3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples
As part of your application for graduate school, you will be required to write a personal statement to accompany your application.
For most students, this can be quite a challenge. To make matters worse, the personal statement plays a significant role in determining whether you will be admitted into graduate school, and therefore, getting it wrong could mess up your entire career path.
If you are in the process of applying for graduate school and are wondering how to go about writing your personal statement, this article will teach you everything you need to know about creating a high quality personal statement.
We will also show you three examples of successful graduate school personal statements so that you will have an idea of the kind of personal statement you should be aiming for.
Before that, however, let’s start by understanding what exactly the personal statement is.
WHAT IS A PERSONAL STATEMENT?
If you have ever applied for graduate school, you have probably come across the personal statement. A personal statement on a grad school application is basically a short essay that allows you to introduce yourself to the grad school and explain why you are interested in pursuing a particular program in that school.
When applying for grad school, you also provide your test scores and your GPA. So, why does the university still need a personal statement to determine if you are a good fit for the program you are applying for?
While your test scores and GPA show your qualifications and your mental aptitude, they don’t give a complete picture of who you are as a person.
The personal statement gives you a chance to express yourself to the university and make a case for yourself on why you are a good fit for the program you are interested in, as well as the value you will add to the crop of first year students joining university that year.
On top of your test scores and GPA, the personal statement gives you a chance to tell the admissions committee what your goals are, what you are passionate about, what you intend or hope to gain by taking the program you are applying for, as well as what favorable thing you are bringing to the program.
In other words, you are being asked to make a case for why that opportunity should be given to you instead of another candidate. Since this is an open-ended document, this is your chance to highlight important facts about yourself and personal strengths that you might be unable to highlight anywhere else in your application.
IS A PERSONAL STATEMENT THE SAME AS A STATEMENT OF PURPOSE?
Sometimes, grad school applicants confuse between the personal statement and the statement of purpose, which is sometimes referred to as a letter of intent. However, the two are different documents, even though both play a role in getting you admitted to grad school.
The statement of purpose has a great focus on your credentials, both academic and professional, as well as your future professional intentions. In other words, the statement of purpose is a bit formal and rigid. It doesn’t really take into account who you are as a person.
While the personal statement can also talk about your academic and professional qualifications, you have the freedom to talk about matters that are a bit more personal, such as life experiences that made you into the person you are today, as well as any experiences that might have shaped your interest in the field you are applying for.
This is what helps the personal statement to give the admissions committee a better picture of who you are.
Unfortunately, the freedom you have when it comes to writing the personal statement can sometimes make it even more challenging to write, because you don’t have any set of instructions to guide you.
It’s good to note that, depending on the university you are applying to, you might be asked to write both the personal statement and the letter of intent.
TIPS ON HOW TO WRITE AN AMAZING PERSONAL STATEMENT FOR YOUR GRAD SCHOOL APPLICATION
Considering personal statements don’t come with any set of instructions to guide grad school applicants, there is no one size fits all approach to writing the personal statement.
That said, there are still qualities that contribute to a great personal statement, regardless of whatever form or style you choose for your personal statement.
Below, let’s look at some tips that will help you come up with an amazing personal statement and increase your chances of having your grad school application approved.
Make Sure Your Personal Statement Has A Clear Narrative
One of the downsides of having the freedom to write whatever you want in your personal statement is that you might be tempted to tell the admissions committee everything about yourself.
Everyone has multiple things that make them the person they are, and you might feel that to give the admissions committee a complete picture of who you are, you need to tell them about everything you have done in life and all the significant highlights in your life.
The problem with this is that it leaves the admissions committee overwhelmed. At the end of the day, a personal statement that tries to tell everything doesn’t accomplish anything.
So, what should you do?
Before you start writing your personal statement, sit down and think about the message you want your personal statement to communicate. Of course, this message needs to be one that will make you come across as a strong applicant.
For instance, you might want to focus on your passion for the program or field, experiences that made you interested in the field, something big you want to achieve in that field, and so on. You might also decide to address some aspect of your application that might raise questions in the minds of the admissions committee.
For instance, if you have some setbacks in your application (such as low GPA in a certain semester because you dealing with an illness), you can use the personal statement to address such issues and put the admissions committee at ease.
