How to Write a Great Personal Statement for Graduate School

Jessica Shaffer
Jessica Shaffer
5th Grade Teacher; MA in Administration & Leadership, Georgian Court University, NJ
Young woman with glasses sitting at a table and writing in a notebook.

Making the decision to attend graduate school is difficult, but when you have made up your mind, the next challenge is gaining acceptance into the program of your choice. Having a strong application is important, and putting your best effort into each and every portion of the application can give you an edge over other candidates. Schools do not just look for high test scores and grade point averages, but an overall well-rounded candidate with something to offer to the program itself. And you can show them by sharing your story. Here are tips on how to write a great personal statement for graduate school.

What is a Personal Statement and What is its Importance for Graduate School? 

A personal statement for graduate school is a short statement in which you are able to introduce yourself, your reasons for applying to a particular program, and the value you will add to that program and university if you are accepted. This statement can help you to show the university the “real person” applying to the program. As this is just one component of a graduate school application, it is a way to make yourself stand out from the crowd and pique the interest of the admissions office.

Important Elements a Personal Statement Should Have

One important part of a personal statement is that it illustrates who you are. It is your chance to “sell yourself” to a graduate program. It is better to keep it more specific and less broad while painting a picture of who you are. Be genuine in your personal statement, and make sure to read the directions on the application to understand exactly what the college/university is looking for in the response. You want to deliver what the admissions department is looking for while still sharing your story.

Additionally, it is important to include your previous education experience and how it prepared you for graduate school. Research projects, internships, and coursework are all relevant topics to include. Including volunteer work, as well as work experiences, are also important as it adds to the overall picture of who you are. Any type of adversity that you have had to face is an excellent idea to include because it shows your character, that you have perseverance, and that you don’t give up when tough situations arise.

You also want to include specific academic and personal goals you wish to achieve through attending graduate school. Make sure to do your research on the school and include points relevant to that specific school. For instance, name specific professors you would like to work with and include your reasoning as to why. It shows you have a vested interest in not just the program, but the university/school.

How to Make Sure Your Personal Statement Stands Out from the Rest

You want to make sure your personal statement grabs the attention of those reading it. Make sure your statement includes all the material you feel important, but don’t get long-winded. Keep it concise, and make sure to edit it! Making connections between past experiences and goals that you wish to achieve is also important, and further relating it to how it has prepared you for graduate school can help to set your statement apart from others.

Make sure your personality shines through your writing! Having a great hook in your statement and a strong introduction can really set the tone for the person reading it. Make sure that your genuine intentions shine through. A personal statement can be tough to write, but try to make the reader get to know the person behind the words. As Milton Berle said, “When opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” Use your personal statement to build the door that opens up to graduate school on the other side.

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