Skip navigation

Career Education Logo

  • Summer Updates
  • For Employers
  • In the Know
  • Make An Appointment
  • Internships
  • Employer Connections
  • CCE Programs
  • Funding Programs
  • Drop-in Hours
  • Career Counseling Appointments
  • Practice Interviews
  • Programs & Services
  • Design Your Next Steps
  • Resumes & CVs
  • Cover Letters
  • Negotiating
  • Career Advancement
  • Graduate School
  • Premium Resources
  • Communications & Media
  • Engineering & Technology
  • Environment & Sustainability
  • Financial Services
  • International Affairs
  • Non-Profits & Social Justice
  • Psychology, Counseling, & Social Work
  • Ways to Gain Experience
  • Career Assessments
  • Connect With Alumni
  • Student Experiences
  • First-Generation/Low-Income Students
  • International Students
  • Students with Disabilities
  • Veteran Students
  • LGBTQ Students
  • Visiting Students
  • Students of Color

How to Write a Personal Statement for a PhD Program Application

Personal statement guidelines, general guidelines to keep in mind:.

  • One size does not fit all : Tailor your personal statement to each program and department you are applying to. Do your research to learn what is unique about each of your choices and highlight how this particular program stands out.
  • Yes, it’s personal : Showcase your unique strengths and accomplishments. Explain what influenced your personal decisions to pursue the program. Ask yourself, could this be applied to your friend or neighbor? If so, you need to be more specific and provide examples. Saying that you are a “good scientist” isn’t enough. Provide examples of your previous research experience, projects you’ve completed, and what technical skills you learned. Explain how you overcame any challenges along the way.
  • Set aside enough time :  Although personal statements are generally short in length (approx. 700 words; 1-2 pages), give yourself ample time to write a strong, well-written statement. It takes more time than you think to develop a final draft for submission.
  • Focus on your spelling, grammar, and vocabulary :  It’s important to present a well-written statement with good grammar and vocabulary. Write concrete, succinct sentences that flow well. Avoid flowery language. Visit the  Writing Center  for additional review and feedback.
  • Proofread one more time:  Check your grammar and spelling again before submitting your final draft. Ask a friend, professor, or advisor to proofread your final draft one more time before sending it in. 

YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT SHOULD ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:

  • Why do you want to complete further research in this field?  Write down a list of reasons as to why you are interested in pursuing further study in the field. When did you become interested in the field and what knowledge have you gained so far? Describe how your previous work provided the foundation and for further study.
  • Why  have you  chosen to apply to this particular university ? Does the institution have a particular curriculum, special research facilities/equipment, or interesting research that appeal to you?
  • What are your strengths ? Demonstrate how you stand out from other candidates. Highlight relevant projects, dissertations thesis or essays that demonstrate your academic skills and creativity. Include IT skills, research techniques, awards, or relevant traveling/ study abroad experience.
  • What are your transferable skills?  Be sure to emphasize transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, and time management skills. Give examples of how you have demonstrated each of these with specific examples.
  • How does this program align with your career goals?  It’s okay if you don’t know the exact career path you plan to take after completing your PhD. Provide an idea of the direction you would like to take. This demonstrates commitment and dedication to the program.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

For examples of successful personal statements, visit the  Online Writing Lab (OWL) .

Privacy Policy Accessibility Notice of Non-Discrimination Terms of Use

Stanford University

Writing Your Personal Statements

Your personal statement must demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have considered graduate school and their specific program seriously. It’s your opportunity to summarize your academic and research experiences. You must also communicate how your experiences are relevant to preparing you for the graduate degree that you will be pursuing and explain why a given program is the right one for you.

The personal statement is where you highlight your strengths. Make your strengths absolutely clear to the reviewers, because they will often be reading many other statements. Your self-assessments and honest conversations with peers and advisors should have also revealed your strengths. But you must also address (not blame others for) weaknesses or unusual aspects of your application or academic background.

Your personal statement should focus on two main aspects: your competence and commitment.

1. Identify your strengths in terms of competence that indicate that you will succeed in the grad program and provide examples to support your claims. Start your statement by describing your strengths immediately. Because faculty will be reading many statements, it’s important to start off with your strengths and not “bury your lede.” Consider traits of successful graduate students from your informational interviews, and identify which of these traits you have. These traits could involve research skills and experiences, expertise in working with techniques or instruments, familiarity with professional networks and resources in your field, etc.

  • Check your responses from the exercises in the self-assessment section. You may wish to consult notes from your informational interviews and your Seven Stories . Write concise summaries and stories that demonstrate your strengths, e.g. how your strengths helped you to achieve certain goals or overcome obstacles.
  • Summarize your research experience(s). What were the main project goals and the “big picture” questions? What was your role in this project? What did you accomplish? What did you learn, and how did you grow as a result of the experience(s)?

Vannessa Velez's portrait

My research examines the interplay between U.S. domestic politics and foreign policy during the Cold War. As a native New Yorker, I saw firsthand how dramatically my city changed after 9/11, which prompted my early interest in U.S. policy at home and abroad. As an undergraduate at the City College of New York, I planned to study international relations with a focus on U.S. foreign affairs. I also quickly became involved in student activist groups that focused on raising awareness about a wide range of human rights issues, from the Syrian refugee crisis to asylum seekers from Central America.

The more I learned about the crises in the present, the more I realized that I needed a deeper understanding of the past to fully grasp them. I decided to pursue a PhD in history in order to gain a clearer understanding of human rights issues in the present and to empower young student-activists like myself.

— Vannessa Velez, PhD candidate in History

Addressing weaknesses or unusual aspects

  • Identify weaknesses or unusual aspects in your application—e.g., a significant drop in your GPA during a term; weak GRE scores; changes in your academic trajectory, etc. Don’t ignore them, because ignoring them might be interpreted as blind spots for you. If you’re unsure if a particular issue is significant enough to address, seek advice from faculty mentors.
  • Explain how you’ll improve and strengthen those areas or work around your weakness. Determine how you will address them in a positive light, e.g., by discussing how you overcame obstacles through persistence, what you learned from challenges, and how you grew from failures. Focusing on a growth mindset  or grit  and this blog on weaknesses might also help.
  • Deal with any significant unusual aspects later in the statement to allow a positive impression to develop first.
  • Explain, rather than provide excuses—i.e., address the issue directly and don’t blame others (even if you believe someone else is responsible). Draft it and get feedback from others to see if the explanation is working as you want it to.
  • Provide supporting empirical evidence if possible. For example, “Adjusting to college was a major step for me, coming from a small high school and as a first-generation college student. My freshman GPA was not up to par with my typical achievements, as demonstrated by my improved  GPA of 3.8 during my second and third years in college."
  • Be concise (don’t dwell on the issues), but also be complete (don’t lead to other potentially unanswered questions). For example, if a drop in grades during a term was due to a health issue, explain whether the health issue is recurring, managed now with medication, resolved, etc.

2. Explain your commitment to research and their graduate program, including your motivation for why you are applying to this graduate program at this university. Be as specific as possible. Identify several faculty members with whom you are interested in working, and explain why their research interests you.

  • Descriptions of your commitment should explain why you’re passionate about this particular academic field and provide demonstrations of your commitment with stories (e.g., working long hours to solve a problem, overcoming challenges in research, resilience in pursuing problems). Don’t merely assert your commitment.
  • Explain why you are applying to graduate school, as opposed to seeking a professional degree or a job. Discuss your interest and motivation for grad school, along with your future career aspirations.

Jaime Fine's portrait

I am definitely not your traditional graduate student. As a biracial (Native American and white), first-generation PhD student from a military family, I had very limited guidance on how best to pursue my education, especially when I decided that graduate school was a good idea. I ended up coming to this PhD in a very circuitous manner, stopping first to get a JD and, later, an MFA in Young Adult Literature. With each degree, I took time to work and apply what I’d learned, as a lawyer and as an educator. Each time, I realized that I was circling around questions that I couldn’t let go of—not just because I found them to be fascinating, but because I did (and still do!) feel that my research could help to bridge a gap that desperately needs bridging. Because my work is quite interdisciplinary, I strongly feel that I wouldn’t have been able to pursue this line of research without the degrees and life experience I gained before coming to this program.

— Jamie Fine, PhD candidate in Modern Thought and Literature

Statement of Purpose: subtle aspects

  • Think in terms of engaging faculty in a conversation rather than pleading with them that you should be admitted. Ask reviewers to read drafts with this concern in mind.
  • With later drafts, try developing an overall narrative theme. See if one emerges as you work.
  • Write at least 10 drafts and expect your thinking and the essay to change quite a bit over time.
  • Read drafts out loud to help you catch errors.
  • Expect the "you' that emerges in your essay to be incomplete. . . that’s OK.
  • You’re sharing a professional/scholarly slice of "you."
  • Avoid humor (do you really know what senior academics find funny?) and flashy openings and closings. Think of pitching the essay to an educated person in the field, but not necessarily in your specialty. Avoid emotionally laden words (such as "love" or "passion"). Remember, your audience is a group of professors! Overly emotional appeals might make them uncomfortable. They are looking for scholarly colleagues.

Stanford University

© Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305

  • Search All Scholarships
  • Exclusive Scholarships
  • Easy Scholarships to Apply For
  • No Essay Scholarships
  • Scholarships for HS Juniors
  • Scholarships for HS Seniors
  • Scholarships for College Students
  • Scholarships for Grad Students
  • Scholarships for Women
  • Scholarships for Black Students
  • Scholarships
  • Student Loans
  • College Admissions
  • Financial Aid
  • Scholarship Winners
  • Scholarship Providers

Student-centric advice and objective recommendations

Higher education has never been more confusing or expensive. Our goal is to help you navigate the very big decisions related to higher ed with objective information and expert advice. Each piece of content on the site is original, based on extensive research, and reviewed by multiple editors, including a subject matter expert. This ensures that all of our content is up-to-date, useful, accurate, and thorough.

Our reviews and recommendations are based on extensive research, testing, and feedback. We may receive commission from links on our website, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. You can find a complete list of our partners here .

How to Write a Graduate School Personal Statement (with example!)

how to write a personal statement for university phd

Varonika Ware is a content writer at Scholarships360. Varonika earned her undergraduate degree in Mass Communications at Louisiana State University. During her time at LSU, she worked with the Center of Academic Success to create the weekly Success Sunday newsletter. Varonika also interned at the Louisiana Department of Insurance in the Public Affairs office with some of her graphics appearing in local news articles.

Learn about our editorial policies

how to write a personal statement for university phd

Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

how to write a personal statement for university phd

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

How to Write a Graduate School Personal Statement (with example!)

Congratulations on finishing your bachelor’s degree, and starting the next chapter! You might be thinking about applying to graduate school, and fortunately, it’s very similar to applying to an undergraduate program. However, it’s probably been a few years since you’ve had to write an application essay, so you might be wondering how to write a personal statement for graduate school. If so, this guide is the perfect resource for you! Keep reading below to find out more, and don’t forget to check out the example of a graduate school personal statement.

What is a personal statement?

A personal statement is an essay that encapsulates your personal journey and how that’s shaped who you are as an applicant. They are typically 400-600 words, but can be longer or shorter. 

Be sure not to confuse a personal statement with a statement of purpose as they are two different types of admissions essays. Use this as an opportunity to show colleges what you value and what’s turned you into an ideal student for your desired school. 

What should I write about?

Personal statements are your chance to get, well, personal. While you should answer the prompt in its entirety, you should also write about yourself. Bring a personal element into your essay like family or a story of you overcoming an obstacle. 

Ideally, your story should relate to what you’re trying to accomplish at your graduate school of choice. Tie it all together: your personal experiences, your desired major, and your ideal outcome. 

Tips for writing a personal statement for graduate school

It’s important to start your graduate application as soon as you’re able. Usually, the first round of applications receive the best financial aid packages, so start early! 

Starting sooner can also give you the time to outline your essay and get it read over by your support system. You’ll want it all to be perfect, so don’t rush.

Be transparent

Instead of telling admissions what you think they want to hear, be open and honest about yourself. You want them to understand you, and the only way to do that is to show who you actually are. Offer up personal stories or things that genuinely interest you so that you can show off your sparkling personality!

Be original

Graduate programs are often very competitive since there’s a smaller admissions pool. As a result, your essay should be as original as possible to stand out from the crowd. Tell your story in an organic way, and approach the given prompt with an open mind. 

Related : How to write an essay about yourself

Check your work

It’s extremely important for you to proofread and check for correct spelling and grammar throughout your personal statement. Even simply reading your statement out loud can help you catch any errors and make sure your words flow together. You should also consider having mentors or people within your support system read over your essay to ensure your message is clear.

Common mistakes when writing a graduate school personal statement

Reusing your undergraduate essay .

Reusing your first supplemental essay as a template is a big mistake you want to avoid. Years have passed since then, and you’ve learned new skills and grown as a person and a student. 

