personal statement to graduate school examples

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

personal statement to graduate school examples

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

personal statement to graduate school examples

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.

personal statement to graduate school examples

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

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Gre prep online guides and tips, how to write a stand-out personal statement for grad school.

personal statement to graduate school examples

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?

personal statement to graduate school examples

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

personal statement to graduate school examples

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100+ Grad School Personal Statement Examples

personal statement to graduate school examples

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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Stanford University

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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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 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."

personal statement to graduate school examples

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.

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.

personal statement to graduate school examples

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.

personal statement to graduate school examples

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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  • 3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

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personal statement to graduate school examples

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT IS A PERSONAL STATEMENT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

personal statement to graduate school examples

IS A PERSONAL STATEMENT THE SAME AS A STATEMENT OF PURPOSE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIPS ON HOW TO WRITE AN AMAZING PERSONAL STATEMENT FOR YOUR GRAD SCHOOL APPLICATION

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

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

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

Make Sure Your Personal Statement Has A Clear Narrative

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

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

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

So, what should you do?

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

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

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

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

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

Use Specific Examples

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

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

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

Show That You Are A Good For The Program

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

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

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

Showcase Your Writing Skills

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

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

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

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

Keep Your Audience In Mind

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

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

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

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

Maintain Appropriate Boundaries

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

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

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

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

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

EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL PERSONAL STATEMENTS

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

Personal Statement Example 1

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

Personal Statement Example 2

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

Personal Statement Example 3

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

WRAPPING UP

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

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

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

personal statement to graduate school examples

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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 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 3 pages.

Structure Diagram

personal statement to graduate school examples

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 ready by a graduate committee, a handful of faculty from your 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 about 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 Chemical Engineering’s website points out innovative research areas and interdisciplinary opportunities.
  • 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 be interested in working with. Show how their research areas align with your background and your goals. You can even describe potential research directions or projects.

Resources and Annotated Examples

Annotated example 1.

These 2021 short answer responses are from an MIT ChemE graduate student’s successful application to the MIT ChemE program. 237 KB

Annotated Example 2

This is the personal statement from an MIT ChemE graduate student’s successful application to the MIT ChemE program. 121 KB

Annotated Example 3

This is the personal statement from an MIT ChemE graduate student’s successful application to the MIT ChemE program. 361 KB

  • Graduate School

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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3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

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

Why Do You Need a Personal Statement?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Makes a Good Grad School Personal Statement?

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

A Clear Narrative

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

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

Specific Examples

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

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

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

Strong Writing

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

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

Appropriate Boundaries

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

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

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

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Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

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

Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 1

PDF of Sample Personal Statement 1 – Japanese Studies

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

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

  • An attention-grabbing beginning:  The applicant begins with the statement that Japanese has never come easily to her and that it’s a brutal language to learn. Seeing as how this is an application for a Japanese Studies program, this is an intriguing beginning that makes the reader want to keep going.
  • A compelling narrative:  From this attention-grabbing beginning, the applicant builds a well-structured and dramatic narrative tracking her engagement with the Japanese language over time. The clear turning point is her experience studying abroad, leading to a resolution in which she has clarity about her plans. Seeing as how the applicant wants to be a translator of Japanese literature, the tight narrative structure here is a great way to show her writing skills.
  • Specific examples that show important traits:  The applicant clearly communicates both a deep passion for Japanese through examples of her continued engagement with Japanese and her determination and work ethic by highlighting the challenges she’s faced (and overcome) in her study of the language. This gives the impression that she is an engaged and dedicated student.

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

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Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 2

PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 2 – Musical Composition

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

Here’s what works well in this statement:

  • The applicant provides two clear reasons  motivating the student to pursue graduate study: her experiences with music growing up, and her family’s musical history. She then supports those two reasons with examples and analysis.
  • The description of her ancestors’ engagement with music is  very compelling and memorable.  The applicant paints her own involvement with music as almost inevitable based on her family’s long history with musical pursuits.
  • The applicant gives thoughtful analysis  of the advantages she has been afforded that have allowed her to study music so extensively. We get the sense that she is insightful and empathetic—qualities that would add greatly to any academic community.

