. Personal statement is a piece of individual writing a person usually encloses to his or her university application. It's never too late to study, universities accept not only young and enthusiastic people but representatives of all ages. Anyway, we think it's vital to know how to write a personal statement. Who knows maybe next year you'll express desire to go back to school! Internet as usual can offer you a huge amount of personal statement examples for any case. We prefer to stick to theory that it should be unique and reflect best traits of your character and has a full story of your achievements. Personal statement format is not strict but of course there is a plan to follow. First is introduction. It should be catchy and captivate reader's attention from first sentence. In several blocks tell briefly but vividly about your education, experience and skills. Don't ask anyone for help, use your own words and phrases, let the committee know what a person you are. Search for tips on how to write a personal statement but do writing part yourself, without appropriating anyone's thoughts. In personal financial statement explain need of scholarship or financial aid. In personal mission statement define your primary goals you plan to achieve in life with help of high school.
Personal statement examples for different aims
Not to get lost under flood of information about personal statements, everyone should know that for each type of high school there should be a unique piece of paper.
Personal statement for graduate school won't contain any information about your desperate need of financial assistance in studying. This is what a personal financial statement for.
Planning to become a famous doctor and getting a medical certificate? Write a medical school personal statement, describe your preference. There is surely a noble reason for choosing career of doctor. After finishing studies and applying for a place in hospital as an intern there is a necessity to write residency personal statement. And again you say what made you think this very hospital would provide the best experience for you.
Dreaming of a career in jurisprudence? Be sure to make best law school personal statement ever. The competition between applicants is quite hard, as there are plenty of them. With moderate or low grades knowledge of how to write a personal statement is not just important, it's vital. When looking through samples ignore those that don't belong to necessary sphere. Medical school personal statement examples are not proper when applying for law school.
Importance of a good statement
Use of correct personal statement format is significant. Grades matter too but a brilliant piece of writing may win you a place in high school. Devote as much time as possible to compose it. Even when making a personal statement for college do your best. Examine your work several times, make notes, change part you don't like, give it to you teacher or senior to evaluate. Personal mission statement examples will help to make a right decision and sometimes completely change your mind.
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A Guide to Writing a Personal Statement for Grad School Applications
Congratulations! You made it through undergrad, and you’ve decided to apply to graduate school. Grad school can be a great way to progress your career path, upgrade your earning potential, and get a whole new perspective on your subject area—making the application process all the more daunting. As part of the application process, you’ll likely be required to write and submit a personal statement.
A personal statement is a short essay between two and three pages long explaining why you’re applying to the program and what makes you a strong applicant. A personal statement allows you to differentiate yourself by sharing a little bit about what makes you unique. Writing your personal statement for grad school is the best way to show off your personality, which doesn’t always come through in the other parts of the application process.
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What is a personal statement?
The point of a personal statement is for the admission committee to better understand who you are outside of your professional and academic experience. It’s also an opportunity to share information that they won’t find in your other application documents.
A personal statement is different from a statement of purpose. A statement of purpose expands upon your career and academic goals, while a personal statement explains why you’re the right person for the program. You can still share your academic and career goals in a personal statement, but you should focus on explaining how you came to those goals and what accomplishing them would mean to you.
A personal statement for grad school applications is also not the same as a personal statement that you would submit alongside a résumé . While a personal statement for your CV focuses on your professional accomplishments and gives a quick overview of who you are as a potential employee, a personal statement for grad school is a more in-depth look at who you are outside of being an employee or a student. It provides a deeper glance at what you bring to the table and why you’re a good prospect for the program.
Brainstorm before you write your personal statement
Sitting down and taking some time to reflect is the first step to writing an outstanding personal statement. Writing prompts can help you get into the right frame of mind and begin your brainstorming process. Here are some ideas:
- What are my short-term and long-term goals? How will acceptance into this program help me achieve them?
- What are my strengths in terms of skills and characteristics? How can these benefit the program?
- What life experience or interest is so meaningful that I would devote years to exploring the topic or subject? Why does it captivate me?
- Is there someone who has significantly impacted my life or character? Who is it, and in what ways have they impacted me?
- How has my life shaped my choice to apply for grad school?
- What do I want the people reviewing my application to know about me?
- What makes me different from other students or prospective applicants?
The answers to these questions will serve as the foundation of your personal statement. You can also try other calming prompts to ease any nervousness you feel about beginning the writing process.
What makes a strong personal statement?
The best personal statements capture who you are as a person and give the reader a sense that they know you once they’re finished reading. You have a story to offer that no one else does, and the more authentic you are, the better your essay will flow.
Your personal statement should have a sense of completeness. You don’t want to leave your readers wanting more. You want to provide your audience with all the information they might need to make a decision on your application. The beginning of your essay should be relevant until the end, with supporting body paragraphs in between.
And finally, a personal statement should be mistake-free. Your grammar and spelling need to be perfect, and the diction and syntax in your essay need to be purposeful.
7 dos and 3 don’ts for writing a personal statement
1 include examples.
If you’re spending your essay telling the admissions committee that you’re driven and compassionate, provide anecdotes that back up your claim. For example, you can prove that you’re driven by sharing that you balanced a job with school to pay down student loans, or you could talk about a time when you went above and beyond for a particular project. You can prove that you’re creative by giving an example of a time you offered an innovative solution to a problem that came up. You don’t want to say, “I’m smart and reliable.” You want to show that you are.
2 Be yourself
It’s easy to tell when someone is exaggerating, hedging, or pretending to be someone they’re not. And this comes through especially in writing. Be authentic when crafting your personal statement.
3 Do your research
Just as you would for a job interview, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Before writing your personal statement, you should have a concrete idea of what the university and program offers, what they value, and the kind of applicants they’re looking for.
4 Grab their attention
As the initial impression of your paper, your hook is everything—make it interesting!
Stay away from rote phrases like “I’m writing to you today to . . . ” and throw them right into the action. Think of an instance that shaped you and jump right into the story. Keep it short, engaging, and illustrative of the qualities and motivations you will explore later in your statement.
5 Remember your audience
One of the biggest mistakes people make in personal statements is trying to be humorous or sarcastic. In writing, these tones often fail and fall flat. Remember who you’re writing for, and stay professional.
6 Address the prompt
Though most schools will give you the freedom to make your personal statement about whatever you want (as long as it’s within the guidelines of the general answer they’re seeking), some will require you to answer a specific question. If that’s the case, remember to keep your personal statement tailored to the prompt and be direct with your answers.
