Personal Statement


1. Definitionexternal image psychology-personal-statement-help1.jpg
2. Background Information
2.1 No Formula
2.2 Who will read your PS?
3. Importance
4. Writing Guidance
4.1 Preparing for Personal Statement
4.2General Advices
5. Dos and Don't when you are writing personal statement.
6. Words and phrases to avoid without explanation
7.Examples of Personal Statement
8.Where to go for help
9. References
10. Further Reading


Personal statements are sometimes also called "application essays" or "statements of purpose”,as a part of the application. Whatever they arecalled, they are essentially essays which are written in response to a question or questions on a graduate or professional school application formwhich asks for some sort of sustained response. 1Some applications ask more specific questions than others, for example, the applicant's intendedarea of study within a graduate field. Still others are quite unstructured, leaving the applicant free to address a wide range of matters.2

Background Information

  • No Formula

There is no set formula to follow in shaping your response, only choices for you to make, such as whether you should write an essay that is more autobiographically focused or one that is more professionally focused. From application to application, requested personalstatements also vary widely in length, ranging from a couple of paragraphs to a series of essays of a page or so each.Your personalstatement must be personal and that is your chance to tell the admission professors your ambition, your plan, your life experiences, your inspirations and your expectations. You should find your individual voices .3
  • Who Will Read Your PS?
  1. How are personal statements read, and by whom? It's most likely that your personal statement will be read by professors who serve on an admissions committee in the department to which you are applying. It is important in developing your personal statement to carefully consider this audience. What are the areas of specialty of this department, and what might it be looking for in a graduate student?
  2. Additionally, since personal statements will most often be read as part of your "package," they offer an opportunity to show aspects of yourself that will not be developed in other areas of your application. Obviously, it is important that personal statements are not simply prose formulations of material contained elsewhere in the application.
  3. It may be helpful to think of the statement as the single opportunity in your package to allow the admissions committee to hear your voice. Often times, committees are sorting through large numbers of applications and essays, perhaps doing an initial quick sort to find the best applicants and then later reading some of the personal statements more thoroughly. Given that information, you will want your statement to readily engage the readers, and to clearly demonstrate what makes you a unique candidate--apart from the rest of the stack.4


  • Personal statements are most important when you are applying to an extremely competitive program, where all the applicants have high test scores and GPA's, and when you are a marginal candidate and need the essay to compensate for low test scores or a low GPA.5

  • " The personal statement or essay is your opportunity to tell college admissions counselors something about yourself that is not readily apparent from your application. It is a subjective factor, and one of the few ways you can communicate even indirectly with counselors to give them a feel for your personality, values, and passion. With the right essay, you can make your presence felt and convey to the reader a sense of who you are and what you care about. It is a vital part of the application and it is one of the few areas in which you have control. At this point in the application process, your grades and standardized test scores are already fixed, so the essay is your chance to set yourself apart from others and to clearly convey why you deserve a place in the college(s) of your choice. The importance of the essay varies from college to college. Its value increases at the more selective colleges. Do not underestimate the power of the essay! I know of one admissions director at a large state university who was so swayed by a student’s essay that the student was admitted on the spot, even though her grades and SAT scores were slightly below their average admissions standards! Please remember that this is one aspect of the admissions process that is definitely within your power, so take the time to write a convincing personal statement. "6

Writing guidence

  1. Preparing for Personal Statement

Questions to ask yourself beforeyou write7:
  • What's special, unique, distinctive, and/or impressive about you or your life story?
  • What details of your life (personal or family problems, history, people or events that have shaped you or influenced your goals) might help the committee better understand you or help set you apart from other applicants?
  • When did you become interested in this field and what have you learned about it (and about yourself) that has further stimulated your interest and reinforced your conviction that you are well suited to this field? What insights have you gained?
  • How have you learned about this field—through classes, readings, seminars, work or other experiences, or conversations with people already in the field?
  • If you have worked a lot during your college years, what have you learned (leadership or managerial skills, for example), and how has that work contributed to your growth?
  • What are your career goals?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain (great grades but mediocre LSAT or GRE scores, for example, or a distinct upward pattern to your GPA if it was only average in the beginning)?
  • Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships (for example, economic, familial, or physical) in your life?
  • What personal characteristics (for example, integrity, compassion, and/or persistence) do you possess that would improve your prospects for success in the field or profession? Is there a way to demonstrate or document that you have these characteristics?
  • What skills (for example, leadership, communicative, analytical) do you possess?
  • Why might you be a stronger candidate for graduate school—and more successful and effective in the profession or field than other applicants?
  • What are the most compelling reasons you can give for the admissions committee to be interested in you?

Keep these in mind while writing your Statement of Purpose 8

  • Think very seriously about why you really want to go to graduate school and put it in your statement.

