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

Published: 14 Mar 2022 Study Abroad 104,000 views

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

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

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

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

In this article you’ll learn:

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

Read:  Admission Interview Tips .

What Is a Personal Statement?

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

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

Tips For Making Your Personal Statement For Masters Stand Out

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

1. Starting And Ending A Personal Statement

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

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

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

2. Plan Ahead

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

Let us throw more light on this…

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

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

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

3. Research Your Program Of Study

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

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

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

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

4. Avoid Clichés, Junks, And Many Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Write A Personal Statement for Masters

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

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

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

1. Planning A Personal Statement

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

Before You Start:

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

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

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

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

When Writing:

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

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

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

Questions to ask yourself for this include:

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

2. Structuring A Personal Statement

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

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

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

For as long as I remember…

Since my childhood…

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

All my life, I have always loved…

My interest in (course) always ran deeper than…

I’ve always been zealous about…

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

My past educational experiences have always…

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

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

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

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

For Formatting:

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

Language and tone to use:     

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

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

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

Personal Statement for Masters Sample

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

Personal Statement PDF

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

See Also:  Student CV Template .

Examples of Personal Statement for Masters

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

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

1. msw personal statement

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

social work masters personal statement .  

2. personal statement for masters in public health

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3. personal statement for masters in management

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

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5. psychology masters personal statement

psychology masters personal statement example

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. computer science masters personal statement

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

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

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

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How to Write a Good Letter of Recommendation for Students (10 PDF Sample Examples).

How to Write a Good Financial Aid Appeal Letter (13 PDF Sample Examples).

How to Write a Good Personal Statement for a Scholarship ( 7 PDF Sample Examples).

How To Write A Good Motivation Letter For Scholarship (4 PDF Sample Examples).

How To Write A Letter Of Intent For Scholarship (4 PDF Sample LOI Example).

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apply master personal statement sample

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

How to write a personal statement for grad school

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

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

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

What Is a Personal Statement?

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

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

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing a Personal Statement

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

  • What are the key points you want to communicate about yourself?
  • What personal characteristics or skills do you have that make you a strong candidate for this field?
  • What exactly are your career goals, and how does graduate school play into them?
  • What have you learned about this field already? When did you first choose to follow this path, and what do you enjoy about it?
  • What do you think is important for the admissions board to know specifically about you?
  • Are there any discrepancies or causes for concern in your application you need to address? For example, is there a career and schooling gap, or a low GPA at one point? This is the time to discuss whether a personal hardship may have affected your academics or career.
  • Have you dealt with any unusual obstacles or difficulties in your life? How have they affected and shaped you?
  • What sets you apart and makes you unique from other graduate school applicants?
  • What factors in your life have brought you to where you are today?

Top Tips for Writing a Graduate School Personal Statement

Pick a few points to emphasize about yourself . Introduce yourself to the admissions board. Select key factors about your background that you want the university to know — elements that reveal what kind of person you are and demonstrate why you’re a strong candidate for the school and field of study.

Be very specific . Again, a personal statement is all about communicating what distinguishes you from other applicants. To accomplish that, you need to share specific anecdotes that underscore your statements. If you say you’re a strong leader, present an example of a time you’ve proven that skill through work, school or your personal life. These specific, personal stories provide a deeper understanding of who you are and prove your intentions.

Do your research . Demonstrate what attracted you to the program. If there is a specific faculty member or class that caught your attention, or another aspect of the program that greatly interests you, convey it. This shows you’ve truly researched the school and have a passion for the program.

“Whatever the topic may be, I would recommend writing in a manner that reflects or parallels the institution’s and/or department’s missions, goals and values,” said Moises Cortés, a graduate/international credentials analyst for the Office of Graduate Admission at USC .

Address any gaps or discrepancies . Explain any factors that may have impacted your academic career. If you had an illness or any other personal hardships that affected your grades or work, discuss them. If there is a discrepancy between your grades and your test scores, you can also take the time to go over any extenuating circumstances.

Strike the right tone . While it’s important to give readers a glimpse of your personality, avoid oversharing or revealing intimate details of your life experiences. You should also avoid making jokes or using humorous cliches. Maintain a professional tone throughout your writing.

Start strong and finish strong . As with any piece of writing, you want to draw in your readers immediately. Make sure to start off with an interesting and captivating introduction. Similarly, your conclusion should be a well-written, engaging finish to the essay that highlights any important points.

“ For a personal statement, I think the first and last paragraphs are most important and should always relate the program they are applying to their own experiences and ideas,” Hoon H. Kang, a graduate/international credential analyst with the Office of Graduate Admission, told USC Online.

Proofread, proofread and proofread again . We can’t emphasize enough the importance of rereading your work. Your personal statement is also an analysis of your writing skills, so ensure you have proper grammar and spelling throughout. In addition, we recommend having multiple people look over your statement before submission. They can help with the proofreading (a second person always catches a mistake the writer may miss), give advice about the statement’s structure and content, and confirm it’s the proper recommended length.

Once you’ve considered all of the above and reviewed and edited your personal statement to perfection, it’s time to submit and check off any remaining application requirements, including your resume and letters of recommendation .

Personal statements are arguably one of the most challenging aspects of applying to graduate school, so make sure to revel in this accomplishment and acknowledge your successes.

For more information, visit the  Office of Graduate Admission at USC  and explore  USC Online ’s master’s degrees, doctoral programs and graduate certificates.

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

apply master personal statement sample

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

Learn about our editorial policies

apply master personal statement sample

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

apply master personal statement sample

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

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

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

What is a personal statement?

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

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

What should I write about?

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

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

Tips for writing a personal statement for graduate school

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

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

Be transparent

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

Be original

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

Related : How to write an essay about yourself

Check your work

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

Common mistakes when writing a graduate school personal statement

Reusing your undergraduate essay .

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

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

Repeating what’s in your resume

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

Graduate school personal statement example

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why this essay works:

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

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

Do i have to write a personal statement to get into graduate school, how long is graduate school, do i have to take an exam to get into graduate school, scholarships360 recommended.

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Writing Your Personal Statements

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

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

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

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

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

Vannessa Velez's portrait

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

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

— Vannessa Velez, PhD candidate in History

Addressing weaknesses or unusual aspects

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

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

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

Jaime Fine's portrait

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

— Jamie Fine, PhD candidate in Modern Thought and Literature

Statement of Purpose: subtle aspects

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

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Personal statements for postgraduate applications

Your Masters personal statement is an essential part of your postgraduate application as it's this document that will convince admissions tutors that you're worthy of a place on a course. Discover how to write a Masters personal statement and take a look at some examples for inspiration

What is a personal statement?

A Masters personal statement is a piece of writing that you submit as part of your  postgraduate application . It's your first real chance to sell yourself to the university and to demonstrate to admissions tutors that you're right for the course.

It's likely that you've already written a  personal statement for your Bachelors degree , so this should give you some idea of what to expect. However, don't be tempted to use your undergraduate personal statement as a template. You will have progressed academically since then and admissions tutors will want to see evidence of this.

Your postgraduate personal statement should be unique and tailored to the course that you're applying to. Use the opportunity to show off your academic interests and abilities, and to demonstrate that the programme will benefit from your attendance as much as you'll benefit from studying it.

'Personal statements have a two-way function in the application process,' explains Steve Carruthers, head of postgraduate admissions and student visa compliance at the University of East Anglia (UEA). 'They are critical to demonstrating the student is right for the course, showing their experience, knowledge, background and personality, as well as their interest in the subject. They also enable the admissions team to ensure the selected course is the best fit for the student's aspirations and goals, or to make alternate recommendations to ensure all options have been equally considered.'

How long should a postgraduate personal statement be?

