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Grad School Personal Statement Examples

By: Daniel Robertshaw
Aug 16, 2021 • 6 min read

How To Write a Grad School Personal Statement (With Examples!)

Graduate school is a big step to take in your academic career. Acceptance into one of these schools may be a necessary step for you to reach your professional goals. Each year, getting into graduate schools gets harder and harder, with more and more applicants. Applications can take months to complete and require references, resumes, cover letters, and what we’ll be talking about today – personal statements.  This article will guide you through examples of personal statements for grad school. You’ll start off by learning what a personal statement is to give you some background knowledge before you start writing your big paper. You’ll then learn what is typically included in a personal statement. Then finally, we’ll give you some tips and tricks you can use to ensure that your personal statement is ready for any graduate school application.

grad school personal statement example

What is a personal statement?

First of all, let’s talk about what exactly a personal statement is.  Depending on your major and college, this may be a type of essay that you’re not familiar with. In its simplest form, a personal statement is essentially a statement of intent from the prospective student.

They are persuasive pieces of work that are written in first person tense. Personal statements aren’t just used in grad school applications. In fact, they’re used in quite a few scenarios.   If you’ve applied to a study abroad program, an internship, or any other type of professional program, you were probably asked to submit a personal statement as part of your application process. Some undergraduate colleges also require a personal statement.

How is a personal statement written?

A personal statement gives the reader (in this case, an admissions officer) the opportunity to get to know you better. From your essay, they’ll get to learn about your goals, interests, and accomplishments in life. Because of the length, narrative, and connection, personal statements give the reader a fuller understanding of the applicant than a resume or cover letter would.

A personal statement is written with one goal in mind: convincing the reader that you’re a good match for the school. You want to let them know that your skills, experiences, characteristics, personality, and qualities are aligned with them.

Getting started

Now that you know what the point of a personal statement is and the type of content you’ll be including in yours, it’s time to get started. Read on to learn a couple of tips you can use to help you get started writing your personal grad statement.

Get started early

First things first, get started early. Read that again. Get started early.  Starting early is necessary to ensure that you have enough time to make your personal statement as good as it can be. You don’t want to come down to the very last couple of days before its due date and have to cram it all in a couple of days.

If you’re a notorious procrastinator, it’s time to reprogram your brain and make sure to consciously start on your personal statement early. Try to aim to start around 2-3 months before the application due date to give yourself a long-time frame.

grad school personal statement example

Read the instructions carefully

The first step in writing your essay just may be the most important one. If you’re required to write a personal statement for grad school, the school will give you instructions on how to craft yours. It’s incredibly important to read over these instructions carefully. Each grad school will have different instructions, so be sure to carefully read and take note of them. Failure to abide by your instructions may lead to you being rejected into grad school.

Your instructions will usually detail what the content of your personal statement has to be. They may require a story that connects you to your area of study or just even a story about who you are as a person. They’ll also provide you with details on how long your personal statement should be. They will also tell you how and where to upload your personal statement. Take extra note here as some grad schools may require a certain file format.

Brainstorm

Before you start scrambling to write down everything that comes to your head, take some time to reflect on who you are. This may seem strange, but remember, a personal statement is all about who you are, what motivates you, and what you want to accomplish.

During college, it’s easy to lose track of all of that with the chaos of classes. So, take some time to self-reflect. Be sure to brainstorm what motivates you and try to set some specific goals that you want to achieve. Doing this will help clear your mind and help you focus on yourself.

Make an outline

If you’ve ever taken a writing class, you know the importance of creating an outline. Start by writing down the program you’re applying to. Then, branch out and begin writing about why this program is important to you, what you want to accomplish with this program, what motivates you to do this program, etc.

Be sure to start thinking of and writing down specific examples in your life you can use to connect yourself to the program you’re applying for.  Connecting your personal experiences to your program will be very important when you begin writing.

grad school personal statement example

Writing your personal statement

So now you’ve done all the prep you need, and it’s time to start writing. Read on as we give you tips on what you can write about and what you can do to make yourself stand out. Before beginning, be sure to double-check the instructions to make sure you’re not being required to write something in addition to the below tips.

Include examples of a real-life story in your personal statement 

It makes sense, right? A personal story may be the most important part of your personal statement. You want to stand out and make yourself memorable. People can have the same skills and experience as each other, but no two people have the exact same story about themselves. Use this to your advantage and write a story that will make you stand out as unique. You’ll want to make sure that your story connects to the program that you are applying for.

For example, if you’re applying for an Art History program, you could tell a story of visiting an art museum for the first time as a kid and the fascination you had. You could talk about art and how it shaped your life or the beautiful style of a certain painter that has influenced you.

Whatever the story you tell, be sure to tell it from the heart. Write in your own unique way and really stamp your personality into it.

Your values and what motivates you

Continuing on from the personal story, it’s a good idea to speak about your values and what motivates you in life. Give the admissions officer a reason to want you in their program. They want to know that they’re not enrolling lifeless robots. Try not to include the basic jargon that you think they want to hear. Instead, include specific examples from throughout your life. Show them what your values and motivations are through stories and snippets from your life.

For example:

‘For the past 5 years, every Saturday, I’ve volunteered at my local food shelter. I like to connect with the patrons. They’re almost like a second family to me now. It’s important for me to know that my work is going towards a cause that will help people. It’s these people that motivate me towards a career in Social Work.’

Why this program is important to you

This is an important one. You’ll want to go into details on why this program is important to you. Again, make connections to your life; it’s a personal statement, so you’ll want to highlight your unique experiences. Use specific examples in your life that have driven you to want to be successful in your desired program.

grad school personal statement example

What your goals are

Lastly, talk about your goals. What do you want to accomplish in your life? How does the program connect with your goals and dreams? Admissions officers want to know that you have a plan for using your graduate degree in the future and that you’ll be a good investment for them in the long run. When writing about your aspirations, just be yourself.

You know yourself and what you want better than anybody else. Go into detail about your goals and what you want to accomplish, and then explain how you’re going to use your graduate degree to do so.

Summary

  • Start your personal statement 2-3 months before your application is due.
  • Read the instructions carefully and take note of them.
  • Take some time to self-reflect on yourself. Delve deep into why you want to go to graduate school and what you what to accomplish.
  • Start creating an outline.
  • Start writing your personal statement.
    1. Begin with a memorable hook that makes you stand out.
    2. Include a unique personal story that connects you to your program
    3. Talk about your values and what motivates you.
    4. Delve into why this program is important to you.
    5. Talk about your goals and what you what to accomplish.
  • Have some people read over and edit your paper. Take advantage of resources such as former college professors and classmates.
  • After many revisions, attach your personal statement to the graduate school application.

We hope these examples help you craft a stellar graduate school personal statement! Best of luck in your job search!

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