  • Make your Statement reflect your thought about the research and writing work you have done. It should mention what inspired you to pursue literary criticism, and the sort of very broad trajectory you’d like to pursue.

  • It’s fine to mention professors who inspired your work and thought, and why.

  • Personal history is fine if it is relevant to your decision or what you intend to pursue in school.

2, General Advices9

(1) Answer the questions that are asked
  • If you are applying to several schools, you may find questions in each application that are somewhat similar.
  • Don't be tempted to use the same statement for all applications. It is important to answer each question being asked, and if slightly different answers are needed, you should write separate statements. In every case, be sure your answer fits the question being asked.

(2)Tell a story
  • Think in terms of showing or demonstrating through concrete experience. One of the worst things you can do is to bore the admissions committee. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the pack. If you distinguish yourself through your story, you will make yourself memorable.
(3)Be specific
  • Don't, for example, state that you would make an excellent doctor unless you can back it up with specific reasons. Your desire to become a lawyer, engineer, or whatever should be logical, the result of specific experience that is described in your statement. Your application should emerge as the logical conclusion to your story.
(4)Find an angle
  • If you're like most people, your life story lacks drama, so figuring out a way to make it interesting becomes the big challenge. Finding an angle or a "hook" is vital.

(5)Concentrate on your opening paragraph
  • The lead or opening paragraph is generally the most important. It is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement.

(6)Tell what you know
  • The middle section of your essay might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as some of your knowledge of the field. Too many people graduate with little or no knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the profession or field they hope to enter. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information. Refer to experiences (work, research, etc.), classes, conversations with people in the field, books you've read, seminars you've attended, or any other source of specific information about the career you want and why you're suited to it. Since you will have to select what you include in your statement, the choices you make are often an indication of your judgment.

(7)Don't include some subjects
  • There are certain things best left out of personal statements. For example, references to experiences or accomplishments in high school or earlier are generally not a good idea. Don't mention potentially controversial subjects (for example, controversial religious or political issues).

(8)Do some research, if needed
  • If a school wants to know why you're applying to it rather than another school, do some research to find out what sets your choice apart from other universities or programs. If the school setting would provide an important geographical or cultural change for you, this might be a factor to mention.

(9)Write well and correctly
  • Be meticulous. Type and proofread your essay very carefully. Many admissions officers say that good written skills and command of correct use of language are important to them as they read these statements. Express yourself clearly and concisely. Adhere to stated word limits.

(10)Avoid clichés
  • A medical school applicant who writes that he is good at science and wants to help other people is not exactly expressing an original thought. Stay away from often-repeated or tired statements.

Dos and don'ts when writing your personal statement10

Do create a list of your ideas before attempting to write the real thing.
Do expect to produce several drafts before being totally happy.
Do ask people you trust for their feedback.
Do check university and college prospectuses, websites , as they usually tell you the criteria and qualities that they want their students
to demonstrate.
Do use your best English/Welsh and don't let spelling and grammatical errors spoil your statement.
Do be enthusiastic - if you show your interest in the course, it may help you get a place.
Don't feel that you need to use elaborate language. If you try too hard to impress with long words that you are not confident using, the focus
of your writing may be lost.
Don't say too much about things that are not relevant - if you think that you are starting to, take a break and come back to your statement
when you feel more focused.
Don't lie - if you exaggerate you may get caught out at interview when asked to elaborate on an interesting achievement.
Don't rely on a spellchecker as it will not pick up everything - proof read as many times as possible.
Don't leave it to the last minute - your statement will seem rushed and important information could be left out.
Don't expect to be able to write your personal statement whilst watching TV or surfing the internet - this is your future, so make the most of
the opportunity to succeed.

Words and phrases to avoid without explanation 11

meant a lot to me
I like helping people
feel good
appealing to me
appealing to me
i like it
it's important
I can contribute
helping people

Examples of Personal Statement

Free Sample Personal Statements

Graduate School Examples

PS Aboradstar

Where to go for help12

  • If you need some help figuring out what to write, make an appointment with a Career Center counselor to come up with a plan.
  • Once you have done a draft (or 2 or 3), show it to people you trust such as faculty, GSIs, family, friends, letter of recommendation writers, etc. The best people to review your statement are those who know you well and have excellent writing skills.
  • If you want to improve your writing, the Student Learning Center Writing Program offers programs on writing technique as well as individual tutoring.
  • is an excellent resource that includes essay critiques and writing tips.






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Futher Reading

Several points of advice for Statements of Purpose and writing samples
Advice from those who read MANY Statements of Purpose
Purdue Universtiy Online Wrinting Club
UACS Personal Statement Guiding
Berkeley Career Center
Statement of Purpose