What is a Personal Statement?

what is a personal statement

What Is a Personal Statement?

A personal statement is a required essay on many graduate school applications. It focuses on the applicant’s goals in applying, their reasons for doing so, and their personal background. But unlike the similar statement of purpose, a personal statement tends to be person-oriented, helping the graduate admissions committee get to know the applicant as an individual. It is designed to let them develop a more well-rounded idea of who the applicant is, and see how they’d fit into the culture of that school and program.

Generally, personal statements are between 250 and 750 words. However, the length could vary considerably depending on a given school’s application requirements, among other factors. The formatting may also vary. This could be impacted by the type of school you’re applying to and their preferred style book. It also may depend on how you submit the essay. (For example, are you copying and pasting it into an application field? Printing it out and mailing it? Attaching a PDF or word processor document?) Above all, be sure to follow all requirements carefully and tailor your response to that particular school.

What to Write in a Personal Statement

Now that you’ve answered the question, “what is a personal statement?”, the next question is, “how do you write one?”. To demonstrate a variety of qualities to your target school, you may want to touch on some of the following points.

  • Who You Are
    One of the biggest potential advantages in writing a personal statement? You could show your personality and values. After all, your grades and resume are only a small part of your identity. This could especially be an advantage if you have weaknesses elsewhere in your application, and need to stand out in another way.
  • Where You Come From
    Your essay could demonstrate not only who you are now, but also your roots. This could be your academic or professional background, but also your personal journey, family, cultural identity, and more! What story you tell depends on you and what you want to show your school. Do some research into your selected program and what they might be looking for in a student if you need help in focusing this. For example, do they emphasize a diverse student body? Or academic achievement?
  • What You’ve Achieved
    A personal statement is one component of a larger application. Think about what new elements this essay could add to it. Do you want to use your essay to elaborate on specific achievements listed in your application? Or do you want draw attention to certain highlights that really show your values?
  • Your Goals
    Equally or more important than your past accomplishments, is what you hope to do in the future. Explain why you want to earn a degree and how it will help you achieve your goals. Many people focus on specific career or academic objectives, but don’t feel limited. You could also mention how you plan to help others, or make the world a better place.
  • What You Could Contribute to The School
    Some personal essays focus on how you might fit into and contribute to that program. Do you have skills and experience that could be an asset to that program? Or do certain personal qualities make you a good match for that school’s culture?

These ideas may give you a good idea of how to get started. However, there’s a lot more to keep in mind! 


Learn more about how to write a personal statement here. Or check out a few examples of personal statements to use as a template.