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graduate school admission personal statement sample

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

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

What Is a Graduate School Personal Statement?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Do Schools Look For in a Personal Statement?

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

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

A Compelling Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inspirations for Your Research Interests

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

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

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

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Your Motivation for Applying to Grad School

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

Generally, schools want answers to the following questions:

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

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

Strong Writing Skills

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

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

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

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

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Explanations for Any Hiccups in Your Academic Career

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

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

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

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

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

Step 1: Start Early

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

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

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

Step 2: Read the Instructions

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

Your program should give you the following information:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Step 3: Figure Out Your Angle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 5: Make an Outline

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

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

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

Step 6: Draft Your Essay

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

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

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

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

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

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Step 7: Get Feedback

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

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

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

Step 8: Revise & Edit Your Essay

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

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

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

Step 9: Proofread

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

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

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

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

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The Key to a Great Graduate School Personal Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Next?

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

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

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

Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?

graduate school admission personal statement sample

Author: Hannah Muniz

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

graduate school admission personal statement sample

graduate school admission personal statement sample

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

How to write a personal statement for grad school

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

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

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

What Is a Personal Statement?

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

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

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing a Personal Statement

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

  • 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 Your Personal Statements

Your personal statement must demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have considered graduate school and their specific program seriously. It’s your opportunity to summarize your academic and research experiences. You must also communicate how your experiences are relevant to preparing you for the graduate degree that you will be pursuing and explain why a given program is the right one for you.

The personal statement is where you highlight your strengths. Make your strengths absolutely clear to the reviewers, because they will often be reading many other statements. Your self-assessments and honest conversations with peers and advisors should have also revealed your strengths. But you must also address (not blame others for) weaknesses or unusual aspects of your application or academic background.

Your personal statement should focus on two main aspects: your competence and commitment.

1. Identify your strengths in terms of competence that indicate that you will succeed in the grad program and provide examples to support your claims. Start your statement by describing your strengths immediately. Because faculty will be reading many statements, it’s important to start off with your strengths and not “bury your lede.” Consider traits of successful graduate students from your informational interviews, and identify which of these traits you have. These traits could involve research skills and experiences, expertise in working with techniques or instruments, familiarity with professional networks and resources in your field, etc.

  • Check your responses from the exercises in the self-assessment section. You may wish to consult notes from your informational interviews and your Seven Stories . Write concise summaries and stories that demonstrate your strengths, e.g. how your strengths helped you to achieve certain goals or overcome obstacles.
  • Summarize your research experience(s). What were the main project goals and the “big picture” questions? What was your role in this project? What did you accomplish? What did you learn, and how did you grow as a result of the experience(s)?

Vannessa Velez's portrait

My research examines the interplay between U.S. domestic politics and foreign policy during the Cold War. As a native New Yorker, I saw firsthand how dramatically my city changed after 9/11, which prompted my early interest in U.S. policy at home and abroad. As an undergraduate at the City College of New York, I planned to study international relations with a focus on U.S. foreign affairs. I also quickly became involved in student activist groups that focused on raising awareness about a wide range of human rights issues, from the Syrian refugee crisis to asylum seekers from Central America.

The more I learned about the crises in the present, the more I realized that I needed a deeper understanding of the past to fully grasp them. I decided to pursue a PhD in history in order to gain a clearer understanding of human rights issues in the present and to empower young student-activists like myself.

— Vannessa Velez, PhD candidate in History

Addressing weaknesses or unusual aspects

  • Identify weaknesses or unusual aspects in your application—e.g., a significant drop in your GPA during a term; weak GRE scores; changes in your academic trajectory, etc. Don’t ignore them, because ignoring them might be interpreted as blind spots for you. If you’re unsure if a particular issue is significant enough to address, seek advice from faculty mentors.
  • Explain how you’ll improve and strengthen those areas or work around your weakness. Determine how you will address them in a positive light, e.g., by discussing how you overcame obstacles through persistence, what you learned from challenges, and how you grew from failures. Focusing on a growth mindset  or grit  and this blog on weaknesses might also help.
  • Deal with any significant unusual aspects later in the statement to allow a positive impression to develop first.
  • Explain, rather than provide excuses—i.e., address the issue directly and don’t blame others (even if you believe someone else is responsible). Draft it and get feedback from others to see if the explanation is working as you want it to.
  • Provide supporting empirical evidence if possible. For example, “Adjusting to college was a major step for me, coming from a small high school and as a first-generation college student. My freshman GPA was not up to par with my typical achievements, as demonstrated by my improved  GPA of 3.8 during my second and third years in college."
  • Be concise (don’t dwell on the issues), but also be complete (don’t lead to other potentially unanswered questions). For example, if a drop in grades during a term was due to a health issue, explain whether the health issue is recurring, managed now with medication, resolved, etc.

2. Explain your commitment to research and their graduate program, including your motivation for why you are applying to this graduate program at this university. Be as specific as possible. Identify several faculty members with whom you are interested in working, and explain why their research interests you.

  • Descriptions of your commitment should explain why you’re passionate about this particular academic field and provide demonstrations of your commitment with stories (e.g., working long hours to solve a problem, overcoming challenges in research, resilience in pursuing problems). Don’t merely assert your commitment.
  • Explain why you are applying to graduate school, as opposed to seeking a professional degree or a job. Discuss your interest and motivation for grad school, along with your future career aspirations.

Jaime Fine's portrait

I am definitely not your traditional graduate student. As a biracial (Native American and white), first-generation PhD student from a military family, I had very limited guidance on how best to pursue my education, especially when I decided that graduate school was a good idea. I ended up coming to this PhD in a very circuitous manner, stopping first to get a JD and, later, an MFA in Young Adult Literature. With each degree, I took time to work and apply what I’d learned, as a lawyer and as an educator. Each time, I realized that I was circling around questions that I couldn’t let go of—not just because I found them to be fascinating, but because I did (and still do!) feel that my research could help to bridge a gap that desperately needs bridging. Because my work is quite interdisciplinary, I strongly feel that I wouldn’t have been able to pursue this line of research without the degrees and life experience I gained before coming to this program.

— Jamie Fine, PhD candidate in Modern Thought and Literature

Statement of Purpose: subtle aspects

  • Think in terms of engaging faculty in a conversation rather than pleading with them that you should be admitted. Ask reviewers to read drafts with this concern in mind.
  • With later drafts, try developing an overall narrative theme. See if one emerges as you work.
  • Write at least 10 drafts and expect your thinking and the essay to change quite a bit over time.
  • Read drafts out loud to help you catch errors.
  • Expect the "you' that emerges in your essay to be incomplete. . . that’s OK.
  • You’re sharing a professional/scholarly slice of "you."
  • Avoid humor (do you really know what senior academics find funny?) and flashy openings and closings. Think of pitching the essay to an educated person in the field, but not necessarily in your specialty. Avoid emotionally laden words (such as "love" or "passion"). Remember, your audience is a group of professors! Overly emotional appeals might make them uncomfortable. They are looking for scholarly colleagues.

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How to Write a Winning Personal Statement

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  •       Resources       Writing a Winning Personal Statement for Grad School

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."

graduate school admission personal statement sample

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
  • Individuality

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.

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How to Write the Best Personal Statement for Graduate School

Lisa Marlin

This article focuses on how to write a personal statement for graduate school. After all, it’s an important part of the admissions process. There’s no doubt that your grades matter when applying for grad school. However, your GPA is not the full picture. That’s where personal statements come in handy.

While getting into grad school, especially Ivy League grad schools , is highly competitive these days. Selection committees look at a variety of factors when choosing between the huge numbers of qualified candidates who apply each year. We’ve discussed grad school requirements , so let’s talk about personal statements.

Even if you have a great GPA, you’ll be competing against a larger number of other students with similar GPAs. So a strong personal statement is essential to help you stand out from the crowd.

Fortunately, this also means that you can strengthen your application with a phenomenal personal statement if your GPA is not quite up to scratch. In fact, some committees pay special attention to your personal statement.

Sure, your GPA and test scores say a lot about your academic performance. However, they are only formal documents. Selection committees also want to understand your academic goals and your motivations, and for this, they look to your personal statement.

So, what should be included in your personal statement for graduate school? Most importantly, how do you write a winning personal statement that will help you get into your dream program?

Read on to learn everything to know!

Table of Contents

What is a Personal Statement for Grad School?

Though the requirements vary depending on the institution and the program, generally grad school selection depends on:

  • An admissions test or exam
  • Your GPA or academic record
  • Your personal statement
  • Recommendation letters

When applying for grad school, you’ll need to submit a personal statement along with the other requirements. Your personal statement helps the selection committee understand your goals, passion, and ambitions.

Unlike undergraduate admissions which largely rely on academic performance, grad school selection considers a broader range of factors. We evaluated this document from the University of Washington, for example.

Admissions committees know that success at grad school is about more than just academic performance – prospective students also need to be motivated, disciplined, and driven.

Some programs have very strict requirements for what should be included in their personal statements for graduate school, while others leave it more open. Regardless, you’ll need to demonstrate that you are a strong candidate and will excel in their program.

Related: When to Apply for Grad School .

Someone writing their personal statement for grad school.

Many applications for graduate programs require a personal statement, and your application will not be considered without one.

Even if it’s not mandatory, including a personal statement when applying to grad school can be highly advantageous and help to convince the admissions committee to move you forward to the next stage.

Your academic resume and the rest of your grad school application will typically focus on your previous academic experience, grades, and other technical elements. Your personal statement is your chance to let your personality shine through and have the selection committee see you as an individual. It’s your opportunity to explain your goals, motivations, and what you have to offer.

Many grad school programs receive hundreds and even thousands of applications. Therefore, a compelling personal statement is one of the most important elements that can help you stand out and move forward to the next stage!

Tips for Writing a Winning Grad School Personal Statement

Your personal statement could make all the difference in getting into your dream grad school and setting you on the path for an exceptional career. Although the best personal statement can vary depending on where you’re applying, there are some things that all the best personal statements examples for graduation school have in common.

So let’s take a look at some top tips on how to write a personal statement for graduate school.

     1. Check the Guidelines

First things first – look at the grad school’s individual requirements and guidelines. Every institution has different guidelines for how they want the personal essay to be formatted and what it should include. Check the required format, maximum word count, information that must be included, and other guidelines.

Most grad schools will post the requirements on their website – if not, contact the admissions office. You don’t want to spend hours writing an essay only to be disqualified just because you didn’t follow the guidelines properly!

     2. Be Genuine

You are wrong if you think exaggerating your experiences or achievements will get you admission to your dream university. The selection committee reads a large number of personal statements on a regular basis.

They’ll quickly see if your assertions are too good to be true. Likewise, it’s not hard for them to tell the difference between a fake and real statement. It’s all about framing your own experiences and motivations in a certain way, rather than exaggerating or fabricating anything.

     3. Keep it Short

Aspiring grad students often feel pressured to write everything about themselves in their personal statement. You don’t need to explain all of your interests, ambitions, and achievements in this document. Instead, it should be short, relevant to the graduation program, and engaging.

The exact length will depend on the programs’ guidelines, but generally speaking, a good personal statement for grad school is around one page. Furthermore, you should make sure that every paragraph and sentence has a purpose. If there isn’t a good reason to include it in your personal statement, cut it out!

     4. Keep it Relevant

A trip to Iceland might be super meaningful to you, but it’s probably not relevant to your application for a computer science program . When writing your personal statement, keep it to experiences and qualifications relevant to the particular program you’re applying for.

However, keeping things relevant doesn’t mean you have to be limited to academic qualifications and professional experience. Some of your personal experiences and even family history may be appropriate and add value.

Furthermore, adding personal elements can make your application more authentic and persuasive, as long as they are relevant to the program you are applying for.

     5. Be Unique

Grad school selection committees read hundreds, if not thousands of personal statements. So it’s important to stand out from the crowd and make a good impression, and anything that is a little different will help.

This could be a unique and engaging opening sentence, or finishing your personal statement with a dramatic line. You can also make your application stand out with unique personal experiences or exceptional qualifications. These will be your point of difference, so be sure to emphasize them in your personal statement!