7 Revise and proofread
Make sure your statement is clear and flows smoothly between sentences and paragraphs. Read it out loud, and read it to a friend or family member to get feedback. Also, be sure your copy is clean—any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes can distract the reader and detract from the message you’re trying to deliver.
1 Don’t be presumptuous
Of course you want to showcase what makes you a great applicant, but make sure you don’t overdo it. Just because you might think you’d be a good fit for the program doesn’t mean the admissions office will see it that way.
Presumptuous: “I know my personal statement for grad school is the best, and I have no doubt that I’ll get in everywhere I apply.”
Confident: “I put a lot of effort into my personal statement for grad school, and I know it is well-written and authentic.”
2 Don’t use platitudes or cliché s
You don’t want to oversimplify important life events by using a platitude, nor do you want to use clichés in place of opportunities for authenticity. Everyone uses them; that’s how they got to be cliché s! Avoid starting your essay with a quote, definition, or anything else that signals the obvious fact that time has passed and you’re now applying for graduate school. For example: “from a young age . . . ” or “I’ve always been interested in . . . ”
3 Don’t overshare
This isn’t an autobiography or a session with a close confidant. Pick an example or two of life events that shaped you and your desire to apply to grad school, but don’t tell your whole life story. There’s also no need to get into the nitty-gritty with the admissions committee. Keep your personal statement inspiring, and remember what you’re trying to convey.
Crafting your personal statement
You might want to begin your writing process with an outline detailing what you plan to include in your personal statement. Writing an outline might seem annoying, but it can be beneficial in the long run.
Your paper should end up between two and three pages long, and should include:
- Body paragraphs
Your introduction should include a hook that captures your reader’s attention and makes them want to keep reading. Admission committees read countless personal statements, so make yours stand out.
Body paragraphs should include examples of characteristics you want to come through in your personal statement, whether that be an anecdote about a challenge you overcame or something broader. Let these paragraphs explain your motivations for applying, and provide examples of your ability to excel in the program.
Your conclusion is an opportunity to discuss future plans and explain why acceptance into your desired program would benefit you. The conclusion is also a great time to summarize the key pieces of your previous paragraphs, weave them together, and complete your argument. For example, if you previously explained a challenging moment in your life, your conclusion should emphasize what you got out of that experience and how it has prepared you for this opportunity.
The final sentence of your concluding paragraph should be just as good as your hook. You want the audience to remember your paper, so leave them with something to ponder. Perhaps your last sentence inspires the reader or evokes a strong emotion. Either way, your final statement needs to give a sense of completion.
After you finish writing, don’t forget to proofread and revise until your final draft is polished and clear.
Remember to bring something different to the table and provide the admissions committee with something new and valuable to know about you that they can’t access elsewhere. Stay authentic, be engaging, and prove that you’re exactly the kind of person grad schools want in their program.
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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?
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.
- 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.
- 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 .
How to Write a Successful Personal Statement for Graduate School
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- Ph.D., Psychology, University of California - Santa Barbara
- B.A., Psychology and Peace & Conflict Studies, University of California - Berkeley
A personal statement for graduate school is an opportunity to showcase what you will bring to the graduate program and to explain how the program fits into your larger career goals.
Some programs will ask you to write a single essay covering both your personal background and what you wish to study in graduate school. Others, however, will require both a personal statement and a statement of purpose . The personal statement should focus on you and your background, while the statement of purpose should focus on your research or what you plan to study in graduate school. Follow these strategies to craft a stellar personal statement that will stand out in admissions offices.
- The personal statement provides an opportunity for you to share information about yourself and your academic interests to graduate admissions committees.
- The personal statement should discuss your academic background as well as relevant work and research experiences.
- When talking about your previous experience, be sure to highlight the skills that you learned and how your past experiences have led you to be interested in graduate study.
- Your first draft of your personal statement doesn’t need to be perfect. Give yourself time to revise and proofread your essay, and be sure to seek feedback on your draft from others.
Structuring a Personal Statement
Your personal statement should include an introduction and a summary of your previous experience (including your coursework, research experience, and relevant work experience). Additionally, if you’re not covering these topics in a separate statement of purpose, you should also discuss why you want to go to graduate school, what you wish to study as a graduate student, and why this particular graduate program is right for you.
Starting Your Essay
Personal statements can begin in a few different ways. Some students start their essay by discussing their personal background or sharing a compelling anecdote that explains why they are interested in graduate school. Other students simply begin their essay by talking plainly about their academic experiences and interest in graduate school. There’s no “one size fits all” answer here, so feel free to choose the introduction that works best for your essay.
Sometimes, the introduction of a personal statement is the toughest part to write. If you’re experiencing writer’s block, remember that you don’t have to start with the introduction. By the time you’ve finished writing the rest of the essay, you may have a much better idea of the type of introduction your essay needs.
Summarizing Your Previous Experience
In your personal statement, you’ll want to talk about your previous academic experience and how it has prepared you for graduate school. You can talk about courses you’ve enjoyed (especially any advanced coursework), research projects you may have worked on, or internships and work experience that are relevant for graduate school.
When describing your previous experience, be sure to not just write about what you did but also what you learned and how the experience contributed to your interest in graduate school. For example, if you gained research experience by assisting a graduate student with their research project, don’t just describe what the project was about. Instead, be as specific as possible about skills you picked up (for example, gaining experience using lab techniques or a particular academic database). Additionally, write about how your past experiences sparked your curiosity and helped you decide that graduate school is the right choice for you.
Remember that you can also talk about non-academic experiences such as volunteer work or part-time jobs. When you mention these experiences, highlight how they show transferable skills (i.e. skills that will also be valuable in your graduate program, such as communication skills or interpersonal skills). For example, if you supervised a group of students as a camp counselor, you might talk about how this experience helped you develop leadership skills. If you had a part-time job while in college, you might talk about challenges you resolved at work and how they demonstrate your problem-solving ability.
If you faced significant obstacles while in college, your personal statement can also be a place to discuss the experience (if you feel comfortable doing so) and its influence on you.
Writing About Why You Want to Attend Graduate School
In your personal statement, you should also talk about your future goals: what you want to study in graduate school, and how this ties into your larger goals for your future career. Graduate school is a big commitment, so professors will want to see that you have thought through your decision carefully and that graduate education is truly necessary for the career you want to pursue.
When talking about why you want to go to graduate school, it’s good to be as specific as possible about why the school you’re applying to would be a good match for your career goals. If you’re applying to a program that involves a significant amount of research (such as PhD programs and some Master’s programs), it’s important to talk about the research topics you’re most interested in studying while in graduate school. For programs involving research, it’s also a good idea to read the department’s website to learn about faculty members’ research topics and then customize your personal statement accordingly for each school. In your personal statement, you can mention several professors you might want to work with and explain how their research matches up with what you’d like to study.
