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Master the Five-Paragraph Essay
The five-paragraph essay is one of the most common composition assignments out there, whether for high school or college students. It is a classic assignment because it presents an arena in which writers can demonstrate their command of language and punctuation, as well as their logic and rhetorical skills. These skills are useful not only for classroom assignments and college application essays, but even in the business world, as employees have to write memorandums and reports, which draw on the same skills.
Mastering the five-paragraph essay is doable, and here are some tips.
Components of a Good Essay
The five-paragraph essay lives up to its name, because is has five paragraphs, as follows: an introductory paragraph that includes a thesis, three body paragraphs, each which includes support and development, and one concluding paragraph.
Its structure sometimes generates other names for the same essay, including three-tier essay, one-three-one, or a hamburger essay. Whether you are writing a cause-and-effect essay, a persuasive essay, an argumentative essay or a compare-and-contrast essay, you should use this same structure and the following specifics.
Keys to Introductory Paragraphs
Any introductory paragraph contains from three to five sentences and sets up the tone and structure for the whole essay. The first sentence should be a so-called hook sentence and grabs the reader. Examples of hook sentences include a quote, a joke, a rhetorical question or a shocking fact. This is the sentence that will keep your readers reading. Draw them in.
What Makes a Thesis Statement
The last sentence should be your thesis statement, which is the argument you are going to make in the essay. It is the sentence that contains the main point of the essay, or what you are trying to prove. It should be your strongest claim in the whole essay, telling the reader what the paper is about. You should be able to look back at it to keep your argument focused. The other sentences in this paragraph should be general information that links the first sentence and the thesis.
Content of Supporting Paragraphs
Each of the next three paragraphs follows the same general structure of the introductory paragraph. That is, they have one introduction sentence, evidence and arguments in three to five sentences, and a conclusion. Each one of them should define and defend your thesis sentence in the introduction.
The first body paragraph should be dedicated to proving your most powerful point. The second body paragraph can contain your weakest point, because the third body paragraph can, and should, support another strong argument.
Concluding Paragraph Tips
Your concluding paragraph is important, and can be difficult. Ideally, you can begin by restating your thesis. Then you can recall or restate all three to five of your supporting arguments. You should summarize each main point. If you have made similar arguments multiple times, join those together in one sentence.
Essentially, in the concluding or fifth paragraph, you should restate what your preceding paragraphs were about and draw a conclusion. It should answer the question: So what? Even if the answer seems obvious to you, write it down so that your reader can continue to easily follow your thinking process, and hopefully, agree with you.
A Note on Compare and Contrast
Let’s look a little more closely at the compare-and-contrast essay, which is a very common assignment. It can be a confusing one due to the terms used. Comparing two items is to show how they are alike. Contrasting two items is to show how they are different. One way to approach this essay is to make a grid for yourself that compares or contrasts two items before you start writing. Then, write about those characteristics. Do not try to write about both. The name of the essay is actually misleading.
Keep these pointers in mind when you need to write a five-paragraph essay, and your end result will be clear in its argument, leading your reader to the right conclusion. Often, that conclusion is to agree with you, and who doesn’t like to be right?
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Gre prep online guides and tips, 3 successful graduate school personal statement examples.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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- 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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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 .
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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
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Personal Statement Examples for Graduate School
How to Write a Personal Statement for Graduate School Examples?
Writing a personal statement example for graduate school may at first seem like an overwhelming task. It sets the tone for your grad school application after all. While every examples of personal statements for graduate school should be different, these examples can help you brainstorm ideas and give you a place to start.
Can you get your personal statement grad school example professionally edited? Absolutely! Having an effective personal statement that reflects your abilities and personality may assist you in the graduate school admissions process!
6 Tips for Graduate School Personal Statement Examples
- Make sure your personal statement is unique
- Find out what the requirements are before you start writing
- Be sure to answer your prompt entirely (if you received one)
- If no prompt, select a central idea and stick to it
- Incorporate why you would be the perfect candidate and showcase your skills and/or qualities
- Proofread and edit
Are there Grad Schools that do not require Personal Statements? Absolutely! One way of dealing with the headache of personal statements is to avoid them completely! Below, find some of the most popularly applied-to graduate schools that may not require personal statements:
Graduate Personal Statement Examples Below:
Below are two personal statement examples grad school. Read these to get an idea of what to expect when writing yours.