The experiences you previously wrote might not resonate with who you are today or tell the graduate team what they want to know about you. It may also have grammatical errors that you might not have noticed before, so take a little extra time to start from scratch and create something new.

Repeating what’s in your resume

It’s likely that your graduate school of choice will require you to upload a copy of your resume as part of your application. Therefore, the admissions committee will already know your professional background, so tell them something else about yourself or provide further depth to a job experience. Repeating yourself only tells them one thing, and you want to be the most well-rounded applicant that you can be.

Graduate school personal statement example

Prompt: Please discuss how your experiences, both personal and professional, have led you to pursue a graduate business degree at this time. What are your short- and long- term goals and how will this program and the J. Mack Robinson College of Business help you achieve these goals? (750 words max)

While many of the applications you receive will detail the many ways that person has been the first to do something, I pose a different perspective: hope to be the last. In other words, you might see me as a first-generation college student, but I see the makings of becoming the last generation to worry about generational wealth in my family. 

Though it is true that I would be the first in my family to get my master’s degree, I’m hoping that my future success means I’ll be the last “first.” It’s not lost on me what this title means, but most of all, it signifies the dawn of an era. A dynasty bred from the struggles and achievements of those before it.

These are big shoes to fill, but I’ve never been afraid of a challenge and the things I’ve learned have helped me secure my future. For example, by observing different business models throughout the years, I found a secret about marketing: people love a product that loves them back. In my case, a product that’s always loved me back were books. I’d fallen in love with bookshelves and bookstores alike, so it only makes sense that a culmination of my love of marketing and books is the goal of one day working in book publishing. I want to know the inner workings of book promotion including design decisions and book tours. Eventually, I plan on working at one of the big publishers such as Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, or Macmillan.

Fortunately, I’ve been given opportunities to decide on my own path, which I hope to execute at Georgia State University. This school’s unique curriculum will be an asset to me since there are classes that specifically cater to buyer behavior, and that’s an area of study I’m particularly interested in. The Social Media Intelligence Lab and social media marketing class will hopefully give me an inside look into influencer marketing and its impact on product profitability. According to your mission statement, GSU educates future leaders, and I want to be a part of that.

As a mentor of mine once said, knowledge is meant to be shared, and if it isn’t, it’s control. I hope to build up the people around me with knowledge and experiences as I go out into the professional world just as I hope this program will do for me. If I’m accepted into this program, I plan on using my creativity and drive for not only my success, but for my family’s as well. There may be times I fall short of a goal, but failure isn’t an option. Each benchmark professors put in front of me will be conquered, and one day, I’ll be one of your notable alumni. 

Why this essay works:

  • The writer clearly researched the school and understands its values
  • The prompt is answered completely and seamlessly
  • The applicant knew their goals and thought of ways to achieve them at the college 
  • This statement communicates not only what the college gains from this applicant’s admission, but also what the applicant gains
  • It’s also well within the word limit

Frequently asked questions about how to write a graduate school personal statement

Do i have to write a personal statement to get into graduate school, how long is graduate school, do i have to take an exam to get into graduate school, scholarships360 recommended.

how to write a personal statement for university phd

10 Tips for Successful College Applications

how to write a personal statement for university phd

Coalition vs. Common App: What is the difference?

how to write a personal statement for university phd

College Application Deadlines 2023-2024: What You Need to Know

Trending now.

how to write a personal statement for university phd

How to Convert Your GPA to a 4.0 Scale

how to write a personal statement for university phd

PSAT to SAT Score Conversion: Predict Your Score

how to write a personal statement for university phd

What Are Public Ivy League Schools?

3 reasons to join scholarships360.

  • Automatic entry to our $10,000 No-Essay Scholarship
  • Personalized matching to thousands of vetted scholarships
  • Quick apply for scholarships exclusive to our platform

By the way...Scholarships360 is 100% free!

how to write a personal statement for university phd

How to Write a Stand-Out Personal Statement for Your Graduate School Application

How to write a personal statement for grad school

While deciding to embark on the path to graduate school is an exciting first step toward advancing your career, the application process can sometimes feel daunting and confusing.

One major part of the application that most schools require is a personal statement. Writing a personal statement can be an arduous task: After all, most people don’t necessarily enjoy writing about themselves, let alone at length.

A compelling personal statement, however, can help bring your application to the top of the admissions pile. Below, we’ve outlined what you need to know about crafting a personal statement to make your application shine.

What Is a Personal Statement?

The point of a personal statement is for the admissions board to gain a deeper understanding of who you are apart from your education and work experience. It explains why you’re the right fit for the program and a worthwhile applicant. It’s also an opportunity to highlight important factors that may not be readily available in the rest of your application.

A personal statement is different from a statement of purpose (if you’re asked for that as well). A statement of purpose will touch on your academic and career goals, as well as your past credentials. While those should also be discussed in your personal statement, it’s more about your life experiences and how they’ve shaped you and your journey to graduate school.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing a Personal Statement

Before you start crafting your essay, there are a few prompts you can ask yourself to help clarify what you want to accomplish.

  • What are the key points you want to communicate about yourself?
  • What personal characteristics or skills do you have that make you a strong candidate for this field?
  • What exactly are your career goals, and how does graduate school play into them?
  • What have you learned about this field already? When did you first choose to follow this path, and what do you enjoy about it?
  • What do you think is important for the admissions board to know specifically about you?
  • Are there any discrepancies or causes for concern in your application you need to address? For example, is there a career and schooling gap, or a low GPA at one point? This is the time to discuss whether a personal hardship may have affected your academics or career.
  • Have you dealt with any unusual obstacles or difficulties in your life? How have they affected and shaped you?
  • What sets you apart and makes you unique from other graduate school applicants?
  • What factors in your life have brought you to where you are today?

Top Tips for Writing a Graduate School Personal Statement

Pick a few points to emphasize about yourself . Introduce yourself to the admissions board. Select key factors about your background that you want the university to know — elements that reveal what kind of person you are and demonstrate why you’re a strong candidate for the school and field of study.

Be very specific . Again, a personal statement is all about communicating what distinguishes you from other applicants. To accomplish that, you need to share specific anecdotes that underscore your statements. If you say you’re a strong leader, present an example of a time you’ve proven that skill through work, school or your personal life. These specific, personal stories provide a deeper understanding of who you are and prove your intentions.

Do your research . Demonstrate what attracted you to the program. If there is a specific faculty member or class that caught your attention, or another aspect of the program that greatly interests you, convey it. This shows you’ve truly researched the school and have a passion for the program.

“Whatever the topic may be, I would recommend writing in a manner that reflects or parallels the institution’s and/or department’s missions, goals and values,” said Moises Cortés, a graduate/international credentials analyst for the Office of Graduate Admission at USC .

Address any gaps or discrepancies . Explain any factors that may have impacted your academic career. If you had an illness or any other personal hardships that affected your grades or work, discuss them. If there is a discrepancy between your grades and your test scores, you can also take the time to go over any extenuating circumstances.

Strike the right tone . While it’s important to give readers a glimpse of your personality, avoid oversharing or revealing intimate details of your life experiences. You should also avoid making jokes or using humorous cliches. Maintain a professional tone throughout your writing.

Start strong and finish strong . As with any piece of writing, you want to draw in your readers immediately. Make sure to start off with an interesting and captivating introduction. Similarly, your conclusion should be a well-written, engaging finish to the essay that highlights any important points.

“ For a personal statement, I think the first and last paragraphs are most important and should always relate the program they are applying to their own experiences and ideas,” Hoon H. Kang, a graduate/international credential analyst with the Office of Graduate Admission, told USC Online.

Proofread, proofread and proofread again . We can’t emphasize enough the importance of rereading your work. Your personal statement is also an analysis of your writing skills, so ensure you have proper grammar and spelling throughout. In addition, we recommend having multiple people look over your statement before submission. They can help with the proofreading (a second person always catches a mistake the writer may miss), give advice about the statement’s structure and content, and confirm it’s the proper recommended length.

Once you’ve considered all of the above and reviewed and edited your personal statement to perfection, it’s time to submit and check off any remaining application requirements, including your resume and letters of recommendation .

Personal statements are arguably one of the most challenging aspects of applying to graduate school, so make sure to revel in this accomplishment and acknowledge your successes.

For more information, visit the  Office of Graduate Admission at USC  and explore  USC Online ’s master’s degrees, doctoral programs and graduate certificates.

  • Statement of Purpose, Personal Statement, and Writing Sample

Details about submitting a statement of purpose, personal statement, and a writing sample as part of your degree program application

  • Dissertation
  • Fellowships
  • Maximizing Your Degree
  • Before You Arrive
  • First Weeks at Harvard
  • Harvard Speak
  • Pre-Arrival Resources for New International Students
  • Alumni Council
  • Student Engagement
  • English Proficiency
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Transcripts
  • After Application Submission
  • Applying to the Visiting Students Program
  • Admissions Policies
  • Cost of Attendance
  • Express Interest
  • Campus Safety
  • Commencement
  • Diversity & Inclusion Fellows
  • Student Affinity Groups
  • Recruitment and Outreach
  • Find Your Financial Aid Officer
  • Funding and Aid
  • Financial Wellness
  • Consumer Information
  • Life Sciences
  • Policies (Student Handbook)
  • Student Center
  • Title IX and Gender Equity

Statement of Purpose 

The statement of purpose is very important to programs when deciding whether to admit a candidate. Your statement should be focused, informative, and convey your research interests and qualifications. You should describe your reasons and motivations for pursuing a graduate degree in your chosen degree program, noting the experiences that shaped your research ambitions, indicating briefly your career objectives, and concisely stating your past work in your intended field of study and in related fields. Your degree program of interest may have specific guidance or requirements for the statement of purpose, so be sure to review the degree program page for more information. Unless otherwise noted, your statement should not exceed 1,000 words. 

Personal Statement

A core part of the Harvard Griffin GSAS mission is to identify and attract the most promising students to form a dynamic and diverse community. We are committed to educating individuals who reflect the growing diversity of perspectives and life experiences represented in society today and who will contribute to our commitment to sustain a welcoming, supportive, and inclusive environment. Please share how your experiences or activities will advance our mission and commitment. Your statement should be no longer than 500 words.

Writing Sample 

Please visit Degree Programs and navigate to your degree program of interest to determine if a writing sample is required. When preparing your writing sample, be sure to follow program requirements, which may include format, topic, or length. 

Share this page

Explore events.

At home, abroad, working, interning?  Wherever you are this summer, contact OCS or make an appointment for a virtual advising session. We are available all summer! 

  • Undergraduates
  • Ph.Ds & Postdocs
  • Prospective Students & Guests
  • What is a Community?
  • Student Athletes
  • First Generation and/or Low Income Students
  • International Students
  • LGBTQ Students
  • Students of Color
  • Students with Disabilities
  • Student Veterans
  • Exploring Careers
  • Advertising, Marketing & PR
  • Finance, Insurance & Real Estate
  • General Management & Leadership Development Programs
  • Law & Legal Services
  • Startups, Entrepreneurship & Freelance Work
  • Environment, Sustainability & Energy
  • Media & Communications
  • Policy & Think Tanks
  • Engineering
  • Healthcare, Biotech & Global Public Health
  • Life & Physical Sciences
  • Programming & Data Science
  • Graduate School
  • Health Professions
  • Business School
  • Meet with OCS
  • Student Organizations Workshop Request
  • OCS Podcast Series
  • Office of Fellowships
  • Navigating AI in the Job Search Process
  • Cover Letters & Correspondence
  • Job Market Insights
  • Professional Conduct & Etiquette
  • Professional Online Identity
  • Interview Preparation
  • Resource Database
  • Yale Career Link
  • Jobs, Internships & Other Experiences
  • Gap Year & Short-Term Opportunities
  • Planning an International Internship
  • Funding Your Experience
  • Career Fairs/Networking Events
  • On-Campus Recruiting
  • Job Offers & Salary Negotiation
  • Informational Interviewing
  • Peer Networking Lists
  • Building Your LinkedIn Profile
  • YC First Destinations
  • YC Four-Year Out
  • GSAS Program Statistics
  • Statistics & Reports
  • Contact OCS
  • OCS Mission & Policies
  • Additional Yale Career Offices

Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School

  • Share This: Share Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School on Facebook Share Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School on LinkedIn Share Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School on X

Personal Statements

Preparing a well-written and effective personal statement (sometimes referred to as statements of purpose or personal essays) that clearly articulates your preparation, goals, and motivation for pursuing that specific graduate degree is critically important. You will need to spend a considerable amount of time and effort in crafting these statements. The focus, structure, and length of personal statements vary from program to program. Some will have prompts or questions you need to answer, while others will leave the topic open-ended. The length varies widely as well. Read instructions carefully and make sure to adhere to all parameters laid out in the application guidelines.