Mistakes To Avoid
- Not proofreading. In graduate school, writing will be a big component of your academic career, especially if your program involves writing a Master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation. Taking the time to proofread shows professors that they can be confident in your writing ability.
- Sharing overly personal information. While sharing a personal anecdote can help to illustrate your interest in graduate school, disclosing information that is too personal can backfire. In a survey of psychology graduate admissions committee chairs, some professors pointed out that sharing overly personal information can make applicants look unprofessional. And as Harvard’s Office of Career Services points out, interviewers may ask you follow-up questions about your personal statement in interviews. So if it’s not something you’d feel comfortable sharing in a face-to-face setting, it’s best left out of your personal statement.
- Writing too much. Keep your essay brief: if the essay prompt doesn’t give a specific word/page limit, 1-2 pages is generally a good length. (However, if the program you’re applying to specifies a different length, be sure to follow their instructions.)
- Vague language. Be as specific as possible about why you want to pursue graduate school and which topics you want to study. As UC Berkeley’s Career Center explains, you should avoid using words like “interesting” or “enjoyable” unless you elaborate on them further. For example, don’t just say that you find a topic interesting—share a compelling research finding you learned about or explain why you’d like to contribute to knowledge in this area as a graduate student.
- Not asking for help. You don’t need to write a perfect essay on the first draft. Seek out trusted mentors, such as professors and graduate students, and ask for feedback on your essay draft. You can also seek out on-campus resource centers at your college for additional personal statement feedback and support.
What A Successful Personal Statement Looks Like
Some of the most compelling admissions essays are ones in which students are able to draw a clear connection between their past experiences (coursework, jobs, or life experiences) and their motivation for attending graduate school. If you can show readers that you're both well-qualified and passionate about your proposed course of study, you’re far more likely to capture the attention of admissions committees.
If you’re looking for inspiration, read sample graduate admissions essays . In one sample essay , the writer talks about the shift in her academic interests—while she initially studied chemistry, she is now planning to go to law school. This essay is successful because the writer clearly explains why she is interested in switching fields and demonstrates her passion for studying law. In addition, the writer highlights transferable skills that will be relevant to the legal profession (such as explaining how working as a resident assistant in her college dorm helped her to develop interpersonal skills and gain experience resolving conflicts). This provides an important take-home lesson for writing a personal statement: you can talk about past experience that isn’t directly related to academics, as long as you explain how this experience has helped to prepare you for graduate study.
Writing a personal statement for graduate school can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. By demonstrating your qualifications and enthusiasm and seeking feedback on drafts from professors and other on-campus resources, you can write a strong personal statement that shows who you are and why you’re a good candidate for graduate school.
Sources and Further Reading
- “4 Sample Graduate School Essays.” CSU Channel Islands: Career & Leadership Development . https://www.csuci.edu/careerdevelopment/services/sample-graduate-school-admissions-essays.pdf
- Appleby, Drew C., and Karen M. Appleby. “Kisses of Death in the Graduate School Application Process.” Teaching of Psychology 33.1 (2006): 19-24 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/246609798_Kisses_of_Death_in_the_Graduate_School_Application_Process
- “Applying to Graduate School.” Undergraduate Resource Series, Harvard University: Office of Career Services (2017). https://ocs.fas.harvard.edu/files/ocs/files/applying_to_grad_school_0.pdf
- Brown, Joseph L. “‘Tell Them Who You Are and Why You’ve Applied’: Personal Statements.” Stanford University: Office of Multicultural Affairs. https://oma.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/Personal_Statements.v6_0.pdf
- “Graduate School – Statement.” UC Berkeley: Career Center . https://career.berkeley.edu/Grad/GradStatement
- “Personal Statement.” Harvard University: Office of Career Services. https://ocs.fas.harvard.edu/personal-statement
- “What’s a Good Statement of Purpose?” Stanford University: Graduate School of Education. https://ed.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/Statement-of-Purpose.pdf
- “Writing the Personal Statement.” UC Berkeley: Graduate Division . http://grad.berkeley.edu/admissions/apply/personal-statement/
- “Writing Your Graduate School Application Essay.” Carnegie Mellon University: Global Communication Center . https://www.cmu.edu/gcc/handouts-and-resources/grad-app-sop
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How to write a personal statement for grad school
By University of Phoenix
At a glance
- Aspects to address in your personal statement include your personal journey and obstacles, your understanding of what the program offers and how you might be a good fit for it.
- Research the program to which you’re applying so you can identify why you’d be a good candidate for it. Then, hook your reader’s interest with the opening sentence, focus on a few main points and proofread the finished document.
- A statement of purpose is different from a personal statement in that a statement of purpose focuses less on your personal journey and more on your professional and academic goals.
- Explore online graduate degree programs at University of Phoenix!
Deciding to pursue a graduate degree is a big step and can lead to exciting career opportunities . However, before you can earn a graduate degree, you must apply to graduate school.
Applying to graduate school may require numerous steps, such as filling out forms, obtaining copies of your transcripts , asking for letters of recommendation and writing a personal statement .
Your personal statement is your chance to give the admissions committee a deeper look into who you are as a person beyond your academic and professional accomplishments. A strong personal statement can potentially improve your chances of being admitted to a graduate school that can help you reach your goals.
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Is a personal statement required?
It depends on the institution, but many ask for a personal statement. Some schools even provide questions and prompts for you to address when crafting your statement.
If a graduate program asks for a personal statement, assume it is a required part of the application process . Failing to include your personal statement could result in rejection or a delay in being admitted.
Questions to ask yourself
Before you start writing, take a moment to reflect on a few key questions. These questions will help you uncover the main theme and important points to include in your personal statement.
- Why do I want to return to school?
- What specifically about my skills, experiences and personality make me a good candidate for this program?
- Why did I choose this field of study? What do I enjoy about it?
- What obstacles have I faced that shaped who I am as a person? How do those struggles motivate me to pursue this degree?
- What would make me a unique applicant who would add to the student body and diversity of thought at the institution?
By honestly answering these questions, you can gain a better understanding of what you hope to achieve by going to grad school and how you would be a good addition to the program you are applying for.
Important components of a personal statement
A personal statement should have several key components . They are:
- Your personal journey and obstacles : Outline the major life events that brought you to this point and how those events affected your decision to pursue graduate school.
