Personal Statements

The purpose of written statements is to give the reader a non-numerical introduction to you.  It demonstrates your writing and communication skills in general and exhibits how you think and feel.  If requested by graduate/professional schools, they are usually highly valued and may be used to determine your acceptance, especially in borderline cases.  Statements can be of two types:

  • General, comprehensive
  • Responses to specific questions

Before writing anything, consider the reader.  What other information have you provided and how can your statement help to set you apart.

You will need to understand and explain yourself.  “What’s most important for us (the admissions committee) to know about you?” 

  • What’s special, unique, distinctive or impressive? 
  • What details might set you apart? Internships, work experience related to field of study, research, etc. 
  • What personal characteristics might enhance your likelihood of success?  What are the special features, approaches, or values of this program & how do I fit? 
  • Be honest, reflective, analytical, self-knowing & articulate 
  • Find an angle; tell a story.

The general statement usually calls for a statement of your ideas and goals.  Admissions committees may be trying to evaluate a number of things from your statement, including 

  • motivation & commitment to a field of study 
  • expectations with regard to the program & career opportunities 
  • major areas of interest 
  • immediate and long-term goals 
  • reasons for deciding to pursue graduate education

Some programs request one or two paragraphs while other may expect separate essays of your motivation, strengths, and weaknesses, greatest achievements and solutions to hypothetical problems.  Follow directions; adhere to stated word limits.

Do not include information on high school, religion, politics, or the obvious.

Be sure to maintain an upbeat tone, grab the reader’s attention in the first paragraph, proofread, and be neat with no errors in grammar or spelling.  Allow plenty of time for critiques and revisions.

Resource: Write a Winning Personal Statement, Richard J. Stelzer, Peterson’s Guides

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