How to Write a Personal Statement

Purpose of Your Personal Statement

Your personal statement, also called “application essay” or “statement of purpose”, is an opportunity to explain why you are an ideal candidate for a specific graduate or professional school program. 

It is a picture of who you are and an opportunity to share how your personal and academic experiences have shaped you and your professional goals. 

Ways to Prepare 

  • Read the prompt(s) you are required to answer.
  • Research the program.
  • Consider 2 - 3 meaningful experiences that will support your goal.

An Effective Personal Statement Typically Answers and Addresses:

  • Who you are as a person.
  • What you would like to study and why.
  • What type of contribution or impact you would like to make and why.
  • Why the program you are applying to will help you reach your goal.

The Writing Process

  • Develop a plan for what you want to say, including the topics you want to cover.
  • Write a draft.
  • Read your draft and ask yourself if you covered all of the desired topics.
  • Revise and obtain feedback.
  • Revise again.
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Admission officers will want to see clear evidence that you are committed to a particular path.  You must be able to demonstrate more than a passing curiosity of the field. Focus on your motivation to pursue the degree, the actions you took to prepare, and develop knowledge in the academic area.


What to put in your Personal Statement



  • What motivated you to want to study ____________________?
  • Provide evidence that you are committed to this choice, i.e. What individuals or incidents have shaped your life, and convey what you value? 
  • Expand on why you would be a strong addition to this program and avoid discussing what the program could do for you.


  • What have you done to prepare for this career choice? Describe your experiences so the reader can make conclusions about your competencies, such as your resilience, maturity, focus, drive, etc.
  • Avoid just using specific words to show your competencies. Instead tell stories that demonstrate those skills. Remember, show vs. tell.


  • Be sure to explain any questionable items that may appear in your transcripts including withdrawals, incompletes, repeated courses, below average grades and test scores, or even breaks in your education. 
  • Provide clarity if you are applying again after a failed attempt.
  • Other items to clarify include having a criminal record or being documented for negative conduct on campus. 


Complicated Themes and Vocabulary

  • Your personal statement should be straightforward, easy to read, and in your own words.

Other People's Quotes

  • Using quotes or song lyrics may seem like a good starting point, but you are wasting valuable space with someone else’s words.

Clichés (Overused phrases)

  • Don't say things like: “I’ve wanted to be a ___________ for as long as I can remember.”

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