- Your understanding of the program and why you chose to apply : Research the program and showcase your knowledge in your personal statement by expressing why this specific program feels right for you.
- Your reasoning for pursuing a graduate degree : Show the admissions committee that earning a graduate degree is a vital part of reaching your goals.
- Specific examples of past work : Provide examples of your work and experiences that demonstrate why you would make a great addition to the program.
- How you will contribute to the school’s learning community : Going to graduate school is not all about what you can obtain, but also how you can contribute as a student and alumnus to the institutional community. Provide information on what makes you unique and how you can give back.
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Tips for writing your personal statement.
Your personal statement is sometimes the admissions committee’s only chance to get to know you beyond your transcripts and resumé. Tips for writing an effective and impactful personal statement include:
- Research the program : Mention specific professors you want to work with and specific classes you are interested in.
- Hook your reader : While you want your entire statement to be strong, it is especially important that your first sentence is powerful enough to engage your reader.
- Choose a few main points : Don’t write a complete autobiography. Choose a few main points and dive deeply into each one.
- Proofread and edit : A statement with typos will give a poor first impression. Be sure your statement is grammatically correct and well written. Don’t just rely on spell-check; check it a second or third time yourself. Ask a friend or professional mentor to look it over for you.
- Use your own voice: Although proofreading and clarity are essential, avoid adjusting the tone and words to oversanitize your language so that it no longer represents the essence of “you.” Admissions professionals review hundreds of applications a year, and losing your personal voice to overediting can decrease the impact of your personal statement.
Following these tips will help you write a compelling personal statement that demonstrates you have given this decision careful consideration, you pay attention to details, you have strong writing skills, and you have confidence in your future performance in the program.
Personal statement examples
When discussing a past obstacle you overcame, you should explain how the obstacle helped prepare you for grad school. For example:
[The obstacle] taught me more about myself and showed me that I have the strength to do hard things in life. In overcoming it, I realized I have the power to take charge and reach my goals.
When discussing your personality traits, give specific examples of how those traits will help you in your specific course of study:
My insatiable curiosity has helped make me a thorough researcher and an avid reader. I want to know as much as I can about [your field of study] because learning is a part of who I am.
Further requirements for applying to graduate schools
Beyond writing your personal statement, you may be asked to complete several other requirements to apply to graduate schools, including:
- Transcripts from your undergraduate degree : To be accepted for a graduate program, you will need to complete an undergraduate degree and submit your transcripts with your application.
- Letters of recommendation : Letters of recommendation from two or three professors, mentors and employers might be required.
- Testing : Some grad schools require that applicants submit their GRE score or GMAT result, but this may not always be the case.
- Application forms : Make sure all of your forms, which will most likely be digital, are filled out with the correct information.
- Statement of purpose : Some schools ask for a statement of purpose, which is different from a personal statement. The statement of purpose is more tactical in nature and should speak about your accomplishments and the level of work you plan to contribute on a functional basis.
Each piece of your application comes together to create a full picture of who you are, where you have been and where you are going.
Statement of purpose vs. personal statement
As mentioned, when applying for graduate school you might need to write both a personal statement — or a personal history — and a statement of purpose . The personal statement focuses on your personal journey, your goals, past obstacles, and the skills and personality traits you have that make you a good match for the specific program.
A statement of purpose has more of a professional and academic focus . You will need to outline your professional and academic work experiences, awards, publications and achievements. You will also need to outline your goals for your study within the program, the mentors you hope to work with and the focus of your studies or thesis.
The personal statement lets the admissions committee get to know you, and the statement of purpose lets them know the kind of work they can expect from you if you are accepted.
Further resources for applying to graduate school
If you are starting the application process for your graduate program of choice, then using all the resources at your disposal can improve your chances of being accepted. These resources include:
- Mentors : Past professors and mentors can provide guidance and letters of recommendation to bolster your application.
- Your undergraduate university : If you are a current student or a recent graduate, your alma mater may have resources, such as a writing center, that can help with grad school applications.
- The admissions office of the graduate program : The school you are applying to will have information about the application process. Make sure you research information online, follow instructions exactly and, if necessary, contact the admissions office for further clarification to improve your chances of acceptance.
Whether you have been dreaming of graduate school for 20 years or you are close to graduating with your bachelor’s degree and looking at the next step, attending graduate school can change your life. From increased knowledge and expertise to a wider range of employment opportunities, earning a graduate degree can help you reach your professional and personal goals.
Graduate programs at University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix (UOPX) offers a wide range of online master and doctoral degree programs .
- Master degrees — UOPX currently offers 27 graduate degree programs in education, business, health administration, nursing, data science and more. To learn more, visit https://www.phoenix.edu/online-masters-degrees.html .
- Doctoral degrees — UOPX currently offers the following five doctoral degrees: Doctor of Business Administration, Doctor of Education, Doctor of Health Administration, Doctor of Management and Doctor of Nursing Practice. To learn more, visit https://www.phoenix.edu/online-doctoral-degrees.html .
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How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad School
Last Updated: April 16, 2023 References
This article was co-authored by Alexander Ruiz, M.Ed. . Alexander Ruiz is an Educational Consultant and the Educational Director of Link Educational Institute, a tutoring business based in Claremont, California that provides customizable educational plans, subject and test prep tutoring, and college application consulting. With over a decade and a half of experience in the education industry, Alexander coaches students to increase their self-awareness and emotional intelligence while achieving skills and the goal of achieving skills and higher education. He holds a BA in Psychology from Florida International University and an MA in Education from Georgia Southern University. There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 19,069 times.
The personal statement is a critical component of your application to graduate school. It is your only opportunity to persuade your future advisors and colleagues that you are a good fit for their program. It allows them to see you as an actual person behind your paper work. While you might think you can dash off a finished draft in one afternoon, it will be worth it for you to put time and effort into your personal statement.
Researching the Program
- On a piece of paper, write down the question "Why do I want to attend this program?" Then write a sentence that answers that question. Rewrite and revise that sentence again and again (at least 3-4 times) until you get a very clear, specific answer. You should use this sentence as inspiration for your broader statement.
- If the program you are applying to is very prestigious or famous (like an Ivy League school), you need to write an answer that goes beyond "This is a good program." The admissions committee already knows it is a great program and they won't be able to learn very much about you if this is your only reason for applying.
- Similarly, if you are applying to a program because of its desirable location (as in a major city or by the beach), you need to have an answer that avoids praising the program for its location. An admissions committee will also be able to see your true motivations very quickly and reject your application.