A Masters personal statement should be around 500 words. This equates to one side of A4. However, some universities require more, often two sides. Some institutions also set a character limit instead of a specific word count, so it's important that you check the application guidelines before starting to write your statement.

As they're relatively short, don't waste words on autobiographical information. This isn't necessary in postgraduate personal statements. Instead, focus on why you want to study a particular programme and your potential to successfully complete the course.

What should I include in a Masters personal statement?

'The statement is a snapshot of who you are  and why you've chosen your course, so include everything that helps an academic or admissions team see that clearly,' advises Steve.

You should tailor your personal statement to fit the course you're applying for, so what to include will largely depend on the course requirements. However, in general you should write about:

  • Your reasons for applying for a particular programme and why you deserve a place above other candidates - 'demonstrate your interest and passion for the course and subject. This tells admissions staff you're more likely to fully engage in your studies,' says Steve. Discuss your academic interests, career goals and the university and department's reputation, and write about which aspects of the course you find most appealing, for example particular modules or work experience opportunities. Show that you're ready for the demands of postgraduate life by demonstrating your knowledge and experience.
  • Your preparation  - address how undergraduate study has prepared you for a postgraduate course, mentioning your independent work (e.g. dissertation) and topics that most interested you.
  • Evidence of your skillset  - 'show your writing skills, intellect and ability to succeed academically, as well as the effect and impact you may have on the cohort as a leader, influencer, or enthusiastic team member,' adds Steve. Highlight relevant skills and knowledge that will enable you to make an impact on the department, summarising your abilities in core areas including IT, numeracy, organisation, communication, time management and critical thinking. You can also cover any grades, awards, work placements, extra readings or conferences that you've attended and how these have contributed to your readiness for Masters study.
  • Your goals  - 'Your long-term plans and aspirations are also important to cover, as they both help ensure you've selected the best course to achieve these, but also give the academic team an understanding of how they might best support you through your studies,' says Steve.

Address any  weaknesses, such as lower-than-expected module performance in your undergraduate degree or gaps in your education history. The university will want to know about these, so explain them with a positive spin. Cover how these gaps and weaknesses have been addressed and what will be different in your  postgraduate studies.

How should I structure my personal statement?

Your personal statement should follow a logical, methodical structure, where each paragraph follows on from the one before. Make sure paragraphs are short, succinct, clear and to the point. Remember, you only have 500 words so use them wisely.

Capture the reader's attention with an enthusiastic introduction covering why you want to study a particular Masters. Then, engage the reader in your middle paragraphs by summing up your academic and employment background, evidencing your knowledge and skills and demonstrating why the course is right for you.

Your conclusion should be concise, summarising why you're the ideal candidate. Overall, aim for five or six paragraphs. You can use headings to break up the text if you prefer.

The majority of postgraduate applications are submitted online directly to the university. If this is the case, present your personal statement in a standard font such as Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman, text size 11 or 12. If your course application is submitted through UKPASS (UCAS's postgraduate application service) font style won't matter, as personal statements are automatically formatted.

How can I write a good postgraduate personal statement?

  • Give yourself plenty of time and don't rush . Your personal statement can make or break your application so it needs to be right. Tutors can tell if you're bluffing, and showing yourself up as uninformed could be costly. Before you start, read the rules and guidelines provided, check the selection criteria and research the course and institution.
  • Use AI tools responsibly - 'Remember, this is a 'personal' statement, so make sure it's all about you,' stresses Steve. 'Using AI such as ChatGTP or Google Bard to generate a statement may be easier, but generalised statements that miss out you, your personality and experiences will never be as effective. Personal stories and experiences really bring your statement to life, and this is one of those times it's ok to talk boldly about all you've achieved, and your qualities.'
  •  Adopt a positive, enthusiastic and professional tone and write in clear, short sentences . Avoid elaborate or overly complicated phrases. Unless otherwise stated, all postgraduate personal statements should be written in English and your spelling, grammar and punctuation must be spot on, as the personal statement acts as a test of your written communication skills..
  • Don't use the same supporting statement for every course . Admissions tutors can spot copy-and-paste jobs. Generic applications demonstrate that you have little understanding of the course. In order to stand out from the crowd, Masters personal statements must be unique and specific to the course and institution.
  • Draft and redraft your statement until you're happy . Then ask a friend, family member or careers adviser to read it. Proofreading is incredibly important to avoid mistakes. Memorise what you've written before any interviews.

What do I need to avoid?

  • follow online examples too closely, use them as a guide only
  • use your undergraduate UCAS application as a template
  • be negative
  • lie or exaggerate
  • use clichés, gimmicks, humour, over-used words such as 'passion' or Americanisms
  • include inspirational quotes
  • make pleading/begging statements
  • needlessly flatter the organisation
  • include irrelevant course modules, personal facts or extra-curricular activities
  • use overly long sentences
  • repeat information found elsewhere in your application
  • leave writing your personal statement to the last minute.

How should I start my Masters personal statement?

Steve believes there is no right way to start a personal statement so try not to waste too much time coming up with a catchy opening. The more you try, the more contrived you'll sound and the more likely you are to fall into the trap of using clichés. 'A good rule of thumb is to make it interesting, personal (avoiding bland generalisms) and enthusiastic for your choice of study.’

'Your opening lines could include how your current interests (we're less interested in you as a six year old) have led you to apply for this course, and how you see it helping you achieve both your full potential and future aspirations,' says Steve.

Avoid using overused phrases, such as:

  • For as long as I can remember…
  • From a young age…
  • I am applying for this course because…
  • Throughout my life I have always enjoyed…
  • I have always been interested in…
  • I have always been passionate about…
  • I have always wanted to pursue a career in…
  • Reflecting on my educational experiences…

Admissions tutors read hundreds of applications per course so the opening paragraph of your personal statement needs to get straight to the point and make a real impact. Avoid overkill statements, gimmicks and popular quotes.

If you're really struggling, come back and tackle the opening once you have written the rest.

How should I end my personal statement?

Conclusions should be short, sharp and memorable, and leave no doubt in an admissions tutor's mind that you deserve a place on a course.

The perfect ending should pull all of your key points together without waffling or repeating yourself.

Like the rest of your Masters personal statement, keep the ending simple. Be succinct and make it clear why you'll be an asset to the university and end on a positive note, with a statement about why the institution would be lucky to have you as a student.

What are admissions tutors looking for?

'Passion for the subject, and an understanding of the key challenges and problems it's currently facing, as well as the research being undertaken to solve these or to move the field forwards, really endears you to the academics who you'll be interacting with,' explains Steve.

'Strong writing skills are a gift, so be clear and concise about what you want to say, and always get a second pair of eyes to check spelling and grammar as well as readability.'

Make sure you also provide:

  • an explanation of how the course links your past and future
  • an insight into your academic and non-academic abilities, and how they'll fit with the course
  • evidence of your skills, commitment and enthusiasm
  • knowledge of the institution's area of expertise
  • reasons why you want to study at the institution.

Personal statement examples

The style and content of your postgraduate personal statement depends on several variables, such as the type of qualification that you're applying for - such as a  Masters degree , a conversion course or  teacher training . Here are some postgraduate personal statement templates to help you get started:

Business management personal statement

Postgraduate courses in business management are popular among graduates. To make your application stand out your personal statement needs to cover your motivations for choosing a specific course at a particular university, your career goals and how the Masters will help you achieve them. Be sure to mention relevant transferrable skills and work experience. Read up on management courses .

Computer science personal statement

If you'd like to complete a Masters but studied an unrelated subject at undergraduate level you'll need to explain why you'd like to change disciplines. In the case of computer science your personal statement will need to show that you possess the technical, mathematical and analytical skills necessary, as well as demonstrate your knowledge of the subject area. Gain an insight into the information technology sector .