Keep in mind that every school may have specific requirements. Use a prompt to write your personal statement. Be sure to answer it fully. Focus your personal statement around a central idea or message even if you do not have a prompt. The goal here is to show why you are a good candidate for admission to a certain program, be it business, communications , engineering, or other programs, and demonstrate your qualities. These include your writing capability, goals and reasons for applying, and your personality and background. Also, be sure to follow all other guidelines, including length, and copy edit carefully.
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Personal Statement Examples for Grad School
Personal statement graduate school examples lead #1.
While I will never make the grandiose statement of knowing the nitty-gritty of my life’s plan at an early age, I can state – with a degree of certainty – that it would undoubtedly involve books.
Personal Statement Main Body #1
In that much, I was accurate. All the more so when I began to attend ABC College for my undergraduate studies. Entering the college as a Theater and English double major, I soon became consumed with the latter. It’s important to note that my diploma lists a B.A. in English, and not the aforementioned. I became intrigued with critical theory, a trend that my professors highly indulged in. With their encouragement, I would be able to explore the analysis of non-canon works such as fan-authored fiction, romance novels, and graphic novels. Albeit, the classics were always present (I cap my Jane Eyre reading count at a wholesome 7), it was refreshing to take a stab at new works. The course load kept me insanely busy and my brain constantly turning.
The following year, post-graduation, would be the finalizing stroke. I was fortunate enough to work a slew of odd jobs: bartender, cast member at Walt Disney world, and facilities assistant to a financial investment banking firm. Out of these, a few stood out: my blogging experiences for a non-profit theater, my editing position with a marketing firm, and the freelance gigs friends would throw my way.
Personal Statement Conclusion #1
Why did these standout to me, though? All of them dealt with what was near and dear to my heart – dissecting text and getting to the meat of things. Frankly, it wasn’t enough – I missed the chunk of myself that got left in undergrad. The part that was encouraged to dissemble text and put it out into the world as something new and unexplored. It took me a year of doing these odd bits of work to confirm that graduate school was the best option for me. It is a chance to hone my skills and dive right back into the deep end of literature.
I had stated that I previously had little inkling to where my adult life would take me. I’ve experienced a little bit more of life since then. It is my sincere hope that a graduate education at GradSchools.com University can set me on a path towards future academic pursuits. At this point in time, my studies would be geared in three possible directions: future application into a PHD program, a professional teaching career, or a career in book publishing (which places a high emphasis on graduate studies). In addition, it would be a personal goal to exhibit current and future work in conferences to become part of the national – or even international – literary discussion.
I’m certain that GradSchools.com University’s English department can not only best address my current needs and professional aspirations, but also my academic curiosity.
Personal Statement for Grad School Examples
Sample personal statement for graduate school lead in #2.
Ever since I was a teenager, it has been my goal to increase access to assistive technology in underserved communities. Specifically, I want to work toward developing inexpensive and accessible adaptive technology for special needs children in educational settings. The XYZ Engineering program has historically been and continues to be a leader in the field of innovation. Additionally, your focus on the diverse needs of disadvantaged communities, and on using technology to help improve the lives of those in need aligns with my passion for using my skills to help others thrive.
Personal Statement Main Body #2
While I’ve been gifted in mathematics, science and technology since I was young, it wasn’t until I reached high school that I dedicated myself to developing and improving assistive technology. I have always been lucky enough to thrive both at home and in school. Though my school and community lacked money and resources, the support of my teachers and mentors helped me to succeed. But that wasn’t the case for everybody.
When I turned 14, my younger brother entered elementary school. It quickly became evident that he needed the robust support of a special education program to succeed in a regular classroom, not to mention throughout life. And while his teachers and the administration at his school were dedicated to supporting him as much as possible, the lack of funding in our district made it extraordinarily difficult to access the technology my brother needed. My parents attempted to do some of this on their own outside the school system, but quickly realized how much of it was financially out of reach.