     6. Strike a Balance

If you look at the best graduate school personal statement examples, you’ll see how the writers manage to strike the right balance between a professional and an informal tone. The goal is to keep the tone neutral — neither too stiff and formal, nor overly friendly. Remember that this is a personal statement and so it is supposed to reflect your personality.

However, it’s also important to keep in mind that you are writing it for your dream graduation program, so it must also be professional. If you are having trouble striking the right tone, consult with a professional writer or editor.

     7. Pay Attention to Grammar and Structure

As part of preparing a professional document, it’s critical that the text has proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling throughout. At grad school, you’re expected to be able to write to a high professional standard, and this means having perfect grammar.

The last thing you want is for your application to be rejected because of poor sentence construction. One way to avoid this is having your essay proofread and edited. If you can’t afford this, ask a qualified friend or family member to look over it.

What Makes a Compelling Grad School Personal Statement

The best graduate school personal statement examples have certain things in common:

  • They start with a strong opener that grabs the attention of the selection committee.
  • This flows into a compelling narrative that clearly demonstrates the student’s passion and motivation.
  • They include specific examples which show the student’s discipline and work ethic.
  • They encompass family history, goals, education, and professional background all within a short statement.
  • They are well-written, well-structured, and flow well.
  • They are well-organized, each paragraph having its own message and belongs in the personal statement.

By applying these rules to your own experience and motivations, you’ll be able to write your own personal statement that will greatly strengthen your grad school application.

Key Elements of a Winning Grad School Personal Statement

Writing personal statements is a critical part of applying to grad school . Let’s take a deep dive into what to include in a personal statement for grad school, how to refine the writing process, and what will help make your application stand out!

Demonstrate Why You’re Right for the Program

When evaluating applications, selection committees look for a potential graduate student who will be a good fit for the program. They want candidates who fit with the school’s culture, have the right attitude, and have the same drive and passion as faculty and other students.

Before writing your personal statement, do your research. Learn about the values and culture of the grad school, as well as their faculty and alumni. Throughout your personal essay, be sure to clearly demonstrate how your own ideology aligns with the school to show that you’ll be a good fit. It can also be powerful to cite a particular piece of research that inspires you, or describe your interest in the work of a particular faculty member.

Ensure your Personal Statement is Well-Written

Of course, it’s not just about what you say. How you say it is also important. Your personal statement serves as a writing sample that will demonstrate your written communication skills (or lack thereof).

Whether a masters program personal statement or a personal essay for a doctorate program, the selection committee wants to see that you can write. This shows them that you’ll be able to produce high-quality written work. This is most relevant for master’s and advanced degrees that contain a thesis component, but all courses require some level of written communication.

Strong and Consistent Messaging

It’s essential that your personal statement builds a clear, compelling narrative to convince the admissions committee that you’re an excellent candidate for their program. You need to clearly communicate your key messages, such as your academic and career goals, what you can bring to the program, and what you want to get out of grad school.

This will be most compelling if you are consistent with your messaging throughout your statement by returning to the same key themes. In the same way, avoid contradictory statements and don’t include elements that don’t fit with the narrative you’re trying to build.

Don’t Oversell

Sure, it’s important to present your strengths and describe your most impressive experience and qualifications. However, a personal statement is not a cover letter for a job application: it shouldn’t be sell, sell, sell.

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your weaknesses and faults. The selection committee will appreciate your honesty and humility, and this will help you to come across as a human rather than a faceless name on an application.

Include Examples

To create the strongest grad school personal statement you can, you’ll need to include examples. Just like a job interview, examples give more weight to your statements, and help you to demonstrate the claims you’re making are true. Peppering your personal statement with examples also helps to capture the reader’s attention and avoid generic-sounding text.

Be as specific as you can with these examples. Rather than just saying you’re passionate about a subject, demonstrate your interest and dedication to the topic by describing volunteer activities or internships you’ve done in that field. Mention awards you’ve received, or simply just detail a certain life event that sparked your motivation to pursue a certain career.

Share Personal Stories (But Don’t Overshare)

Some of the most powerful examples and anecdotes in a personal statement are just that, very personal. Some of the best personal statements for grad school are those that show the writer’s individuality. You could share how your family history has inspired your passion for a certain subject, or how a particular experience or life event spurred you to pursue a certain career. Not only does this make things more interesting for the reader, but vulnerability can be very compelling.

However, be careful not to overshare. Remember that your personal statement is part of an academic application, so it’s essential to keep things professional. Use a professional tone and appropriate language, and only include necessary details.

Refine and Polish your Application

As one of the key parts of your grad school application, it’s important to ensure your personal statement is refined and polished. Most selection committees will outright disregard applications with spelling mistakes or typos. With such a high volume of applications, a few missed commas or grammatical errors are an easy way to cull a set of candidates. MIT, for example, sends offers of admission to just over 10% of its grad school candidates.

Before submitting your application, proof read your personal statement. Then proofread it again. Ask a friend, colleague, or family member to look at it – it’s amazing what a second set of eyes can pick up.

How Long Should a Grad School Personal Statement Be?

The ideal personal statement for grad school is somewhere between 500 and 1000 words in length.

Any aspiring graduate student wants to make sure that they put in a comprehensive personal statement that includes all the elements they need to win over the selection committee. At the same time, it’s important to not make your personal essay too long, as key information may get lost in lengthy, tedious pieces.

However, don’t worry about being too firm on the length. The most important thing is to write a strong graduate application personal statement that shows your personality and presents a compelling message.

Related: How to Pick a Grad School .

Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School

Though writing a personal statement for grad school is a very personal endeavor, the best personal statements for grad school share certain elements. Here are some successful personal statement examples from fictional graduate school applicants that show some of the key things that make a compelling personal statement.

personal statement for graduate school

Earning a college degree has been one of the proudest achievements of my life, despite the fact that my life’s trajectory long suggested that a college education would never be a part of my future. After falling pregnant at age 17 and dropping out of school, I found myself living as one of the “working poor”, balancing two minimum-wage jobs and caring for my child. Through my 20’s I picked up a string of low-paid, low-skill jobs: cleaner, retail clerk, server. I found none of these roles to be fulfilling, and, looking back, I can see that my talents and potential were going to waste.

However, I never gave up on my dream of going to college. I found work that would allow me to support myself and my family financially while giving me the flexibility to go back to school, and at 27, I enrolled at the local community college. At college, I was exposed to a whole new world which was supported by a thirst for learning, and I excelled academically. There were many long nights of studying after a day working at the local distribution center, followed by helping my kids with their homework and putting them to bed.

Working a 36-hour week while caring for a family and working towards a degree only motivated me to work harder. The better my performance and the more outstanding my results, the more I felt that my sacrifices had been worth it. I took inspiration from my mother, who came to this country as a 19-year old single mother from Nicaragua and worked three jobs to support her six children so that we could have a better life. Although I don’t come from a studious or academically-minded family, I have been able to take examples from other facets of my mother’s life and apply these to become an exceptional student.

It was during my time at community college that I truly embraced my lifelong passion for science. I have always been interested in how things work, and through my college studies I have developed an intense interest in physics. I find it fascinating to discover how things work on a molecular level, and I’m driven by the enormous potential of this field to shape human history into the future.

I feel a great part of my success as a student has been in how I have approached my studies. I approach study as if I am already a professional in the field, rather than a student, working diligently to excel and put in the strongest performance I can, which is reflected in my excellent academic record. I always chose the most challenging courses, and sought a broad range of subjects to broaden my knowledge and challenge my thinking. One of my greatest academic milestones to date was when my research paper on sub-atomic mass was published in the campus scientific journal, The Modern Scientist .

My undergraduate journey has not only cultivated a love of learning in me, but a strong desire to pursue a graduate degree. I have prepared for the rigors of graduate study by taking extra credits in not only my chosen field of physics, but also biology, chemistry, and ethics, in order to broaden my knowledge base. Additionally, for the past several years I have been an active member of my school’s physics club, and I have served as the club president for the past 12 months. I feel that my motivation, drive, and diverse life experiences would make me a valuable addition to the University of Virginia’s Master’s in Physics program. I am in awe of Virginia’s impressive and exciting interdisciplinary program and I feel that it is the ideal program to help me pursue a successful career in the world and make a valuable contribution to the scientific community, as society more generally.

Word count: 636

What makes this a strong personal statement:

  • The applicant uses memorable examples that are outside the ordinary to stand out from others
  • It shows a powerful level of self-reflection, including acknowledging the candidate’s own weaknesses
  • The applicant lets their individual personality shine through

I’ll never forget the day when I first held a copy of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex in my hands. I was in the dusty library at UCLA, a wide-eyed undergraduate student curious to learn more about this thing called “feminism”. At that time, I had no idea the impact that book would have on me, or how it would shape my life.

Reading de Beauvoir’s masterpiece set off a chain reaction that inspired me to learn more about feminism and women’s issues. I moved on to Germaine Greer, Mary Woolstonecraft, Margaret Atwood, Octavia E. Butler, and Audre Lorde, devouring their works and absorbing their ideas. I chose Women’s Studies as my undergraduate major, and interned at the Young Women’s Legal Service in downtown LA for two summers. After finishing my junior year with a 6.0 GPA, I went to Cambodia for three months, where I volunteered with The Purple Ribbon Project, a local, grassroots non-profit supporting female victims of sex trafficking. These diverse experiences inspired me to dedicate my life to advocating for women’s rights.

I am applying my passion for the field to two major projects this year.

First, I received a $2,700 grant under the Women’s Liberation Fund. I propose to expand on a prior research project, looking at the incidence of FGM within remote communities in Malaysia. For this thesis I am studying the cultural factors that contribute to the practice, and how this local practice is illegal at the national level, but ignored by authorities. I plan to expand on this theme as part of my senior thesis. My experience working with local communities in developing countries has been invaluable, as this has not only given me insights into cultural differences, it has also made it easier for me to connect with local communities on the ground as part of my research.

My second major project this year is a self-designed research project as part of my final year of Women’s Studies at UCLA. I am investigating modern perceptions around feminism. I am focusing on my observation that many younger women today seem to be openly hostile towards the concept, and I’m interested in learning whether this reflects a misunderstanding of the underlying theories, or a misalignment with the core values of traditional feminism.

For years I have been working towards graduate study in the field of Women’s Studies, but my approach to the field has been enriched with my double major in Women’s Studies and Development Studies. My interest in development has spurred me to study the particular challenges and opportunities faced by women in low-income countries.

My interest in studying at Brown University has grown out of conversations I’ve had with several people, including Professor Anne Spacek who shared many insights based on her time teaching there. My supervisor Janne Bauer also suggested I connect with Professor Marianne Patel. I reached out to Prof. Patel and we had an inspiring conversation that confirmed I would very much be at home in Brown’s Women’s Studies department.

Word count: 502

  • The personal statement has a unique and interesting beginning to capture the reader’s attention. If you’re wondering how to start a personal statement for grad school, begin with a compelling statement.
  • The applicant uses several examples to show their passion for the subject and how they will be a great fit for the program
  • The personal statement builds a compelling, well-structured narrative

What Sets the Best Personal Statements for Graduate School Applications Apart?

A personal statement is a crucial element of your grad school application. Your GPA alone will not get you into your dream graduate program, especially if you’re seeking admission to a leading institution.

Writing a personal statement for graduate school can be a little overwhelming, especially if it’s your first try. It’s important to come up with a succinct statement that is also unique, authentic, and professional. Keep it short, simple, compelling, and most importantly relevant to the program.

For more tips on putting together a winning grad school application, check out our tips for getting into Ivy League grad school and GRE preparation tips .

Lisa Marlin

Lisa Marlin

Lisa is a full-time writer specializing in career advice, further education, and personal development. She works from all over the world, and when not writing you'll find her hiking, practicing yoga, or enjoying a glass of Malbec.