Law personal statement

You'll apply for an LLM the same way you would for any other Masters, directly to the university. Whether you're undertaking a general LLM or a more specific programme, such as an LLM in human rights or international business law, you'll need to convey why you want to study the law in more depth and how this could potentially aid your career. Discover more about LLM degrees .

Nursing personal statement

If you didn't study the subject at undergraduate level but you'd like to apply for a postgraduate course in nursing your personal statement needs to convey your reasons for choosing this career path, as well as demonstrate a specific set of skills, knowledge of the working environment and relevant  experience. Find out more about working as an adult or children's nurse .

Psychology personal statement

Applications for conversion courses such as these are fairly straightforward and made directly to individual institutions. You need to explain why you want to change subjects and how your current subject will help you. Explain what experience you have that will help with your conversion subject, and what you hope to do in the future. Learn more about  psychology conversion courses .

Social work personal statement

If your Bachelors degree was in an unrelated subject but you now have ambitions to work as a social worker you'll need a Masters in social work (MSW) to qualify. Social work Masters have a substantial work placement element so you'll need to cover what you hope to achieve during this time as well as demonstrate other relevant experience. Find out more about social work courses .

PGCE primary personal statement

As well as detailing why you want to work with this particular age group, a PGCE primary personal statement should highlight the ways in which your educational background has inspired you to teach. You'll need to cover relevant skills you have gained and any related work experience, as well as demonstrate your knowledge of the primary national curriculum. Read up on PGCEs .

PGCE secondary personal statement

You'll need to cover why you want to teach at secondary level while also acknowledging the pressures and challenges of working with older pupils. As you'll be teaching a specific subject, you'll need to evidence your knowledge in this area and demonstrate how your first degree was relevant. It's also essential to highlight any related work or voluntary experience. Learn more about teaching personal statements .

Find out more

  • Search postgraduate courses .
  • Find out what else you must consider when  applying for a Masters degree .
  • Completed your application? Discover what  postgraduate interview questions  you may be asked.

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Writing the Personal Statement

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

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

What does this statement need to accomplish?

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

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

What kinds of content belongs here?

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

The basic message: your academic achievement despite challenges

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

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

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apply master personal statement sample

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

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

What Is a Graduate School Personal Statement?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

body_accepted_stamp

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.

body_can_cant

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?

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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

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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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Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School: Good, Bad, & Everything In Between

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Your personal statement should demonstrate that you have thought deeply about why you are making the decision to go to grad school and that you are an excellent fit for your target school. Sounds a little challenging? Don’t worry, these personal statement examples will break down the strategy of writing a strong graduate school application.

Comparing Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

Below I will share types of personal statement examples: one with a strong writing approach and one that lacks clarity and may cause confusion for an admissions committee reader. Then I will describe the strengths and weaknesses of each example.

Introduction Paragraph Examples:

Ex. 1-Strong) The ocean is as fundamental to our lives as any other ecological habitat, so why don’t we have systems in place to treat it that way? Growing up in Monterey, California I was first introduced to marine biology through my advanced placement biology class. While in community college I helped form a student-led monthly beach clean-up team. This rewarding experience led me to pursue an undergraduate degree in Biology with an emphasis in ocean preservation. My passion for developing innovative and culturally informed approaches to marine preservation on a global scale have led me to pursue a doctorate in the field of marine biology. My desired research focus will explore solutions to the impacts of micro plastics in our ocean.

Ex. 2-Weak) Yea sure, the ocean is in a devastated condition, but what are we going to do about it? Well, with my degree in bio I plan to get a PhD in marine biology to help figure out how to address micro plastics in our ocean. I know so much already, and I just know that with a PhD I will be able to contribute on a greater scale. I know the PhD is a lot of work, but I am pretty sure I will be able to complete the program and have a great time doing so. I have always wanted to live in Santa Barbara, and that is definitely a part of my decision to apply to your program.

Diving Deeper Into Personal Statement Introductions

So, let’s discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the example introductions above!

  • Throughout the paragraph the applicant demonstrates that they have been involved with marine biology since high school, this is important because it demonstrates their commitment to the field early on in the essay
  • The applicant mentions a desire to live in Santa Barbara, while it may be true, it is not a strong enough reason to pursue a PhD and signals to the admissions committee that you may be pursuing the program for the wrong reasons. Keep details like this out of your personal statement and focus on reasons for applying that are academically motivated.

Conclusion Paragraph Examples:

Ex. 1-Strong) As a first generation college student, and an English language learner, my journey to receive my bachelors of science in marine biology has been tough. Along the way I have developed leadership skills, research and lab experience, as well as a refined passion for the work that marine biologists are able to do when informed by the local community members. I desire to continue my studies with an emphasis on ocean preservation research through the innovative and unique PhD program offered at UC Santa Barbara. It would be an honor to work with Dr. Jonas Mendoza and Dr. Raquel Pacheco, two professors whose work aligns with my research interests and who have been welcoming and encouraging through our email correspondence. While my research goals are ambitious, I am confident that your program offers the resources and mentorship required for a unified effort to resolve the impact that microplastics have on not only human life, but all marine animals and ecosystems.

Ex2. -Weak) I think it’s a miracle that I even completed my B.S degree! That’s how I know that with the funding and laid back atmosphere at UC Santa Barbara I can definitely complete the PhD. I’m not so interested in the teaching part, or the amount of course work I would be required to take, but I just know that once I get out there and get into the water, it will all be worth it. My research experience is competitive and top-notch, I am a great person to work with and easily make friends. I am hopeful to hear back and excited for the next steps! Thanks for reading this far.

Exploring Personal Statement Conclusions

  • The applicant concludes by mentioning the importance of a “unified effort” for their research goals. This goes a long way to demonstrate that they understand how important collaborative effort is. This helps make an applicant more attractive in the eyes of an admissions committee that must also consider the work ethic of all applicants.
  • The applicant describes their research experience as “competitive and top-notch”, even if you have the most impressive curriculum vitae focus on instead listing what you have done, with who and what they outcomes were and let the admissions committee decide how they interpret it.

So, what makes a good personal statement?

Your personal statement will be one of many that an admissions committee will read to assess who its strongest applicants are. you have to remember that the committee members do not get to meet you before they read your application materials. you cannot risk leaving out crucial information. oftentimes, students struggle to talk about themselves, they see it as “bragging” or “showing off”. it is important that you overcome your discomfort and realize that the personal statement is essentially the first impression you will make on the committee. make the most of the opportunity to introduce yourself and make sure to address the following:.

  • Why now? Admissions committees have been through graduate school. They know better than anyone that graduate school is not a choice one makes simply because “you don’t know what else to do”. Demonstrate that you are prepared for the commitment and the work by specifying why you have decided that graduate school is the best option for you at this time and that your current and past experiences align with your intentions if admitted into the program.

A good personal statement will address all of these questions and be mindful about appropriate boundaries with each. Ultimately, it will demonstrate to the committee that you are prepared for the program, that you are likely to succeed if admitted, and that you are passionate about and committed to pursuing a career in which the training and the degree that you will receive is imperative to your future goals.

The importance of a clear narrative:

A clear narrative will allow for the admissions committee to extract the necessary information about you without any hassle. Remember that you are one applicant amongst many, when writing your personal statement do not assume that your reader will know the importance of any information or the necessary context if you do not provide these details for them. Consider these tips when writing:

  • Do not overestimate the importance of proofreading! Read your essays out loud and record the audio while doing it. Does it flow? Does it answer every question provided in the prompt (if provided one)? I recommend finding at least one person who is in graduate school and preferably within your field to read your essay.

Summary and Major Takeaways

The personal statement is usually just 1-2 pages. With a document this short and with so much importance towards your chances of admission, every word matters! Consider these takeaways and do your research at every stage of the writing process.