Clear writing is the result of clear thinking. The first and most important task is to decide on a message. Consider carefully which two or three points you wish to impress upon the reader, remembering that your audience is composed of academics who are experts in their fields. Your statement should show that you are able to think logically and express your thoughts in a clear and concise manner. Remember that the reader already has a record of your activities and your transcript; avoid simply restating your resume and transcript. Writing your statement will take time; start early and give yourself more than enough time for revisions. If no prompts are given, you can use the questions below to begin brainstorming content to include in your statement; for more information, see our Writing Personal Statement presentation Prezi  and our three-minute video on Writing Personal Statements .

  • What experiences and academic preparation do you have that are relevant to the degree you’re seeking?
  • Why are you choosing to pursue a graduate degree at this time?
  • Why do you want to pursue this particular degree and how will this degree and the specific program fit into your career plans and your long-term goals?
  • What specific topics are you aiming to explore and what does the current literature say about those topics?

After you’ve written a first draft, start the work of editing, refining, simplifying, and polishing. Provide specific examples that will help illustrate your points and convey your interests, intentions, and motivations. Is any section, sentence, or word superfluous, ambiguous, apologetic, or awkward? Are your verbs strong and active? Have you removed most of the qualifiers? Are you sure that each activity or interest you mention supports one of your main ideas? Spelling and grammatical errors are inexcusable. Don’t rely on spell-check to catch all errors; read your statement aloud and have it reviewed by multiple people whose opinion you trust. If possible, have your statement reviewed by a writing tutor. For individual assistance with writing your personal statement, consult with the writing tutor in your residential college  or the Writing Center within the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning .

' src=

Office of Career Strategy

Visiting yale.

Biomedical Graduate Education

Writing an Effective Personal Statement for PhD Graduate Programs

Personal statements should be a reflection of your academic skills, success, and goals.

By Kaela Singleton Doctoral Candidate in Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience

A personal statement is one of the most important components of any doctoral graduate school application. This post will guide you with some general steps to get you started with generating a personal statement that is concise, reflects your academic success, and emphasizes your goals for graduate school. The individual graduate programs will provide writing prompts that detail exactly what you should address in your statement, so be sure you touch on everything that they want you to cover!

Before you start writing

  • Update your CV:  Having a complete list of your accomplishments will make it easier to include and exclude information from your personal statement. Your CV can be used as a timeline of your achievements, and therefore an outline to how your past experiences have prepared you for graduate school. For guidance on CV writing, see  7 Tips for Writing a Successful CV.
  • Research Graduate Schools of Interest:  Gain insight into the coursework, faculty, and student life for each program you are considering. Using the program website, generate a list of qualities that appeal to you about each school you’re applying to. Emphasize how and why these qualities contribute to your decision to apply to this program. This list should include research and faculty members that interest you as well as any other pros (i.e. location, cohort size, post-graduate jobs etc.)
  • Create a team of editors:  Your personal statement will be read by faculty members and graduate students studying different topics within the program. Therefore, your personal statement should be compelling to a broad audience. Ask peers, mentors and advisors from various disciplines well in advance to edit and provide feedback on your statement.

Now start writing

Introduction.

The goal is to engage your reader with a quick synopsis of who you are, what you want out of graduate school, and your qualifications to join this specific program.

  • Introduce yourself and identify your academic interests:  Provide a brief introduction of yourself and your academic interests. If you have a personal anecdote that explains how you became interested in science and research, start there. These “narrative hook” anecdotes engage the reader and set up a great platform to describe the motivation behind your experiences. Then go into your academic interests, which can be a couple of sentences broadly stating your research interests.  
  • Emphasize your skills and overall goals:  Use both your research on the program and CV to highlight how your skill set will complement and grow from participation in this program. Speak in broad terms, showcasing how your goals align with the overall mission of the program.

THE BODY PARAGRAPHS

The goal is to expand on the points you mentioned within the introduction. Provide concrete examples of how past and present experiences led you to writing this application.

  • Explain how you became interested in your particular scientific field:  Highlight key moments that encouraged you to apply to graduate school. This can be the very start of your interests in the field or from skills and knowledge that you gained from internships, research experiences, or coursework and class discussions.
  • Describe your prior research experiences and importantly what you learned from each experience:  Provide a past experience where you used and developed a new skill that is pertinent to your ability to conduct research. Be sure to explain how this skill will be useful for your future in graduate school. It is critical to discuss what you learned from experience and to be as specific and concise as possible.  For example: I worked with Dr. A at institution B. My work focused on C. The project entailed D, E and F techniques. From this experience, I learned G. This taught me F about my decision to attend graduate school. 

In the conclusion paragraph, you should discuss what you learned about the graduate school program that you are applying for. Highlight specific faculty members or courses listed that excite you, and re-emphasize your goals.

  • Summarize your qualifications and experiences:  Bring everything together here. Emphasize the skills you currently have and how joining this program will aide in continuing your success. 
  • Personalize:  In this final paragraph, include specific faculty and program qualities that appeal to you as an applicant. Show that you have researched specific faculty or courses that will aide in your future training. Also be sure to discuss your career goals. 
  • Edit:  Proofread and edit. Send your statement out to friends, faculty advisors, and people outside of your discipline. 

Personal statements should tell your story and be compelling across fields. Remember that a PhD program trains you to build and utilize scientific skills to advance research. You won’t want to try to convince the reader that you’ll cure cancer or discover the flu vaccine. Instead, focus on persuading readers that graduate training is right for you, and that the accompanying enrichment of your research skillset will help you reach your academic and professional goals.

how to write a personal statement for university phd

More Career Advice

Learn from faculty, staff, postdocs, students and alumni through our Career Catalyst blog.

Writing Personal Statements for Ph.D. Programs

Introduction

So you’ve decided to apply to a Ph.D. program—how exciting! While the application process can be harrowing at times, being accepted to a graduate school that is a good fit for your interests and skills is a privilege that will be well worth your efforts.

Before we get too wrapped up in the future, though, let’s return to the task at hand: writing a thoughtful personal statement that compellingly represents your academic journey and makes a persuasive case for your admission. This page will orient you to the process of writing a personal statement. The subsequent pages in this section will give you some general guidelines for constructing a convincing statement.

The advice on these pages is designed for students who are applying to Ph.D. programs in the U.S. While some of what we say may be applicable for graduate school applications to master’s degree programs, professional schools (like business school, law school, or medical school), or other kinds of courses of study, keep in mind that some (or many!) aspects of these applications may be different.

Although the title of this page mentions personal statements, the truth is that each department has different names for the essays they require for admission. Some departments require only a personal statement, others will ask for a personal statement and a research statement, still others will request only a statement of purpose (among other permutations!). While the personal statement, statement of research, and statement of purpose may seem like different essays altogether, this is not always the case. For this reason, it is critical that you read through the admissions guidelines for each program you are applying to. Carefully dissecting and understanding the criteria for each part of the application is an important part of applying to graduate school.

If you have any question about the kind of essay a school requires, your first defense should be your advisor (a professor in the field to which you are applying). Together, you can strategize about the requirements for the essay and can determine if you should reach out to the graduate coordinator for clarification.

That being said, this guide will focus primarily on personal statements, which we will define as essays in which applicants give details about their interest in an academic discipline and intellectual journey. Applicants may also be asked to write about challenges they have faced or the kinds of academic questions that most interest them. These statements’ main purpose is to convince admissions committee that the applicant is a good match for graduate work.

As you write your personal statement, be sure to read through these pages:

  • Before you begin: useful tips for writing your essay
  • Guided brainstorming exercises
  • Get more help with your essay
  • Frequently Asked Questions

The Writing Process and a Suggested Timeline

Now that we know what we’re talking about, let’s think about how you will actually write this statement. What follows is a brief outline of one process for writing a personal statement. Keep in mind, though, that everyone is different. You may find that you are able to rigidly follow this process and timeline, but this also may not be the case.

Before you start your applications, think carefully about the kinds of writing you have done in the past. What kinds of writing processes have worked for you? What hasn’t? At what point in the day or week can you get the most work done? When are you not usually as productive?

Based on your answers to these kinds of questions, create a schedule for yourself and set deadlines for completing writing goals (like finishing a first draft of your personal statement, for example). Transcribe this schedule onto a physical calendar, your phone’s calendar application, or a boatload of sticky notes—whatever makes the most sense for you. Just make sure that you can see easily see your schedule in the places where you work.

One last note: try to build in extra time. Most students applying to Ph.D. programs are able to quickly write short essays, so you may be tempted to assume that you’ll also be able to write your personal statement without devoting too much time or effort to this process. Although personal statements are short, they’ll require more time than you might expect. This kind of writing is hard word—and can be emotional, especially because you’ll need to share your statement with tough critical reviewers. Sometimes, too, these reviewers may take a while to get back to you with feedback, so make sure that your schedule can accommodate these anomalies.

What follows is a suggested (and we think, realistic!) timeline for crafting a compelling personal statement based on the assumption that applications are due in December. Here, we’ve outlined a rough schedule that covers when you should start a particular element of the writing process, but we haven’t attempted to say how long each element will take. (For example, we say that you should write the first draft of your personal statement in August, but we don’t say how many hours you should devote to completing this draft.) We hope that you will use the schedule below to create your own calendar that includes your own estimates for the amount of time each element of the writing process will take. For example, you may want to schedule four two-hour writing sessions in August that you can use to write your first draft. Once you have a sense of how long it takes to write this kind of draft, you can tailor your calendar to your own writing habits.

March: Schedule a meeting with an expert in your intended field (usually an advisor and/or a professor with whom you’ve developed a close relationship) and let them know that you’re planning on applying to graduate school. During this meeting, be prepared to explain why you are interested in doing an advanced research degree and to talk about the specific fields or subfields within the discipline that you’d like to pursue. It’s a good idea to ask about this expert’s experience in graduate school and for advice about your intended programs. May: Ask professors or others who know you well and can speak to the quality of your work if they’d be willing to write a letter of recommendation for you in the fall. This is usually best done in person. Read “Before you Begin: Useful Tips for Writing your Essay” and “Frequently Asked Questions.” The Summer: Brainstorm for your personal statement and do research about the programs to which you’d like to apply. Many students have said that they’ve found it useful to create a spreadsheet that contains all of the relevant information for each program and school. Complete the “Guided Brainstorming Exercises.” August: Write the first draft of your personal statement. Remember that first drafts—since they really are only your first foray into writing this particular genre—can and should be messy! Don’t try to perfect your writing immediately. Instead, write a shaggy draft and just aim to get your thoughts on the page. September and October: Polish up your draft a bit and then meet with the people who are writing your recommendations and ask them to read it over. See “Get more Help with your Statement” for more information. November: Wrap up your final edits. Make sure that someone has seen the final version of each of your statements to ensure that it is clear and error-free. December: Send in your personal statements!

Academic and Professional Writing

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Analysis Papers

Resume Writing Tips

CV Writing Tips

Cover Letters

Business Letters

Grant Proposals

Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics

Additional Resources for Grants and Proposal Writing

Job Materials and Application Essays

Proposals and dissertations.

Planning and Writing Research Papers

Quoting and Paraphrasing

Incorporating Interview Data

Writing Annotated Bibliographies

Creating Poster Presentations

Research Papers

Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper

Thank-You Notes

Advice for Students Writing Thank-You Notes to Donors

Reading for a Review

Critical Reviews

Writing a Review of Literature

Scientific Reports

Scientific Report Format

Sample Lab Assignment

Writing for the Web

Writing an Effective Blog Post

Writing for Social Media: A Guide for Academics

woman shaking man's hand in a professional setting

Writing the Personal Statement

Helpful tips and advice for drafting a compelling personal statement when applying for graduate admission.

Make sure to check the appropriate program website to find out if your statement should include additional or specific information.

What does this statement need to accomplish?

The personal statement should give concrete evidence of your promise as a member of the academic community, giving the committee an image of you as a person.

This is also where you represent your potential to bring to your academic career a critical perspective rooted in a non-traditional educational background, or your understanding of the experiences of groups historically under-represented in higher education and your commitment to increase participation by a diverse population in higher education.

What kinds of content belongs here?

Anything that can give reviewers a sense of you as a person belongs here; you can repeat information about your experiences in your research statement, but any experiences that show your promise, initiative, and ability to persevere despite obstacles belongs here. This is also a good place to display your communication skills and discuss your ability to maximize effective collaboration with a diverse cross-section of the academic community. If you have faced any obstacles or barriers in your education, sharing those experiences serves both for the selection process, and for your nomination for fellowships. If one part of your academic record is not ideal, due to challenges you faced in that particular area, this is where you can explain that, and direct reviewers’ attention to the evidence of your promise for higher education.

The basic message: your academic achievement despite challenges

It is especially helpful for admissions committees considering nominating you for fellowships for diversity if you discuss any or all of the following:

  • Demonstrated significant academic achievement by overcoming barriers such as economic, social, or educational disadvantage;
  • attendance at a minority serving institution;
  • ability to articulate the barriers facing women and minorities in science and engineering fields;
  • participation in higher education pipeline programs such as, UC Leads, or McNair Scholars;
  • Academic service advancing equitable access to higher education for women and racial minorities in fields where they are underrepresented;
  • Leadership experience among students from groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education;
  • research that addresses issues such as race, gender, diversity, and inclusion;
  • research that addresses health disparities, educational access and achievement, political engagement, economic justice, social mobility, civil and human rights, and other questions of interest to historically underrepresented groups;
  • artistic expression and cultural production that reflects culturally diverse communities or voices not well represented in the arts and humanities.