- You should actually read articles and books by the faculty member and know what kinds of arguments they are making. Don't just look up their research interests on the faculty web page. Let the committee know you are truly interested in the research that is conducted at the program.
- Make sure the faculty members you want to work with are listed as graduate faculty members. Most programs require that their graduate students work with tenured faculty. This means the faculty members you want to work with should have the title of Associate Professor or Professor.
- If the faculty member you want to work with is listed as an Assistant Professor or Visiting Assistant Professor, then you should avoid naming them as a potential advisor in your statement. They do not have tenure and their future at the institution is uncertain.
Drafting Your Personal Statement
- First paragraph. Clearly define your purpose in pursuing graduate study in this program. Why are you a good fit for this program? Answer this question with a unique anecdote or fact about yourself.
- Second paragraph. Expand on your thoughts from the first paragraph. Explain 1) which field you want to specialize in and 2) how you are prepared to specialize in this field. What has led you to this specialization? How do the research strengths of the program's faculty align with your own interests? Who would you want to work with in the program?
- Third and fourth paragraphs. How do you plan to use your graduate study in your future career? Do you want to go into teaching, research or a non-academic field? Do you plan to use your graduate program to further a career you are already in?
- Fifth and sixth paragraphs. Discuss any additional resources on campus you might be interested in using (such as a certificate program or an interdisciplinary research center). Close with a strong statement on how you can contribute to the program and how it will help you in your career goals.
- Avoid writing statements such as "I always knew I wanted to be a ___." These statements are overdone and, generally, they are also untrue. Did you really know, at five years old, that you wanted to be a mechanical engineer or the manager of a non-profit? Probably not. Be honest about what led you to this field of study.
- Avoid cliches. Do not open with statements like "Webster's dictionary defines 'medicine' as..." You will also want to avoid opening with a quote from someone else. You need to make your own words shine here.
Revising the Personal Statement
- If you give yourself time, you will also be able to mull over new ideas and unique ways to phrase them in your statement.
- Keep in mind that the revision process should take 2-3 times longer than the drafting process.
- You don't want your personal statement to read like a laundry list of accomplishments. Instead. give the committee a clear idea of who you are and why you want to pursue this program of study.
- While you don't want to sound stuffy, you should avoid anything inappropriate (obviously, no profanity). This is also not the place for crude jokes. You want to sound approachable, but also serious about your studies.
- You might ask one of your current or former professors. They will likely have read many letters like this and they will be able to give you a sense of what an admissions committee is looking for.
- Take it to your university's writing center and career center. These resources are generally free and the people who work there will be able to give you in-depth, objective feedback. They will have worked with hundreds of students who have successfully gone on to graduate school, so they will understand the best way to craft a personal statement.
- I want to help others
- Don't rely on the grammar or spell check function in your Word document to do this work for you. Check it yourself and have others help you check it as well.
- Typos indicate a lack of attention to detail on your part. Multiple typos might cause your committee to question if you are lazy or imprecise in other parts of your work.
- Make sure you adapt the statement to include the correct name of the university and its respective faculty members. If you start out writing that you are interested in the program at Alpha University but then finish by saying you'd be thrilled to be accepted to Beta University, your application will most likely be tossed by the committee.
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- Read sample personal statements. The writing center at your university should have examples on file and your local library will have guide books on applying to graduate school that should also have samples. Ask your friends and family who have gone to graduate school if you can view their statements as well. ⧼thumbs_response⧽ Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
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- ↑ https://www.petersons.com/blog/a-guide-for-potential-grad-students-should-you-go-to-graduate-school/
- ↑ https://www.princetonreview.com/grad-school-advice/choosing-a-school
- ↑ https://career.berkeley.edu/Grad/GradStatement
- ↑ https://www.prepscholar.com/gre/blog/graduate-school-personal-statement-examples/
- ↑ https://www.gradschools.com/get-informed/applying-graduate-school/essay-writing/how-write-your-personal-statement-graduate-school
- ↑ https://www.saintmarys.edu/career-center/students/gradschool/personalstatements/sample
- ↑ Alexander Ruiz, M.Ed.. Educational Consultant. Expert Interview. 18 June 2020.
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/job_search_writing/preparing_an_application/writing_the_personal_statement/index.html
- ↑ https://www.prepscholar.com/gre/blog/graduate-school-personal-statement/
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How to Write a Good Personal Statement for Grad School: Understand and Master the Requirements
Home » Blog » How To Write » How to Write a Good Personal Statement for Grad School: Understand and Master the Requirements
Table of Contents
A graduate essay is a term that can puzzle, but it is not so sophisticated. In our case, it means a specific piece that a student composes for the grad school admission board. The official name of the document is a “personal statement.”
This paper is a close relative of an admission essay that you compose when you apply for a college. Similar to the college application, you have to be present yourself as a perfect candidate. You try to overplay your possible competitors, as there are fewer spots than applicants, especially in famous universities.
The personal essays for graduate school are the most potent aces that students can play at this stage. When admission boards know nothing about you as a person, it is your chance to get acquainted. A short piece of writing must convince the board that they should accept your application and invite you. To ensure that, it is not enough to present the list of your achievements – if you aren’t an established researcher already, many students have similar pros.
Making a good personal statement is not some “mission impossible.” The key is understanding of what the schools really seek in those documents. Their needs are practical: your qualification and experience must meet the grad school’s criteria and match their primary goal – improving the university brand.
It can be a catch. Some students try copying successful examples of such applications without in-depth understanding of their pluses. It is not a working approach. Instead, you need to master the format of the personal statement. Then, apply its requirements to yourself and compose a bright, original document that does you justice.
What is a personal statement for graduate school? In this article, we’ll share the writing guideline. It served excellently to many candidates who were accepted in grad schools.
Approaches to Writing a Personal Statement for Graduate School
The essence of this document is proof. You compose it with several specific purposes:
- Proof of having the necessary qualification;
- Proof of having the motivation to work hard;
- Proof of your capabilities to bring benefits to grad school.
There is one more point that the committee considers while reviewing your application. It is the writing style. The thing is, you need to demonstrate impressive skills in academic writing.
First, it shows that you are familiar with the academic rules and specific writing features. Second, you should prove that you can expose your idea clearly. Finally, university studies always involve loads of writing tasks, and your essay demonstrates your abilities to cope with them.
Admission boards want and need to make sure that you can achieve success. The key point is to add fame to the school. Your contribution must be significant and valuable. In other words, they need to ensure that you can conduct your research, complete is successfully, and earn the degree.