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Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School

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Personal Statements

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

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

  • 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 a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

Congrats! You’ve chosen a graduate program , read up on tips for applying to grad school , and even wrote a focused grad school resumé . But if you’re like many students, you’ve left the most daunting part of the application process for last—writing a statement of purpose. The good news is, the task doesn’t have to feel so overwhelming, as long as you break the process down into simple, actionable steps. Below, learn how to write a strong, unique statement of purpose that will impress admissions committees and increase your chances of getting into your dream school.

What is a statement of purpose?

A statement of purpose (SOP), sometimes referred to as a personal statement, is a critical piece of a graduate school application that tells admissions committees who you are, what your academic and professional interests are, and how you’ll add value to the graduate program you’re applying to.

Jared Pierce, associate director of enrollment services at Northeastern University, says a strong statement of purpose can be the deciding factor in a graduate student’s admission.  

“Your statement of purpose is where you tell your story about who you are and why you deserve to be a part of the [university’s] community. It gives the admissions committee the chance to get to know you and understand how you’ll add value to the classroom,” he says.

How long should a statement of purpose be?

“A statement of purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words,” Pierce says, noting that it should typically not exceed a single page. He advises that students use a traditional font at a readable size (11- or 12-pt) and leave enough whitespace in the margins to make the statement easy-to-read. Make sure to double-space the statement if the university has requested it, he adds. 

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How to Write a Statement of Purpose: A Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you understand how to format a statement of purpose, you can begin drafting your own. Getting started can feel daunting, but Pierce suggests making the process more manageable by breaking down the writing process into four easy steps.

1. Brainstorm your ideas.

First, he says, try to reframe the task at hand and get excited for the opportunity to write your statement of purpose. He explains:

“Throughout the application process, you’re afforded few opportunities to address the committee directly. Here is your chance to truly speak directly to them. Each student arrives at this process with a unique story, including prior jobs, volunteer experience, or undergraduate studies. Think about what makes you you and start outlining.”

When writing your statement of purpose, he suggests asking yourself these key questions:

  • Why do I want this degree?
  • What are my expectations for this degree?
  • What courses or program features excite me the most?
  • Where do I want this degree to take me, professionally and personally?
  • How will my unique professional and personal experiences add value to the program?

Jot these responses down to get your initial thoughts on paper. This will act as your starting point that you’ll use to create an outline and your first draft.

2. Develop an outline.

Next, you’ll want to take the ideas that you’ve identified during the brainstorming process and plug them into an outline that will guide your writing. 

An effective outline for your statement of purpose might look something like this:

  • An attention-grabbing hook
  • A brief introduction of yourself and your background as it relates to your motivation behind applying to graduate school 
  • Your professional goals as they relate to the program you’re applying to
  • Why you’re interested in the specific school and what you can bring to the table
  • A brief summary of the information presented in the body that emphasizes your qualifications and compatibility with the school

An outline like the one above will give you a roadmap to follow so that your statement of purpose is well-organized and concise. 

3. Write the first draft.

Your statement of purpose should communicate who you are and why you are interested in a particular program, but it also needs to be positioned in a way that differentiates you from other applicants. 

Admissions professionals already have your transcripts, resumé, and test scores; the statement of purpose is your chance to tell your story in your own words.

When you begin drafting content, make sure to:

  • Provide insight into what drives you , whether that’s professional advancement, personal growth, or both.
  • Demonstrate your interest in the school by addressing the unique features of the program that interest you most. For Northeastern, he says, maybe it’s experiential learning; you’re excited to tackle real-world projects in your desired industry. Or perhaps it’s learning from faculty who are experts in your field of study.
  • Be yourself. It helps to keep your audience in mind while writing, but don’t forget to let your personality shine through. It’s important to be authentic when writing your statement to show the admissions committee who you are and why your unique perspective will add value to the program.

4. Edit and refine your work.

Before you submit your statement of purpose:

  • Make sure you’ve followed all directions thoroughly , including requirements about margins, spacing, and font size.
  • Proofread carefully for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Remember that a statement of purpose should be between 500 and 1,000 words. If you’ve written far more than this, read through your statement again and edit for clarity and conciseness. Less is often more; articulate your main points strongly and get rid of any “clutter.”
  • Walk away and come back later with a fresh set of eyes. Sometimes your best ideas come when you’re not sitting and staring at your computer.
  • Ask someone you trust to read your statement before you submit it.

Making a Lasting Impression

Your statement of purpose can leave a lasting impression if done well, Pierce says. It provides you with the opportunity to highlight your unique background and skills so that admissions professionals understand why you’re the ideal candidate for the program that you’re applying to. If nothing else, stay focused on what you uniquely bring to the classroom, the program, and the campus community. If you do that, you’ll excel.

To learn more tricks and tips for submitting an impressive graduate school application, explore our related Grad School Success articles .

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in March 2017. It has since been updated for thoroughness and accuracy.

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Writing the Personal Statement

Helpful tips and advice for drafting a compelling personal statement when applying for graduate admission.

Make sure to check the appropriate program website to find out if your statement should include additional or specific information.

What does this statement need to accomplish?

The personal statement should give concrete evidence of your promise as a member of the academic community, giving the committee an image of you as a person.

This is also where you represent your potential to bring to your academic career a critical perspective rooted in a non-traditional educational background, or your understanding of the experiences of groups historically under-represented in higher education and your commitment to increase participation by a diverse population in higher education.

What kinds of content belongs here?

Anything that can give reviewers a sense of you as a person belongs here; you can repeat information about your experiences in your research statement, but any experiences that show your promise, initiative, and ability to persevere despite obstacles belongs here. This is also a good place to display your communication skills and discuss your ability to maximize effective collaboration with a diverse cross-section of the academic community. If you have faced any obstacles or barriers in your education, sharing those experiences serves both for the selection process, and for your nomination for fellowships. If one part of your academic record is not ideal, due to challenges you faced in that particular area, this is where you can explain that, and direct reviewers’ attention to the evidence of your promise for higher education.

The basic message: your academic achievement despite challenges

It is especially helpful for admissions committees considering nominating you for fellowships for diversity if you discuss any or all of the following:

  • Demonstrated significant academic achievement by overcoming barriers such as economic, social, or educational disadvantage;
  • attendance at a minority serving institution;
  • ability to articulate the barriers facing women and minorities in science and engineering fields;
  • participation in higher education pipeline programs such as, UC Leads, or McNair Scholars;
  • Academic service advancing equitable access to higher education for women and racial minorities in fields where they are underrepresented;
  • Leadership experience among students from groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education;
  • research that addresses issues such as race, gender, diversity, and inclusion;
  • research that addresses health disparities, educational access and achievement, political engagement, economic justice, social mobility, civil and human rights, and other questions of interest to historically underrepresented groups;
  • artistic expression and cultural production that reflects culturally diverse communities or voices not well represented in the arts and humanities.
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How to Write a Graduate School Personal Statement (with example!)

graduate school admission personal statement sample

Varonika Ware is a content writer at Scholarships360. Varonika earned her undergraduate degree in Mass Communications at Louisiana State University. During her time at LSU, she worked with the Center of Academic Success to create the weekly Success Sunday newsletter. Varonika also interned at the Louisiana Department of Insurance in the Public Affairs office with some of her graphics appearing in local news articles.

Learn about our editorial policies

graduate school admission personal statement sample

Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

graduate school admission personal statement sample

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

How to Write a Graduate School Personal Statement (with example!)

Congratulations on finishing your bachelor’s degree, and starting the next chapter! You might be thinking about applying to graduate school, and fortunately, it’s very similar to applying to an undergraduate program. However, it’s probably been a few years since you’ve had to write an application essay, so you might be wondering how to write a personal statement for graduate school. If so, this guide is the perfect resource for you! Keep reading below to find out more, and don’t forget to check out the example of a graduate school personal statement.

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is an essay that encapsulates your personal journey and how that’s shaped who you are as an applicant. They are typically 400-600 words, but can be longer or shorter. 

Be sure not to confuse a personal statement with a statement of purpose as they are two different types of admissions essays. Use this as an opportunity to show colleges what you value and what’s turned you into an ideal student for your desired school. 

What should I write about?

Personal statements are your chance to get, well, personal. While you should answer the prompt in its entirety, you should also write about yourself. Bring a personal element into your essay like family or a story of you overcoming an obstacle. 

Ideally, your story should relate to what you’re trying to accomplish at your graduate school of choice. Tie it all together: your personal experiences, your desired major, and your ideal outcome. 

Tips for writing a personal statement for graduate school

It’s important to start your graduate application as soon as you’re able. Usually, the first round of applications receive the best financial aid packages, so start early! 

Starting sooner can also give you the time to outline your essay and get it read over by your support system. You’ll want it all to be perfect, so don’t rush.

Be transparent

Instead of telling admissions what you think they want to hear, be open and honest about yourself. You want them to understand you, and the only way to do that is to show who you actually are. Offer up personal stories or things that genuinely interest you so that you can show off your sparkling personality!

Be original

Graduate programs are often very competitive since there’s a smaller admissions pool. As a result, your essay should be as original as possible to stand out from the crowd. Tell your story in an organic way, and approach the given prompt with an open mind. 

Related : How to write an essay about yourself

Check your work

It’s extremely important for you to proofread and check for correct spelling and grammar throughout your personal statement. Even simply reading your statement out loud can help you catch any errors and make sure your words flow together. You should also consider having mentors or people within your support system read over your essay to ensure your message is clear.

Common mistakes when writing a graduate school personal statement

Reusing your undergraduate essay .

Reusing your first supplemental essay as a template is a big mistake you want to avoid. Years have passed since then, and you’ve learned new skills and grown as a person and a student. 

The experiences you previously wrote might not resonate with who you are today or tell the graduate team what they want to know about you. It may also have grammatical errors that you might not have noticed before, so take a little extra time to start from scratch and create something new.

Repeating what’s in your resume

It’s likely that your graduate school of choice will require you to upload a copy of your resume as part of your application. Therefore, the admissions committee will already know your professional background, so tell them something else about yourself or provide further depth to a job experience. Repeating yourself only tells them one thing, and you want to be the most well-rounded applicant that you can be.

Graduate school personal statement example

Prompt: Please discuss how your experiences, both personal and professional, have led you to pursue a graduate business degree at this time. What are your short- and long- term goals and how will this program and the J. Mack Robinson College of Business help you achieve these goals? (750 words max)

While many of the applications you receive will detail the many ways that person has been the first to do something, I pose a different perspective: hope to be the last. In other words, you might see me as a first-generation college student, but I see the makings of becoming the last generation to worry about generational wealth in my family. 

Though it is true that I would be the first in my family to get my master’s degree, I’m hoping that my future success means I’ll be the last “first.” It’s not lost on me what this title means, but most of all, it signifies the dawn of an era. A dynasty bred from the struggles and achievements of those before it.

These are big shoes to fill, but I’ve never been afraid of a challenge and the things I’ve learned have helped me secure my future. For example, by observing different business models throughout the years, I found a secret about marketing: people love a product that loves them back. In my case, a product that’s always loved me back were books. I’d fallen in love with bookshelves and bookstores alike, so it only makes sense that a culmination of my love of marketing and books is the goal of one day working in book publishing. I want to know the inner workings of book promotion including design decisions and book tours. Eventually, I plan on working at one of the big publishers such as Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, or Macmillan.

Fortunately, I’ve been given opportunities to decide on my own path, which I hope to execute at Georgia State University. This school’s unique curriculum will be an asset to me since there are classes that specifically cater to buyer behavior, and that’s an area of study I’m particularly interested in. The Social Media Intelligence Lab and social media marketing class will hopefully give me an inside look into influencer marketing and its impact on product profitability. According to your mission statement, GSU educates future leaders, and I want to be a part of that.

As a mentor of mine once said, knowledge is meant to be shared, and if it isn’t, it’s control. I hope to build up the people around me with knowledge and experiences as I go out into the professional world just as I hope this program will do for me. If I’m accepted into this program, I plan on using my creativity and drive for not only my success, but for my family’s as well. There may be times I fall short of a goal, but failure isn’t an option. Each benchmark professors put in front of me will be conquered, and one day, I’ll be one of your notable alumni. 