My brother was lucky. With the dedicated support of his school and our parents’ determination, he eventually was able to get the help and resources he needed. But how many other children aren’t so lucky? Innovation is, in many ways, an expensive thing. But should that be the case for the people who need it most? When the cost of developing crucial technology is passed down to families in need, kids go without help. With my flair for creativity, dedication to helping others, and technical expertise, that’s something I can change. By making essential assistive technology affordable for all, more schools could provide their students with the services they really need, and families can rest easy that their children are able to thrive.
Personal Statement Conclusion #2
That’s why I spent my undergraduate years studying engineering with ABC University. Not only did I graduate near the top of my class, but I was lucky enough to assist the head of my Engineering department, in conjunction with several other departments, in a research project on increasing physical mobility for individuals with functional movement disorders. The results of this project are soon to be published in a peer-reviewed Medical Engineering journal.
I also completed an undergraduate internship experience in a major medical device engineering corporation headquartered in my home town. There, I was directly mentored by experienced industry professionals. I continue to rely on their guidance, both personally and professionally, to this day.
Because of our shared passion for using engineering to help real families and communities advance, I am requesting admission to the XYZ Engineering master’s program this upcoming semester. I intend to pursue study of assistive technology development. My overall objective is to make strides in the cost-effectiveness of and broader access too necessary technology in classrooms across the country. Together with your rigorous academic program and support, I believe I can do that as a member of the XYZ Engineering school community.
Feel free to refer back to these personal statement for graduate school sample throughout the writing process. Or check out our How to Write a Personal Statement article for more advice. You can also find a sample letter of intent here. Good luck!
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Personal statements for postgraduate applications
A well-crafted Masters personal statement is the key to convincing admissions tutors that you deserve a place on a postgraduate course. Discover the dos and don'ts of writing a personal statement and take a look at some examples for inspiration
What is a personal statement?
'We certainly find the personal statement an essential part of the application process,' says Helen Hayes, assistant registrar (postgraduate and non-standard admissions) at Aberystwyth University.
A Masters personal statement is a piece of writing that you submit as part of your postgraduate application . It's your first real chance to sell yourself to the university and to demonstrate to admissions tutors that you're right for the course.
It's likely that you've already written a personal statement for your Bachelors degree , so this should give you some idea of what to expect. However, don't be tempted to use your undergraduate personal statement as a template. You will have progressed academically since then and admissions tutors will want to see evidence of this.
Your postgraduate personal statement should be unique and tailored to the course that you're applying to. Use the opportunity to show off your academic interests and abilities, and to demonstrate that the programme will benefit from your attendance as much as you'll benefit from studying it.
'From an admissions officer perspective, given that we have to read a large number of personal statements, we are always keen to see enthusiasm, interest and passion for the subject emanating off the page,' adds Helen.
How long should a postgraduate personal statement be?
A Masters personal statement should be around 500 words. This equates to one side of A4. However, some universities require more, often two sides. Some institutions also set a character limit instead of a specific word count, so it's important that you check the application guidelines before starting to write your statement.
As they're relatively short in nature, don't waste words on autobiographical information. This isn't necessary in postgraduate personal statements. Instead, focus on why you want to study a particular programme and your potential to successfully complete the course.
What should I include in a Masters personal statement?
You should tailor your personal statement to fit the course you're applying for, so what to include will largely depend on the course requirements. However, in general you should write about:
- Your reasons for applying for a particular programme and why you deserve a place above other candidates - discuss your academic interests, career goals and the university and department's reputation, and write about which aspects of the course you find most appealing, such as modules or work experience opportunities. Show that you're ready for the demands of postgraduate life by demonstrating your passion, knowledge and experience.
- Your preparation - address how undergraduate study has prepared you for a postgraduate course, mentioning your independent work (e.g. dissertation) and topics that most interested you.
- Evidence of your skillset - highlight relevant skills and knowledge that will enable you to make an impact on the department, summarising your abilities in core areas including IT, numeracy, organisation, communication, time management and critical thinking. You can also cover any grades, awards, work placements, extra readings or conferences that you've attended and how these have contributed to your readiness for Masters study.