Do this before you get to writing. Gather information from this blog post, the program’s official website, any correspondence between you and professors or graduate students at each program you will be applying to, and develop a document that lists every experience and detail you wish to include. Use this as a reference as you write so that you are certain you are hitting every point.

Do not skip this step! Seek out support from current graduate students or a writing service for some feedback. Double check for any language that is too casual, or can be off putting or concerning to anyone who will review your application.

Remember that admissions committees are made up of real people who read an unbelievable amount of applications. Do your best to stand out, really think about what sets you apart and what skills you have developed throughout your life that are relevant to the program you are pursuing. After you have your first draft, focus on language and phrases that are both professional and captivating to your reader. Sprinkle in some flare! For more examples, visit our blog to see more personal statement examples that got their writers into graduate programs!

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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."

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Students may get applications that ask for statements of purpose, or statements of intent, as well as personal statements. With such similar names, it's no surprise that many students wonder whether there is a difference. Depending on the program and writing prompt, a personal statement and a statement of purpose may fill the same need in the eyes of the admissions committee. In cases where both are required, however, things can get a little tricky. In general, the statement of purpose focuses more on a student's reasons for applying to that particular graduate program and may address topics such as career and research goals, how his or her academic track record demonstrates qualification for that particular school or program of study and how a given program will impact the student's future.

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By contrast, personal statements usually lend more freedom when it comes to content and form and are intended to give the admissions committee a glimpse into a candidate's personality. This narrative essay combines specific, self-reflective anecdotes with details about past experiences (internships, volunteer experiences, etc.) and a clear delineation of a student's goals and interest in the prospective graduate program to provide a fuller picture of the applicant. This combination, often unaccompanied by an explicit writing prompt or set of instructions, can make even the most practiced essay writers freeze up. Familiarizing themselves with the ins and outs of writing strong personal statements for graduate school can alleviate stress and ease the process of sending out those applications.

Components of a Successful Personal Statement

Because personal statements are individual to the applicant, there is no one-size-fits-all way to write them. However, there are a few key elements of strong personal statements that prospective graduate students should keep in mind as they write.

  • Broad Understanding
  • Vulnerability and Sincerity
  • Awareness of Audience
  • Individuality

When writing personal statements, students may feel pressured to tell admissions committees everything about themselves. People are multifaceted, and it seems extra important to hit all your personality highlights and accomplishments. However, the personal essay isn't meant to be an autobiography or a long-form reiteration of the applicant's resume. "One major mistake I see all the time is students who try to tell too much in the personal statement," says Radunich. "Tell one or two specific stories or scenarios really well instead of having a broad focus and attempting to tell your life story. The goal of the essay is to get an interview, one-on-one face time that will you allow you to divulge more. Use that personal statement to tease them just enough so they feel like they need to get you in for an interview to learn the rest of your story."

  • An MFA program applicant could build his statement around a sculpture class reluctantly taken during sophomore year of undergraduate study that encouraged him to experiment and ultimately changed his art style and approach. This is more telling and interesting than meandering through a lifelong love of art that began at childhood.
  • Students should try to keep the scope of their personal statements within the past few years, as admissions committees are generally most interested in applicants' undergraduate experiences.

The best personal statements have clear purposes and easily draw readers in. Students should be cautious about turning their personal statements into risky or edgy creative writing projects and instead maintain a strong narrative structure using anecdotes for support when necessary. "Everyone loves a coming-of-age story," Radunich says. "Remember that the faculty have a vested interest in admitting students who will be fun for them to work with and watch grow." Applicants should determine which key points about themselves are most important to make and then choose situations or experiences that demonstrate those points. This serves as the main content of the personal statement. It's important that students remember to keep anecdotes relevant to the specific programs to which they are applying and to make it clear how the experiences led them to those programs.

  • A prospective engineering student who volunteered abroad might set the scene by writing about how working with members of the local community who had their own innovations based on supplies that were readily available in their area, like flip phone batteries and dismantled mopeds, challenged her exclusively Western understanding of infrastructure and exposed holes in her knowledge.
  • She could follow up with brief but concrete examples that showcase both hard and soft skills relevant to her program of study, like how experience as a resident assistant affirmed her desire to help people, and her senior thesis project pushed her to reach out to others and collaborate for the sake of better research.

Along with a focused narrative, grad school applicants should demonstrate for the admissions committee why they want to attend this program and how doing so relates to their place academically, locally and globally. Radunich notes that strong personal statements show that candidates understand the "big picture" of the profession and the true meaning and impact they will have in their communities.

Applicants often feel as if they have to show how highly accomplished and impressive they are in their personal statements, but Radunich stresses the significance of being honest and vulnerable. "It helps the reader connect. Admissions deans read enough essays from 23-year-old applicants who brag about their accomplishments and think they have life figured out." Acknowledging faults or weaknesses shows the committee that an applicant is self-aware, teachable and eager to grow.

  • "One medical school candidate I worked with wanted to become a psychiatrist due to her own personal experience with anxiety in high school," recalls Radunich. "Instead of hiding this experience, she owned it. Her personal statement was phenomenal as a result."
  • Vulnerability should be presented as something that leads to growth rather than an excuse for doing poorly in certain academic areas.

Strong personal statements demonstrate awareness of audience and how content may be received. Radunich advises applicants to think about their essays from admissions deans' perspectives: What would and wouldn't you want to read it if you were in their shoes? As they write, students should remember that admissions personnel must read many personal statements and sort through thousands of applications. Being conscious of how words or stories may be perceived by those with experiences different from their own can be invaluable to students.

  • Radunich cites a time when she worked with a student who wrote about her experience providing medical care in a developing country as part of her medical school application: "The student had good intentions, but in writing she sounded patronizing and even condescending when describing her interactions with patients. She had no idea. Remember that people who see the world differently from you will be reading this essay."

One of the biggest keys to writing a successful personal statement is in the name itself. This essay is meant to be personal and completely unique to the writer. "You have full control over this part of your application," Radunich says, urging students to avoid coming across as desperate in their essays. "Fight the urge to ‘shape shift' into whom you think that program wants you to be. You're not going to be a perfect fit for every single graduate program. Be you, and if a graduate program doesn't get it, you most likely aren't going to be happy in that program for the next three or more years." Many applicants may have similar metrics, but each student has different experiences to write about in a personal statement. Students should commit to their experiences and own them rather than err too far on the side of safety, something Radunich says is a common pitfall.

  • "Students also make a mistake when they play it safe and write personal statements that have been played out. For example, medical students tend to cite experiencing illnesses, watching family members struggle with their health or wanting to help people as the reason why they want to become a doctor. Admissions deans have to read thousands of these. Make it personal and offbeat. Give them something new to read."

Applicants must take time to ensure their personal statements are tight and free of errors. Radunich stresses the importance of proofreading. "Do not even bother sending in an application with a personal statement that has spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. This personal statement is a reflection of the quality of work you will submit for the program."

One of the hardest parts of writing a personal statement is getting started. These steps and strategies can help prospective graduate students push through the initial hesitation and get on their way to writing winning personal statements.

