by Annie Rose Stathes
Published June 10, 2013

Personal statements are personal, which means that your ultimate goal is to give your readers an idea of who you are as a person! This also means unless the school to which you are applying requires you to use a particular structure or answer a particular question, you have relative freedom to introduce yourself in the manner of your choice.  

Many students use personal statements to share past accomplishments, explain why they want to earn a degree, or describe what they want to do professionally in the future. They use their personal essays to “look good” and convince admissions committees they are a perfect match for the program. While this approach is fine and in many cases successful, it is certainly not the only way to share who you are and get accepted into a school. The following section offers three alternative approaches to writing a personal essay that is effective and inspiring. 

Personal Statement Ideas

1. Design a Mini Research Proposal

Use your personal essay to outline and explain your research interests and objectives. In the beginning of your mini-proposal, might include the following information:

1. A description of your subject matter and why it appeals to you

2. A description of the limitations of existing research and how your research fills the gap

3. An outline of your research methods

4. A description of who on campus you would like to work with and why

5. An explanation of how your research will benefit yourself, your classmates, the school, and the field of study overall

Once you’ve taken these steps and covered the logistics of the research project, share an inspirational explanation of why it’s important to conduct the research. Why, for example,do you want to understand the effects of poverty on education for seven year old boys in Bronx, New York? Why do you want to find a cure for rare types of cancer (and be creative—most of us already know the obvious benefits of finding cures to deadly diseases)? Why do you want to study women’s roles in causing policy change in the United States over time? Rather than using common explanations for why, share something intimate; something more near and dear to your heart; something that inspires your readers to participate in your efforts by accepting you into the school or program.  

2. Describe Your Future

Don’t just focus on your future career or academic objectives; focus on your future life! Most people plan on using their education to meet academic or career goals. Explain the ways earning a graduate degree might help make you, your community, your country, and the world better? How will your education (distinct from your grades or degree) inspire and invigorate your life and the lives of others? Use your imagination to envision your future, you may want to try some free writing exercises to get your creative juices flowing.

3. Describe How You Will Contribute to the School’s Vibrancy and Longevity

We all know that you will get something out of your education; we also know that you will touch the lives of some people while living and/or studying on campus. What we don’t always know is how you, as a student and human being, will contribute to the school’s vibrancy and longevity.

Use might consider using your grad statement to tell a story about how you will make your teachers and classmates smile; how you will complete inspiring, creative, and invigorating work; how you will use your time to make the lives and experiences of others better; how you will make school a joyful, influential, and lively place to be; how you will bring integrity and honor to the field of academia and the art of scholarship; how you will contribute to and transform the “system”. Then, after sharing your story, back it up with some evidence supporting the fact that you are indeed the person you claim to be.

These are just some ideas for creating an interesting and inspiring personal essay. Use them as writing prompts or as a platform for your own ideas. Be creative, take thoughtful chances, and have fun! Also, remember to follow any rules or direction given by the school!


Six Tips for Writing

Interesting, Inspiring, and Effective

Personal Statements

1. Share authentically! Be yourself. Share honestly and use your own “voice”.

2. Write creatively! Don’t be afraid to use interesting words, sentence structures, and syntaxes. Also, don’t be afraid to really let yourself shine!

3. Allow yourself to take some risks and share your boldest ideas and beliefs. Share those things you fear sound silly, crazy, or impossible! Be gutsy and share your originality!  

4. Inspire your readers! Rather than providing your readers with a dry account of you and your life, breathe life into them as you describe your dreams and passions.

5. Don’t confuse authenticity, creativity, and boldness with casualness or laziness! Use professional language (even if you use your own “voice”, use correct spelling, clear plays on words, etc.), excellent grammar, and a solid structure. Let form and order provide the perfect structure for your adventurousness!

6. Again, even in a flurry of creativity and inspiration, be clear about schools’ expectations for personal essays and closely follow directions and specific requests!


Learn the Basics of Writing Your Personal Statement


About the Author: Annie Rose Stathes holds a B.A. in International Affairs and an M.A. in Political Science, from the University of Colorado, Denver. She is currently an instructor of writing at Fort Lewis College in Durango Colorado