- Your goals - explain your career aspirations and how the course will help you achieve them. 'Describe how studying your chosen course fits in with your long-term ambitions and career path,' advises Helen.
Address any clear weaknesses, such as lower-than-expected module performance in your undergraduate degree or gaps in your education history. The university will want to know about these, so explain them with a positive spin. 'We look for positive reflection in situations like this,' explains Helen. 'Cover how things have been addressed and what will be different in your proposed postgraduate studies.'
How should I structure my personal statement?
Your personal statement should follow a logical, methodical structure, where each paragraph follows on from the one before. Make sure paragraphs are short, succinct, clear and to the point. Remember, you only have 500 words to use.
Capture the reader's attention with an enthusiastic introduction covering why you want to study a particular Masters. Then, engage the reader in your middle paragraphs by summing up your academic and employment background, evidencing your knowledge and skills and demonstrating why the course is right for you.
Your conclusion should be concise, summarising why you're the ideal candidate. Overall, aim for five or six paragraphs. You can use headings to break up the text if you prefer.
The majority of postgraduate applications are submitted online directly to the university. If this is the case, present your personal statement in a standard font such as Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman, text size 11 or 12. If your course application is submitted through UKPASS (UCAS's postgraduate application service) font style won't matter, as personal statements are automatically formatted.
How can I write a good postgraduate personal statement?
- Give yourself plenty of time and don't rush . Your personal statement can make or break your application so it needs to be perfect. Tutors can tell if you're bluffing, and showing yourself up as uninformed could be costly. Before you start, read the rules and guidelines provided, check the selection criteria and research the course and institution.
- The best personal statements adopt a positive, enthusiastic and professional tone and are presented in clear, short sentences . Avoid elaborate or overly complicated phrases. Unless otherwise stated, all postgraduate personal statements should be written in English and your spelling, grammar and punctuation must be spot on, as the personal statement acts as a test of your written communication ability.
- Don't use the same supporting statement for every course . Admissions tutors can spot copy-and-paste jobs. Generic applications demonstrate that you have little understanding of the course. In order to stand out from the crowd, Masters personal statements must be unique and specific to the course and institution.
- Draft and redraft your statement until you're happy . Then ask a friend, family member or careers adviser to read it. Proofreading is incredibly important to avoid mistakes. Memorise what you've written before any interviews.
What do I need to avoid?
- follow online examples too closely
- use your undergraduate UCAS application as a template
- be negative
- lie or exaggerate
- use clichés, gimmicks, humour, over-used words such as 'passion' or Americanisms
- include inspirational quotes
- make pleading/begging statements
- needlessly flatter the organisation
- include irrelevant course modules, personal facts or extra-curricular activities
- namedrop key authors without explanation
- use overly long sentences
- repeat information found elsewhere in your application
- leave writing your personal statement to the last minute.
How should I start my Masters personal statement?
Try not to waste too much time coming up with a catchy opening. The more you try, the more contrived you'll sound and the more likely you are to fall into the trap of using clichés.
Avoid using overused phrases, such as:
- For as long as I can remember…
- From a young age…
- I am applying for this course because…
- Throughout my life I have always enjoyed…
- I have always been interested in…
- I have always been passionate about…
- I have always wanted to pursue a career in…
- Reflecting on my educational experiences…
Admissions tutors read hundreds of applications per course so the opening paragraph of your personal statement needs to get straight to the point and make a real impact. Avoid overkill statements, gimmicks and popular quotes.
If you're really struggling, come back and tackle the opening once you have written the rest.
How should I end my personal statement?
Conclusions should be short, sharp and memorable, and leave no doubt in an admissions tutor's mind that you deserve a place on a course.
The perfect ending should pull all of your key points together without waffling or repeating yourself.
Like the rest of your Masters personal statement, keep the ending simple. Be succinct and make it clear why you'll be an asset to the university and end on a positive note, with a statement about why the institution would be lucky to have you as a student.
What are admissions tutors are looking for?
- an explanation of how the course links your past and future
- an insight into your academic and non-academic abilities, and how they'll fit with the course
- evidence of your skills, commitment and enthusiasm
- knowledge of the institution's area of expertise
- reasons why you want to study at the institution
- demonstrable interest in the subject, perhaps including some academic references or readings.