  • Read the instructions. Some applications provide little in the way of guidance, asking prospective students to expand on why they want to apply to the program or supply information on their backgrounds and interests. Others, however, give specific guidelines on content, format, word count and submission method. It's crucial that applicants read and understand what is expected of their personal statements. It won't matter how beautifully crafted the statement is if it doesn't address the prompt or disregards stated length requirements.
  • Self-reflect. Before sitting down to write, students should spend a good amount of time thinking about their strengths and what they want to convey to admissions committees. Radunich says it's essential for students to really dwell on what makes them special. "Take time to reflect on your personal brand. What qualities do you bring to a cohort of graduate students that this program doesn't know they need?" When students are confident in their positive qualities, it can make it easier to convince admissions officers the value they bring to any given graduate program.
  • Talk to friends and family. Sometimes figuring out how to write about oneself or what elements to highlight can be tough. Radunich says that this is where friends and family can be extremely helpful. She recommends talking those who know you best. "Ask the people who have been with you throughout your journey to provide feedback on who you are and what they've observed. Use them to provide feedback on what you have to offer a graduate program. How would they describe you in five words? This is your ‘essence self' — what makes you stand apart from others."
  • Be authentic. "We hear this all the time, but it's the best advice," says Radunich. "Admissions personnel can smell a phony. They know when you're using words outside of your vocabulary or when you're exaggerating what an experience meant to you. They read thousands of personal statements per year and also see which applicants show up as the people they said they were once they're admitted. Don't sell yourself to an admissions panel; present a polished yet real account of who you are and what you care about. This way, the right school will recognize what you bring to the table."
  • Keep it relevant. The focus should remain on why the student is qualified and wants to apply to that particular program. Admissions personnel want to get familiar with their applicants, but they mostly want to make sure they choose students who value the program and have specific reasons for applying. For instance, a student may be drawn to a program because one or two faculty members conduct research that aligns with that student's interests. That is something worth mentioning in a statement. Anecdotes and stories bring a personal element, but it's also important to include practical, academic- and career-focused details, too.
  • Get feedback from outside sources. It's helpful for students to ask other people to read their personal statements. As Radunich points out, this can help students see how their statements may be perceived by others, and another set of eyes can help a student determine whether or not the essay is engaging and well-organized. Friends, family members, teachers and writing center staff can all be great resources.
  • Use specific examples. Grad school applicants should do their best to avoid using general statements or listing their experiences and qualifications. "Use specific examples and strong storytelling to pull the reader into your life and care about you by the end," suggests Radunich. "For example, if you're applying to medical school, give us one specific, personal story about something that happened while volunteering at the hospital that changed your worldview, challenged you and confirmed your goal of being a doctor."
  • Address potential shortcomings. The personal statement is an excellent opportunity for a candidate whose metrics aren't top notch to stand out and plead his or her case. "If the student earned less-than-stellar grades during their undergraduate education," notes Radunich, "(the student) can provide some context in the personal statement." Students may not feel this is necessary or be comfortable with this, but it is an option. Applicants should be cautious about how they address any weak points; explanations should not sound like excuses but should be framed in a way that demonstrates perseverance, improvement or the learning that followed those challenges.
  • Use space efficiently. Personal statements are generally pretty short, often ranging between 500 and 1,000 words. This means that filler words and phrases, such as "the truth is," or "it's my personal belief that," take up valuable space that could be used to compel admissions into requesting an interview. It's important to convey a clear image in a few paragraphs, so be both concise and precise. In statements allowing longer word counts, keep in mind that more isn't always better. Admissions committees read thousands of personal essays each year, and longer ones may be at greater risk of being skimmed through rather than thoroughly read.
  • Draft, edit, repeat. Depending on the program, a student's personal statement can carry considerable weight. It shouldn't be thrown together at the last minute. Allowing for adequate time to write multiple drafts, edit and thoroughly proofread is a must. Have other people proofread and check for grammar before sending in the application; they may catch errors that were glossed over in earlier drafts.

Writing a personal statement can be intimidating, which may make it difficult for applicants to get started. Having enough time to ruminate and write is also valuable and can give students the opportunity to choose a strong point of view rather than feel pushed to write about the first thing that comes to mind. Radunich emphasizes that students who aren't sure what to write about or how to approach writing about themselves should do some considerable brainstorming and get input from those who know them well. Students are often self-critical, especially in high-stakes situations, and they may not realize the positive qualities they may have that stand out to others.

Radunich also offers tips for getting in the mindset of admissions personnel: "They're reading the personal statement and gauging the candidate's fitness for the program. Can this person deal with stress and persevere? Does he/she have grit? Has this person overcome adversity, and does that give us confidence that they can handle the three demanding years of law school? Can this person handle receiving feedback, or will he/she drop out after the slightest bit of challenge or criticism? Can this student tolerate differing viewpoints and be open to growth?" Considering these questions can help guide students through the writing process.

It may also help students to look at example personal statements and see how these key considerations play out in an actual essay. Take a look at this example personal statement from a prospective grad student.

As I approached the convention hall, I wondered if I had gotten the room number wrong. I couldn't hear any signs of life, and I was losing my nerve to open the door and risk embarrassing myself. As I imagined a security guard striding up and chiding me for being somewhere I shouldn't be, a hand reached past me and pushed the door open, jolting me back to the real world. I peeked in. More hands. Hundreds of them. Hands were flying, waving, articulating, dancing . I was at once taken by awe and fear.

You can do this.

I had never planned on taking American Sign Language, and I certainly hadn't planned on it taking my heart. In my first term of college, I signed up for German, a language I had loved the sound of since I was a child. A week before classes began, however, the course section was cut. In my frustration, I decided I would take the first available language class in the course register. In hindsight, that probably wasn't the smartest approach, but it was a decision that completely altered my supposedly set-in-stone plan of becoming a linguist. The complexities of nonverbal language floored me, and I found myself thinking about hand signs while writing essays on Saussure's linguistic signs. I rearranged my schedule so I could take improv classes to help with my facial and body expressions. Theater! That was completely out of character, but I suddenly found myself compelled toward anything that would help immerse me in ASL and deaf culture.

Except actually getting involved in the community.

I knew going to my first deaf convention would be intimidating. My hands shake when I'm anxious, and nothing brings on nerves quite like throwing yourself into a situation where you are a total outsider. Between my limited vocabulary, quaking fingers and fear-frozen face, would anyone be able to understand me? What was I doing here? I had been studying American Sign Language for nearly three years and had somehow managed to avoid spontaneous conversation with the deaf community, and I was terrified. Workbook exercises and casual conversations with classmates — who had roughly the same ASL vocabulary and relied on the same linguistic crutches as I did — had become increasingly comfortable, but immersing myself in deaf culture and community was something entirely different. I was afraid. However, American Sign Language and deaf studies had captured my heart, and I knew this fear was a huge barrier I needed to get past in order to continue working toward my goal of becoming an advocate and deaf studies educator.

It must have been pretty obvious that I was both hearing and petrified, because I was immediately greeted by someone who, very formally and slowly, asked if I was a student and offered to accompany me. This small gesture is representative of how I became so fond of deaf culture in such a short period of time. The hearing community tends toward posturing, indirect communication and a sometimes isolating emphasis on individualism, and my limited experiences within the deaf community have been the opposite. The straightforward communication that exists in a beautifully nuanced and perspicacious language and the welcoming enthusiasm to grow the community is something I intend to be part of. I am an outsider, and I have much to learn, but I want to do everything I can to encourage understanding and exchange between the deaf and hearing communities and make hearing spaces more inclusive, especially for those who have more experience as outsiders than I do.

My devotion to language and learning about culture through communication hasn't changed, but the path by which I want to pursue that passion has. My foray into deaf studies and American Sign Language may have started as an accident, but no matter how nervous I still get when my fingers fumble or I have to spell something out, I am humbled and grateful that this accident led me to a calling that could have remained unheard my whole life.

Brainstorming is an important step in writing a convincing personal essay, and Coggle may be just the tool to help. Coggle is a mind-mapping app that helps users organize their thoughts in visual, nonlinear ways. Users can easily share with collaborators, such as writing coaches, advisers or friends.

Inspiration may strike at any time. Students can make sure they're prepared to jot down any personal statement ideas, gather inspiration and organize their thoughts with Evernote , a popular note-taking app.

Writing personal statements requires distraction-free writing time. However, most students do their writing on their most distracting devices. FocusWriter is a simple tool that helps mitigate the distraction problem by hiding computer interfaces and substituting a clean, clear digital writing environment.

