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Personal Statements

A personal statement is submitted when applying for graduate schools and professional programs. It helps a committee get to know you beyond your test scores and transcript and allows you to provide a holistic view of you are by highlighting your unique strengths and competencies. In some cases, it may be the only “interview” you have with a school. A strong personal statement demonstrates your writing ability, self-awareness, motivations and showcases what makes you different from other candidates.

Organizing Your Personal Statement

There are three main elements to consider when building a personal statement:

Introduction – “The Hook”:

  • This section serves as a framework for the rest of the personal statement.
  • Use a compelling first statement or a “hook” to grab the reader’s attention. This helps the reader to want to keep reading and to feel connected to you.
  • Introduce a main idea or theme to use throughout the personal statement.
  • Answer these questions: why are you writing this and what do you want?
  • Make sure to mention the name of the school and/or program in this section if you are not using a centralized application.

Body  – “Telling Your Story”:

  • Use this section to highlight your competencies, abilities, and experiences that will make you a successful student and professional. Try to stick to 2-3 key stories or experiences.
  • Be personal and speak in the first person. Make sure the essay reflects your voice and uses concise, direct language rather than relying on clichés or gimmicks.
  • Connect how your story relates to your interest in the program and your values, outlook, and ambitions.
  • Can use this space to address gaps or discrepancies in your academic record and put them into context, such as drops in GPA or school performance.
  • Personalize your statement for each program you are applying for and address the program or school’s unique features that attract you.

Conclusion – “The Future”:

  • Reiterate the theme or focus from your narrative, such as why you’ve chosen this career goal, what makes this particular program the best next step, and why you are a suitable student for this program.
  • Make this a strong, forward-looking paragraph. Anticipate possible experiences you hope to gain in that graduate program as well as in your career.
  • Make sure to follow the length guidelines provided, otherwise 1 page (single spaced) to 2 pages (double spaced) is ideal.

10 Brainstorming Questions to Consider

Ask yourself these reflective questions before you start writing:

  • What is distinctive about me?
  • How can I help the reader get to know me?
  • How do I stand out?
  • What will make me a great professional one day?
  • Why do I want to attend this program? How does it fit into my short and long-term goals?
  • What major influences or accomplishments in my life have helped shaped me and what insights have I gained from them?
  • How did I become interested in this field and what have I learned about it (and myself) that has stimulated my interest?
  • What are some themes in my life experiences as it relates to my interest in the program or the institution I wish to attend?
  • What are my motivations, values, and goals? What unique strengths and competencies have I developed?
  • How will my personal qualities contribute to the field and program?

Other Resources:

For more information about the writing process for personal statements please visit owl.purdue.edu.