PhD Personal Statements

What Is a PhD Personal Statement?

How to structure your personal statement, final thoughts, phd personal statements.

Updated March 14, 2023

Edward Melett

When applying for a PhD position, a personal statement is often required. This can be the case whether you are applying for an advertised PhD research project or with a personally devised project.

This personal statement is separate from your PhD research proposal, which will go into much greater detail about the PhD project you are proposing or applying to undertake.

This article will delve into what to your PhD personal statement should contain and how to structure it for the best chance of success.

A PhD personal statement will support your application and is intended to shed more light on your motivations, academic background/ achievements and personal strengths .

Your statement will most likely be read by the admissions tutor for the department, who, based on your statement and research proposal, will decide whether your application should progress to the next stage of the process.

A personal statement will not always be required, so make sure to check the requirements for your institution and department.

What Should a PhD Personal Statement Contain?

When writing your PhD personal statement, you will need to convey your suitability for the programme or position, indicating that you have the academic ability, background knowledge and drive to take on a project of this level of complexity.

Statements are expected to be heavily related to the discipline and research angle being proposed. Your statement should draw out the strands of your previous exploration and research and illustrate what led you to apply to complete this particular PhD project.

It should discuss your interest in the subject matter, your academic interests within the field and your motivations for applying to the institution in question.

Below is a list of topics that need to be addressed in your personal statement .

The examples provided are for illustrative purposes only. It is important that your writing is grounded in your own experiences and aspirations, and consistently linked to your research proposal.

1. Why You Want to Do This PhD

It is important to talk about your motivations for undertaking the project, along with an awareness of the challenges you may experience, as this will display your drive for completing your research.

Directly reference your research proposal, talking about how your current or previous studies relate and have prepared you to undertake this project.

The strongest argument for why you want to undertake the PhD will come from the arc of your academic research and displaying a genuine enthusiasm for advancing the research of your chosen field.

During my master’s degree at the University of Nottingham, I had two primary focuses: cultural behaviours and social media impacts. I was interested in how culture reacts under new stimuli, so I wrote my dissertation on how cultural practices can be newly read through the lens of media platforms. My proposed research proposal takes this theoretical and desk-based research a step further, exploring the reflections of the specific cultural practice of...

2. How Your Work Will Benefit the University

When applying for a PhD, what you will bring to the university as a junior academic is an important factor in the decision-making process. You will not just be a student but a member of the department, most likely with teaching responsibilities.

The faculty will want to know that you can meaningfully contribute to the department through both your research and teaching.

If your work links into other PhD projects currently being supervised, or to the research of a senior academic or professor, it is good to indicate these connections and the potential they hold – whether this is in terms of supportive research, a complementary strand or a new angle or perspective.

If there is an academic whose work you are particularly interested in and you have not already indicated that you would like the opportunity to work alongside them, highlight this. Display that you are knowledgeable about the department’s current research interests, specialities and standing.

Since beginning my MSc research and developing a more specific interest in mangrove restoration, I have closely followed the research being conducted by Professor Stephens into restoration and wave attenuation. As I subsequently elaborate upon in my research proposal, I believe that my project fruitfully intersects with this research. It aims to make a meaningful contribution to a department world-renowned for its research into marine and coastal climate change impacts.

3. Why You Want to Study for a PhD at This University

It is important to convey why you want to conduct your research specifically at the institution you are applying to. Admissions will want to know that you have thought carefully about your application and know exactly what undertaking a PhD with their department will involve.

Conveying this intersects with the sentiments of the above point, as you should display that you have investigated the work of the professors in the department and are aware of any individual research groups or projects that relate to your work. These intersections help to show why the university is the best choice for you.

I believe that the University of Cardiff offers the best reciprocal environment in which to grow and diversify my approach to this research. Working alongside my supervisor, I intend to tap into the departmental expertise on biodiversity mapping and – using the framework of the 2019 report by Fischer, Raymond and Wills – reveal new insights by building upon the current research.

4. Why You Are the Best Candidate

The PhD personal statement is an opportunity to promote yourself, so it needs to be specific, personal and unique – nobody else has your history, aspirations or skill set, so explain what it is about you that makes you best suited to this endeavour.

When stating that you possess certain skills, back them up with concrete examples or explanations that are unique to you.

Be wary of making your personal statement too general or simply writing what you believe the admissions team want to hear. There are no correct answers, perfect CVs or ideal academic paths to have followed to reach this point. Your personal statement should reflect your journey and what you have gained from it, segues and unconventional routes included.

During my English Literature master’s degree, I focused on videogames and late medieval literature. I could see at that point that literary studies had a lot to offer the study of games and that games provided interesting new angles for applying longstanding theoretical approaches and fields. This led me to complete a further master’s degree in videogames as I sought to apply my research in a more specific and digitally focused arena. I found, because of my background in humanities and literary theory, that I possessed a perspective that my fellow empirically-minded colleagues, with backgrounds in coding, lacked. Using this unique perspective, I am now seeking to develop the research of my master’s dissertation through a PhD project

how to write a personal statement for university phd

5. What You Learned During Your past Degrees and the Skills You Developed

To get to this stage, you will have already spent many years devoted to studying and growing your interest in your subject matter, so sell yourself and your talents. Think about the individual and group projects you have undertaken and the skills they helped you to develop and hone.

Remember to be specific and relate your skill set back to your proposed PhD project. For example, talk about the methodological approaches you have used previously to yield results, the new connections and collaboration you fostered across disciplines, or the positive impact made by projects you were involved in.

Your examples will vary greatly depending upon your academic background and the PhD you wish to complete but, regardless of topic, it is important to reveal your high level of skill and competence.

During my MSc, I conducted fieldwork in [location] and gained direct experience of collecting samples for paleolimnological analysis. I developed an aptitude for rapid algal species analysis and enjoyed the challenge of comparing this population data across cores and sample locations. This practical background has enabled me to be confident in my ability to source and analyse the sediment cores I require for this PhD project.

6. Any Explanations for Lower Grades (If Applicable)

If you have any extenuating circumstances for any results or grades, do not be afraid to explain the situation in your statement. Be honest about your struggles or challenges and seek to convey how you have grown as a consequence of these.

7. Your Future Plans

It is important to have thought carefully about your plans for life after your doctorate, as displaying clear goals will help the admissions team to determine that you have the correct motivations for applying.

Having a considered path you intend to follow beyond your proposed research gives confidence in your dedication to the project. Someone with articulated ambitions is more likely to be committed to the programme in the face of challenges.

If you wish to pursue a career in academia, as many PhD graduates do, show that you are aware of what this will involve. If you have a different industry path in mind, don’t be afraid to share it in your statement. PhDs can lead on to a variety of different career paths, so impress the admissions team with your aspirations of practical application.

The university will also want to ensure they can provide you with the skills and training you require to be successful and reach your goals. Letting the department know early on about your aspirations can help to ensure that the tailored support you will require can be provided.

After completing my PhD here, I intend to pursue an academic career within an architectural faculty in the UK. If the opportunity is available, I will be looking to apply for a lecturing position within this department. I am, however, acutely aware of the fierce competition in this field. I will be proactively seeking legacy funding for my research project as its potential to inform the typologies of housing used for settlement upgrading extends well beyond the timescale of this PhD.

If you are applying to more than one institution, which is highly likely, ensure that you tailor your personal statement to each university. Taking the time to craft a statement that speaks to the specificities of the university and the research of the teaching department will exponentially increase your chances of moving on to the next stage in the admissions process.

Below are our tips for structuring your PhD statement. You must ensure that you are aware of all the requirements set out by the university to which you are making your application, as these will influence the structure and content of the piece.

Step 1 . Structure

PhD applicants are expected to be highly adept at writing, so it is paramount that your personal statement is carefully constructed and reflects your ability for written communication .

The university you are applying to may provide you with a word count , or it may be stipulated by the space allowed on an online application form . Check if this is the case, as it is far easier to write to a specific word limit rather than having to make extreme edits to a piece that exceeds accepted length.

A PhD personal statement should be approximately one to one-and-a-half pages in length and be split into clear and concise paragraphs. If a sentence does not add value to the personal statement, omit it.

As a guide, aim for between four and six paragraphs , depending on their length. As previously indicated, it is best to keep paragraphs shorter rather than longer, as this will make your statement easier and more enjoyable for the admissions team to read.

Open your personal statement with a context-setting introduction regarding your academic interests and what has led you to apply for this research project. Seek to convey a real sense of yourself, so that those who read your statement can get a genuine sense of the student and junior academic you will be.

In the middle paragraphs , explore your motivations in greater detail, along with the qualities that make you a suitable candidate– with examples of when you displayed them.

It is important to provide a closing paragraph , bringing together the strands in your statement to solidly iterate why you are the right candidate.

Although it is best to avoid clichés and keep your writing original and interesting, conclude your personal statement by thanking the admissions tutor for taking the time to read your statement and considering your application.

Step 2 . Tone

When writing your statement, use a formal tone , correct grammar and appropriate language.

Colloquial and familiar language should be avoided. It is important to talk about your past academic and, perhaps, fieldwork or research experiences, but keep these professional in tone rather than anecdotal.

Ask someone to read through your statement to sense-check the tone and language used. It is always good to get a new perspective, particularly on a piece you spent a long time crafting.

Ensure you thoroughly check your grammar and spelling using the spell check function on your computer and also by eye. If including complex academic terminology, double-check that your terms are spelt correctly and have not been mistyped or incorrectly recognised and changed by your computer.

Writing a personal statement that accurately reflects your achievements, abilities and drive to take on your PhD can be a difficult task.

It is important to leave yourself enough time to write a draft statement so you can receive outside feedback, review it yourself and make the necessary improvements to ensure your piece does your potential as a PhD student justice.

Demonstrate your suitability for doctoral work with a personal statement that is personal to you and your unique experience and skills. A carefully thought-out, well-structured and well-evidenced statement will sell yourself and your academic abilities.

Seek to connect with those who read your application, explaining why your journey has equipped you for completing a PhD you will be proud of.

You might also be interested in these other Wikijob articles:

The 10 PhD Interview Questions You Might Be Asked

Or explore the Postgraduate / PHD sections.

Wisteria around a window

How to write a personal statement

How to approach writing your personal statement for graduate applications.

If you’re applying for a grad course that requires a personal statement (sometimes also called a ‘statement of purpose’), it can be difficult to know where to start and what to include. Read on for tips from some of our masters’ students about their process and what they found helpful.

1. Before you start

The academic work is the most important reason why we’re here, but that also translates into work experiences, internships, volunteering. I think a big part of the personal statement is crafting that narrative of academic self that fits alongside your professional experiences, to give that greater picture of who you are as an academic. Lauren (MSc Modern Middle Eastern Studies)

Start by thinking about the skills, knowledge and interests you’ve acquired over time and how the course at Oxford will take them forward.

Your statement is the story you want to tell about yourself and your academic work to the department you are applying to.

Most of your application and its supporting documents communicate plain facts about your academic career so far. Your personal statement is your best opportunity to put these facts into context and show assessors how you’ve progressed and excelled.

Make sure you highlight evidence of your achievements (a high grade in a relevant area, an award or scholarship, a research internship).

Presenting yourself

When I was writing my personal statement, I went onto my course website. I looked at what they emphasised and what kind of students they were looking for, and I wrote about my experiences based on that. Kayla (MSc in Clinical Embryology)

Make it easy for an assessor to see how you meet the entry requirements for the course (you can find these on each course page ).

Don’t make any assumptions about what Oxford is looking for!

Get to know your department

You want to study this particular subject and you want to study at Oxford (you’re applying here, so we know that!) but why is Oxford the right place for you to study this subject? What interests or qualities of the academic department and its staff make it attractive to you?

Use your academic department’s website for an overview of their research, academic staff and course information (you'll find a link to the department's own website on each course page ).

I said, ‘why do I actually want to be here? What is it about being at Oxford that’s going to get me to what I want to do? Sarah (Bachelor of Civil Law)

Talk it out

Talking to others about your statement can be a great way to gather your ideas and decide how you’d like to approach it. Sarah even managed to get benefit out of this approach by herself:

“I spent a lot of time talking out loud. My written process was actually very vocal, so I did a lot of talking about myself in my room.”

2. The writing process

Know your format.

Make sure you’ve read all the guidance on the How to Apply section of your course page , so you know what’s needed in terms of the word count of the final statement, what it should cover and what it will be assessed for. This should help you to visualise roughly what you want to end up with at the end of the process.

Make a start

When it comes to writing your personal statement, just getting started can be the hardest part.