Why this essay works:

  • The writer clearly researched the school and understands its values
  • The prompt is answered completely and seamlessly
  • The applicant knew their goals and thought of ways to achieve them at the college 
  • This statement communicates not only what the college gains from this applicant’s admission, but also what the applicant gains
  • It’s also well within the word limit

Frequently asked questions about how to write a graduate school personal statement

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100+ Grad School Personal Statement Examples

graduate school admission personal statement sample

by Talha Omer, MBA, M.Eng., Harvard & Cornell Grad

In personal statement samples by field | personal statements samples by university.

In this Article

Importance of a Strong Personal Statement

Purpose of this blog post, length and format, tone and style, general tips for success, computer science and engineering, economics and finance, management and business, healthcare and medicine, environment and sustainability, public affairs, international relations and politics, architecture, arts and film, mathematics and statistics, religion and philosophy, phd personal statement examples, scholarship & fellowship personal statements, word count-specific personal statements, prompt-specific grad school personal statements examples, academic achievements and experiences, research experiences, work and internship experiences, volunteer and community service, personal growth and overcoming challenges, future goals and career aspirations, research the program and faculty, emphasize alignment with program objectives, highlight unique program offerings, overused phrases and clichés , excessive self-praise, lack of focus or organization, consulting mentors, and advisors, incorporating feedback and refine, introduction.

A personal statement is essential in the graduate school application process, as it plays a significant role in shaping the admissions committee’s perception of you. In fact, a survey conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools revealed that 64% of graduate admissions officers consider the personal statement to be the most crucial factor in the admissions process. Furthermore, according to a study by Kaplan Test Prep, a well-crafted personal statement can boost an applicant’s chances of acceptance by up to 50%.

The personal statement’s importance stems from its ability to create a lasting impression on the admissions committee. 

Consider this: the admissions committee (adcom) does not know you personally. They have never met or spoken to you, nor have they ever interviewed you. They only know you through quantifiable aspects such as your GPA, test scores, and work experience. However, they lack insight into your thought processes, aspirations, background, and personal experiences. In essence, they need to connect with you on a personal level. The personal statement serves as a bridge, enabling the adcom, who are human beings themselves, to gain insight into your personality, motivations, and aspirations beyond your grades and test scores.

Time and again, adcoms at top universities emphasize the critical role of personal statements in their decision-making process. Drafting a personal statement is your opportunity to market yourself, showcasing your unique qualities and demonstrating your genuine interest in their program. By investing time and effort into creating a powerful personal statement, you can significantly enhance your chances of securing a place in your desired graduate program.

In this blog post, I will be sharing over 100 authentic graduate school personal statement examples from successful applicants across the globe who have secured admission to prestigious programs in the United States and across the world.

These samples encompass a wide range of fields, including MBA, Law, Medicine, Engineering, and Social Work, and originate from esteemed institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. You will find examples of personal statements for various degrees, including MSc, MA, LLM, Residency, MBA, and PhD programs. You will also find examples of statements written by applicants who obtained fellowships, and scholarships. By sharing these diverse examples, I aim to achieve the following goals:

  • Inspiration and guidance: I want to provide you guys with a wide range of personal statement examples to serve as inspiration and offer guidance for making your own statements.
  • Addressing common topics: These samples will cover all the common personal statement elements, helping you understand how to effectively discuss your academic achievements, research experiences, work history, volunteer work, personal growth, and future goals.
  • Tips for success: The post will also provide helpful tips on tailoring personal statements to specific graduate programs, avoiding common pitfalls, and seeking feedback to improve the final draft.
  • Empowerment: Ultimately, the goal of sharing these for free is to empower you guys to create compelling and unique personal statements that will increase your chances of being accepted into your dream graduate program.

By providing this comprehensive resource, I hope to demystify the personal statement writing process and equip you with the tools and inspiration necessary to craft a captivating narrative that reflects your unique journey and aspirations. 

Personal Statement Basics

When writing your personal statement, it’s crucial to pay attention to three key areas: length and format, tone and style, and general tips for success.

It’s important to create a well-structured personal statement that adheres to the specified word count and follows proper formatting guidelines. Some programs, particularly MBA programs, might not request a single personal statement. Instead, they may pose several questions and require you to write a brief essay for each one. Such programs typically break down a personal statement into multiple short questions, expecting essay responses tailored to each query. 

As a result, it’s crucial to carefully read the guidelines before you start writing, as students often mistakenly create a single personal statement and try to tweak it for various programs without realizing that different requirements exist. By doing so, they lose time and waste considerable effort and energy. 

Adhering to instructions and responding appropriately will leave a positive impression on the admissions committee. To accomplish this, consider these key aspects:

  • Word count: Most graduate programs provide guidelines on the desired length of personal statements, typically ranging from 500 to 2,000 words.Adhere to these limits to show that you can follow instructions and communicate concisely.
  • Formatting: Use a clear and easy-to-read font (e.g., Times New Roman or Arial) at a standard size (e.g., 11 or 12 points) with 1-inch margins. Ensure your document is well-organized with paragraphs and headings where appropriate.
  • Structure: Start with a strong opening paragraph that hooks the reader, followed by body paragraphs addressing the key topics, and conclude with a memorable closing paragraph that reinforces your main points. This structure will ensure a cohesive and engaging narrative that effectively communicates your experiences and aspirations to the admissions committee.

In terms of tone and style, your personal statement should strike a balance between professionalism and authenticity to effectively convey your unique experiences and perspective. To accomplish this, consider the following aspects:

  • Professional and confident: Adopt a professional tone in your writing, using clear, concise language. Be confident in presenting your accomplishments without being overly boastful.
  • Authentic and personal: Avoid overly formal or academic language that may make your writing feel impersonal. Showcasing your authentic self will help the admissions committee connect with you on a personal level.
  • Engaging storytelling: Use storytelling techniques to make your personal statement more engaging and memorable. This can include anecdotes, vivid descriptions, and a strong narrative structure. Starting with a quote that is relevant to your story is also a good way to begin your personal statement.

Lastly, adhering to tried and tested tips can greatly improve your personal statement, ensuring you present a polished and compelling narrative that effectively showcases your strengths and aspirations to the admissions committee. Some general advice is as follows::

  • Start early: Give yourself ample time to brainstorm, write, revise, and seek feedback on your personal statement. On average. Grad school applicants spend 20+ hours in perfecting a personal statement of 1000 words. Moreover, they have their personal statement reviewed and redrafted 5 times on average.  
  • Be focused and organized: Clearly structure your personal statement, addressing the main topics and ensuring your narrative flows logically from one point to the next. A well-organized statement will demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively and coherently.
  • Proofread and edit: Carefully review your personal statement for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Use free tools like grammarly to remove any unwanted errors in your writing.
  • Seek feedback: Share your personal statement with your mentors, or peers, to gather valuable feedback. I especially recommend that you show your essay to someone who has already gone through the process successfully as they know the ins and outs well. Then, incorporate this feedback to refine and strengthen your final draft.

To help you get started and see everything that I just discussed in action, here is a list of 100+ personal statement examples from successful graduate school applicants.

Grad School Personal Statement Examples by Field of Study

  • Example Personal Statement Computer Science (Admitted to Oxford with Low GPA )
  • Example Personal Statement Computer Science (Admitted to Stanford )
  • Example Personal Statement Computer Science (Admitted to Cambridge PhD )
  • Example Personal Statement Artificial Intelligence (Admitted to UCLA)
  • Example Personal Statement Machine Learning (Admitted to Duke )
  • Example Personal Statement Data Science and Analytics (Admitted to CMU )
  • Example Personal Statement Data Analytics (Admitted to Georgia Tech )
  • Example Personal Statement Advanced Analytics (Admitted to NCSU )
  • Example Personal Statement Mechanical Engineering (Admitted to USC , Imperial )
  • Example Personal Statement Economics (Admitted to LSE )
  • Example Personal Statement Economics (Admitted to Oxbridge )
  • Example Personal Statement Finance (Admitted to MIT Sloan )
  • Example Personal Statement Financial Engineering (Admitted to UC Berkeley )
  • Example Personal Statement Financial Engineering (Admitted to UCLA )
  • Example Personal Statement Accounting & Finance (Admitted to Michigan University)
  • Example Personal Statement Investment Banking (Admitted to UPenn )
  • Example Personal Statement (Admitted to Georgetown )
  • Example Personal Statement (Admitted to Harvard LLM )
  • Example Personal Statement (Admitted to Northwestern )
  • Example Personal Statement (Admitted to NYU , Duke )
  • 8 MBA Personal Statements (All IVY LEAGUES )
  • Example BA Essays ( INSEAD )
  • Example MBA Essays ( Kellogg Northwestern )
  • Example Personal Statement Operations Management (Admitted to MIT PHD)
  • Example Personal Statement Management (Admitted to Duke )
  • Example Personal Statement Marketing (Admitted to NYU , Cornell )
  • Example Personal Statement Business Analytics (Admitted to MIT , CMU )
  • Example Personal Statement Management & Analytics (Admitted to LBS )
  • Example Personal Statement Project Management (Admitted to UT Austin )
  • Example Personal Statement Logistics & Supply Chain (Admitted to Boston . Penn State )
  • Example Personal Statement Supply Chain Management (Admitted to MIT )
  • Example Personal Statement Teaching ( Scholarship US State Department)
  • Example Education Personal Statement (Admitted to UPenn , NYU , UCLA )
  • Example Personal Statement Education Policy (Admitted to USC )
  • Example Personal Statement Special Education Teacher (Admitted to TUFTS )
  • Example Personal Statement of an Aspiring Teacher (Admitted to American University )
  • Example Personal Statement Residency in Internal Medicine (Admitted to ASU )
  • Example Personal Statement Counseling (Admitted to Harvard , Yale )
  • Example Personal Statement Psychology (Admitted to NYU Steinhardt)
  • Example Personal Statement Nursing (Admitted to Duke , Ohio)
  • Example Personal Statement Public Health (MPH) (Admitted to Columbia , Emory)
  • Example Personal Statement Social Work (MSW) (Admitted to Columbia )
  • Example Personal Statement Veterinary (Admitted to UC Davis , CSU , Edinburgh)
  • Example Personal Statement Biochemistry (Admitted to Johns Hopkins )
  • Example Personal Statement Biology (Admitted to JHU )
  • Example Personal Statement Anthropology (Admitted to Stanford )
  • Example Personal Statement Environment and Sustainability (admitted to Stanford , CALTECH )
  • Example Personal Statement Environmental Sustainability and Energy Management (Admitted to Yale , Duke )
  • Example Personal Statement International Relations (Admitted to Columbia , Cornell )
  • Example Personal Statement Political Science (Admitted to Duke , UCLA , NYU )
  • Example Personal Statement Public Administration MPA (Admitted to Columbia , Harvard )
  • Example Personal Statement Public Policy MPP (Admitted to Harvard , Brown , Erasmus Mundus Scholarship )
  • Example Personal Statement Architecture (Admitted to Cambridge , Cornell , Yale )
  • Example Personal Statement MFA (Admitted to New School and Rhode Island )
  • Example Personal Statement in Filmmaking (Admitted to New York Film Academy )
  • Example Personal Statement Fashion and Textile (Admitted to Parsons , Royal College of Arts )
  • Example Personal Statement Math (Admitted to Oxbridge )
  • Example Personal Statement Statistics (Admitted to NCSU , Cornell )
  • Example Personal Statement Religious Studies (Admitted to Columbia , Harvard )
  • Example Personal Statement 1 (Admitted to MIT )
  • Example Personal Statement 2 (Admitted to Cambridge )
  • Example Research Statement (Admitted to JHU )
  • Example Statement of Research Interests (Admitted to Scripps )
  • Example Statement of Objectives (Admitted to MIT )
  • Example Personal StatemenT MS leading to Ph.D. (Admitted to Notre Dame )

These essays are written by applicants who are seeking financial aid or funding to support their graduate studies. In most cases, the program does not require a separate essay or application for the scholarship or fellowship, but in a few cases they do.

Most external donors do require a separate application such as the Fulbright program.

The purpose of these essays is to convince the selection committee that the applicant is the best candidate for the scholarship or fellowship.