This web browser add-on makes checking grammar quick and easy. Grammarly scans users' text and provides context-specific suggestions and corrections. Detailed explanations of each suggestion help users improve their writing over time.

This subject-specific book is a guide to writing personal statements for graduate school. It includes tons of tips and examples to help students write their application essays.

Microsoft's OneNote app is one of the most popular among those who like to use outlines to gather and organize their thoughts, but its many features make it a great prewriting tool for writers of all organizational preferences.

Mindomo can help grad school candidates brainstorm and pinpoint key elements to include in their personal statements. The app's mind maps, concept maps and outlines help users easily visualize and organize their ideas.

Students who are looking for an advanced editing tool to help them power through their grad school applications might want to look into ProWritingAid , a comprehensive application that helps with basic and advanced editing and addresses issues in style, word choice and structure.

The academic writing standby, Purdue OWL , weighs in on the 10 essential dos and don'ts of personal statement writing.

The UNR Writing Center offers this extensive, alphabetized list of tips on writing, from academic voice to writing introductions, to help with the writing process. Students should also consider consulting their own undergraduate schools' campus writing centers for help as well.

UNC provides specific guidance for students writing personal statements and other significant academic essays. The guidance on this page is not exclusive to UNC, so students from many different schools may find these tips helpful.

Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences provides this online manual to help students understand and successfully write personal statements and other graduate admissions and scholarship essays. The easy-to-navigate chapters provide many examples and tips to meet a range of criteria.

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How to write a personal statement for Masters courses

A good personal statement can mean the difference between getting an offer and being rejected. Your personal statement should show us that you are the right person for the course.

Alternatively, you can see our advice for writing a UCAS personal statement .

Learn how to:

  • plan your personal statement
  • structure your personal statement
  • use engaging and convincing content  and language .

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Planning your personal statement 

A personal statement is a piece of writing that you submit as part of your application. It is a statement of academic interests and should not contain any autobiographical information about your personal life.

Instead, it should show us that you are the right person for Sussex by telling us why you want to study your course , and any extra information about your achievements to date. 

See our Masters courses for more information

When you have finished planning your personal statement, you can use our  postgraduate application system  to start your application. 

You need to:

  • carefully read the information required of you 
  • research the course you are applying for, so that you can explain why you want to study it. If you are applying for more than one course, do not use the same statement for all applications.

The following questions may help you plan your personal statement:  

  • Why do you want to study a Masters and how will it benefit you?
  • How does the course fit your skill set?
  • How do you stand out from the crowd - e.g. work experience?
  • What are you aspiring to be/do in your future career?
  • How can your work contribute to the department/University/society?

If you're applying for a subject that is in a different field to your undergraduate degree, tell us why you have decided to change your direction of study. 

Think about: 

  • how you will bring fresh insight to your course as a result of your undergraduate degree
  • the reasons for deciding to change your field of study
  • how changing your direction of study will help you with your future career.   

Use a tight structure in your personal statement and make sure each paragraph logically follows on from the one before. 

Your personal statement must:  

  • have an eye-catching and interesting introduction, and an engaging middle part and conclusion
  • have an introduction that acts as a framework for the rest of your statement, with the main part of your statement detailing your interests, experience and knowledge
  • be between 250 and 500 words 
  • have short sentences of no more than 25-30 words
  • use headings (if you wish) to break up the content - for example, 'Why this university?' 'Why this subject?' 'Ability', 'Personal experience' and 'Career aspirations'

'My passion for Psychology stems from my interest in how dementia affects the personality of patients living with the condition. That's why I spent my gap year working with the Alzheimer's Society, supporting patients and families by visiting them at home and holding surgeries to give them and carers someone to talk to.'

'It was not until my grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and ischaemic dementia that the link between brain functioning and cognition became a passion. The enormity of the precision at which the brain functions to produce our cognitive abilities, socially acceptable behaviours and intricate physiological processes astounded me. I found myself questioning the cognitive functions and human behaviours I had previously just accepted, desperate to understand how the unseen and seemingly small entities within the brain could impact our daily behaviour.'

  • the conclusion should sum up your main points, reflect on your main accomplishments and clearly show your desire to study.

Your personal statement is where you show us your commitment, dedication and motivation for studying the course. It is your chance to show us the course is for you.

Your personal statement should:  

  • give strong reasons as to why you want to study the course at Sussex. This could be for your future career or because of the University's reputation
  • mention relevant study - including projects, dissertations, essays - or work experience 
  • provide evidence of your key skills including, research, critical thinking, communication, organisation, planning and time-management and show how you can contribute to the department
  • show what makes you stand out as a candidate
  • explain who your main influences have been and why
  • draw on your other experiences: for example are you a member of a society, have you written any papers or won any awards, scholarships or prizes?
  • highlight your career aspirations and show how the course will help you achieve them.  

See an example personal statement [PDF 31.95KB]  

Your tone should be positive and enthusiastic. It should show your willingness to learn and persuade us you have what it takes to suceed on one of our courses. 

You should:  

  • use fresh and exciting language to make your application stand out, and use engaging opening paragraphs
  • use accurate grammar, punctuation and spelling 
  • use clear language in short sentences and avoid extravagant claims

Example: 

Don't:  'I was inspired by the University's world-renowned researchers and world-leading facilities.'

Do:  'I was inspired to study Animal Biology because of the groundbreaking work into the behaviour of bees that is being led by Sussex Professor Francis Ratnieks. I follow the work of the University of Sussex Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects and would be proud to study in such a renowned department and contribute to its highly ranked research.'

  •  proofread your statement and ask a friend or relative to read it. 

You might also be interested in:

  • our Masters courses
  • postgraduate application system guide
  • student support
  • how to apply for a Masters course
  • 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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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Graduate School Applications

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The graduate school application section contains resources to help you through the process of applying to graduate school. This section contains an overview of applying to graduate school, words of advice on writing graduate school profiles to help with your decision making, drafting a graduate school personal statement, and the etiquette of requesting references.

Please note, that these resources focus on applying to graduate studies programs in the United States. The information contained in these resources may or may not be appropriate to other contexts.

Graduate School Applications: Overview

The resources in this section will help you prepare your graduate school application(s). This section includes an application-planning timeline, advice on researching and choosing a program, a summary of needed materials and how to develop them, rhetorical principles for building a statement of purpose, and suggestions for how to handle competing offers.

Graduate School Applications: Researching Programs

This section details what to look for in a graduate program—both on a personal and professional level. Personally, you need to consider location, community, campus culture, and other non-academic issues that will affect your happiness. Professionally, you need to figure out your research interest, map the field, research the faculty you’ll be working with, understand your funding package, calculate work requirements, and analyze research resources.

Graduate School Applications: Statements of Purpose

The statement of purpose is perhaps the most important, and most challenging, element of your application packet. This letter needs to reflect who you are and why you would be an asset to the program you are applying to. It needs to make you stand out from the hundreds of other applicants and yet stay within the genre-based expectations for a statement of purpose. This resource provides information on writing statements of purpose specifically for graduate school applications.

Graduate School Applications: Requesting Recommendation Letters

During the application process, much of the process is in the hands of the applicant, but recommendation letters are often in the hands of the recommenders. You can't control what someone says, or whether or not they'll meet the deadline, but you can make the process run more smoothly overall. This resource is designed to offer applicants advice on handling the occasionally sticky process of requesting letters of recommendation.

Graduate School Applications: Writing a Research Statement

The research statement is a common component of a potential candidate’s application for post-undergraduate study. This may include applications for graduate programs, post-doctoral fellowships, or faculty positions. The research statement is often the primary way that a committee determines if a candidate’s interests and past experience make them a good fit for their program/institution.

In this section

Subsections.