One good way to get around writer’s block is to just put it all down on the page, like Mayur.

First - write down anything and everything. In the first round, I was just dumping everything - whatever I’ve done, anything close to computer science, that was on my personal statement. Mayur (MSc Computer Science)

You’ll be editing later anyway so don’t let the blank page intimidate you - try writing a little under each of the following headings to get started:

  • areas of the course at Oxford that are the most interesting to you
  • which areas you’ve already studied or had some experience in
  • what you hope to use your Oxford course experience for afterwards.

3. Finishing up

Get some feedback.

Once you’ve got a draft of about the right length, ask for feedback on what you’ve written. It might take several drafts to get it right.

This could involve getting in touch with some of your undergraduate professors to ask them to read your draft and find any areas which needed strengthening.

You could also show it to people who know you well, like family or friends.

Because they’re the first people to say, ‘Who is that person?’ You want the people around you to recognise that it really sounds like you. It can be scary telling family and friends you’re applying for Oxford, because it makes it real, but be brave enough to share it and get feedback on it. Sarah (Bachelor of Law)

Be yourself

Finally - be genuine and be yourself. Make sure your personal statement represents you, not your idea about what Oxford might be looking for.

We have thousands of students arriving every year from a huge range of subjects, backgrounds, institutions and countries (you can hear from a few more of them in our My Oxford interviews).

Get moving on your application today

To find out more about supporting documents and everything else you need to apply, read your course page and visit our Application Guide .

Applicant advice hub

This content was previously available through our  Applicant advice hub . The hub contained links to articles hosted on our  Graduate Study at Oxford Medium channel . We've moved the articles that support the application process into this new section of our website.

  • Application Guide: Statement of purpose

Can't find what you're looking for?

If you have a query about graduate admissions at Oxford, we're here to help:

Ask a question

Privacy Policy

Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy

Testimonials

Free Resources

PrepScholar GRE Prep

Gre prep online guides and tips, 3 successful graduate school personal statement examples.

how to write a personal statement for university phd

Looking for grad school personal statement examples? Look no further! In this total guide to graduate school personal statement examples, we’ll discuss why you need a personal statement for grad school and what makes a good one. Then we’ll provide three graduate school personal statement samples from our grad school experts. After that, we’ll do a deep dive on one of our personal statement for graduate school examples. Finally, we’ll wrap up with a list of other grad school personal statements you can find online.

Why Do You Need a Personal Statement?

A personal statement is a chance for admissions committees to get to know you: your goals and passions, what you’ll bring to the program, and what you’re hoping to get out of the program.  You need to sell the admissions committee on what makes you a worthwhile applicant. The personal statement is a good chance to highlight significant things about you that don’t appear elsewhere on your application.

A personal statement is slightly different from a statement of purpose (also known as a letter of intent). A statement of purpose/letter of intent tends to be more tightly focused on your academic or professional credentials and your future research and/or professional interests.

While a personal statement also addresses your academic experiences and goals, you have more leeway to be a little more, well, personal. In a personal statement, it’s often appropriate to include information on significant life experiences or challenges that aren’t necessarily directly relevant to your field of interest.

Some programs ask for both a personal statement and a statement of purpose/letter of intent. In this case, the personal statement is likely to be much more tightly focused on your life experience and personality assets while the statement of purpose will focus in much more on your academic/research experiences and goals.

However, there’s not always a hard-and-fast demarcation between a personal statement and a statement of purpose. The two statement types should address a lot of the same themes, especially as relates to your future goals and the valuable assets you bring to the program. Some programs will ask for a personal statement but the prompt will be focused primarily on your research and professional experiences and interests. Some will ask for a statement of purpose but the prompt will be more focused on your general life experiences.

When in doubt, give the program what they are asking for in the prompt and don’t get too hung up on whether they call it a personal statement or statement of purpose. You can always call the admissions office to get more clarification on what they want you to address in your admissions essay.

Quick side note: we've created the world's leading online GRE prep program that adapts to you and your strengths and weaknesses. Not sure what to study? Confused by how to improve your score? We give you minute by minute guide.

You don't NEED a prep program to get a great GRE score. But we believe PrepScholar is the best GRE prep program available right now , especially if you find it hard to organize your study schedule and don't know what to study .

Click here to learn how you can improve your GRE score by 7 points, guaranteed .

falcon-2339877_640

What Makes a Good Grad School Personal Statement?

A great graduate school personal statement can come in many forms and styles. However, strong grad school personal statement examples all share the same following elements:

A Clear Narrative

Above all, a good personal statement communicates clear messages about what makes you a strong applicant who is likely to have success in graduate school. So to that extent, think about a couple of key points that you want to communicate about yourself and then drill down on how you can best communicate those points. (Your key points should of course be related to what you can bring to the field and to the program specifically).

You can also decide whether to address things like setbacks or gaps in your application as part of your narrative. Have a low GPA for a couple semesters due to a health issue? Been out of a job for a while taking care of a family member? If you do decide to explain an issue like this, make sure that the overall arc is more about demonstrating positive qualities like resilience and diligence than about providing excuses.

Specific Examples

A great statement of purpose uses specific examples to illustrate its key messages. This can include anecdotes that demonstrate particular traits or even references to scholars and works that have influenced your academic trajectory to show that you are familiar and insightful about the relevant literature in your field.

Just saying “I love plants,” is pretty vague. Describing how you worked in a plant lab during undergrad and then went home and carefully cultivated your own greenhouse where you cross-bred new flower colors by hand is much more specific and vivid, which makes for better evidence.

A strong personal statement will describe why you are a good fit for the program, and why the program is a good fit for you. It’s important to identify specific things about the program that appeal to you, and how you’ll take advantage of those opportunities. It’s also a good idea to talk about specific professors you might be interested in working with. This shows that you are informed about and genuinely invested in the program.

Strong Writing

Even quantitative and science disciplines typically require some writing, so it’s important that your personal statement shows strong writing skills. Make sure that you are communicating clearly and that you don’t have any grammar and spelling errors. It’s helpful to get other people to read your statement and provide feedback. Plan on going through multiple drafts.

Another important thing here is to avoid cliches and gimmicks. Don’t deploy overused phrases and openings like “ever since I was a child.” Don’t structure your statement in a gimmicky way (i.e., writing a faux legal brief about yourself for a law school statement of purpose). The first will make your writing banal; the second is likely to make you stand out in a bad way.

Appropriate Boundaries

While you can be more personal in a personal statement than in a statement of purpose, it’s important to maintain appropriate boundaries in your writing. Don’t overshare anything too personal about relationships, bodily functions, or illegal activities. Similarly, don’t share anything that makes it seem like you may be out of control, unstable, or an otherwise risky investment. The personal statement is not a confessional booth. If you share inappropriately, you may seem like you have bad judgment, which is a huge red flag to admissions committees.

You should also be careful with how you deploy humor and jokes. Your statement doesn’t have to be totally joyless and serious, but bear in mind that the person reading the statement may not have the same sense of humor as you do. When in doubt, err towards the side of being as inoffensive as possible.

Just as being too intimate in your statement can hurt you, it’s also important not to be overly formal or staid. You should be professional, but conversational.

fence-1670087_640

Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

Our graduate school experts have been kind enough to provide some successful grad school personal statement examples. We’ll provide three examples here, along with brief analysis of what makes each one successful.

Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 1

PDF of Sample Personal Statement 1 – Japanese Studies

For this Japanese Studies master’s degree, the applicant had to provide a statement of purpose outlining her academic goals and experience with Japanese and a separate personal statement describing her personal relationship with Japanese Studies and what led her to pursue a master’s degree.

Here’s what’s successful about this personal statement:

  • An attention-grabbing beginning: The applicant begins with the statement that Japanese has never come easily to her and that it’s a brutal language to learn. Seeing as how this is an application for a Japanese Studies program, this is an intriguing beginning that makes the reader want to keep going.
  • A compelling narrative: From this attention-grabbing beginning, the applicant builds a well-structured and dramatic narrative tracking her engagement with the Japanese language over time. The clear turning point is her experience studying abroad, leading to a resolution in which she has clarity about her plans. Seeing as how the applicant wants to be a translator of Japanese literature, the tight narrative structure here is a great way to show her writing skills.
  • Specific examples that show important traits: The applicant clearly communicates both a deep passion for Japanese through examples of her continued engagement with Japanese and her determination and work ethic by highlighting the challenges she’s faced (and overcome) in her study of the language. This gives the impression that she is an engaged and dedicated student.

Overall, this is a very strong statement both in terms of style and content. It flows well, is memorable, and communicates that the applicant would make the most of the graduate school experience.

mt-fuji-2232246_640

Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 2

PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 2 – Musical Composition

This personal statement for a Music Composition master’s degree discusses the factors that motivate the applicant to pursue graduate study.

Here’s what works well in this statement:

  • The applicant provides two clear reasons motivating the student to pursue graduate study: her experiences with music growing up, and her family’s musical history. She then supports those two reasons with examples and analysis.
  • The description of her ancestors’ engagement with music is very compelling and memorable. The applicant paints her own involvement with music as almost inevitable based on her family’s long history with musical pursuits.
  • The applicant gives thoughtful analysis of the advantages she has been afforded that have allowed her to study music so extensively. We get the sense that she is insightful and empathetic—qualities that would add greatly to any academic community.

This is a strong, serviceable personal statement. And in truth, given that this for a masters in music composition, other elements of the application (like work samples) are probably the most important.  However, here are two small changes I would make to improve it:

  • I would probably to split the massive second paragraph into 2-3 separate paragraphs. I might use one paragraph to orient the reader to the family’s musical history, one paragraph to discuss Giacomo and Antonio, and one paragraph to discuss how the family has influenced the applicant. As it stands, it’s a little unwieldy and the second paragraph doesn’t have a super-clear focus even though it’s all loosely related to the applicant’s family history with music.
  • I would also slightly shorten the anecdote about the applicant’s ancestors and expand more on how this family history has motivated the applicant’s interest in music. In what specific ways has her ancestors’ perseverance inspired her? Did she think about them during hard practice sessions? Is she interested in composing music in a style they might have played? More specific examples here would lend greater depth and clarity to the statement.

piano-1655558_640

Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 3

PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 3 – Public Health

This is my successful personal statement for Columbia’s Master’s program in Public Health. We’ll do a deep dive on this statement paragraph-by-paragraph in the next section, but I’ll highlight a couple of things that work in this statement here:

Want to improve your GRE score by 7 points?  We have the industry's leading GRE prep program. Built by world-class instructors with 99th percentile GRE scores , the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through machine learning data science, then customizes your prep program to you so you get the most effective prep possible.

Try our 5-day full access trial for free:

  • This statement is clearly organized. Almost every paragraph has a distinct focus and message, and when I move on to a new idea, I move on to a new paragraph with a logical transitions.
  • This statement covers a lot of ground in a pretty short space. I discuss my family history, my goals, my educational background, and my professional background. But because the paragraphs are organized and I use specific examples, it doesn’t feel too vague or scattered.
  • In addition to including information about my personal motivations, like my family, I also include some analysis about tailoring health interventions with my example of the Zande. This is a good way to show off what kinds of insights I might bring to the program based on my academic background.

fruits-2562540_640

Grad School Personal Statement Example: Deep Dive

Now let’s do a deep dive, paragraph-by-paragraph, on one of these sample graduate school personal statements. We’ll use my personal statement that I used when I applied to Columbia’s public health program.

Paragraph One: For twenty-three years, my grandmother (a Veterinarian and an Epidemiologist) ran the Communicable Disease Department of a mid-sized urban public health department. The stories of Grandma Betty doggedly tracking down the named sexual partners of the infected are part of our family lore. Grandma Betty would persuade people to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases, encourage safer sexual practices, document the spread of infection and strive to contain and prevent it. Indeed, due to the large gay population in the city where she worked, Grandma Betty was at the forefront of the AIDS crises, and her analysis contributed greatly towards understanding how the disease was contracted and spread. My grandmother has always been a huge inspiration to me, and the reason why a career in public health was always on my radar.

This is an attention-grabbing opening anecdote that avoids most of the usual cliches about childhood dreams and proclivities. This story also subtly shows that I have a sense of public health history, given the significance of the AIDs crisis for public health as a field.

It’s good that I connect this family history to my own interests. However, if I were to revise this paragraph again, I might cut down on some of the detail because when it comes down to it, this story isn’t really about me. It’s important that even (sparingly used) anecdotes about other people ultimately reveal something about you in a personal statement.

Paragraph Two: Recent years have cemented that interest. In January 2012, my parents adopted my little brother Fred from China. Doctors in America subsequently diagnosed Fred with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). My parents were told that if Fred’s condition had been discovered in China, the (very poor) orphanage in which he spent the first 8+ years of his life would have recognized his DMD as a death sentence and denied him sustenance to hasten his demise.