The Personal Statement Correct Structure
Writing this document is often complicated because the student needs to talk about many things, but the essay is short. There is a question: “how long should a graduate school personal statement be?” It occurs every time as students start to work on this job. The optimal length is about 500-600 words, the same as for the college application essay. It can be longer, especially for some famous schools. Check this aspect related to the grad school of your choice.
The reason for such a limitation is simple. There are tons of applications, and the officers can’t afford to spend much time reading and evaluate each personal statement. Being concise is a mandatory requirement. The size restriction impacts the structure and the contents of the document as well. A student has to provide specific information in a definite order.
The graduate school personal statement outline matches the standard essay structure with the Introduction, the Body, and the Conclusion parts.
Like in other essays, you have to grasp the audience at once. The issue of how to start a personal statement for grad school is always burning. Hence, in the introductory part, you provide basic information about yourself and your reasons to apply. The information you provide should be the following:
- An introductory section about yourself. Mention your name, the current placement, and a couple of the most critical academic achievements. Then, state the purpose of writing this document – that you apply for grad school;
- Describe your academic goals. This information should present your motivation to excel in the chosen field for the admission officers. Don’t go into detail here – leave it for the Body sections;
- Explain your choice of this university. The goal is to prove that you know precisely what you will face and readily make the most of your chance. Be very specific about the courses you plan to take, scientists you want to learn from, and other details.
The main section of the personal statement usually consists of three paragraphs. You have to explore the opening section and present more in-depth information on the following matters:
- Goals in the academic field;
- Previous professional achievements;
- Evidence that you suit this particular school.
As for the contents of the Main Body particular sections, focus on the following:
- Explain why you choose this school in more detail. One essential tip is to mention only a couple of reasons – it shows your focus. The admission committee wants specific and reliable information about your future plans. Note also that your reasons to apply should match your general academic goals;
- Describe your strong sides. The goal is to demonstrate that you already match the criteria of this university. Thus, your qualification allows you to bring more success to this school. Mention your publications, successful projects you took part in, and other concrete achievements. It is excellent to present yourself as an established researcher who can cope with any professional task brilliantly. Make sure to adjust your advantages to the school’s requirements and policies;
- Appeal to future goals. This piece should relate to long-term academic plans. The goal is to explain how you will use the knowledge and degree obtained in this university in your career. It is proof that you will make a weighty contribution to their university brand for the admission board.
The final section is the summary of your personal statement with a “high-note” final. Include the following details:
- Sum up all arguments in favor of your candidature;
- Relate them to your academic purposes and the requirements of the program and the grad school;
- Basing on these data, finish the essay with a claim that you are an ambitious researcher who matches the criteria, and will undoubtedly add more glory to this grad school.
It is what you should write about in the personal statement.
The Grad School Personal Statement Tips for Writing It Easily
All tips for writing a personal statement for graduate school start from the research recommendation. Your first step is to collect as much information about the grad school of your choice as possible. Read about its programs, courses, and conditions as possible. Then, you analyze this information.
- List all the requirements separately, then list your advantages – qualification, skills, professional experience, and achievements. Match them to create a foundation for the statement of goals for graduate school. Practical accomplishments are the best evidence. Still, if you lack them – apply to other relevant qualities that build you the foundation for success in that field;
- Get familiar with the examples of personal statements. See how the successful applicants presented their advantages. Examine the means they used to persuade the admission officers and how they built the structures. But you must not copy them – it is a plagiarism, and it will ruin your academic reputation for good;
- Make an outline. Note again that it should be a narrative, with all components related to each other and supporting each other. You need a thesis statement too. It is simple: you are the best candidate. Using the outline, develop the “plotline” and pay attention to the most impressive evidence;
- Use active voice and write in the first person. Mind your vocabulary: it has to show your intelligence, but don’t use rare and sophisticated terms. Keep your phrases clear and concise, but not banal. You may use some specific terms if your field requires it but limit such words to a minimum;
- The personal statement for grad school format demands you to be 100% correct in grammar and spelling. Use the automated spelling checkers, but don’t rely on them only. Reread the document after completion and fix the mistakes. Then put the paper aside and rest. You will need more than one revision, so take your time and refresh your mind;
- If possible, get professional feedback. Refer to your college professors and ask them to evaluate your goal statement for grad school. They can detect the details you might not think of;
- Note that you might need to compose several such papers, should you consider several universities. Make sure that each application is individual and unique. It has to match the exact school and course. If it is your case –prepare a separate personal statement for each option.
Writing a grad school application essay is a demanding job. If the current application fails, you can’t apply again until the next year. Thus, you need to pay all effort to make an essay winning the place in grad school for you right now.
One more option is to address the professional custom personal statement writing service to order this document. We have specialists in writing personal statements with outstanding records of successful applications. If you want to be sure of success – we’ll be glad to help you.
How To End A Personal Statement For Grad School
It is not a secret that a final paragraph of a personal statement is extremely important. With its help, you can remind the key points and leave the audience with a great aftertaste. You can close your statement with a motivating sentence and linger in the minds of university experts for a long time.
However, concluding a personal statement is not the simplest task and should consist of the following elements: choice of the right strategy, selection of the most valuable courses, and proper presentation tools. You can talk about your value and show that you are a great candidate.
Our experts from custom essay writing service have already written thousands of personal statements, so know how to finish it in the best way. Read the tips and guidelines below, and you will never have to worry about a conclusion. CustomMadeEssay is a team of experienced writers, and you can totally rely on us when completing such an important task!
How to Finish a Personal Statement: A Step-by-Step Guide
Personal statement conclusions are often underestimated because a person is so tired of writing that only thinks of how to close the paper and press the ‘send’ button. However, it may cause them to enter the chosen school or even a career because there may be thousands of other candidates in the same position.
That is why you should learn how to write a statement of purpose ending, especially if you are genuinely interested in the future. Go on reading, and we will share the main tips on how to finish your statement in the best way.
Make Notes Along the Way
Inspiration may come no matter what you are doing: watching a movie, talking to a friend, or having a walk in the park. Actually, a great idea of an ending may appear even if you are still writing an introduction.
That is why the first and one of the most important tips is to be aware of those ideas and not to push them away. Write them down in the paper itself, in a notebook, or on your phone. Thus, by the time you start working on a conclusion, you will already have a few valuable ideas.
We recommend having a separate document on a smartphone, so you can write ideas on the go. Thus, you won’t have to spend hours trying to remember the thought.
Breaks Are Crucial
We hope that you won’t write a personal statement in one sitting. Your productivity and energy levels are dropping, and the result may not be as good as expected. If you have already written quite a lengthy piece and there are hundreds of words on the screen, put your computer away and give yourself some time to relax.