Personal statement examples
The style and content of your postgraduate personal statement depends on several variables, such as the type of qualification that you're applying for - such as a Masters degree , a conversion course or teacher training . Here are some postgraduate personal statement templates to help you get started:
Law personal statement
You'll apply for an LLM the same way you would for any other Masters, directly to the university. Whether you're undertaking a general LLM or a more specific programme, such as an LLM in human rights or international business law, you'll need to convey why you want to study the law in more depth and how this could potentially aid your career. Discover more about LLM degrees .
Psychology personal statement
Applications for conversion courses such as these are fairly straightforward and made directly to individual institutions. You need to explain why you want to change subjects and how your current subject will help you. Explain what experience you have that will help with your conversion subject, and what you hope to do in the future. Learn more about psychology conversion courses .
Social work personal statement
If your Bachelors degree was in an unrelated subject but you now have ambitions to work as a social worker you'll need a Masters in social work (MSW) to qualify. Social work Masters have a substantial work placement element so you'll need to cover what you hope to achieve during this time as well as demonstrate other relevant experience. Find out more about social work courses .
PGCE primary personal statement
As well as detailing why you want to work with this particular age group, a PGCE primary personal statement should highlight the ways in which your educational background has inspired you to teach. You'll need to cover relevant skills you have gained and any related work experience, as well as demonstrate your knowledge of the primary national curriculum. Read up on PGCEs .
PGCE secondary personal statement
You'll need to cover why you want to teach at secondary level while also acknowledging the pressures and challenges of working with older pupils. As you'll be teaching a specific subject, you'll need to evidence your knowledge in this area and demonstrate how your first degree was relevant. It's also essential to highlight any related work or voluntary experience. Learn more about teaching personal statements .
Find out more
- Search postgraduate courses .
- Find out what else you must consider when applying for a Masters degree .
- Completed your application? Discover what postgraduate interview questions you may be asked.
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Graduate School Personal Statement Examples: Good, Bad, & Everything In Between
Your personal statement should demonstrate that you have thought deeply about why you are making the decision to go to grad school and that your decision is one that will endure the challenges that graduate school presents. Sounds a little challenging? Don’t worry, this blog post will break down the strategy of writing a strong personal statement for graduate school.
Comparing Graduate School Personal Statement Examples
Below I will share types of personal statement examples: one with a strong writing approach and one that lacks clarity and may cause confusion for an admissions committee reader. Then I will describe the strengths and weaknesses of each example.
Introduction Paragraph Examples:
Ex. 1-Strong) The ocean is as fundamental to our lives as any other ecological habitat, so why don’t we have systems in place to treat it that way? Growing up in Monterey, California I was first introduced to marine biology through my advanced placement biology class. While in community college I helped form a student-led monthly beach clean-up team. This rewarding experience led me to pursue an undergraduate degree in Biology with an emphasis in ocean preservation. My passion for developing innovative and culturally informed approaches to marine preservation on a global scale have led me to pursue a doctorate in the field of marine biology. My desired research focus will explore solutions to the impacts of micro plastics in our ocean.
Ex. 2-Weak) Yea sure, the ocean is in a devastated condition, but what are we going to do about it? Well, with my degree in bio I plan to get a PhD in marine biology to help figure out how to address micro plastics in our ocean. I know so much already, and I just know that with a PhD I will be able to contribute on a greater scale. I know the PhD is a lot of work, but I am pretty sure I will be able to complete the program and have a great time doing so. I have always wanted to live in Santa Barbara, and that is definitely a part of my decision to apply to your program.
Conclusion Paragraph Examples:
Ex. 1-Strong) As a first generation college student, and an English language learner, my journey to receive my bachelors of science in marine biology has been tough. Along the way I have developed leadership skills, research and lab experience, as well as a refined passion for the work that marine biologists are able to do when informed by the local community members. I desire to continue my studies with an emphasis on ocean preservation research through the innovative and unique PhD program offered at UC Santa Barbara. It would be an honor to work with Dr. Jonas Mendoza and Dr. Raquel Pacheco, two professors whose work aligns with my research interests and who have been welcoming and encouraging through our email correspondence. While my research goals are ambitious, I am confident that your program offers the resources and mentorship required for a unified effort to resolve the impact that microplastics have on not only human life, but all marine animals and ecosystems.