Here’s another compelling anecdote to help explain my interest in public health. This is an appropriately personal detail for a personal statement—it’s a serious thing about my immediate family, but it doesn’t disclose anything that the admissions committee might find concerning or inappropriate.

If I were to take another pass through this paragraph, the main thing I would change is the last phrase. “Denied him sustenance to hasten his demise” is a little flowery. “Denied him food to hasten his death” is actually more powerful because it’s clearer and more direct.

Paragraph Three: It is not right that some people have access to the best doctors and treatment while others have no medical care. I want to pursue an MPH in Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia because studying social factors in health, with a particular focus on socio-health inequities, will prepare me to address these inequities. The interdisciplinary approach of the program appeals to me greatly as I believe interdisciplinary approaches are the most effective way to develop meaningful solutions to complex problems.

In this paragraph I make a neat and clear transition from discussing what sparked my interest in public health and health equity to what I am interested in about Columbia specifically: the interdisciplinary focus of the program, and how that focus will prepare me to solve complex health problems. This paragraph also serves as a good pivot point to start discussing my academic and professional background.

Paragraph Four: My undergraduate education has prepared me well for my chosen career. Understanding the underlying structure of a group’s culture is essential to successfully communicating with the group. In studying folklore and mythology, I’ve learned how to parse the unspoken structures of folk groups, and how those structures can be used to build bridges of understanding. For example, in a culture where most illnesses are believed to be caused by witchcraft, as is the case for the Zande people of central Africa, any successful health intervention or education program would of necessity take into account their very real belief in witchcraft.

In this paragraph, I link my undergraduate education and the skills I learned there to public health. The (very brief) analysis of tailoring health interventions to the Zande is a good way to show insight and show off the competencies I would bring to the program.

Paragraph Five: I now work in the healthcare industry for one of the largest providers of health benefits in the world. In addition to reigniting my passion for data and quantitative analytics, working for this company has immersed me in the business side of healthcare, a critical component of public health.

This brief paragraph highlights my relevant work experience in the healthcare industry. It also allows me to mention my work with data and quantitative analytics, which isn’t necessarily obvious from my academic background, which was primarily based in the social sciences.

Paragraph Six: I intend to pursue a PhD in order to become an expert in how social factors affect health, particularly as related to gender and sexuality. I intend to pursue a certificate in Sexuality, Sexual Health, and Reproduction. Working together with other experts to create effective interventions across cultures and societies, I want to help transform health landscapes both in America and abroad.

This final paragraph is about my future plans and intentions. Unfortunately, it’s a little disjointed, primarily because I discuss goals of pursuing a PhD before I talk about what certificate I want to pursue within the MPH program! Switching those two sentences and discussing my certificate goals within the MPH and then mentioning my PhD plans would make a lot more sense.

I also start two sentences in a row with “I intend,” which is repetitive.

The final sentence is a little bit generic; I might tailor it to specifically discuss a gender and sexual health issue, since that is the primary area of interest I’ve identified.

This was a successful personal statement; I got into (and attended!) the program. It has strong examples, clear organization, and outlines what interests me about the program (its interdisciplinary focus) and what competencies I would bring (a background in cultural analysis and experience with the business side of healthcare). However, a few slight tweaks would elevate this statement to the next level.

acoustic-guitar-336479_640

Graduate School Personal Statement Examples You Can Find Online

So you need more samples for your personal statement for graduate school? Examples are everywhere on the internet, but they aren’t all of equal quality.

Most of examples are posted as part of writing guides published online by educational institutions. We’ve rounded up some of the best ones here if you are looking for more personal statement examples for graduate school.

Penn State Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School

This selection of ten short personal statements for graduate school and fellowship programs offers an interesting mix of approaches. Some focus more on personal adversity while others focus more closely on professional work within the field.

The writing in some of these statements is a little dry, and most deploy at least a few cliches. However, these are generally strong, serviceable statements that communicate clearly why the student is interested in the field, their skills and competencies, and what about the specific program appeals to them.

Cal State Sample Graduate School Personal Statements

These are good examples of personal statements for graduate school where students deploy lots of very vivid imagery and illustrative anecdotes of life experiences. There are also helpful comments about what works in each of these essays.

Want to improve your GRE score by 7+ points?

Check out our best-in-class online GRE prep program . We guarantee your money back if you don't improve your GRE score by 7 points or more.

PrepScholar GRE is entirely online, and it customizes your prep program to your strengths and weaknesses . We also feature 2,000 practice questions , official practice tests, 150 hours of interactive lessons, and 1-on-1 scoring and feedback on your AWA essays.

Check out our 5-day free trial now:

However, all of these statements are definitely pushing the boundaries of acceptable length, as all are above 1000 and one is almost 1500 words! Many programs limit you to 500 words; if you don’t have a limit, you should try to keep it to two single-spaced pages at most (which is about 1000 words).

University of Chicago Personal Statement for Graduate School Examples

These examples of successful essays to the University of Chicago law school cover a wide range of life experiences and topics. The writing in all is very vivid, and all communicate clear messages about the students’ strengths and competencies.

Note, however, that these are all essays that specifically worked for University of Chicago law school. That does not mean that they would work everywhere. In fact, one major thing to note is that many of these responses, while well-written and vivid, barely address the students’ interest in law school at all! This is something that might not work well for most graduate programs.

Wheaton College Personal Statement for Graduate School Sample 10

This successful essay for law school from a Wheaton College undergraduate does a great job tracking the student’s interest in the law in a compelling and personal way. Wheaton offers other graduate school personal statement examples, but this one offers the most persuasive case for the students’ competencies. The student accomplishes this by using clear, well-elaborated examples, showing strong and vivid writing, and highlighting positive qualities like an interest in justice and empathy without seeming grandiose or out of touch.

Wheaton College Personal Statement for Graduate School Sample 1

Based on the background information provided at the bottom of the essay, this essay was apparently successful for this applicant. However, I’ve actually included this essay because it demonstrates an extremely risky approach. While this personal statement is strikingly written and the story is very memorable, it could definitely communicate the wrong message to some admissions committees. The student’s decision not to report the drill sergeant may read incredibly poorly to some admissions committees. They may wonder if the student’s failure to report the sergeant’s violence will ultimately expose more soldiers-in-training to the same kinds of abuses. This incident perhaps reads especially poorly in light of the fact that the military has such a notable problem with violence against women being covered up and otherwise mishandled

It’s actually hard to get a complete picture of the student’s true motivations from this essay, and what we have might raise real questions about the student’s character to some admissions committees. This student took a risk and it paid off, but it could have just as easily backfired spectacularly.

hand-1543062_640

Key Takeaways: Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

In this guide, we discussed why you need a personal statement and how it differs from a statement of purpose. (It’s more personal!)

We also discussed what you’ll find in a strong sample personal statement for graduate school:

  • A clear narrative about the applicant and why they are qualified for graduate study.
  • Specific examples to support that narrative.
  • Compelling reasons why the applicant and the program are a good fit for each other.
  • Strong writing, including clear organization and error-free, cliche-free language.
  • Appropriate boundaries—sharing without over-sharing.

Then, we provided three strong graduate school personal statement examples for different fields, along with analysis. We did a deep-dive on the third statement.

Finally, we provided a list of other sample grad school personal statements online.

What’s Next?

Want more advice on writing a personal statement ? See our guide.

Writing a graduate school statement of purpose? See our statement of purpose samples  and a nine-step process for writing the best statement of purpose possible .

If you’re writing a graduate school CV or resume, see our how-to guide to writing a CV , a how-to guide to writing a resume , our list of sample resumes and CVs , resume and CV templates , and a special guide for writing resume objectives .

Need stellar graduate school recommendation letters ? See our guide.

See our 29 tips for successfully applying to graduate school .

Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?

how to write a personal statement for university phd

Author: Ellen McCammon

Ellen is a public health graduate student and education expert. She has extensive experience mentoring students of all ages to reach their goals and in-depth knowledge on a variety of health topics. View all posts by Ellen McCammon

how to write a personal statement for university phd

Writing your personal statement

When putting together your application for graduate school, one of the supporting documents your program may require as part of the supplementary information form is a personal statement . A personal statement is your opportunity to explain more about who you are and why you belong in the program to which you’re applying, aside from your grades and test scores. This can be a powerful tool for demonstrating that you’re a great candidate!

At Waterloo, we have different names and formats for personal statements. They can also be referred to as a letter of intent or a statement of interest . Some programs will have a specific set of prompts/questions for you to answer, but others will not. Find out this information by searching your program in the Graduate studies academic calendar .

This video will walk you through the basics of writing a personal statement, including the main elements of a strong statement and what types of experiences you can include.   

Three main elements of a strong personal statement

  • Your interest in the program
  • The tools and skills that will help you succeed
  • Why the program is a good fit for you

1. Your interest in the program

Some prompting questions to ask yourself include: 

  • What problem do you want to solve? How do you know it’s a problem? What have you learned about it over time?
  • What is drawing you to this program? What makes this a good next step for you?
  • Who is it that you want to help with this degree? How do you know they need help?
  • Why are you interested in this topic? What learning have you done in this area? What is it that you find exciting?

2. The tools and skills that will help you succeed

  • What do you do well? How do you know you do it well? What do you do that’s different than somebody who is not good at this?
  • What does it take to be good at what you want to do? What does someone need to know, do, or learn? When have you worked/learned in an environment like this? You may think you don’t have relevant experience but re-frame the experience you DO have. For example, if you don’t have relevant research experience, how do you share that you’re a good candidate? You’ve completed previous degrees, which teach you how to research.
  • What have you observed or thought about that’s relevant to this work?

3. Why the program is a good fit for you

  • How do your research interests match faculty interests? This is particularly important for research or thesis-based programs. What connects your proposed work with theirs?
  • What did you notice about the program design, location, or content?
  • What do you want to learn and how does this match the degree? For example, if a master’s degree is a pre-requisite for a career you’re interested in, WHY is it required?
  • You can also frame this around your goals when you finish. How do these goals match the program?

Before you submit your statement

Don't forget to review it carefully, check for spelling and grammar, and have someone else look at it!

Additional resources

For current Waterloo students and alumni, the Centre for Career Development offers further education support , including working with you on your application documents like personal statements. For non-Waterloo students, your university may have similar resources available.

We hope that this information will help you in crafting your personal statement, getting you one step closer to a top-notch graduate studies application package!

Facebook logo

Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA)

Needles Hall, second floor, room 2201

Graduate Studies Academic Calendar

Website feedback

  • Contact Waterloo
  • Maps & Directions
  • Accessibility

The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is co-ordinated within the Office of Indigenous Relations .

Our cookies

We use cookies for three reasons: to give you the best experience on PGS, to make sure the PGS ads you see on other sites are relevant , and to measure website usage. Some of these cookies are necessary to help the site work properly and can’t be switched off. Cookies also support us to provide our services for free, and by click on “Accept” below, you are agreeing to our use of cookies .You can manage your preferences now or at any time.

Privacy overview

We use cookies, which are small text files placed on your computer, to allow the site to work for you, improve your user experience, to provide us with information about how our site is used, and to deliver personalised ads which help fund our work and deliver our service to you for free.

The information does not usually directly identify you, but it can give you a more personalised web experience.

You can accept all, or else manage cookies individually. However, blocking some types of cookies may affect your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer.

You can change your cookies preference at any time by visiting our Cookies Notice page. Please remember to clear your browsing data and cookies when you change your cookies preferences. This will remove all cookies previously placed on your browser.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, or how to clear your browser cookies data see our Cookies Notice

Manage consent preferences

Strictly necessary cookies

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

They are essential for you to browse the website and use its features.

You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not then work. We can’t identify you from these cookies.

Functional cookies

These help us personalise our sites for you by remembering your preferences and settings. They may be set by us or by third party providers, whose services we have added to our pages. If you do not allow these cookies, then these services may not function properly.

Performance cookies

These cookies allow us to count visits and see where our traffic comes from, so we can measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us to know which pages are popular and see how visitors move around the site. The cookies cannot directly identify any individual users.

If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site and will not be able to improve its performance for you.

Marketing cookies

These cookies may be set through our site by social media services or our advertising partners. Social media cookies enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They can track your browser across other sites and build up a profile of your interests. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to see or use the content sharing tools.

Advertising cookies may be used to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but work by uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will still see ads, but they won’t be tailored to your interests.

How to write a postgraduate personal statement

29 th September 2021

Hands signing document on a desk at home

  • Post on Facebook
  • Send to a friend
  • Recommend 0

Applying for postgraduate study? This guide supports you in writing a great postgraduate personal statement that’s tailored to your course.

  • What do admissions tutors look for

How to write a personal statement

  • What to write

Check and check again

What do admissions tutors look for in a postgraduate personal statement.

A personal statement is part of your university application. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your suitability for a course. Admissions tutors want to know why you want to study the course and how your experiences make you the ideal candidate.

The difference between a postgraduate application from an undergraduate one is that it is fully tailored to a particular university’s course. As an undergraduate, your statement is more generic as it can be sent to five universities. Whereas your postgraduate personal statement is for one course only – it should be a lot more specific to what and where you’re applying for.