  • Scholarship Personal Statement Example (Won $250,000 Scholarship )
  • Scholarship Personal Statement Example (Won Erasmus Mundus Scholarship )
  • Fellowship Personal Statement Example (Won MIT Sloan Fellowship )
  • Scholarship Personal Statement Example 1 (Won Fulbright Scholarship )
  • Scholarship Personal Statement Example 2 (Won Fulbright Scholarship )

Word Count-Specific Personal Statements have a specific word count limit, which must be adhered to by the applicant. These are often required as part of graduate school applications, where the admissions committee wants to ensure that all applicants are providing the same amount of information and not exceeding or falling short of the specified word count.

Writing a word count-specific personal statement can be challenging, as applicants must balance providing enough detail to adequately convey their story and goals, while also being concise and staying within the specified limit. However, meeting the word count requirement is essential for demonstrating an applicant’s ability to communicate effectively, follow instructions, and prioritize information.

Here are a few examples of word-count specific personal statements.

  • 100 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 150 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 200 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 250 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 300 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 400 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 500 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 600 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 700 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 750 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 800 Word Personal Statement Example
  • 1000 Word Personal Statement Example

Prompt specific personal statements are statements that are tailored to answer a specific question or prompt in a personal statement. These statements are typically used in graduate school applications, especially MBA apps. These essays usually have a word-limit as well.

The purpose of a question specific personal statement is to demonstrate to the admissions committee that the applicant has the skills, knowledge, and experience required to succeed in the program. By directly addressing the prompt or question, the applicant can provide a focused and coherent response that highlights their relevant qualities and accomplishments.

For example, if a prompt asks an applicant to discuss their leadership experience, a question specific personal statement would focus on describing specific instances where the applicant demonstrated leadership skills and qualities, such as problem-solving, decision-making, and effective communication.

Here are some samples on Question or Prompt Specific Personal Statements.

  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement on Career Goals
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement on Values that have Influenced You
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement on Leadership
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement on 25 Things You Don’t Know About Me
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement on Describe a Challenge you Faced and How you Overcame it?
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement on My Passion in Life
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement on Why do you want to become a doctor?
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement Example 1 ( Responses to 6 Prompts for Fellowship)
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement Example 2 ( Responses to 5 Prompts for Duke)
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement Example 3 ( Responses to 3 Prompts for MIT)
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement Example 4 ( Responses to 4 Prompts for LBS)
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement Example 5 ( Responses to 4 Prompts for UC Berkeley)
  • Prompt-specific Personal Statement Example 6 ( Responses to 4 Prompts for MIT)

Addressing Common Personal Statement Components

In this section, I will explore the various components that commonly make up a well-rounded personal statement.I have also discussed these in a lot more detail in a blog post here . In that post, I have also shared various examples of personal statements that show how you can put these components in an essay form. Furthermore, that blog post also introduces an 8-point framework designed to assist you in evaluating and rating your personal statement draft.

When applying for graduate programs that are academic in nature, such as PhD, Master of Science, or Master of Arts, it’s essential to emphasize your academic achievements and experiences in your personal statement. To effectively showcase your educational background, you can do the following:

  • Highlight relevant coursework: Discuss courses that have prepared you for graduate study and demonstrate your passion for the subject.
  • Showcase your academic accomplishments: Mention awards, honors, high GPA, or scholarships you’ve received, and explain their significance.
  • Share influential academic experiences: Describe any conferences, workshops, or seminars you’ve attended, and explain how they’ve shaped your understanding of your field.

When applying for research-oriented programs such as PhD, post-doc, or research-based masters, it’s crucial to emphasize your research background, experiences, and achievements in your personal statement. To effectively highlight your research accomplishments, consider including the following in your personal statement:

  • Describe your research projects: Outline the relevant research you’ve conducted, including the objectives, methodology, and results.
  • Emphasize your role: Detail your specific contributions (co-contributor, co-author, lead researcher) to the research project, highlighting your skills and expertise.
  • Discuss the impact: Explain how your research has contributed to the field (maybe you got published in a journal, got a patent or published a white paper). You can also discuss how it influenced your career goals.

When composing your personal statement, it’s a good idea to show your work and internship experiences, as they highlight your practical skills and dedication to your chosen field. These experiences are especially significant for those applying to professional programs such as MBA, Project Management, and Masters in Engineering. 

However, they can also add considerable value to applications for academic or research-based programs. To effectively emphasize your work experiences and their relevance to your graduate studies, take into account the following aspects:

  • Detail relevant experiences: Discuss any internships, part-time jobs, or full-time positions related to your field, highlighting the skills you’ve gained.
  • Demonstrate transferable skills: Show how your work experience has equipped you with valuable skills (e.g., teamwork, leadership, problem-solving) that can be applied to your graduate studies.
  • Share meaningful moments: Describe any significant projects, accomplishments, or challenges you’ve encountered during your work experience that have shaped your perspective or goals.

In your personal statement, highlighting your volunteer and community service experiences can be a valuable addition, particularly for programs that emphasize social impact or community engagement, such as social work, public health, or education.

These experiences demonstrate your commitment to making a difference, and they showcase your ability to apply the skills and knowledge gained in real-world situations. Additionally, they reflect your extroverted nature, openness to new ideas, and willingness to engage with people from diverse backgrounds. 

Emphasizing your involvement in volunteer work and community service not only reveals your personal growth and alignment with your field of study but also highlights your ability to work collaboratively, appreciate different perspectives, and contribute positively to society. To give you some idea, you can demonstrate your service to the community by doing the following in your personal statement:

  • Showcase your involvement: Discuss volunteer work, community service, or extracurricular activities you’ve participated in that are relevant to your field of study or personal growth.
  • Emphasize personal growth: Describe the impact of these experiences on your personal development, such as gaining empathy, cultural competence, or leadership skills.
  • Connect to your field: Explain how your volunteer or community service experiences relate to your graduate studies and future career aspirations.

By sharing the obstacles you’ve faced and the lessons you’ve learned from them, you demonstrate your resilience, adaptability, and motivation. Connecting these experiences to your academic and career goals will further emphasize your determination to succeed in your chosen field and your readiness for the rigors of graduate study. Here are some ideas to get you started with this:

  • Share your story: Discuss any personal challenges or obstacles you’ve faced and how they’ve shaped your character, values, or motivations.
  • Demonstrate resilience: Explain how you’ve overcome these challenges and what you’ve learned from the experience.
  • Relate to your academic and career goals: Show how your personal growth and experiences have influenced your decision to pursue graduate studies and your future career aspirations.

Your personal statement should also address your future goals and career aspirations. You should discuss both your short-term (3-5 year) and long-term (10-15 year) goals in your grad school personal statement. 

Explain the motivation behind them, and connect these goals to the graduate program you’re applying to. This will show that you have a clear plan for your academic and professional journey, and that the program is an essential stepping stone toward achieving your goals. Here is a helping hand that will assist you include this element in your essay.

  • Outline your short-term and long-term goals: Discuss your objectives for both your graduate studies and your future career, demonstrating a clear vision of your path.
  • Explain your passion and motivation: Share the driving forces behind your goals, showcasing your enthusiasm and dedication to your field of study.
  • Connect your goals to the graduate program: Illustrate how the specific graduate program you’re applying to will help you achieve your academic and career objectives.

Tailoring your Personal Statement for Specific Schools

One common mistake that applicants make is submitting a generic personal statement to multiple programs. This can significantly reduce their chances of admission. 

Universities appreciate when applicants have taken the time to research the specific program, courses, faculty, and research facilities, demonstrating genuine interest and effort. 

While it’s acceptable to have a core personal statement that outlines your personal story, achievements, and interests, it’s crucial to tailor part of the essay to the particular program you are applying to. By customizing your personal statement, you show the admissions committee that you’ve done your homework.

Here I have some suggestions for you that you can use to tailor your personal statement for the specific program.

To tailor your personal statement for specific schools, it’s essential to thoroughly research the program and faculty at each institution. This involves exploring the program’s curriculum, core and optional course offerings, summer internship placement opportunities, industry-affiliated projects that are available, faculty research interests, and the school’s overall reputation in your field. By understanding these aspects, you can demonstrate your genuine interest in the program and highlight how your background and goals align with the faculty and coursework offered.

Once you have a solid understanding of the program and faculty, emphasize the alignment between your own values, objectives, and the program’s values and objectives in your personal statement. This can include showcasing your commitment to the program’s core principles, highlighting your passion for the program’s focus areas, and demonstrating your enthusiasm for working with particular faculty members on research or projects that align with your interests.

Each graduate program may have unique offerings that set it apart from others, such as specialized courses, research centers, or industry partnerships. In your personal statement, highlight these distinctive features and explain how they will benefit you. By doing this, you show the admissions committee that you have carefully considered the program’s offerings and have a clear understanding of how they will contribute to your academic and professional growth.

Personal Statement Pitfalls to Avoid

When writing your personal statement, you should be watchful of common traps that can diminish the impact of your narrative. Avoiding these mistakes will help you create a nice, well-rounded and unique story that will stand out to the adcom.

I have also discussed these in a lot more detail in a blog post here . In that post, I have also shared various examples of personal statements that avoid these traps and some that fall for them.

Here are some critical pitfalls to avoid:

Avoid relying on common phrases or clichés in your personal statement. Nearly all the personal statement templates use clichés like, such as “I’ve always known that I wanted to…”, “I have a thirst for knowledge.”, “I want to give back to society.”, “Ever since I can remember…”. These can make your writing appear as copy paste, dull and boring. Instead, you should try to be creative and unique and use expressions that genuinely reflect your own individual experiences and motivations.

While it’s essential to showcase your achievements and strengths, be cautious not to overdo self-promotion. Overly boastful or self-aggrandizing language can be off-putting to the reader and you could come across as arrogant and self-conceited. Focus on presenting your accomplishments and experiences in a balanced and authentic manner, highlighting the impact and the lessons learned from them. In short, stay humble.

A disorganized or unfocused personal statement can make it difficult for the admissions committee to grasp your main points or understand your narrative. Ensure your personal statement is well-structured, with clear coherence between paragraphs and a logical progression of ideas. Stay focused on only talking about experiences that are relevant to your field of study. However, if you want to talk about something that you feel is important for the application but is not relevant to the chosen program, just touch upon it in your essay.

Again, I would recommend you to go through this post where I have delved deeper into the things you should avoid. Additionally, in that post I have also provided you with a 7-point framework that you can use to circumvent the common pitfalls often encountered in personal statements.

Seeking Feedback and Revising Your Personal Statement

Before submitting your personal statement, it’s essential to seek and incorporate feedback. Applicants who create successful personal statements spend 20 hours on average on creating the perfect essay. You should consult mentors, advisors, and peers, to refine your narrative. This section will guide you through the process of seeking feedback and making revisions to optimize your personal statement.

Seek input from individuals who know you well and have experience with the application process. I would also recommend that you should ask feedback from people who have successfully gone through the process in the past. Their feedback can help you identify areas for improvement, and ensure your narrative aligns properly.

After receiving feedback from various sources, take the time to thoughtfully consider their suggestions and incorporate them into your personal statement. Remember that not all feedback may be applicable or useful, so use your judgment to determine which revisions will enhance your narrative. Continue refining your personal statement through multiple drafts, ensuring your final version presents a polished and compelling story that showcases your strengths and aspirations.

I hope that these 100+ personal statement examples for graduate school and all the associated tips will provide you with the inspiration, guidance, and ideas you need to create a captivating narrative of your own. As you embark on this journey, remember that dedication, self-reflection, and resilience are key to putting up a persuasive narrative. Remember, there is no short-cut to success. Good luck, and we can’t wait to see where your academic journey takes you!