Ex2. -Weak) I think it’s a miracle that I even completed my B.S degree! That’s how I know that with the funding and laid back atmosphere at UC Santa Barbara I can definitely complete the PhD. I’m not so interested in the teaching part, or the amount of course work I would be required to take, but I just know that once I get out there and get into the water, it will all be worth it. My research experience is competitive and top-notch, I am a great person to work with and easily make friends. I am hopeful to hear back and excited for the next steps! Thanks for reading this far.
Diving Deeper Into Personal Statement Examples
So, let’s discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the examples above!
- Throughout the paragraph the applicant demonstrates that they have been involved with marine biology since high school, this is important because it demonstrates their commitment to the field early on in the essay
- The applicant mentions a desire to live in Santa Barbara, while it may be true, it is not a strong enough reason to pursue a PhD and signals to the admissions committee that you may be pursuing the program for the wrong reasons. Keep details like this out of your personal statement and focus on reasons for applying that are academically motivated.
- The applicant concludes by mentioning the importance of a “unified effort” for their research goals. This goes a long way to demonstrate that they understand how important collaborative effort is. This helps make an applicant more attractive in the eyes of an admissions committee that must also consider the work ethic of all applicants.
- The applicant describes their research experience as “competitive and top-notch”, even if you have the most impressive curriculum vitae focus on instead listing what you have done, with who and what they outcomes were and let the admissions committee decide how they interpret it.
So, what makes a good personal statement?
Your personal statement will be one amongst many that a committee of real people will read to assess who you are. you have to remember that the committee members do not get to meet you before they read your application materials. you cannot risk leaving out crucial information. oftentimes, students struggle to talk about themselves, they see it as “bragging” or “showing off”. it is important that you overcome your discomfort and realize that the personal statement is essentially the first impression you will make on the committee. make the most of the opportunity to introduce yourself and make sure to address the following:.
- Why now? Admissions committees have been through graduate school. They know better than anyone that graduate school is not a choice one makes simply because “you don’t know what else to do”. Demonstrate that you are prepared for the commitment and the work by specifying why you have decided that graduate school is the best option for you at this time and that your current and past experiences align with your intentions if admitted into the program.
A good personal statement will address all of these questions and be mindful about appropriate boundaries with each. Ultimately, it will demonstrate to the committee that you are prepared for the program, that you are likely to succeed if admitted, and that you are passionate about and committed to pursuing a career in which the training and the degree that you will receive is imperative to your future goals.
The importance of a clear narrative:
A clear narrative will allow for the admissions committee to extract the necessary information about you without any hassle. Remember that you are one applicant amongst many, when writing your personal statement do not assume that your reader will know the importance of any information or the necessary context if you do not provide these details for them. Consider these tips when writing:
- Do not overestimate the importance of proofreading! Read your essays out loud and record the audio while doing it. Does it flow? Does it answer every question provided in the prompt (if provided one)? I recommend finding at least one person who is in graduate school and preferably within your field to read your essay.
Summary and Major Takeaways
The personal statement is usually just 1-2 pages. With a document this short and with so much importance towards your chances of admission, every word matters! Consider these takeaways as you prepare and always remember you can reach out to us at Magoosh for more in-depth and personalized support.
Do this before you get to writing. Gather information from this blog post, the programs official website, any correspondence between you and professors or graduate students at each program you will be applying to, and develop a document that lists every experience and detail you wish to include. Use this as a reference as you write so that you are certain you are hitting every point.
Do not skip this step! Seek out support from current graduate students or a writing service for some feedback. Double check for any language that is too casual, or can be off putting or concerning to anyone who will review your application.
Remember that admissions committees are made up of real people who read an unbelievable amount of applications. Do your best to stand out, really think about what sets you apart and what skills you have developed throughout your life that are relevant to the program you are pursuing. After you have your first draft, focus on language and phrases that are both professional and captivating to your reader. Sprinkle in some flare!