Once you have figured out the message you want to communicate, you can now think about the best way to pass this message.
The point here is to get the admissions committee interested in your narrative enough to grant you an interview, where you can share more about yourself and convince them to give you the opportunity to pursue the program you are applying for.
Use Specific Examples
If you want your personal statement to be effective, don’t just mention your strengths, your passions, and so on. Instead, you want to include specific examples and anecdotes that demonstrate these strengths and passions.
The idea is to show rather than tell. For instance, don’t just say you love architecture. Instead, describe how you used to build miniature versions of some of the most magnificent buildings in your city using various materials and sell them. Such a description is more powerful.
It shows that your love for architecture is not just a baseless claim, but something that you are actually passionate about.
Show That You Are A Good For The Program
The reason you are writing the personal statement is to show that you are a good fit for the program you are applying for, so don’t forget to show that in your personal statement. Are there things about the program that you find appealing?
Talk about them. Do you have certain strengths and skills that boost your chances of performing well in that program? Talk about them. Do you admire certain individuals in that field? Talk about them.
The aim is to show the admissions committee that by approving your application, they won’t have wasted an opportunity that would have been better given to someone else.
Showcase Your Writing Skills
Regardless of the program you are applying for, you will need to do some kind of writing, and therefore, you can treat your personal statement as a chance to showcase your strong writing skills.
Make sure that your personal statement passes your message in a clear way, avoid using tired clichés, and make sure that your personal statement is free of spelling and grammatical errors.
Once you are done writing your personal statement, go through it a couple times to make sure that it looks professional.
You can even have a trusted friend look it over for you. They are more likely to catch errors and mistakes that you might have missed.
Keep Your Audience In Mind
When writing your personal statement, don’t get carried away too much and forget that you are not writing for yourself, but for the admissions committee.
This means that when writing the personal statement, you should put yourself in the shoes of someone who is part of the admissions committee and think of the kind of content you would want to read if you were in that position.
Some opinions and perspectives that might seem okay to you as a student might not sound so good to someone else.
Therefore, take a moment to think about how your audience will perceive whatever you are writing down, otherwise you might end up sabotaging yourself.
Maintain Appropriate Boundaries
Just because the personal statement puts more focus on who you are as a person doesn’t mean that you are free to share each and everything about yourself.
Ultimately, the personal statement is still a professional document, and therefore, you should maintain appropriate boundaries as you write.
For instance, you might want to avoid talking about illegal or inappropriate activities you might have engaged in, things that are too personal for you, such as your relationships, or information that might end up presenting you as a risky investment.
If you decide to use jokes and humor in your writing, you should be careful to ensure that your humor might not be perceived as offensive by whoever is going to read your personal statement.
Try as much as possible to keep your writing as appropriate as possible, and if you find yourself in doubt, err towards the side of caution.
EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL PERSONAL STATEMENTS
Now that you know the important things to keep in mind when writing your personal statements, let us take a look at 3 examples of successful graduate school personal statements. You can use these examples as inspiration to come up with your own personal statement.
Personal Statement Example 1
It would be grandiose for me to claim that I had a clear plan for what I was going to do in life from an early age. However, I was certain of one thing – whatever I was going to do, it would definitely revolve around books.
My love for books began early. As a young boy, I remember spending hours in my father’s library, lost into the endless worlds conjured by the words of various authors. This love for books and words was cemented when I joined college for my undergraduate studies. While I majored in both English and Theater, I quickly realized that my greatest focus was on the former. One of my professors was heavily indulged in critical theory, and as a result of my relationship with this professor, I gradually found myself intrigued with critical theory as well. With encourage from this professor, I started exploring the analysis of non-canon works such as graphic novels, romance novels, and fan-authored fiction. While I certainly was a fan of classical works, exploring and analyzing new works felt quite refreshing.
Following my graduation, I was fortunate enough to hold a variety of odd jobs here and there. While I worked a couple of these jobs, there are a few that stood out to me, and as you might have guessed, they had something to do with my passion for the written word. The jobs that stood out for me include working as an editor for a marketing firm, working as a blogger for a civil society organization, and working as a freelance ghostwriter for clients I found on Upwork.