Postgraduate study is also a significant level up from undergraduate, so avoid using the statement you wrote for your bachelor’s course as a template. The admissions team is interested in how you’ve grown since your previous studies.

Writing a personal statement for university is different to writing one for a job application. It should show your academic interests and explain why the university will help develop your learning and research. You’re not trying to charm the reader. Instead, you're providing insight into who you are, your achievements and your enthusiasm for the course.

Before putting pen to paper, read through all information about the course and what you need to do to apply.

If you can, arrange to speak with one of the course tutors or a current student to discuss what admissions tutors are looking for. Are you able to see examples of successful personal statements from previous applicants?

  • Your relevant academic and practical experiences
  • The bits about the course that particularly interest you
  • Anything else the university has asked you to include

You can then use this to structure your plan.

Carefully plan what you’re going to write in each paragraph to ensure you include all the important information and present it coherently. Your course will demand effective communication from you, and admissions tutors will look for evidence of this in your writing.

  • An interesting introduction that outlines your academic background and relevant experiences
  • Engaging middle paragraphs that detail, with examples, how your interests, achievements and experiences make you right for the course
  • A strong conclusion that pulls together the main points and summarises why you want to study it

Each paragraph and sentence should flow logically into the next. If you want, you can split up sections with headings (like ‘Academic achievements’ or ‘Career goals’) to make the statement easy to navigate.

For the word count, check with the university you’re applying to, as each may ask for different things.

What to write in a personal statement 

You want to show how your interests and experiences make you the right person.

  • How will the course help with your future goals?
  • What experiences do you have that provide evidence of your interest in the course?
  • What modules or projects in your undergraduate degree really challenged your thinking?
  • How has any employment shaped your ambitions?
  • Have any personal or public events inspired you?
  • Which books have you read, or activities have you been involved in, that have influenced you?

Rather than just listing experiences, explain how they shaped you and how they will help you succeed. There’s no need to write down your qualifications as the admissions tutor will have these details with the rest of your application.

  • What are your hobbies?
  • Are you part of any sports teams or societies?
  • Do you volunteer?

This builds a picture of who you are and what you’ll be like as a student. If you want to and if relevant, refer to challenges you encountered during the pandemic – but in a positive way.

You don’t need to include everything in your statement. It should highlight the key information and leave the reader wanting to interview you to find out more.

The admissions team will be looking through many personal statements – they want to see a variety of experiences and stories. You can reflect this in your writing style; avoid repetition and use a variety of words to paint a unique picture.

Try not to use obvious phrases such as ‘I have always been interested in...’ or a gimmicky opening line like a famous quote. Instead, get to the point quickly and say in your voice why you’re excited about the course.

Be concise and make every word count. What you write should be relevant and honest, demonstrating your potential. Everything should be balanced; you can be confident in your abilities but try not to come across as arrogant. Show why you should be given the place, but don’t beg.

  • First-person narrative
  • Correct use of spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • Varied and interesting vocabulary
  • A positive and friendly, yet professional tone
  • Paragraphs that flow logically into the next
  • Clear and concise points backed up with evidence
  • Clichéd language
  • Waffle or too much irrelevant information
  • Vague or confusing sentences
  • Excuses for gaps in your experience

Proofread your statement to check that your points are clear and there are no spelling or grammatical errors. You can use spellchecking tools and free writing assistants like Grammarly or Hemingway Editor to perfect your work. Reading your statement aloud can be helpful to see if it makes sense and flows well.

Ask at least one other person to read through and check it. This could be a friend, family member, careers adviser or a tutor if you’re still at university. A second pair of eyes may spot anything that doesn’t make sense or errors that you’ve missed.

Personal statement tips

  • Give yourself plenty of time to write, edit and check
  • Take lots of breaks and return to your work with fresh eyes
  • Make sure your statement is unique and written by you
  • If you’re an international student, say why you want to study in the UK
  • Be prepared to talk about what you’ve written in an interview
  • And if you’re applying for more than one course, make sure to write a different, tailored statement for each application!

DON'T MISS OUT

Receive regular newsletters packed with useful tips.

Converting a Postgraduate Certificate to a Masters

PG certificates are a perfect stepping stone to a Masters degree as you’ll not only...

Guide to the PGCE

A PGCE, short for Postgraduate Certificate in Education, is a higher-level postgraduate...

A Postgraduate Timeline

"Where on earth do I start?" That’s generally the first thought that runs through...

Similar articles and videos

Best universities for aeronautical and aerospace engineering, best universities for marketing, best universities for chemistry, best universities for sports science, don't miss out.

/images/cornell/logo35pt_cornell_white.svg" alt="how to write a personal statement for university phd"> Cornell University --> Graduate School

Personal statement, overview .

There are two types of statements included in the Graduate School’s online application, (1) the Academic Statement of Purpose and (2) the Personal Statement, both of which are required for all graduate degree programs. 

What Should the Personal Statement Include?

Your Personal Statement should provide the admissions committee with a sense of you as a whole person, and you should use it to describe how your personal background and experiences influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Additionally, it should provide insights into your potential to contribute to Cornell University’s core value to provide a community of inclusion, belonging, and respect where scholars representing diverse backgrounds, perspectives, abilities, and experiences can learn and work productively and positively together. Within your Personal Statement, you may also share details on lessons learned from any of your lived experiences including but not limited to

  • being a first-generation college student or graduate (no parent/guardian completed a baccalaureate degree)
  • racial, ethnic, and/or cultural background(s)
  • managing a disability or chronic health condition
  • experiencing housing, food, economic, and/or other forms of significant insecurity
  • being a solo parent
  • gender identity and/or sexual orientation 
  • having served in the military
  • holding DACA, refugee, TPS, or asylee status

Your Personal Statement provides you with an opportunity to share experiences that provide insights on how your personal, academic, and/or professional experiences demonstrate your ability to be both persistent and resilient, especially when navigating challenging circumstances. It also gives you an opportunity to provide examples of how you engage with others and have facilitated and/or participated in productive collaborative endeavors. Additionally, it is a place, where if necessary, you can (and should) address any blemishes, gaps, or weaknesses in your academic record. In these situations, you will want to be honest, but brief. It is best to turn negatives into positives by focusing on how you overcame obstacles, remained persistent in the pursuit of your goals, and showed resilience. Share what you learned from the particular experience, and how it led you to become a better researcher/scholar/person, etc.

Content in the Personal Statement should complement rather than duplicate the content contained within the Academic Statement of Purpose, which should focus explicitly on your academic interests, previous research and/or relevant professional experience, and intended area of academic focus during your graduate studies.

Screenshot of homepage for recruitment.gradschool.cornell.edu

Why should you consider Cornell?

UL flag

A Step-by-Step Tutorial to Write PhD Personal Statement

Place an order now.

Free Revisions And Money Back Guarantee

A Step-by-Step Tutorial to Write PhD Personal Statement

Are you applying for a PhD program but have no idea what to include in your application statement? Well, then, this guide is for you. When applying for postgraduate study, candidates are often required to write a PhD personal statement that shows they have the right attitude, skills, and knowledge for that course.

The application statement goes directly to the university and needs to be crafted per the requirements of the department in consideration. Candidates have to submit both the cover letter/statements and research proposals to the institute.  Both of these documents shed light on the motivation behind choosing that specific institute for your doctoral study.

We all know that writing your PhD personal statement in the UK can sometimes be stressful. To help you with your mission, the expert admission essay writers of The Academic Papers UK have prepared a step-by-step guide to craft a statement. Let’s explore the tips; we shall go with a basic definition first.

What Is PhD Personal Statement?

As per Postgraduate Studentships, the PhD personal statement serves as a way to promote yourself as a student for the institute you want to enrol in. In that application, you explain to the admission committee why you are perfect for being a PhD student in their institute. You can take this as a perfect opportunity to impress the admissions committee.

How to Write a PhD Personal Statement?

A personal statement for PhD application provides extra information about the background of the applicant, his motivation for undertaking the postgrad research and the relevant experience. Basically, you have to make sure that you appear as a unique individual to the admissions officers.

The Admissions Tutor usually reads your statements for postgrad courses or the Project Supervisors for the research programs. They decide on your suitability for that line of research and study. We have made the writing process of personal statements easier for you. Here are some guidelines to follow when crafting your PhD personal statement:

How to Write a PhD Personal Statement?

1. Show Your Curiosity

Your PhD personal statement is ‘personal’- feel free to showcase your unique accomplishments and strengths. Explain what particular factor influenced your decision to pursue the program so that when the admissions committee reads your statement, they will be aware of your passion for joining their university. If it is an institute abroad, you should start planning for the application process 18 months before the program actually starts.

Give the readers an idea about your interests and tell them how they are related to your PhD. Explain why you are attracted to the particular department and what your motivation is for studying your chosen degree subject. It will make the committee see that you are genuinely interested in getting admission to their university.

2. Talk About Your Experience

During the PhD personal statement writing process, you should also include your research experiences, work experiences, and any volunteer jobs that you might have taken already. Highlight any experiences that you might have and briefly describe the responsibilities for any academic projects you have undertaken previously. This will make your personal statement look more convincing and professional to the readers.

Also, if you have any achievements that demonstrate your abilities to work effectively, you should mention them as well in your papers. This will make the admissions tutors realise that you are perfect for a wide range of experiences and environments.

3. Display Your Skillset

As a PhD is a long journey, you must have a lot of essential skills to survive. Some of these skills include critical thinking, problem-solving, research, and collaboration. You must mention these in your PhD personal statement to leave a positive impact on the minds of your readers. It will convince them that you are skilled enough to work on the PhD projects and contribute to the research field.

If these skills have benefitted you in one way or another in academia previously, you should make it known to the admissions committee. However, avoid making it sound too boastful because it will ruin your impression.

4. Discuss Your Goals

Writing about your previously developed skill set and achievements in a personal statement is never enough. The cherry on top is when you share a glimpse of your future research aims with the readers. Tell them about how a PhD degree can help you achieve your goals. A PhD application personal statement should be full of how YOU want to make changes in your academic field.

Although some universities expect the candidates to enlist the research goals in the motivation letter, sharing a bit about your career aspirations will not harm anyone. You can also talk here about the individual research groups that you have led and link them with the course you want to study.

5. Mention Your Transferable Skills

When writing your PhD personal statement, ensure that you have highlighted your transferable skills enough. These are the skills that you develop during your academic journey. Some of the relevant skills that you might want to enlist in your papers are the following:

  • Networking and communication skills
  • Project management
  • Presentation skills
  • Analytical thinking
  • Time management

Mention Your Transferable Skills

Keep in mind that you will have to mention these skills along with the evidence of how you acquired them. Such skills are desirable because a candidate can use them anywhere, irrespective of their field or designation. When you appropriately mention these skills, you let the admission officers know that you will be better able to make positive contributions in your career.

6. Focus on the Grammar and Vocabulary

Keep in mind that it is important for you to present a well-crafted statement that has no grammatical mistakes. You must avoid using slang in your work and use the standard academic vocabulary to leave your readers impressed. Write concise and concrete sentences that flow well with the theme of your work. You can also get admission essay writing help from professional writers online in the UK for this purpose.

In a nutshell, you will have to demonstrate why are you going for that specific institute and if there are any special research facilities they provide. The point is to narrate all this information with a good vocabulary and perfect grammar plus punctuation!

7. Proofread Just One More Time

Before the submission of your PhD personal statement, just make sure to check for your spelling mistakes. Ask an advisor, professor, or friend to review your final draft one time before submitting it. Sometimes, many mistakes go undetected during the first revision session, and they are more likely to be caught in the second or third review.

Check if you have discussed your interests really well and see if the program you are choosing fits in with your intended career path. Your application must make the admission teams see your passion for the programs they offer.

PhD Personal Statement Structure

It is worth noting that your statement must be logically ordered and interesting for the readers. A good and well-defined structure makes the spine of your personal statement for PhD program. Your paper should have the following three well-written sections:

1. Introduction

You should start with a quick introduction, explaining your academic background and describing yourself. Try your level best to naturally build interest in your research aims, the university you have chosen, and the subjects you want to study. It is a no-brainer that the personal statement introduction is a wonderful way to grab the attention of readers.

2. Main Body

In the main body paragraphs, you move towards discussing your experience and skills in further detail. Answer the basic questions about why you are a good fit for the PhD program in question. If you have to comment on several areas of your CV, you can do it appropriately in this part of your paper.

3. Conclusion

Finally, in the concluding paragraphs of your personal statement, you can wrap the entire discussion up by stating your aspirations and long-term goals. You must include your future research plans in this section and make them relevant to the course you are studying. Take the ending as a chance to finish your academic document in a way that makes your admission tutors remember you.