Verónica Mandujano is an Admissions Instructor at Magoosh. She supports students throughout their application process in various forms including live classes on an array of topics, writing support and coaching. She is excited to be able to share from her past and current experiences as a PhD student and as an instructor at the University of California, Santa Barbara where her research employs interdisciplinary methods to address birthing justice, the colonial impacts of obstetrics, and the re-matriation of ancestral plant birthing medicine. She is a creative writer, a proud chihuahua momma, and a firm believer in never putting your taco down once you take the first bite.
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Postgraduate Personal Statement Examples
Our postgraduate personal statement examples for Masters and PhD courses will inspire you to write your own unique statement, and help you understand how students have successfully applied for this type of course in the past.
How to write a masters statement.
Find out more
Masters Personal Statement Tips
Should I Do A Masters?
Types Of Postgraduate Degree
Research Vs Taught Masters
Choosing A Postgrad University
Postgraduate Entry Requirements
7 Ways To Fail A Graduate Interview
Uni Open Day Tips
What is a postgraduate personal statement?
A postgraduate personal statement is a piece of creative writing that should tell the universities you are applying to all about your strengths and where you see yourself in the future.
It should give admissions tutors a good idea of who you are and why you would make a valuable candidate for their course.
Remember that a postgraduate course is a higher level of study than an undergraduate degree, so be prepared to share your knowledge and expertise in your chosen subject.
How do I write a postgraduate personal statement?
We always recommend starting your postgraduate personal statement by brainstorming ideas. Your notes should cover the following:
- academic results
- part-time or Saturday jobs
- wider reading
- extracurricular activities
as well as anything else you can think of that is relevant to the course you are applying for.
Take a look through our collection of postgraduate personal statement examples above to give yourself an idea of what a successful statement looks like.
Once you have put together an initial draft, it's a good idea to ask for feedback from family, friends and tutors. They will be able to look at your statement objectively and suggest ways it could be improved.
Incorporate their comments, and ask for further feedback. Don't worry if you have to do this three or four times - it's important you get your statement as perfect as possible before sending it off on your UCAS form.
What should I include in my postgraduate personal statement?
- Look at the content of the course and make sure your statement addresses the specific apect(s) you are interested in.
- Talk about your motivations for wanting to study the course and mention any projects you've completed, awards you've received or other achievements.
- Demonstrate important skillls that are required for a postgraduate course, e.g. problem-solving, teamwork, analytical, communication etc. Talk about how you have developed these, either at school/college, at your job or during hobbies or other activities.
- Most applicants spend the opening of their statement talking about why they want to study a postgraduate course in their subject, e.g. to improve their career prospects, or as a stepping stone to a PhD.
- Don’t include any over-used phrases or quotes in your statement that university admissions tutors will have seen and heard before.
- Now is also not the time for jokes or humour - it often doesn't work well and admissions tutors might not be impressed!
- Pay attention to detail and use good vocabulary and grammar throughout.
- Try to keep the tone positive and enthusiastic - tutors want to see passionate students that will be a valuable asset to their department.
- Start writing your personal statement as soon as you know which course you want to apply for and which universities you want to approach.
For more help and advice on what to write in your postgraduate personal statement, please see:
- Personal Statement Editing Services
- Personal Statement Tips From A Teacher
- Analysis Of A Personal Statement
- The 15th January UCAS Deadline: 4 Ways To Avoid Missing It
- Personal Statement FAQs
- Personal Statement Timeline
- 10 Top Personal Statement Writing Tips
- What To Do If You Miss The 15th January UCAS Deadline.
How long is a postgraduate personal statement?
A postgraduate personal statement is normally around 500 words long, which is roughly one side of A4. Some universities may require more, such as up two sides. Other institutions also set a character limit instead of a specific word count, so check the guidelines before you start writing.
Postgraduate personal statements shouldn't include personal information that is already elsewhere on your UCAS form. Instead, focus on why you want to study a particular postgraduate course and your potential to successfully complete your studies.
How do I structure my postgraduate personal statement?
Your Masters personal statement should have a clear, logical structure, where the paragraphs flow coherently from one to the next.