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How to Write a Strong Personal Statement for Graduate School

  • by Heidi Kerr and Paul David Terry
  • November 10, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Write a Strong Statement of Purpose

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

  • 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

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

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

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

More Tips and Resources for Applying to Graduate School

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

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

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

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

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Personal Statement for Graduate School Examples: Psychology

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Why Strong Personal Statements are so Important for Graduate School

In your psychology graduate degree application, the personal statement is crucial. It showcases your academic achievements, personal journey, career goals, and why you’re a great fit for the program. This is your chance to move beyond mere statistics—GPA, test scores, work experience—and tell your unique story. Crafting a compelling personal statement requires insight, precision, and guidance. However, finding quality personal statement for graduate school examples can be challenging. Magoosh is committed to supporting graduate applications with detailed analyses, specific feedback, and comprehensive support throughout the admissions process.

Spotlight on Successful Psychology Personal Statements

We’re excited to showcase two standout personal statement for graduate school examples covering two different psychology tracks. The first, used to apply to Columbia University, explores the therapeutic power of storytelling in the aftermath of trauma and the writer’s dedication to studying the pathways from traumatic experiences to psychopathology. This essay seamlessly weaves together the applicant’s academic pursuits and professional experiences, underlining a deep-seated commitment to understanding and fostering resilience and growth post-trauma.

Improve your GRE score with Magoosh.

Second, written for UC Berkeley, takes us on a captivating journey—from volunteering in Haiti to navigating the urban complexity of New York, and finally, to a meaningful role in tutoring across diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. This narrative eloquently captures the author’s evolving insight into the significant role counseling plays in psychological well-being and the drive to effect change within the psychology field.

graduate school admission personal statement sample

Examples with Expert Annotated Feedback

Our feedback on each personal statement highlights strengths, suggests improvements, and offers strategic advice to boost the essay’s impact and emotional appeal. This feedback reflects our thorough grasp of the admissions process and our dedication to helping candidates refine their narratives.

Now explore our personal statements and expert commentary for inspiration on your application narratives. Whether starting your essay or finalizing it, our resources, expertise, and support guide you through the admissions journey.

Finally, our aim is to help you create a personal statement that surpasses admissions expectations, compellingly showcasing your unique story. Explore our blog for further tips, inspirational success stories, and expert advice , and move forward in your graduate school journey with confidence. Our platform is your ally in turning your graduate school aspirations into achievements.

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Harvard Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

Harvard Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

Reading Harvard graduate school personal statement examples can help organize your thoughts, experiences, and knowledge to craft your own above-average personal statement. Different from statement of purpose examples for graduate school , the personal statement should tell your story and describe what brought you to this moment when you’re applying to one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Your personal statement can contain anything about your past (stories, experiences, trials, obstacles, etc.), but you must find a way to connect them to your present goals.

This article will provide different personal statement examples, explain more about the nuances of applying to Harvard Graduate School and show you how to write a compelling introduction and opening sentence for your Harvard graduate school personal statement.

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Article Contents 12 min read

Applying to harvard graduate school.

The Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offers master’s and PhD degrees in various areas of study, ranging from the arts and humanities to business administration and physics. As such, each program has different entrance requirements, although some general requirements include applicants taking the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

Non-native-English-speaking students also need to take an English proficiency test to show they have the necessary language skills. Specialized programs in a specific field like Greek Studies or art history may require language proficiency in other languages like Latin, Greek or Italian, so you should carefully review all the requirements of your chosen program.

The personal statement requirement is also not universal. Some programs may ask for a statement of purpose (similar to a letter of intent), which is more focused on your academic background and ambitions, and not the same as a personal statement. Other programs ask for a portfolio or other work.

You should research all about the program you want to enter before you apply, and if you have any doubts or questions, reach out to them directly. All university graduate programs are eager to accept exceptional and qualified candidates and will be more than happy to clarify anything that is confusing.

I have always had a hard time defining myself. Other than my gender identity, I’ve always felt parts of me are too fluid to define. I never felt any particular affinity or pride toward the country of my birth, but neither do I identify with my parent’s countries of origin, although elements of their culture (language, music) do resonate with me.

I went to a very diverse, multicultural high school and it was my first brush with not belonging. I don’t remember thinking about my identity before. I grew up in a community based around my neighborhood and we didn’t differentiate people according to race, language, religion, or things like that. They were just my neighbors and friends.

In high school, though, everyone had their cliques and groups. Sometimes, they were centered on shared cultural, national, and racial ties, which meant that I, a biracial, native-born kid with parents from South America and Europe found it hard to fit in. I became aware of what life was like outside the paradise of my neighborhood when I was bullied in high school for being biracial. And it came from all the students; for some, I was too light-skinned; for others, I was too dark.

It was a hard thing for me to understand. Being judged for my skin color was something that had never happened to me before, and I took it to heart. As the bullying continued, I became depressed and angry. I lashed out at my parents for no reason. My grades began to suffer. My worried parents sent me to the family doctor to explain my problems, but he only suggested anti-depressants, which I did not want to take.

It was my high school guidance counselor, Ms. Olivia Nuzzi, who gave me what I most needed at the time: someone to talk to, someone to listen. I can’t remember the exact circumstances that brought us together – I think my mother reached out to her – but by the time of our first meeting, I was not doing well. My depression had intensified. I was experiencing suicidal ideation. I felt like I would never belong or be accepted by anyone.

The first time I met Ms. Nuzzi, she placed her hand on mine, and that simple act of tenderness made me burst out sobbing. It was the first time anyone, other than bullies, had tried to get close to me in months. In our first session, I talked openly about what was going on with the bullying and how it made me question my identity. I began to see Ms. Nuzzi regularly after that. Going to see her was often the only highlight of my week, and we became very close.

I went to her on one of the worst days of my life. I was in class, and someone made an insulting comment about me. I didn’t react at all, but inside I was furious. Soon, that fury turned to panic, and I started to feel short of breath, dizzy. I asked to be excused and made my way to Ms. Nuzzi’s office. She calmed me down and asked what had happened.

What she said next has always stayed with me. She said, “Not knowing who you are now doesn’t mean you’ll never know, and it doesn’t mean you’re empty. It only means you have a lot of work to do.” Her saying that made me realize that identity is something we are always constructing.

Ms. Nuzzi lost touch after I graduated, but her words never left me. I thought of her when I decided what my career should look like, in childhood psychology, and applied to the Psychology program at Cornell. Despite all the care and tenderness Ms. Nuzzi had shown me, I wanted to offer more to children grappling with identity and identity formation within the context of education.

During my undergrad, I focused on classes related to preadolescent development and the important role of socialization in how young people define themselves. I also took courses in sociology and social work to better understand how to create actionable plans to treat childhood depression, anxiety, and mental illness.

During my master’s, I focused on approaches to child psychology that helped me gain a better understanding of how to assess and interpret a child’s distress. It became clear to me that I needed to study more about the social basis for the way a child forms their identity and how they respond to external factors.

Among the many reasons I am applying to the Harvard Graduate School Psychology program is the opportunity to study under the supervision of Dr. Henry Blackthorn, a pioneer in the field of childhood anxiety disorders. I have admired Dr. Blackthorn’s work for many years, and I think his outline for developmental risk factors is the most precise diagnostic retuning in ages.

It’s ironic that my search for an identity led me to finding my career, even though I am wary of defining myself by my profession. I am a dedicated student and researcher, and I feel like I can contribute effectively to this graduate program, but one thing I have learned in trying to shape my own identity is that the work of creating yourself is never over.

One of the things I remember most about my father is his bookcase. My father never finished grade school, and he had worked most of his life. He had as many jobs as anyone I ever knew, and he took pride in listing off the jobs he had held in his time, ranging from janitor, factory worker, and line supervisor to line cook, hospital attendant, and general contractor.

Wearing as many hats as he did, he knew a lot about different subjects. He knew how to take apart a carburetor and cook a French omelet. He knew the best wood to build a house (spruce or Douglas fir) and the best way to get out chocolate stains. But he was always insecure about not having a formal education.

He made up for it by learning as much practical knowledge as he could from the jobs that he had, but inside I think it wasn’t enough. He could never fill that void that wanted to be filled with a college- or university-level education. I would tell him that he could take a night course or something else that interested him, but he always said “no” and made up some excuse.

He had his own plan. He built a ramshackle bookcase out of old, repurposed wood and stuck it in the basement. He slowly filled the shelves with whatever he could find – books he bought at garage sales, books the library gave away, books our neighbors gave him – but mainly a lot of repair and how-to books and manuals. After a year, the bookcase was almost full.

His other plan involved me. If he couldn’t go to university, then I would be the one to go. He made clear to me at a young age that I was headed to university and that education was one of the most important things in life. It was one of the few things that we agreed on: education. We didn’t have much else in common other than an appreciation for learning.

As his book collection grew, so did I. Since my dad was so hands-on, one day, when I was in high school, I was surprised to find a book on the bookcase that actually interested me: a copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I didn’t know where he got the book or who gave it to him – it was such a rare thing to see on my father’s bookcase – but finding that book would shape the rest of my life and bring me here to apply to the PhD in Ancient History program at Harvard.

I have an innate love for stories, but Ovid’s poetry was such a departure from the storytelling structure I had grown up with. An epic poem was a genre I never knew existed, let alone one that was thousands of years old. While I was reading the second book, I was drawn in by the story of Phaeton, the demi-god who believes Helios is his true father and is desperate to prove it.

The lines Helios speaks to Phaeton to dissuade him from riding the sun chariot, “Your lot is mortal, it is not mortal what you ask,” made me think of my father, wanting to know more than what life had taught him. Helios spoke those words to Phaeton to keep him from danger, but my father told me the opposite. My father taught me that knowledge was a way to achieve greatness. He did not want me to be content with what I had or who I was. He wanted me to strive to be more than he could ever be.

Reading those lines from Ovid put everything into perspective and made me realize my future would be among the Classics. I wanted to reach back to the beginning of recorded knowledge, where the first poets, philosophers, historians, mathematicians, and engineers tried to interpret the living world in a way that had never been done before. I started taking Latin classes with my local priest who had learned the language while studying at the Vatican.

When I graduated from high school, I decided on Northwestern because its Classics program is one of the best in the country and because it was not far from home. I wanted my father to visit me on campus to give him a taste of the college life.

While at Northwestern, I participated in an exchange program during my third year and took two semesters in Hellenic Studies at the University of Athens. I started learning Greek in my first year, and by the time I arrived in Athens, I was semi-fluent. Unfortunately, my academic dreams came close to crashing in my last years, as that was when my father passed away from prostate cancer. His loss is something I still struggle with, but his love for learning and knowledge is something that has stayed with me and continues to motivate me. His plan for retirement was to read a book a day from his bookcase, but he never got there. I dedicated my personal statement for my master’s degree in Anthropology to my father.

During that degree, I participated in a field expedition to the hills of Thessaloniki to explore a cache of pottery and other artifacts uncovered by recent construction. It was during this time when I also co-published my first academic paper, “The Enchantment of Ovid: Love, Desire and Consent in Mythological Context,” with Dimitrios Alexopoulos, now co-chair of the Hellenic Studies program at Dartmouth.

My plans for the rest of my career include opening new methods of analysis in understanding classical literature. I have a strong interest in dissecting the ways that classical arts continue to influence modern artists and thinking, especially as seen through a gendered and racialized prism.

I would also like to follow in my father’s example and pass on his love of learning to a new generation of students. I want my students to be imbued with the desire to learn as much as Phaeton desired to ride the sun chariot, which to my father, would not have been as exciting as getting an education.

I always wanted to open my own business. To me, having your own business, being your own boss was the best thing in the world. I came to this country from Nigeria wanting to be a success, even though I wasn’t sure of what I would do. I started washing cars and picking up shifts as an Uber driver to earn money, but my end goals were not clear yet.

I thought the answer would come to me and then I would know what to do, but regardless, I started saving money, knowing that whatever it was that interested me, it would take money and resources to follow through. Luckily, the answer I was waiting for arrived in the back of my Uber one night.

I picked up my fare, an older gentleman who had come from a restaurant where he had been celebrating closing a business deal, he told me later. Normally, I didn’t speak with my customers, unless they wanted to, but this gentleman, I’ll call him Jerry, was in a talking mood. He told me about how he had started his business a long time ago and now he had enough money to retire.

I told him I was interested in opening a business, but I wasn’t sure in what. Jerry told me that didn’t matter. The idea wasn’t as important as the work that you put into making it real. Everyone has ideas, he said, but only a few ever become more than ideas in someone’s head.

