Personal Statements

The personal statement is an opportunity to present yourself as more than just an academic profile.  It will allow you to articulate your passion for future graduate work and set you apart from other candidates.
Graduate programs often have different requirements for the personal statement, so it is important that you read and follow each school’s directions carefully.  Typically, personal statements fall into two categories:

  • The general, comprehensive statement allows the most freedom in what you write, and is often seen on medical or law school applications.
  • Other graduate school applications may ask one or more specific questions, and the statement should respond to these questions.

Choosing a Topic

  • Brainstorm any topics you want to consider for your statement.
  • What is unique and/or impressive about you and your life story?
  • What things in your life will make you stand out and help the committee better understand you (personal or family history, people or events that have shaped or influenced you?
  • When, how or why did you become interested in this field? How have you developed your knowledge and experience in this field thus far?
  • Have you had any distinctive work, internship, volunteer or study abroad experiences?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Have you ever had to overcome any unusual obstacles in your life?


  • Introduction – Create an interesting opening paragraph to hook the reader.
  • Supporting Paragraphs – Each should be focused and relevant to the school to which you are applying?
  • Conclusion – Tie together the previous issues or stories and bring your statement to a conclusion.
  • Length – Adhere to the length requirements stated on each application, if none are stated, a good rule is two pages, double spaced.

 General Advice

  • Answer the question(s) asked.
  • Don’t be tempted to use the same statement for different applications, even if the questions are similar.
  • Set yourself apart! Tell a story using specific examples and experiences; don’t say things that any applicant could say.
  • Use professional and field specific language, but don’t overdo it.
  • Research each program and discuss why you are applying to that program.
  • Proofread carefully for grammar, punctuation, word usage and style, and have several others proofread it.

Common Mistakes

  • Spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Attaching the wrong statement.
  • Not following directions.
  • Discussing controversial topics.
  • Using clichés or often repeated statements.
  • Repeating information on your resume or elsewhere in your application.
  • Referencing money or salary as a motivator.
  • A detached writing style, remember it’s your “personal” statement.

*If you are struggling, revising or just need help, please come visit the Career Center. We have many tools to help you get started and finished! Another resource is the Writing Center.*