Most likely, the body paragraphs take the biggest part of your writing time, so you don’t want to ruin everything just because you don’t have enough energy for the conclusion. Relax, spend some time with the people you love or do hobbies, and return with enthusiasm and a clear mind.
That is why you should start working on a statement well in advance. Fortunately, most courses have long deadlines and are published beforehand, so you can get familiar with them without any hurry.
Read What You Have Written
Before writing a conclusion, we recommend reading the introduction and body paragraphs to remind yourself once again of what you have already discussed. This may give lots of insights and useful information for the final section.
Such simple but effective took may also save lots of your time because you might find a few paragraphs that fit better in conclusion, and there won’t even be a need to write one. Nice, isn’t it?
A conclusion should consist of not more than a few paragraphs, so you should keep the final section short and to the point. Being too wordy or indicating unnecessary details may ruin a positive impression from the work you have already done.
We recommend avoiding clichés and open questions that you are not planning to answer. Remember, it is not an essay, and the admission board won’t like that.
Here is how a formula of a winning personal statement’s introduction looks like:
- Your long- and medium-term goals. Discuss what you are planning to achieve throughout a career (within 10-20 years) and during 3-5 years after finishing the program.
- Short-term goals. Once more general goals are indicated, scale them down. Think about the stages you should complete to achieve the medium- and long-term tasks. Most likely, they will involve the goals to accomplish during the program. Short-term goals usually involve particular skills and instruments, research tools, and any experience that will help in building a career and achieving the most ambitious goals.
- Relevant features for the chosen program. When you have discussed your goals, write down characteristics that you are willing to master and achieve. For example, technologies, courses, and instruments. This may include faculties, internships, and training programs of an institution that will broaden the horizons for you.
- Finish. Once the above is indicated in your conclusion, it’s the right time to finish. It should be one or two sentences that show your strong motivation and confidence.
The Best Ways to Conclude the Personal Statement
By now, you know everything about good closing statements and already have a few tools that help to create a winning paper. Now it is the right time to discuss how to conclude a personal statement for graduate school with distinct examples.
When working on the final section, your main goal is to concentrate on the statement’s key elements. Don’t forget that it should be effective, clear, and brief. Summarize your experience and achievements, and explain what makes you a great candidate for the course. Make sure you follow the standards of length: the conclusion should be approximately one-third of the whole statement (around 200 words).
It is a misconception to think that you only have one chance to make a first impression. And ending a personal statement properly proves that. Here are the best tips with examples that may significantly help to grab the board’s attention and to impress them:
- Indicate the main points like your key skills, qualifications, and abilities. The board wants to know whether you are good for the program.
- Show your enthusiasm and willingness to learn. You must indicate your inspiration and why you have chosen a particular course.
- Discuss your transferable skills, showing how you can use your experience to achieve the above goals. This may be organizational skills, leadership, working in a team, and so on.
- Emphasize that you are open to new challenges and opportunities and are not afraid of difficulties. Explain why you can be successful in a chosen course and show that you have conducted strong research of the program and are sure that it fits you.
- Once again, restate key points to connect all sections of the statement, making them sound good together.
The Worst Ways to End the Personal Statements
We have already discussed what the conclusion paragraph of a personal statement should consist of. You also know how to link the introductory and opening section with the final one. These tips are useful for any course and program and will significantly increase your chances of being accepted.
However, there is one last thing we would like to discuss a conclusion for personal statement. It is the mistakes that you should avoid. It’s always better to learn from someone else’s mistakes, and we strongly recommend reading the information below attentively.
Here are the things to avoid in a personal statement ending:
- End the conclusion with an open question and leave the board without an answer. Leave rhetoric questions for essays.
- Write things that are not related to the main topic. Admission committees read tones of statements, so they want only the most important information.
- Show an absence of a point of view or clear plans for the future. This shows that you lack seriousness and are not sure whether you have chosen the right college.
- Choose courses that don’t relate to your school.
- Copy and paste someone else’s thoughts and ideas. Plagiarism is a crime, and you may get yourself into big troubles.
If you want to be accepted to a particular academic establishment, good grades and motivation are not enough. You should show interest in a program and explain why you are a great candidate. And you must create a strong conclusion that will leave the board impressed.
In case you are willing to entrust this stage to professionals, Custommadeessay is a great idea. We write papers from scratch, as well as solely its parts. You can additionally order proofreading or revision to polish an existing conclusion or any other assignment.
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How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad School
Finally, you’ve begun the search for that ideal graduate school program! That journey may have started while you were earning work experience, learning more about the industry you’re involved in, and about the educational paths that can help you reach promotions, better salaries, and more responsibility at your job. Then, the enjoyment begins with researching suitable schools and determining why their offered graduate school program is a good fit for your aspirations.
Then comes the dreaded personal statement. Perhaps the most challenging part of graduate school admissions is the writing requirement. Learning how to write a personal statement for grad school doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking — if you follow the steps below, you will be well on your way to writing an impactful personal statement and impressing the admissions committee members. Note: A personal statement is different from a statement of purpose. You can learn more about them here .
What exactly is a personal statement?
A personal statement is usually a required written document that contains the reasons for applying to any graduate program and is over 1000 words long. Oftentimes, the school will provide bullet points, making their expectations clear in regards to the content of your personal statement. These bullet points will probably remind you to draw the connection between the graduate school program you’re applying to and your short or long-term goals, why you’re choosing that specific concentration or track, the reasons for choosing the university, some background information, and more. The personal statement should sound convincing, display the level of research you’ve done into a program, and be able to strongly convey why you belong at the institution. Consider it a combination of descriptive and persuasive writing, one that will play a large part of helping you gain admission into a graduate school program, besides any required test scores (GMAT, GRE, LSAT, etc.) and GPA.
Step 1: Study Your Resume and Work Experience.
Most schools limit the length of your personal statement to around 1000 words. If that’s the case, then it’s possible that your resume and work experience says a lot more than the space you are provided. Go over your resume and connect your past experiences with the degree program you’re applying to. Can you draw any connections between working with others, learning more about management, and reaching goals, when it comes to your MBA application? Being able to elaborate on certain experiences will help solidify the reasons for pursuing a graduate program. With so little space, you want to make sure that every word counts. Study your resume and work experience, and make notes on what you can implement into your personal statement.
Step 2: Evaluate Your Goals and Research Degree Programs.