While I enjoyed these three jobs, because they involved doing something that was dear to me, I noticed that I still missed the part of me that I left in undergrad. The part that involved dissembling a piece of writing and putting it back out into the universe as something new. After a few years of soul searching and introspection, I finally came to the conclusion that the best option for me was to proceed to graduate school. This would allow me to get back to what I loved most and hone my skills.
I mentioned that early in life, I didn’t have a pretty concrete idea of what I was going to do with my adult life. Since then, however, I have had a chance to experience life, and I now know what I want with my life. I believe that graduate education at XYZ University will set me on the right path towards what I want to do with my life. Following my graduate education at XYZ University, my life will go in one of three directions: pursuing a PHD in English literature, pursuing a career as a teacher, or pursuing a career in book publishing. Graduate studies will lay a foundation for all three options. As such, I am certain that pursuing a graduate education at XYZ University presents the best path towards the achievement of my professional aspirations.
Personal Statement Example 2
I remember the first time the fire of my interest in law was sparked. I was attending a careers fair, and I ended up talking to a solicitor from one of the law firms from downtown. As he spoke to me about his experiences in various cases, I was fascinated by the fact that his work involved using logical arguments to protect vulnerable people from difficult and unfair situations. So fascinated was I by this that I requested him to allow me to shadow him for a day or two and experience what it was like working as a solicitor. Fortunately, he allowed me to do this for two weeks. Over the course of this period, I attended client meetings with him, sat in court, and provided assistance with office tasks. By the end of the two weeks, I was sold – I was definitely going to pursue a career in law.
This is what led me to pursue a degree in law, which I will be completing in a few months’ time. While pursuing my law degree, I have also had the opportunity of interning for two different law firms in downtown Manhattan. During these internships, I got to experience many different sides of a law career. Ultimately, however, I realized that my strongest interest lies in criminology. Not only am I interested in the laws that determine whether a person’s actions amount to a criminal offense or not, but also in the factors that lead to people committing criminal offenses.
I am applying for this course because I believe that graduate studies in criminal law are crucial in helping me attain my dream of setting up an organization whose objective will be to alleviate the factors that lead most people into a life of crime, and in so doing, make a change in society.
Personal Statement Example 3
When I was 14, I happened to take a trip to rural Brazil with a certain environmental conservation group. Two things have remained stuck in my mind from that trip. The first one is the burning of forests in order to clear land for farming. The second one is the preservation of trees alongside major roads in rural Brazil, not because of the ecological value of the trees, but because the trees act as hedges, protecting the ranches and farms alongside the highways from disturbance. These two things acted to me as a real-life representation of the clash between environmental and economic concerns and got me interested in taking action to preserve the environment.
My interest in environmental conservation was cemented when I took a geography class and further understood the relationship between economics and the environment. In this course, I saw numerous examples of cases where people favored economic growth over environmental preservation, even though this almost always led to the destruction of huge ecosystems. From this, I felt that it was my obligation to do something, and I vowed that I would spend my life championing for environmental conservation.
Driven by this conviction, I pursued a degree in environmental management, which has been crucial in helping me understand the economic and social factors that influence the formation of environmental policy. I also registered a non-profit organization whose objective is to champion for environmental conservation. Since its registration, this organization has been able to raise over $100,000, which we have channeled into an environmental conservation project in Kenya. The project is aimed at bringing local farmers on board in environmental conservation efforts by rewarding them for engaging in various environmentally beneficial activities.
My aim is to become an advisor to governments on matters concerning environmental conservation. I believe a graduate education in environmental studies will be critical in helping me achieve this, which is why I am applying for this program. This program will help me to understand the clash between economic growth and environmental conservation even better, which will be helpful in coming up with more sustainable solutions to ensure that the environment and ecological systems are preserved, while at the same time ensuring that people are able to continue deriving an income from natural resources.
The personal statement is an important essay that allows you to give the admissions committee a better picture of who you are as a person and make a case for why you deserve a spot in the program you are applying for.
If you want to write an effective personal statement, make sure your personal statement has a clear narrative, use specific examples and anecdotes to make your statement more powerful, show why you are a good fit for the program, keep your audience in mind, showcase your strong writing skills, and maintain appropriate boundaries when writing.
You can use the three examples provided above as sources of inspiration to help you come up with your own personal statement.
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