PhD Personal Statement Examples

The requirements for personal application content differ with every university – one size does not fit all. However, a good paper has all of the elements an admission officer wants to see in it. Apart from following the guidelines written above, you should also go through the admission statements of other successful candidates. Here is a PhD personal statement template on the topic of leadership; you can read and review it, and if you like the writing style of that student, feel free to adopt it for your work.

PhD Personal Statement Examples

You can also ask your friends who are already in academia or other project supervisors for help with your custom PhD personal statement ideas. Studying for a PhD is not easy; you should be determined to overcome all the obstacles along the way.

What Should Be in a PhD Personal Statement?

You have to make your personal statement PhD interesting for the admission officers and convince them that you are the perfect person to study in their institute. According to the guidelines of the Columbia University Center for Career Education, the following elements must be present in it:

  • State the reasons for your application to that particular university.
  • Describe your strengths.
  • Highlight your transferable skills and demonstrate them with examples.
  • Tell them about how you want to contribute to the research field of that domain.
  • Discuss how that PhD program aligns with your core interests and career goals.

Apart from these three sections, you can also choose to add these sections to your paper in a sequence:

  • Current Degrees
  • Why the PhD Course?
  • Past Work Experience
  • Extra-curricular Activities and Interests
  • Why this University?

You should avoid writing clichéd content; try to be unique instead. Strive for depth in your work, find one or two key themes, and give details about those to the readers. It will take a lot of time to craft and finalise this statement, so you must start your research and writing process early.

How Long Should a Personal Statement Be for a PhD Program?

Per the guidelines by Masters Portal, PhD personal statements should be around 700 words (around 1-2 pages). At graduate and post-graduate levels, the statements of purpose are usually shorter in length. So, you should take your time to craft a well-written and strong statement. It will take you quite some time to develop a final draft for the submission of your personal statement. Also, you must check the PhD Personal Statement Length guidelines provided by the university you are applying to.

How Do I Start My Personal Statement?

According to the instructions by UCAS to students, you can stand out from a crowd of candidates if you tackle your personal statement for PhD really well. Before starting the writing process, take your time to ponder over the key points and enlist the things you would want to see in your work. Do not worry about penning down the first perfect draft – you will have enough time to refine it later.

All that you need to do is to show your enthusiasm for the subject and showcase your knowledge. Share your ambitions and what you want to achieve in future with your research. Also, do not forget to read the description of the course as it will give you a good idea about what each university is looking for.

Bottom Line

And that’s a wrap!

When you have written your PhD personal statement, proofread it twice and ask for the unbiased feedback of your friends and family. If they give suggestions for improvement, consider them before tuning in your work. The rule of thumb here is to keep the papers mistake-free and interesting for the readers.

You can also acquire admission essay writing services online to craft tailored personal statements per your choices and academic interests. Tell the writer about your career goals, academic background, and hobbies and they will craft a stellar personal application to impress the examiners.

Recent Posts

A Step-by-Step Tutorial to Write PhD Personal Statement

PhD Thesis Structure Explained - A Step-by-Step Breakdown

Top 8 Tips for Selecting the Best Management Assignment Help Service

Top 8 Tips for Selecting the Best Management Assignment Help Service

50 Engaging College Essay Topics for 2024-25 to Impress Your Tutor

50 Engaging College Essay Topics for 2024-25 to Impress Your Tutor

How to Start a College Essay - Complete Guide by UK Academic Essayist

How to Start a College Essay - Complete Guide by UK Academic Essayist

APA Assignment Format - A Comprehensive Guide (Examples Included)

APA Assignment Format - A Comprehensive Guide (Examples Included)

Payment & security.

The Academic Papers UK guarantees the privacy of all customers and never shares their personal information with third parties at any cost. For more details read our Privacy Policy.

We’re sorry, this site is currently experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again in a few moments. Exception: request blocked

Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Welcome to the Purdue Online Writing Lab

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University houses writing resources and instructional material, and we provide these as a free service of the Writing Lab at Purdue. Students, members of the community, and users worldwide will find information to assist with many writing projects. Teachers and trainers may use this material for in-class and out-of-class instruction.

The Purdue On-Campus Writing Lab and Purdue Online Writing Lab assist clients in their development as writers—no matter what their skill level—with on-campus consultations, online participation, and community engagement. The Purdue Writing Lab serves the Purdue, West Lafayette, campus and coordinates with local literacy initiatives. The Purdue OWL offers global support through online reference materials and services.

A Message From the Assistant Director of Content Development 

The Purdue OWL® is committed to supporting  students, instructors, and writers by offering a wide range of resources that are developed and revised with them in mind. To do this, the OWL team is always exploring possibilties for a better design, allowing accessibility and user experience to guide our process. As the OWL undergoes some changes, we welcome your feedback and suggestions by email at any time.

Please don't hesitate to contact us via our contact page  if you have any questions or comments.

All the best,

Social Media

Facebook twitter.

COMMENTS

  1. How to Write Your Personal Statement

    Strategy 1: Open with a concrete scene. An effective way to catch the reader's attention is to set up a scene that illustrates something about your character and interests. If you're stuck, try thinking about: A personal experience that changed your perspective. A story from your family's history.

  2. Personal Statements for PhD Study

    A PhD personal statement should be 400-500 words, fitting on one side of an A4 sheet of paper. Your university may set a specific word count or maximum length, so make sure to check the application details. Either way, you should aim to be disciplined and concise. There are two reasons for this:

  3. How to Write a Personal Statement for a PhD Program Application

    Set aside enough time: Although personal statements are generally short in length (approx. 700 words; 1-2 pages), give yourself ample time to write a strong, well-written statement. It takes more time than you think to develop a final draft for submission. Focus on your spelling, grammar, and vocabulary: It's important to present a well ...

  4. Writing Your Personal Statements

    Your personal statement should focus on two main aspects: your competence and commitment. 1. Identify your strengths in terms of competence that indicate that you will succeed in the grad program and provide examples to support your claims. Start your statement by describing your strengths immediately. Because faculty will be reading many ...

  5. How to Write a Graduate School Personal Statement (with example!)

    Personal statements are your chance to get, well, personal. While you should answer the prompt in its entirety, you should also write about yourself. Bring a personal element into your essay like family or a story of you overcoming an obstacle. Ideally, your story should relate to what you're trying to accomplish at your graduate school of ...

  6. How to Write a Stand-Out Personal Statement for Your Graduate School

    Strike the right tone. While it's important to give readers a glimpse of your personality, avoid oversharing or revealing intimate details of your life experiences. You should also avoid making jokes or using humorous cliches. Maintain a professional tone throughout your writing. Start strong and finish strong.

  7. PDF Writing a personal statement

    Guidance for PhD applicants Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. The 1,500 word personal statement is an important element of your application to doctoral study, whether full-time or part-time. It is one of several elements considered during the application process, alongside your research proposal and the references you provide.

  8. Statement of Purpose, Personal Statement, and Writing Sample

    Your statement should be no longer than 500 words. Writing Sample . Please visit Degree Programs and navigate to your degree program of interest to determine if a writing sample is required. When preparing your writing sample, be sure to follow program requirements, which may include format, topic, or length.

  9. PDF Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School

    Revise your draft again and meet with a Residential College Writing Tutor to polish the essay in terms of structure, style, and grammar. Other things to keep in mind: • Tailor each statement to the question asked by each graduate school. • Tailor each statement to reflect your knowledge of that particular program and professors.

  10. How to write a PhD personal statement

    The university may set a limit on the word count, but if not, your personal statement should ideally be no longer than one side of A4. Be concise and make every word count. Your statement should reflect the academic nature of the writing you'll be doing in the PhD. For example, if your work is scientific, the people who will read your ...

  11. Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School

    Personal Statements. Preparing a well-written and effective personal statement (sometimes referred to as statements of purpose or personal essays) that clearly articulates your preparation, goals, and motivation for pursuing that specific graduate degree is critically important. You will need to spend a considerable amount of time and effort in ...

  12. Writing an Effective Personal Statement for PhD Graduate Programs

    Create a team of editors: Your personal statement will be read by faculty members and graduate students studying different topics within the program. Therefore, your personal statement should be compelling to a broad audience. Ask peers, mentors and advisors from various disciplines well in advance to edit and provide feedback on your statement.

  13. Writing Personal Statements for Ph.D. Programs

    This page will orient you to the process of writing a personal statement. The subsequent pages in this section will give you some general guidelines for constructing a convincing statement. The advice on these pages is designed for students who are applying to Ph.D. programs in the U.S. While some of what we say may be applicable for graduate ...

  14. Writing a Personal Statement

    Grammar and Clarity: Ensure your writing is clear, concise, and free from grammatical errors. Structure and Flow: Check that your personal statement flows logically from one section to another, creating a coherent narrative. 10. Seek Feedback: Peer Review: Share your personal statement with mentors, professors, or peers to get constructive ...

  15. Writing the Personal Statement

    The personal statement should give concrete evidence of your promise as a member of the academic community, giving the committee an image of you as a person. This is also where you represent your potential to bring to your academic career a critical perspective rooted in a non-traditional educational background, or your understanding of the ...

  16. A Guide to PhD Personal Statements [With Examples]

    Step 1. Structure. PhD applicants are expected to be highly adept at writing, so it is paramount that your personal statement is carefully constructed and reflects your ability for written communication. The university you are applying to may provide you with a word count, or it may be stipulated by the space allowed on an online application form.

  17. How to write a personal statement

    Make a start. When it comes to writing your personal statement, just getting started can be the hardest part. One good way to get around writer's block is to just put it all down on the page, like Mayur. First - write down anything and everything. In the first round, I was just dumping everything - whatever I've done, anything close to ...

  18. 3 Successful Graduate School Personal Statement Examples

    Sample Personal Statement for Graduate School 3. PDF of Sample Graduate School Personal Statement 3 - Public Health. This is my successful personal statement for Columbia's Master's program in Public Health. We'll do a deep dive on this statement paragraph-by-paragraph in the next section, but I'll highlight a couple of things that ...

  19. Writing your personal statement

    Writing your personal statement. When putting together your application for graduate school, one of the supporting documents your program may require as part of the supplementary information form is a personal statement. A personal statement is your opportunity to explain more about who you are and why you belong in the program to which you ...

  20. How to Write a Personal Statement

    Insert a quote from a well-known person. Challenge the reader with a common misconception. Use an anecdote, which is a short story that can be true or imaginary. Credibility is crucial when writing a personal statement as part of your college application process. If you choose a statistic, quote, or misconception for your hook, make sure it ...

  21. PDF How to write a personal statement

    background, current research interests, and what you would like to do with a graduate degree. Your personal statement is the place to provide such information. The main points that you should elaborate in your statement are: 1) Your past research experience. What projects have you worked on as an

  22. How to write a postgraduate personal statement

    Each paragraph and sentence should flow logically into the next. If you want, you can split up sections with headings (like 'Academic achievements' or 'Career goals') to make the statement easy to navigate. For the word count, check with the university you're applying to, as each may ask for different things.

  23. Personal Statement : Graduate School

    Your Personal Statement should provide the admissions committee with a sense of you as a whole person, and you should use it to describe how your personal background and experiences influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Additionally, it should provide insights into your potential to contribute to Cornell University's core ...

  24. How To Write Your Postgraduate Personal Statement

    Just start by showing your enthusiasm for the subject, showcasing your knowledge and understanding, and sharing your ambitions of what you want to achieve. Avoid cliches . Remember, this opening part is simply about introducing yourself, so let the admissions tutor reading your personal statement get to know you. Keep it relevant and simple.

  25. A Step-by-Step Tutorial To Write PhD Personal Statement

    1. Show Your Curiosity. Your PhD personal statement is 'personal'- feel free to showcase your unique accomplishments and strengths. Explain what particular factor influenced your decision to pursue the program so that when the admissions committee reads your statement, they will be aware of your passion for joining their university.

  26. The art of how to write a personal statement fabulously

    This part should include how you plan to use the knowledge you gain as you graduate. Offer thanks and discuss your hopes, intentions, and dreams. Make it memorable, but don't boast too much! If you already have a personal statement prompt to follow, this personal statement outline will help you see what to include.

  27. Writing a Personal Statement for Fulbright Applications

    A strong personal statement can set you apart from other applicants and give you a chance to explain how you meet the selection criteria. (It is used in place of your personal interview) Faculty members and scholarship selection committees want to know as much as they can about each applicant. Admissions exam scores, university degree results ...

  28. Welcome to the Purdue Online Writing Lab

    Mission. The Purdue On-Campus Writing Lab and Purdue Online Writing Lab assist clients in their development as writers—no matter what their skill level—with on-campus consultations, online participation, and community engagement. The Purdue Writing Lab serves the Purdue, West Lafayette, campus and coordinates with local literacy initiatives.

  29. Dwelling tenderly with our desires for research and the world: a

    Writing and researching in the neoliberal university. We write as part of a larger collective - The Academic Postcards Collective - comprising 26 academic staff from a regional university in Queensland, Australia. This paper captures collective efforts over years (beginning before the COVID-19 pandemic, interrupted by the pandemic, and continuing now).