Before learning how to write a personal statement for grad school, you have to reach the point on why you want to attend a specific program. You will definitely need to include that in writing in some part of your personal statement – Why do you want to pursue a JD? MBA? EdM? MSW? There are numerous graduate school programs and degrees, and you need to connect your goals with a specific type of degree. This will then allow you to find a suitable school and program that aligns with your goals.
Step 3: Research the School.
An expected conclusion for any personal statement wraps up your writing and confirms your decision to apply to a specific school. Sometimes, the penultimate paragraph will also contain information about the program. For example, are you pursuing an EdM? This could mean having to decide from various concentrations – Curriculum Design, Educational Policy, Social Studies Education, and more. Which concentration applies to you, and why? The schools’ curriculum and program and whether it includes hands-on experience, a practicum, a research capstone, and more, could be a reason for applying to the program. Displaying that you did your research in any school you’re applying to is an important contribution to any personal statement. In short, be ready to write about the school, and connect their program and resources to your goals.
- Proofread. Re-read your writing out loud more than once. This will give you a good idea of how it sounds in the mind of an admissions reader. Then, go through the document multiple times to ensure it is free of grammatical errors and follows a logical structure.
By following these steps and tips, you will surely have a great final piece and a strong personal statement to contribute to the rest of your graduate school application. For more tips and examples of well written personal statements, click here . Happy writing!
For over a decade, Chris has supported students across the globe in fulfilling their college aspirations. Chris started out as a college admissions consultant, where he helped community college students reduce their loan obligations by constructing comprehensive transfer strategies, maximizing the use of CLEP and AP credits, and scoring scholarships. During his graduate studies at Harvard, Chris held numerous roles in education, including working as a research assistant and advising students on the college admissions process. Chris holds extensive experience in essay development and preparation for the SAT and SAT Subject Tests. His guidance has enabled students to gain admission into diverse programs at institutions including UC Berkeley, Princeton, the University of Chicago, Michigan, Harvard, Fashion Institute of Technology, Embry-Riddle, Notre Dame, and Duke. Chris holds an Master's in History from Harvard University and is currently working towards a Master's in Education at UIUC. He also received a College Advising Program Certificate from Columbia University, completed the Independent Educational Consultant Certificate from University of California Irvine, and earned the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) from Cambridge. Nowadays, Chris continues to serve a full-time role as a College Counselor for WeAdmit, write insightful articles for Magoosh, and teach at Education First summer camps!
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Grad School Personal Statement Example: Deep Dive Now let's do a deep dive, paragraph-by-paragraph, on one of these sample graduate school personal statements. We'll use my personal statement that I used when I applied to Columbia's public health program.
Preparing a well-written and effective personal statement (sometimes referred to as statements of purpose or personal essays) that clearly articulates your preparation, goals, and motivation for pursuing that specific graduate degree is critically important.
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?
" For a personal statement, I think the first and last paragraphs are most important and should always relate the program they are applying to their own experiences and ideas," Hoon H. Kang, a graduate/international credential analyst with the Office of Graduate Admission, told USC Online. Proofread, proofread and proofread again.
Here are some graduate school personal statement examples you can use to help inspire your own writing: Example 1 Here's a sample essay for an application for a master's program in educational policy: The first new textbook I held in my hands was when I was 19 years old and a college freshman.
Take a look at this example personal statement from a prospective grad student. As I approached the convention hall, I wondered if I had gotten the room number wrong. I couldn't hear any signs of life, and I was losing my nerve to open the door and risk embarrassing myself.
A strong personal history statement begins with an authentic voice and personal narrative. This can reflect your journey to graduate school, any obstacles you've encountered, and how you've overcome challenges. Talk about your personal goals and dreams. Explain what motivates and drives you toward this degree.
Personal Statement Main Body #2 While I've been gifted in mathematics, science and technology since I was young, it wasn't until I reached high school that I dedicated myself to developing and improving assistive technology. I have always been lucky enough to thrive both at home and in school.
Personal statement format is not strict but of course there is a plan to follow. First is introduction. It should be catchy and captivate reader's attention from first sentence. In several blocks tell briefly but vividly about your education, experience and skills.
Here is an example of a personal statement written for graduate school admission: Jean Smith Personal statement for master's program in educational policy and analysis Columbia College of Education "I held my first college textbook when I was a 23-year-old college freshman.
Presumptuous: "I know my personal statement for grad school is the best, and I have no doubt that I'll get in everywhere I apply." Confident: "I put a lot of effort into my personal statement for grad school, and I know it is well-written and authentic." 2 Don't use platitudes or clichés
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 graduate school personal statement is your opportunity to convey what you might be like as ... just one or two experiences that illustrate the qualities and interests that will make you a good potential scholar. ... Revising and polishing your statement: • After writing an initial draft, set up an appointment with a Residential College ...
The personal statement should discuss your academic background as well as relevant work and research experiences. When talking about your previous experience, be sure to highlight the skills that you learned and how your past experiences have led you to be interested in graduate study.
A personal statement should have several key components. They are: Your personal journey and obstacles: Outline the major life events that brought you to this point and how those events affected your decision to pursue graduate school.
The graduate school personal statement serves two basic purposes. First, they show whether you know how to write a clear, coherent essay that's logically and grammatically correct. These days, students' writing ability is often presumed deficient unless proven otherwise. Second, the application essay gives you the opportunity to present the ...
Admission committees really do pay attention. Each program in APA's (2018) Graduate Study in Psychology provides a rating of the importance of the statement of purpose, so you can check for your target programs. This is where you display your: Fit with the program. Especially desirable qualifications. Clarity of plans. Writing skill.
General Outline. Opening Paragraph - 4 to 6 sentences. Academic Accomplishments - 5 to 7 sentences. Research Experience - 5 to 8 sentences. Employment/Volunteer Work/Clinical Experience - 5 to 8 sentences. Future Plans/Goodness-of-Fit - 6 to 9 sentences. Concluding Paragraph - 4 to 5 sentences. (Information adapted for the purposes ...
These resources are generally free and the people who work there will be able to give you in-depth, objective feedback. They will have worked with hundreds of students who have successfully gone on to graduate school, so they will understand the best way to craft a personal statement. 5. Remove vague wording.
It is what you should write about in the personal statement. The Grad School Personal Statement Tips for Writing It Easily. All tips for writing a personal statement for graduate school start from the research recommendation. Your first step is to collect as much information about the grad school of your choice as possible.
Step 3: Research the School. An expected conclusion for any personal statement wraps up your writing and confirms your decision to apply to a specific school. Sometimes, the penultimate paragraph will also contain information about the program.