Examples

Statement of Purpose

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Statements are often used in expressing information about a certain subject. People rely on statement in informing a certain audience what they need to know about a specific topic. For example, vision statements inform people about the long term and short term goals and targets of a certain company or business .

  • 33+ Statement Examples in Word
  • 29+ Statement of Work Examples & Samples

Thus, it can be concluded that businesses usually count on statements in the dissemination of important information to their clients. A beneficiary simple statement , for instance, is usually given by a lender to a borrower, disclosing the remaining unpaid balance of a loan as of a certain period, including the interest rate.

What Is a Statement of Purpose?

A Statement of Purpose (SOP) is a written document typically required for university applications. It outlines an applicant’s academic background, professional experiences, career goals, and reasons for choosing a particular program. An effective SOP highlights the applicant’s strengths and unique qualities, demonstrating their fit for the desired program and their potential for success.

Statement of Purpose Examples Bundle

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Statement of Purpose Format

A Statement of Purpose (SOP) is a crucial document for academic or professional applications. It outlines your goals, motivations, and qualifications. Here’s a suggested format for writing an effective SOP:

1. Introduction

Opening Paragraph : Start with a strong opening sentence to grab attention. Introduce yourself, mention the program or position you are applying for, and state your main goal.

Example: “As a passionate computer scientist with a keen interest in artificial intelligence, I am excited to apply for the Master’s program in Computer Science at XYZ University.”

2. Academic Background

Educational History : Briefly describe your academic background, focusing on relevant degrees, courses, and projects.

Example: “I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at ABC University, where I graduated with honors. My coursework included advanced algorithms, machine learning, and data structures.”

3. Professional Experience (if applicable)

Work Experience : Outline your professional experience, emphasizing roles, responsibilities, and achievements related to your field of study or career goals.

Example: “After graduation, I worked as a software engineer at TechCorp, where I developed machine learning models for predictive analytics, improving accuracy by 20%.”

4. Research Experience (if applicable)

Research Projects : Detail any research projects you have undertaken, including your role, the project’s scope , and the outcomes.

Example: “During my undergraduate studies, I conducted research on neural networks, resulting in a publication in the International Journal of Computer Science.”

5. Relevant Skills and Achievements

Skills and Certifications : Highlight key skills , certifications, and any awards or recognitions you have received.

Example: “I am proficient in Python, Java, and R, and have earned certifications in Data Science and AI from Coursera. I was also awarded the Dean’s Scholarship for academic excellence.”

6. Goals and Objectives

Short-term and Long-term Goals : Clearly state your short-term and long-term goals and how the program or position will help you achieve them.

Example: “In the short term, I aim to deepen my knowledge of AI through advanced coursework and research. Long-term, I aspire to lead AI projects in the healthcare sector to improve diagnostic accuracy.”

7. Why This Program/Institution

Fit with the Program/Institution : Explain why you chose this particular program or institution, highlighting specific faculty members, courses, facilities, or values that attract you.

Example: “I am particularly drawn to XYZ University’s AI research lab and the opportunity to work with Professor Smith, whose work on neural networks aligns with my interests.”

8. Conclusion

Closing Paragraph : Summarize your enthusiasm for the program and reiterate your readiness to contribute and grow.

Example: “I am confident that the Master’s program at XYZ University will provide me with the knowledge and skills to achieve my goals. I look forward to the opportunity to contribute to and learn from your esteemed institution.”

Statement of Purpose Examples

Statement of purpose for research, statement of purpose for education, statement of purpose for job, statement of purpose for university, statement of purpose for engineering.

Statement-of-Purpose-for-Research-Edit-Download-Pdf

More Examples for Statement of Purpose

  • Statement of Purpose for Masters
  • Statement of Purpose for Graduate School
  • Statement of Purpose for Computer Science
  • Statement of Purpose for Biology
  • Statement of Purpose for Data Science
  • Statement of Purpose for Mba

More Statement of Purpose Templates & Samples

Statement of purpose template.

Statement of Purpose Template

Statement of Purpose Sample

Statement of Purpose Template

Teaching Statement Example

Teaching Statement Example

Outline for Statement of Purpose

Outline for Statement of Purpose

Professional Statement Sample

Professional Statement Sample

Statement of Purpose for Internship

Statement of Purpose for Internship

Dos and Don’ts for Writing a Statement of Purpose

Writing a Statement of Purpose (SOP) is a critical part of the application process for academic programs and professional positions. Here are some essential dos and don’ts to guide you:

Dos for Writing a Statement of Purpose

  • Keep It Focused : Stick to relevant experiences and information. Avoid unnecessary details.
  • Clarity : Ensure each paragraph flows logically and is easy to understand.
  • Tailor to the Program : Highlight why you are interested in the specific program or institution.
  • Specific Examples : Use personal experiences and achievements to demonstrate your fit and passion.
  • Showcase Accomplishments : Mention relevant academic, professional, and extracurricular achievements.
  • Quantify When Possible : Use numbers or specifics to illustrate your accomplishments (e.g., “improved efficiency by 20%”).
  • Short-term and Long-term Goals : Clearly state your academic and career objectives and how the program will help you achieve them.
  • Connection : Show how the program’s offerings align with your goals.
  • True Representation : Be genuine about your experiences and aspirations. Authenticity resonates more than embellishment.
  • Personal Voice : Write in a natural, personal tone while maintaining professionalism.
  • Check for Errors : Thoroughly proofread for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.
  • Seek Feedback : Have someone else review your SOP to catch mistakes you might have missed.
  • Adhere to Guidelines : Follow any specific instructions regarding length, format, and content provided by the institution or program.

Don’ts for Writing a Statement of Purpose

  • Avoid Clichés : Steer clear of overused phrases like “I have always wanted to…” or “Since I was a child…”.
  • Be Specific : Provide concrete examples instead of vague generalizations.
  • No Redundancy : Your SOP should complement your resume, not duplicate it. Focus on the narrative behind your achievements.
  • Add Depth : Use the SOP to elaborate on key points and provide context.
  • Be Honest : Misrepresenting your qualifications or experiences can lead to serious consequences.
  • Authenticity Over Perfection : It’s better to present a genuine but less-than-perfect story than a fabricated one.
  • Simplicity : While demonstrating your knowledge is important, avoid excessive use of technical terms that might confuse the reader.
  • Clarity : Ensure your SOP is understandable to non-specialists as well.
  • Holistic Approach : Include relevant extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and personal experiences that contribute to your suitability for the program.
  • Personal Attributes : Highlight qualities like leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.
  • Goals Matter : Don’t just focus on past achievements; explain how the program will help you achieve your future goals.
  • Forward-thinking : Show your vision for how you plan to use the knowledge and skills gained from the program.
  • Customize for Each Application : Avoid using the same SOP for multiple applications. Tailor each one to the specific program and institution.
  • Unique Aspects : Mention specific faculty members, courses, or resources that attract you to the program.

Statement of Purpose vs. Personal Statement

How to write a statement of purpose.

Writing a Statement of Purpose (SOP) involves several key steps to ensure it effectively communicates your motivations, qualifications, and aspirations. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Statement of Purpose

1. understand the purpose.

  • Objective : Know that an SOP is meant to explain your academic and professional journey, your goals, and why you are applying to a specific program or position.

2. Research the Program or Position

  • Specifics : Research the institution or company, the specific program or role, its culture, faculty members, courses, and any special projects or opportunities they offer.

3. Outline Your SOP

  • Structure : Create an outline to organize your thoughts and ensure you cover all necessary sections.

4. Write the Introduction

  • Example: “With a deep-seated passion for environmental science and sustainability, I am excited to apply for the Master’s program in Environmental Science at ABC University.”

5. Detail Your Academic Background

  • Example: “I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from XYZ University, where I developed a strong foundation in ecological research and environmental policy.”

