A personal statement, also known as a “statement of purpose” or “goal statement,” is a document that demonstrates your writing ability on a more personal level for your application into a graduate program.
A personal statement, also known as a “statement of purpose” “goals statement” or “admissions essay” serves to:
- Demonstrate your writing ability on a more personal level for your application into a graduate program.
- Discuss your personal, career, and educational goals or answer a general question posed by the graduate school’s admission committee.
- Gauge your critical and analytical thinking as well as your writing, editing skills, and general reasoning skills and your ability to reflect on your education and work experience.
- Provide insight into who you are which helps to determine if you would be a good fit into a specific graduate program.
Writing a Personal Statement
What are you writing about?
Regardless of the path you take to beginning your personal statement, there are many questions that you will have to inevitably cover.
- How do you want to answer their questions?
- What piece of you do you want shown to the admissions committee?
- What kind of tone do you want your personal statement to take?
- What kind of theme should I use for the personal statement?
These can be very difficult questions to answer. You can make the brainstorming process smoother by knowing yourself first. Gather your transcripts, resumes, and anything else that shows who you are. These will let you know all your strengths,but more importantly, it will also tell you your weaknesses. You can use your personal statement to address your weaknesses or show them in a better light.
Research the college to which you are applying.
- Every graduate school program available has a different set of goals, ideals, and most importantly, students which should be understood before you begin to create a personal.
- Contact students who are in the program you are applying for or have already completed the program will have valuable insight into what they thought was most useful on their personal statement.
- Considering who you are and where you are applying will allow you to decide whether you want to expand on your professional experience in your field or focus on how you enjoy the particular method of instruction that the department is known for.
- You have an introductory paragraph and a concluding paragraph that surround the body paragraphs.
- The length of your paragraphs and how many body paragraphs you will include will be determined by the guidelines the admissions committee will have for you.
- Open with something that will catch their attention, and finish with something strong and memorable.
Once you are able to create a draft of your personal statement, you should then take advantage of the Career Development Center services also those of the The Learning Hub. The Career Development Center has trained professional staff available to go over your draft and give advice on how to refine a personal statement into something that best exhibits your skills and achievements.
Some general tips for writing a personal statement:
- Be yourself and be genuine in your writing.
- Avoid cliche statements and ideals whenever possible.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread.
- Use your personal experience to reinforce your points, but do not make the personal experience itself the focus.
- You can now use “I” and “me” without worry. Just remember that beginning every sentence with “I” would look rather conceited.
- If a question is asked, answer it completely with specific details and examples. It is respectful to the admissions committee and shows that you know how to follow directions.
- Always write a new unique personal statement for each college you are applying for.
Tools for Writing a Personal Statement
Examples of Successful Statements
Below are samples of personal statements. You may also select "Sample Statement" in the Media Box above for a PDF sample.
My interest in science dates back to my years in high school, where I excelled in physics, chemistry, and math. When I was a senior, I took a first-year calculus course at a local college (such an advanced-level class was not available in high school) and earned an A. It seemed only logical that I pursue a career in electrical engineering.
When I began my undergraduate career, I had the opportunity to be exposed to the full range of engineering courses, all of which tended to reinforce and solidify my intense interest in engineering. I've also had the opportunity to study a number of subjects in the humanities and they have been both enjoyable and enlightening, providing me with a new and different perspective on the world in which we live.
In the realm of engineering, I have developed a special interest in the field of laser technology and have even been taking a graduate course in quantum electronics. Among the 25 or so students in the course, I am the sole undergraduate. Another particular interest of mine is electromagnetics, and last summer, when I was a technical assistant at a world-famous local lab, I learned about its many practical applications, especially in relation to microstrip and antenna design. Management at this lab was sufficiently impressed with my work to ask that I return when I graduate. Of course, my plans following completion of my current studies are to move directly into graduate work toward my master's in science. After I earn my master's degree, I intend to start work on my Ph.D. in electrical engineering. Later I would like to work in the area of research and development for private industry. It is in R & D that I believe I can make the greatest contribution, utilizing my theoretical background and creativity as a scientist.
I am highly aware of the superb reputation of your school, and my conversations with several of your alumni have served to deepen my interest in attending. I know that, in addition to your excellent faculty, your computer facilities are among the best in the state. I hope you will give me the privilege of continuing my studies at your fine institution.
(Stelzer pp. 38-39)
Having majored in literary studies (world literature) as an undergraduate, I would now like to concentrate on English and American literature.
I am especially interested in nineteenth-century literature, women's literature, Anglo-Saxon poetry, and folklore and folk literature. My personal literary projects have involved some combination of these subjects. For the oral section of my comprehensive exams, I specialized in nineteenth century novels by and about women. The relationship between "high" and folk literature became the subject for my honors essay, which examined Toni Morrison's use of classical, biblical, African, and Afro-American folk tradition in her novel. I plan to work further on this essay, treating Morrison's other novels and perhaps preparing a paper suitable for publication.
In my studies toward a doctoral degree, I hope to examine more closely the relationship between high and folk literature. My junior year and private studies of Anglo-Saxon language and literature have caused me to consider the question of where the divisions between folklore, folk literature, and high literature lie. Should I attend your school, I would like to resume my studies of Anglo-Saxon poetry, with special attention to its folk elements.
Writing poetry also figures prominently in my academic and professional goals. I have just begun submitting to the smaller journals with some success and am gradually building a working manuscript for a collection. The dominant theme of this collection relies on poems that draw from classical, biblical, and folk traditions, as well as everyday experience, in order to celebrate the process of giving and taking life, whether literal or figurative. My poetry draws from and influences my academic studies. Much of what I read and study finds a place in my creative work as subject. At the same time, I study the art of literature by taking part in the creative process, experimenting with the tools used by other authors in the past.
In terms of a career, I see myself teaching literature, writing criticism, and going into editing or publishing poetry. Doctoral studies would be valuable to me in several ways. First, your teaching assistant ship program would provide me with the practical teaching experience I am eager to acquire. Further, earning a Ph.D. in English and American literature would advance my other two career goals by adding to my skills, both critical and creative, in working with language. Ultimately, however, I see the Ph.D. as an end in itself, as well as a professional stepping stone; I enjoy studying literature for its own sake and would like to continue my studies on the level demanded by the Ph.D. program.
(Stelzer pp. 40-41)