Jerry told me that enrolling in a business program would give me the fundamentals to create any business I wanted. He said that businesses fail not because they’re bad ideas, but because the people behind them don’t know how to keep them alive. But Jerry also said that I should never underestimate the power of luck. Sometimes the underdog makes it, sometimes they do not.

I drove Jerry home, and he gave me his card, in case I wanted any more advice. I did take his advice and started looking into Business Administration programs near me that would suit my schedule and let me continue working. I enrolled in the one at the SUNY Buffalo School of Management and took courses in accounting, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

The more I studied business theories and how to analyze data to extract a favorable business strategy, the more I became convinced that Jerry was right. It was knowledge and know-how that mattered more than just an idea. Learning more about business administration also refocused my goals. I started to see that running my own business was not as interesting to me as expanding or growing an established business.

I also realized that running a successful business is about a lot more than big ideas. If recent history has shown us anything, it’s that people with grand ideas are more interested in making people believe their idea works, even if it doesn’t. They ignore the social responsibility aspect of any business only to justify their greatness.

I realize that I don’t have the lofty goals of some modern business titans. My goals are humbler and more realistic. I feel like my emphasis on collecting and analyzing data is more important to any business than my leadership abilities, which is why I’m applying to the Harvard Graduate School PhD in Business Administration. If I am admitted to your program, I hope to effectively merge my analytical and business skills to further research on human resource management and information technology.

If Harvard graduate school is your dream school, then you should know how to get accepted and what it takes to write an outstanding personal statement. Along with college essay examples , the Harvard graduate school personal statement examples found here should only be used as a template to create your own statement.

The format of a personal statement is usually open-ended, but each graduate program has its own requirements, so make sure you check what they are before you start formulating an answer. You can write about any personal story that is significantly related to your educational and academic path, but make sure you connect it to why you are an ideal candidate for the program.

A personal statement is a guided essay that aims to explain a little more about your personal motivations to enter a specific school, graduate program, or profession. 

Not all schools or graduate programs will ask for a personal statement, but it depends on what school or program you apply to. You should check the admissions requirements for any program you want to enter before you apply. 

A personal statement can be a supplemental essay, but the latter is often based on specific prompts or questions asked by the admissions committee. Read these Harvard supplemental essay examples or these Harvard MBA personal statement examples to get a better idea of how they differ.

You can start your personal statement by thinking about why you wanted to enter the profession you are entering and explain in detail the steps you took to achieve that goal. 

A letter of intent is a document outlining your specific academic and professional goals, along with past achievements in your field. It is strictly an academic resume. But a personal statement is something that reveals what attracted you to your field and what motivates you to pursue this advanced degree. 

You can talk about a time when you identified your career goals and ambitions, whether it was during childhood or adolescence, as long as you relate how your story helped you choose the program you are applying to. 

You should NOT talk about personal issues or difficulties that are unrelated to your degree or education. You should NOT talk about vague characteristics (hard-working, organized) without providing concrete examples from your past. 

The length, word count, and other format details are decided by the program you want to enter, but if there are no stated requirements, you want to keep your statement to two pages, double-spaced.

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How To Write A Personal Statement For Masters (17 PDF Sample Examples)

Published: 14 Mar 2022 Study Abroad 100,506 views

How To Write A Personal Statement For Masters (17 PDF Sample Examples)

A personal statement for masters program is one of the most important parts of your college application and writing a good one is what’s the exception between receiving an offer and being rejected.

If you’ve been tasked with presenting a personal statement, you should keep in mind that whatever you submit must put you forward as the right candidate for the course. Additionally, it should convince the admissions officers that you deserve a place on your program of study.

Achieving the above, is a skill most postgraduate students are yet to acquire but thankfully this article on How To Write A Personal Statement For Masters covers everything you need to know on doing this.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • What is a personal statement?
  • Tips for making your personal statement for masters stand out
  • How to write a personal statement for masters
  • Personal statement for masters sample
  • Examples of personal statement for masters
  • Conclusion – things to avoid when writing a personal statement for masters

Read:  Admission Interview Tips .

What Is a Personal Statement?

A personal statement AKA admissions or application essay or statement of purpose is a type of essay or written statement a candidate presents to a college, university, or graduate school they are applying to, explaining why they want to attend that school, study a particular course, and why they would be a perfect fit for these things.

A personal statement for masters is an essay you submit specifically for your postgraduate application. Writing one presents the opportunity for you to promote yourself to a school and show the admissions teachers that you are the perfect candidate for a course.

Tips For Making Your Personal Statement For Masters Stand Out

Before we get into how you should write a statement of purpose for masters, we would first like to share with you certain tips to include in your essay to make it stand out from that of other applicants and be convincing enough to any admissions officer that reads it. The tips we have mentioned here, cover general things like starting and ending your personal statement, timing, length, and what to include and what not to include in the essay, etc.

1. Starting And Ending A Personal Statement

When starting a personal statement, you would want to right off the bat grab the reader’s attention. To do this, start the statement by writing about your degree of choice, next why you want to study it and then how you got interested in it.

The next 2 sentences after that should cover a summary of your background in the chosen field, and you conclude by saying what you plan to do once you acquire your graduate degree.

Also start with that the evaluators reading want to hear first, then every other information should come second. You will notice we’ve used in the sop examples for masters we will share with you later in this article.

2. Plan Ahead

A personal statement is not something you rush while writing, which means if you want to get something good before you application then you must start to decide things like the length and how long it should take to complete.

Let us throw more light on this…

For length, a personal statement should be brief ranging somewhere between 500 -700 words, although schools often detect how long it should be. So, this is dependent on the institution you are applying to.

In terms of what to say in a statement, you could include personal experiences like why you were driven to apply for the program, an experience you had with a scholar in your chosen discipline, a course you took that inspired you to pursue masters, or a key moment during your studies which further motivated you.

No matter what you decide to write, just keep in mind that you need to take your time to craft something good even if it means creating several drafts before the real thing and do not forget to proofread the statement for errors.

3. Research Your Program Of Study

Researching your program of study is one way to establish that you truly understand the discipline you’re getting into and prove to the admissions officer that you thoroughly thought about it before applying.

And because you want to put yourself forward as a serious candidate, one way to make you research easier is for you to visit the website of the department you are applying to. This page will contain information about faculty members, their specialisation, and publications.

From the intel, you gathered there you can now identify which professors match your interests and which ones you will benefit the most from learning under. After you’ve found this out, relate the same in a sentence or two in your statement of purpose for masters.

Example: “I would be honoured to study under the tutelage of Professor Nadia whose work I found resonated strongly with my beliefs and intended projects in this course”.

4. Avoid Clichés, Junks, And Many Details

When writing a statement of purpose for master degree try to avoid clichés, junks, and unnecessary details so that you don’t lose or bore your readers in between. Be as concise as possible, even if it’s your chance to express yourself.

A personal statement is an opportunity for the admissions committee to get information that tells the that you are suitable for the course. So, when you overpower your statement with too many words, stories, and useless details, you come off as someone who is just trying to meet the word count.

5. Include Your Personal History Only If It Adds To The Statement

Do not include your personal history in your statement of intent for masters if it is not relevant to your purpose of study. This means no need for you to tell that story about that time you helped someone treat a cut and immediately realised that you wanted to be a doctor or nurse or how you developed a taste for reading at a very young age.

We can guarantee you that the hundreds of other applications competing for the same spot you are felt the same way, so saying those things really doesn’t make you unique.

On the other hand, if you are going to add personal history to your statement, you can put in things like an internship you did and the experience you got from the job, a major research project you ran by yourself, publications you’ve read or published, conferences you’ve attended or presentations you’ve done. These experiences are more concrete and are directly related to your program of study. They also set you apart from other applicants.

6. Don't Use The Same Personal Statement For All Your Applications

One common mistake applicant make that you shouldn’t is using the same statement of purpose for master degree for all your applications. Using the same information repeatedly even if you are going to change the university names is risky and could land you in a big mistake on a day you forget to be thorough.

All programmes have their own unique set of questions they want to see answered and information they need in your personal statement.

And even if some of them like extracurricular activities, proposal for project, why you are applying to the school, your unique qualities, and research works you’re doing might appear the same, do not use one statement to respond to all of them.

Write a new unique personal statement every time you want to apply.

Check out:  How to Write a Good CV for Students - Resume Examples for Students (PDF).

How To Write A Personal Statement for Masters

When writing a personal statement for masters there are several steps and ground rules you need to follow to ensure that it comes out good enough to impress the admissions team of a school, and ultimately convince them to give you a spot on your program of study.

If writing one is something you are currently struggling with and can’t seem to get down the process of it right no matter what, this section on how to write a personal statement for masters, discusses in detail everything you need to get help with yours.

There are 4 parts to consider when writing your personal statement and we have listed them below:

1. Planning A Personal Statement

A personal statement is a piece of writing showing your academic interests and is only for application purposes which means there is no room for any autobiographical information in it about your personal life. Be as to-the-point as possible when writing it and stick to telling the school why you are the right person for the course, plus any other extra information detailing your achievements.

Before You Start:

Allot plenty of time to write your msc personal statement so that you don’t rush it. Remember, this simple piece of writing is your one shot at convincing a school that you are the best applicant they’ve seen and as such can either make or break your application.

Read the information expected of you from the university, rules and guidelines given, selection criteria and understand what they mean. Also research the institution.

Do a thorough research on the course you are applying for; this will help you explain better why you want to study it. The tutors interviewing you can tell when you are lying and presenting yourself as uninformed can cost you the admission.

Ensure that you don’t use the same personal statement for all your applications.

When Writing:

When writing the statement there are some questions to ask yourself that can help you plan it better. Those questions are:

  • Why you want to study a master’s and how does it benefit you in future?
  • How does the course you have chosen fit into your pre-existing skill set?
  • How do you stand out from the crowd as an applicant - e.g., work experiences you’ve had in the same field you are applying for?
  • What do you aspire to do or be as a future career and how will the course help you achieve that?
  • How can your work or skillsets contribute positively to the department/ university you are applying to, or society at large?

On the other hand, if you are applying for the masters to change from the field you studied in your undergraduate to another field, you should tell the school why you decided to take a different path in your studies.

Questions to ask yourself for this include:

  • Your reason for deciding to change your discipline.
  • How your undergraduate degree will be material for bringing fresh insights into your masters course.
  • How changing your study path will help you attain your future career.

2. Structuring A Personal Statement

Having good structure for your personal statement for master degree is important because it ensures that everything from the beginning, middle, and ending of the statement is written and equally falls in place perfectly.

We’ve left some tips for you below to help you:

Start your personal statement with an attention-grabbing introduction that is not dramatic or cliché. That means you should not begin with any of these over-used phrases we’ve listed out below:

For as long as I remember…

Since my childhood…

I want to apply to this course because I’ve always felt a strong connection to it…

All my life, I have always loved…

My interest in (course) always ran deeper than…

I’ve always been zealous about…

Ever since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in…

My past educational experiences have always…

You would want to be as snappy as possible with your opening because the admission officer has over a hundred applications to read and can’t waste all their time on yours. This means you should avoid overpowering it with unnecessary facts, quotes, and stories from your life.

The middle part of your ma personal statement is where the main content of the write-up should be. This is where you show your dedication to the course you’ve chosen, what motivated you to choose it, and why you are the right candidate for it.

When writing the middle part of a graduate personal statement, you should:  

  • Give concrete reasons why you want to study a course at the University. The reason could be because of how the course is aligned to your future career or the University’s reputation in teaching that program.
  • Mention relevant things like projects, dissertations, or essays you’ve done, and any work experience you have.
  • Show proof of your core skills like and how they can contribute to the department.
  • Prove what makes you a unique candidate.
  • Discuss who your main influences for wanting to study the course are and why.
  • Add experiences like memberships to clubs that are related to your field, papers you’ve written before, awards, scholarships, or prizes.
  • Draw focus to how the course links to your past and future.
  • Mention your academic and non-academic skills and how they fit the course.