6. Discuss Professional Experience (if applicable)

  • Example: “In my role as an environmental analyst at Green Solutions, I led a project that reduced carbon emissions by 15%, demonstrating my ability to apply theoretical knowledge to practical challenges.”

7. Highlight Research Experience (if applicable)

  • Example: “During my undergraduate studies, I conducted research on renewable energy sources, which culminated in a published paper in the Journal of Environmental Studies.”

8. List Relevant Skills and Achievements

  • Example: “I am proficient in GIS mapping, data analysis, and have completed certifications in sustainable development and climate change.”

9. State Your Goals and Objectives

  • Example: “My short-term goal is to deepen my expertise in environmental science through advanced coursework and research. Long-term, I aspire to influence environmental policy and contribute to sustainable development initiatives globally.”

10. Explain Your Choice of Program/Institution

  • Example: “I am particularly drawn to ABC University’s renowned environmental science department and the opportunity to work with Professor Jane Doe, whose research on sustainable agriculture aligns with my interests.”

11. Conclude with Enthusiasm

  • Example: “I am confident that the Master’s program at ABC University will provide me with the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve my career aspirations. I look forward to the opportunity to contribute to and grow with your esteemed institution.”

12. Review and Revise

  • Proofread : Carefully proofread your SOP for grammar, spelling, and clarity. Revise it to ensure it is coherent, concise, and compelling.

What is a Statement of Purpose (SOP)?

An SOP is a written document detailing an applicant’s academic background, professional goals, and reasons for choosing a specific program or institution.

Why is an SOP important?

It helps admissions committees assess your fit for the program, understand your motivations, and evaluate your potential for success.

What should be included in an SOP?

Include your academic background, professional experiences, career goals, reasons for applying, and why you chose the specific program and institution.

How long should an SOP be?

Typically, an SOP is 1-2 pages long, adhering to the word limit specified by the program or institution.

Can I use the same SOP for different applications?

It’s best to tailor each SOP to the specific program and institution, highlighting unique features and your fit for each one.

How should I structure my SOP?

Use a clear structure with sections for Introduction, Academic Background, Professional Experience, Reasons for Applying, Career Goals, and Conclusion.

What tone should I use in my SOP?

Maintain a formal yet engaging tone, demonstrating professionalism and genuine interest in the field of study.

How do I make my SOP stand out?

Be specific about your achievements and experiences, provide concrete examples, and show enthusiasm for the program.

Should I mention weaknesses in my SOP?

It’s generally better to focus on strengths and how you’ve overcome challenges, rather than highlighting weaknesses.

Can I include personal anecdotes in my SOP?

Yes, but ensure they are relevant to your academic and professional goals, and they contribute to your overall narrative.

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COMMENTS

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

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

  2. 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 ...

  3. How to Write Your Personal Statement

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

  4. Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School 2022+

    Read these Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School to get some tips and ideas! 2024 - 2025. ... At this point, my studies would be geared in three possible directions: future application into a PhD program, a professional teaching career, or a career in book publishing (which places a high emphasis on graduate studies). ...

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

    While deciding to embark on the path to graduate school is an exciting first step toward advancing your career, the application process can sometimes feel daunting and confusing.. One major part of the application that most schools require is a personal statement. Writing a personal statement can be an arduous task: After all, most people don't necessarily enjoy writing about themselves, let ...

  6. PDF Example of a Personal Statement for a Masters

    environment in which to study at masters level. Your university also provides excellent working and recreation facilities for graduate students which demonstrate your commitment to the graduate student body. Following the MA course I would like to pursue my interest in research in the

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

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

  8. Writing the Perfect Personal Statement for Your Master's or PhD Application

    Don't use the same personal statement for 10 different Master's or PhD applications. A common mistake among applicants is applying to multiple study programmes using the same personal statement. I've personally heard advisors and tutors recommend 'writing one personal statement' and 'changing the name of the university' for each one.

  9. Writing Your Personal Statements

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

  10. Personal statements for postgraduate applications

    Personal statement examples. The style and content of your postgraduate personal statement depends on several variables, such as the type of qualification that you're applying for - such as a Masters degree, a conversion course or teacher training. Here are some postgraduate personal statement templates to help you get started:

  11. Writing the Personal Statement

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

  12. Postgraduate Personal Statements

    Once you've found the perfect Masters programme, the next step is to begin the application process. You'll usually have to write a postgraduate personal statement that highlights your strengths, skills and experience, giving you the perfect opportunity to sell yourself and to show the admissions tutor that you'll thrive at their university.

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

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

  14. Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School

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

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

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

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

    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 ...

  17. Education Masters Personal Statement Sample

    This is an example personal statement for a Masters degree application in Education. See our guide for advice on writing your own postgraduate personal statement. Recent developments in the social and political landscapes have strongly highlighted the importance of education for children in schools. Studying an undergraduate degree in History ...

  18. How To Write Your Postgraduate Personal Statement

    Just start by showing your enthusiasm for the subject, showcasing your knowledge and understanding, and sharing your ambitions of what you want to achieve. Avoid cliches . Remember, this opening part is simply about introducing yourself, so let the admissions tutor reading your personal statement get to know you. Keep it relevant and simple.

  19. PDF Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School

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

  20. How to write a personal statement for Masters courses

    How to write a personal statement for Masters courses. A good personal statement can mean the difference between getting an offer and being rejected. Your personal statement should show us that you are the right person for the course. Alternatively, you can see our advice for writing a UCAS personal statement.

  21. 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 ...

  22. How to Write a Personal Statement

    Insert a quote from a well-known person. Challenge the reader with a common misconception. Use an anecdote, which is a short story that can be true or imaginary. Credibility is crucial when writing a personal statement as part of your college application process. If you choose a statistic, quote, or misconception for your hook, make sure it ...

  23. 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 ...

  24. Graduate School Applications

    The graduate school application section contains resources to help you through the process of applying to graduate school. This section contains an overview of applying to graduate school, words of advice on writing graduate school profiles to help with your decision making, drafting a graduate school personal statement, and the etiquette of requesting references.

  25. Personal Statement for University [Edit & Download], Pdf

    Personal Statement for University. Introduction Ever since I was a child, literature has been my sanctuary and my passion. This profound love for storytelling and the written word has inspired me to pursue a degree in English Literature at your esteemed university. I am eager to immerse myself in a program that not only hones my analytical and ...

  26. Statement of Purpose for Masters [Edit & Download], Pdf

    Statement of Purpose for Masters. Introduction: My name is Sarah Thompson, and I am applying for the Master's in Data Science program at the University of California, Berkeley. With a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the University of Washington and a passion for data analytics, I am excited to further my studies at your renowned ...

  27. Personal Statement for College [Edit & Download], Pdf

    Personal Statement for College. Introduction Since I was young, I have always been captivated by the power of storytelling and the complexities of the human experience. This passion has driven me to pursue a degree in psychology, where I can explore the intricate workings of the mind and contribute to improving mental health and well-being.

  28. Personal Statement for Law School [Edit & Download], Pdf

    Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss how my background, skills, and aspirations align with the goals of your law program. 📜 Elevate your law school application with a powerful personal statement! Edit & download in PDF. Access expert examples and tips to showcase your legal passion. ⚖️.

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    Alternative pre-mRNA splicing (AS) is a fundamental regulatory process that generates transcript diversity and cell type variation. We developed Shiba, a robust method integrating transcript assembly, splicing event identification, read counting, and statistical analysis, to efficiently quantify exon splicing levels across various types of RNA-seq datasets. Compared to existing pipelines ...

  30. Statement of Purpose

    Introduce yourself, mention the program or position you are applying for, and state your main goal. Example: "As a passionate computer scientist with a keen interest in artificial intelligence, I am excited to apply for the Master's program in Computer Science at XYZ University.". 2. Academic Background.