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

  • I would probably to  split the massive second paragraph into 2-3 separate paragraphs.  I might use one paragraph to orient the reader to the family’s musical history, one paragraph to discuss Giacomo and Antonio, and one paragraph to discuss how the family has influenced the applicant. As it stands, it’s a little unwieldy and the second paragraph doesn’t have a super-clear focus even though it’s all loosely related to the applicant’s family history with music.
  • I would also slightly shorten the anecdote about the applicant’s ancestors and expand more on how this family history has motivated the applicant’s interest in music. In what specific ways has her ancestors’ perseverance inspired her? Did she think about them during hard practice sessions? Is she interested in composing music in a style they might have played?  More specific examples here would lend greater depth and clarity to the statement.

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Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 3

PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 3 – Public Health

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

  • This statement is clearly organized.  Almost every paragraph has a distinct focus and message, and when I move on to a new idea, I move on to a new paragraph with a logical transitions.
  • This statement covers a lot of ground in a pretty short space.  I discuss my family history, my goals, my educational background, and my professional background. But because the paragraphs are organized and I use specific examples, it doesn’t feel too vague or scattered.
  • In addition to including information about my personal motivations, like my family, I also include some analysis about tailoring health interventions with my example of the Zande. This is a good way to show off  what kinds of insights I might bring to the program  based on my academic background.

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Grad School Personal Statement Example: Deep Dive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Graduate School Personal Statement Examples You Can Find Online

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

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

Penn State Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School

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

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

Cal State Sample Graduate School Personal Statements

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

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

University of Chicago Personal Statement for Graduate School Examples

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

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

Article written by Ellen McCammon. Originally published on PrepScholar.com.

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COMMENTS

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    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 ...

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    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 ...

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    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 ...

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    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 ...

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    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.

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    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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. How to Write a Personal Statement

    Watch out for cliches like "making a difference," "broadening my horizons," or "the best thing that ever happened to me." 3. Stay focused. Try to avoid getting off-track or including tangents in your personal statement. Stay focused by writing a first draft and then re-reading what you've written.

  17. Graduate School Personal Statement : Chemical Engineering Communication Lab

    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

  18. 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 ...

  19. 16 Winning Personal Statement Examples (And Why They Work)

    Here are 16 personal statement examples—both school and career—to help you create your own: 1. Personal statement example for graduate school. A personal statement for graduate school differs greatly from one to further your professional career. It is usually an essay, rather than a brief paragraph. Here is an example of a personal ...

  20. 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 ...

  21. PDF Personal Statement Master's in Social Work (MSW)

    Personal Statement Master's in Social Work (MSW) 3 After graduating from the University of Connecticut, I began working as a mental health worker at a residential treatment program, where I provided emergency stabilization and support to children experiencing emotional, behavioral, and psychiatric crises. The clients served by this

  22. Preparing your personal statement for graduate school applications

    Customize your statement for each program to which you apply. Each program will provide a brief description of what it wants in the applicant's statement of purpose, the length and topics. One program may want 500 words covering topics A, B and C.

  23. Harrison Butker speech: The biggest mistake he made in his ...

    The NFL issued a statement Wednesday, saying Butker's comments don't reflect the views of the league. "Harrison Butker gave a speech in his personal capacity.

  24. Identifying barriers to genetic testing in subspecialty cardiac care

    Background The utility of genetic testing in cardiovascular medicine is well-established in expert consensus statements for optimizing patient care. However, significant genetic testing care gaps persist for patients with inherited cardiovascular conditions. Objective This study aimed to understand why genetic testing care gaps in cardiovascular medicine exist by evaluating cardiovascular ...