For Formatting:

  • Keep the statement length between 250 -500 words or as directed by the school.
  • Sentences should be no more than 25-30 words.
  • Use headings to break up the content – Why this university? Why this subject? Etc.
  • Make claims and provide evidence to back each of them up. This can be done by discussing your work experience and academic interests.

Language and tone to use:     

  • The tone for your masters application personal statement should be positive and enthusiastic, to show you eagerness to learn and so that you convince the evaluators that you have what it takes to succeed.
  • Use exciting and refreshing language, and an engaging opening line.
  • Ensure you grammar, punctuations, and spellings are accurate.
  • Avoid exaggerated claims you cannot backup.
  • Don’t use cliché generic terms and keep your focus on the course.

Keep the ending of your essay for master degree application concise and memorable, leaving no doubt in the admission officers mind that you deserve a spot on the program.

To create the best ending summarise all your key points without dragging it our or repeating yourself. The ending should be simple, end on a positive note and make it clear that the school will be lucky to have you on their program.

Personal Statement for Masters Sample

In this section, we have left a masters personal statement example for you, which you can use as material to write yours for any course of study you are applying to a school for.

Personal Statement PDF

You can also download this statement of purpose sample for masters degree pdf here and take your time to read it later – Personal Statement For Masters Sample .

See Also:  Student CV Template .

Examples of Personal Statement for Masters

We have taken the time to source for some of the best postgraduate personal statement examples, which you can use in addition to the personal statement for masters program example as a template to write yours.

While you scroll through our list, you will find the perfect masters essay example for any field you wish to apply for, from business administration, to Psychology, to information technology, and lots more.

1. msw personal statement

We have found one of the best msw personal statement examples out there for you.

social work masters personal statement .  

2. personal statement for masters in public health

mph personal statement examples

3. personal statement for masters in management

Personal statement for master degree sample for masters in management .  , 4. personal statement for masters in education example.

personal statement for masters in education example

5. psychology masters personal statement

psychology masters personal statement example

6. sample personal statement for masters in data science data science masters personal statement

7. speech and language therapy personal statement statement of purpose for masters sample: speech and language therapy

8. business administration personal statement personal statement for masters in business administration

9. personal statement for masters in cyber security pdf masters degree personal statement examples for cyber security

10. personal statement for masters in finance msc finance personal statement examples

11. statement of purpose for masters in information technology pdf msc personal statement examples for information technology

12. international development personal statement statement of purpose for masters example

13. msc international business management personal statement international business management personal statement examples

14. computer science masters personal statement

statement of purpose for masters in computer science pdf

15. personal statement for masters in economics statement of purpose sample for masters degree in economics

16. mha personal statement statement of purpose format for masters in health administration    

Conclusion – Things to Avoid When Writing A Personal Statement For Masters When writing a personal statement for university masters, there are some things you should avoid, so that you don’t ruin your essay. We have listed out those things below: •    Avoid negativity. •    Following an online template blindly. •    Do not include unnecessary course modules, personal facts, or extra-curricular activities in your personal statement. •    Do not lie or exaggerate an achievement or event. •    Do not include inspirational quotes to your statement. •    Avoid using clichés, gimmicks, humour, over-used word such as 'passion' or ‘driven’. •    Do not make pleading statements. •    Avoid mentioning key authors or professors in your field without any explanation. •    Avoid using sentences that are too long. •    Avoid flattering the organisation or using patronising terms. •    Do not repeat information in your statement that you have already listed in your application. •    Avoid waffling i.e., writing at length. •    Don’t start writing your personal statement at the last minute.  

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Graduate School Personal Statement

Criteria for success.

  • Your personal statement convinces a faculty committee that you are qualified for their program.
  • It convinces them that you are a good fit for their program’s focus and goals.
  • You show a select group of skills and experiences that convey your scientific accomplishments and interests.
  • Your experiences are concrete and quantitative.
  • Your personal statement is no more than 2 pages.

Structure Diagram

The graduate school personal statement tells your story and demonstrates that you are a good match for a particular department or program. Matching goes both ways: they should be interested in you, and you should be interested in them. Your personal statement should make this match clear.

Analyze Your Audience

Your personal statement will be read by a graduate committee: a handful of faculty from the program. They’re trying to determine if you will be a successful graduate student in their department, a positive force in the department’s intellectual life, and a successful scientist after you graduate. They are therefore interested in your qualifications as a researcher, your career goals, and how your personality matches their labs and department.

The graduate committee probably reads hundreds of applications a year. To make it easy for them to figure out that you are a good fit, make direct, concrete statements about your accomplishments and qualifications. To make it easy for them to remember you, create a narrative that “brands” you.

Create a personal narrative

PhD programs invest in the professional and scientific growth of their students. Get the committee excited about investing in you by opening your essay with a brief portrait of what drives you as a scientist. What research directions are you passionate about, and why? What do you picture yourself doing in 10 years?

Close your essay with a 2-3 sentence discussion of your career interests. No one will hold you to this; this just helps your committee visualize your potential trajectory.

Describe your experiences

Experiences are the “what” of your essay. What experiences led you to develop your skill set and passions? Where have you demonstrated accomplishment, leadership, and collaboration? Include research, teaching, and relevant extracurriculars. State concrete achievements and outcomes like awards, discoveries, or publications.

Quantify your experiences to show concrete impact. How many people were on your team? How many protocols did you develop? How many people were in competition for an award? As a TA, how often did you meet with your students?

Describe actions, not just changes in your internal mental or emotional state. A personal statement is a way to make a narrative out of your CV. It is not a diary entry.

Explain the meaning of your experiences

Meaning is the “why” or “so what” of the document. Why was this experience important to your growth as a scientist? What does it say about your abilities and potential? It feels obvious to you, but you need to be explicit with your audience. Your descriptions of meaning should also act as transition statements between experiences: try to “wrap” meaning around your experiences.

Demonstrate match to your target program

Demonstrate an understanding of the program to which you’re applying and how you will be successful in that program. To do this:

  • Read the program’s website. See what language they use to describe themselves, and echo that language in your essay. For example, MIT Biological Engineering’s website lists the department’s three objectives.
  • Get in contact with faculty (or students) in your target program. If you have had a positive discussion with someone at the department, describe how those interactions made you think that you and the department may be well-matched.
  • State which professors in the program you would plan to work with. Show how their research areas align with your background and your goals. You can even describe potential research directions or projects.

This content was adapted from from an article originally created by the  MIT Biological Engineering Communication Lab .

Resources and Annotated Examples

Annotated example 1.

Selected sections from the personal statement a graduate student wrote in a successful application to MIT BE. 536 KB

Annotated Example 2

Personal statement from a graduate student’s successful application to the MIT BE program. 9 MB

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IMAGES

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  3. Writing A Personal Statement For Graduate School Template

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VIDEO

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  6. Graduate School Admission

COMMENTS

  1. 3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

    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 ...

  2. How to Write Your Personal Statement

    A personal statement is a short essay of around 500-1,000 words, in which you tell a compelling story about who you are, what drives you, and why you're applying. To write a successful personal statement for a graduate school application, don't just summarize your experience; instead, craft a focused narrative in your own voice. Aim to ...

  3. Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School 2022+

    Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School #1: Student Pursuing Admissions into an English Program Introduction. While I will never make the grandiose statement of knowing the nitty-gritty of my life's plan at an early age, I can state—with a degree of certainty—that it would undoubtedly involve books.

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

    Step 3: Figure Out Your Angle. Your "angle," or focus, in your graduate school personal statement will depend on a few key factors: What your grad program wants you to write about. Your field of study and research interests. How much experience you have in your field.

  5. How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad School: Tips & Samples

    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 ...

  6. Writing Your Personal Statements

    Your personal statement should focus on two main aspects: your competence and commitment. 1. Identify your strengths in terms of competence that indicate that you will succeed in the grad program and provide examples to support your claims. Start your statement by describing your strengths immediately. Because faculty will be reading many ...

  7. Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School: Good, Bad ...

    Don't worry, these personal statement examples will break down the strategy of writing a strong graduate school application. Comparing Graduate School Personal Statement Examples. Below I will share types of personal statement examples: one with a strong writing approach and one that lacks clarity and may cause confusion for an admissions ...

  8. How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Grad School

    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.

  9. How to Write the Best Personal Statement for Graduate School

    6. Strike a Balance. If you look at the best graduate school personal statement examples, you'll see how the writers manage to strike the right balance between a professional and an informal tone. The goal is to keep the tone neutral — neither too stiff and formal, nor overly friendly.

  10. Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School

    Personal Statements. Preparing a well-written and effective personal statement (sometimes referred to as statements of purpose or personal essays) that clearly articulates your preparation, goals, and motivation for pursuing that specific graduate degree is critically important. You will need to spend a considerable amount of time and effort in ...

  11. How to Write a Statement of Purpose for Graduate School

    1. Brainstorm your ideas. First, he says, try to reframe the task at hand and get excited for the opportunity to write your statement of purpose. He explains: "Throughout the application process, you're afforded few opportunities to address the committee directly. Here is your chance to truly speak directly to them.

  12. Writing the Personal Statement

    The personal statement should give concrete evidence of your promise as a member of the academic community, giving the committee an image of you as a person. This is also where you represent your potential to bring to your academic career a critical perspective rooted in a non-traditional educational background, or your understanding of the ...

  13. How to Write a Graduate School Personal Statement (with example!)

    Personal statements are your chance to get, well, personal. While you should answer the prompt in its entirety, you should also write about yourself. Bring a personal element into your essay like family or a story of you overcoming an obstacle. Ideally, your story should relate to what you're trying to accomplish at your graduate school of ...

  14. 6 Tips for Writing a Graduate School Personal Statement

    5. Use a professional tone. While you want to project your personality in your personal statement, you can also respect the formality of the situation and the institution. Use a professional and respectful tone throughout your essay. Your tone can reflect the professionalism that you prioritize for yourself as a student.

  15. 100+ Grad School Personal Statement Examples

    A personal statement is essential in the graduate school application process, as it plays a significant role in shaping the admissions committee's perception of you. In fact, a survey conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools revealed that 64% of graduate admissions officers consider the personal statement to be the most crucial factor in ...

  16. 3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

    Personal Statement Example 1. It would be grandiose for me to claim that I had a clear plan for what I was going to do in life from an early age. However, I was certain of one thing - whatever I was going to do, it would definitely revolve around books. My love for books began early.

  17. How to Write a Strong Personal Statement for Graduate School

    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 ...

  18. PDF Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School

    An interesting, well-written, and polished personal statement represents the confident, intelligent, and grounded professional you will become. Initial Preparation: • Thoroughly research the schools and departments to which you plan to apply. Other than business, law, medical or other professional schools, most graduate programs enroll twenty

  19. Personal Statement for Graduate School Examples: Psychology

    In your psychology graduate degree application, the personal statement is crucial. It showcases your academic achievements, personal journey, career goals, and why you're a great fit for the program. This is your chance to move beyond mere statistics—GPA, test scores, work experience—and tell your unique story.

  20. Harvard Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

    Harvard Graduate School Personal Statement Example #2. One of the things I remember most about my father is his bookcase. My father never finished grade school, and he had worked most of his life. He had as many jobs as anyone I ever knew, and he took pride in listing off the jobs he had held in his time, ranging from janitor, factory worker ...

  21. Personal Statement For Masters (17 PDF Sample Examples)

    A personal statement AKA admissions or application essay or statement of purpose is a type of essay or written statement a candidate presents to a college, university, or graduate school they are applying to, explaining why they want to attend that school, study a particular course, and why they would be a perfect fit for these things.

  22. Graduate School Personal Statement : Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

    Your personal statement will be read by a graduate committee: a handful of faculty from the program. They're trying to determine if you will be a successful graduate student in their department, a positive force in the department's intellectual life, and a successful scientist after you graduate. They are therefore interested in your ...

  23. President Carter delivers State of the University address

    Ohio State condemns Strauss' reprehensible conduct and the university's failure at the time to prevent the abuse. Discover Ohio State, a mission-driven land grant university, home to the Wexner Medical Center and world-class graduate, undergraduate and research programs.