For the opening paragraph, you should try to grab the admission tutor's attention with an positive and passionate introduction that tells admission tutors why you want to study this course.
Your middle paragraphs should tell the reader all about your knowledge and skills and demonstrate why this course is the next step for you.
Around half of the main body should focus on you and your interests, and the other half about the course content and where you hope it will take you in the future.
Your conclusion should round off your statement by explaining why you are a great candidate. Most students aim to write between four and six paragraphs in total, although remember not to waffle - every word needs to count!
It's a good idea to mention any potential red flags, such as a gap in your education history, or low grades at school or college, and explain the reasons why as positively as possible.
For example, talk about how you plan to increase your wider reading to make up for your lower than expected exam results, or how you spent a year out from education volunteering at a local animal centre.
Most postgraduate applications are submitted online via the UCAS Postgraduate service or directly through the university's website. If you are doing the latter, make sure it is formatted correctly before submitting it.
How do I begin my postgraduate personal statement?
The first rule here is not to include any typically over-used phrases such as "since a young age" or "I have always wanted to be a...".
Remember that admission tutors read hundreds of statements every week, so you need to cut to the chase and grab their attention straight away.
Looking through some of our postgraduate personal staetment examples will inspire you, and help give you an idea of what makes a good opening sentence.
How do I conclude my postgraduate personal statement?
Your conclusion is just as important as your opening, so it's worth spending as much time as you can rounding your statement off with something memorable.
Talk about your ambitions and how you hope your postgraduate course will allow you to achive your career ambitions.
The end of your statement should also include a concise summary of why you are a good fit for the course.
Keep it succinct and on point, and think about why you will be a valuable asset to the university. After all, you are up against many other candidates, so why should the tutors offer you a place over them?
Once you've completed an initial draft, including an opening, middle and end, make sure you pass it on to family, friends or anyone else that can provide feedback.
You can then incorporate any suggestions or comments to try and improve it.
Be aware that it will probably take at least three or four rounds of revisions before you have a final, polished draft.
If you follow these tips your personal statement should leave a lasting impression.
Where can I find more information about postgraduate personal statements and applying for a course?
There are lots of great resources out there with tips and advice on postgraduate university personal statements and UCAS applications, including:
- Should I apply for a postgraduate course?
- Types of postgraduate course
- Writing a postgraduate personal statement
- Benefits of postgraduate study
- Postgraduate entry requirements
- Research vs Taught Masters
- Taught Masters
- Research Masters
- UCAS Postgraduate Applications
12 Personal Statement Examples + Analysis
If you’re applying to college, you’ll most likely need to write a personal statement as part of your college application.
But before diving into analyzing some great personal statement examples, it helps to get some context on what a personal statement actually is, and what writers should plan to include when writing their own personal statement.
What is a personal statement?
It’s the main essay required by the Common Application as well as most other application systems. They basically require you to answer some version of the question “Who are you, and what do you value?” And in recent years, the main Common Application essay has become more and more important in colleges’ decision making process, especially as many colleges are relying less and less on standardized test scores.
Why read personal statement examples?
In our work with students, we often encourage students to review examples of personal statements to get a sense of what a great essay might look like and to just generally share a wide range of topics, structures, and writing styles so that they can see what’s possible when writing this essay. In this spirit, we’re sharing 12 of our favorite examples from the past few years. We’ve also included analysis for what makes them outstanding to (hopefully) help you uplevel your own essay.
What should a personal statement include?
The personal statement should demonstrate the qualities, skills, and values that you’ve cultivated over your life and how those skills have prepared you for attending college. I (Ethan) have spent the last 15 years answering this question, which you can learn more about in my free 1-hour guide .
In our opinion, a great personal statement example has 4 qualities . After reading the essay, you can identify whether your essay or topic show each of the four qualities by asking yourself the questions below:
Values : Can you name at least 4-5 of the author’s core values? Do you detect a variety of values, or do the values repeat?
Vulnerability : Does the essay sound like it’s mostly analytical or like it’s coming from a deeper, more vulnerable place? Does it sound like the author wrote it using mostly his or her head (intellect) or his or her heart and gut? After reading the essay, do you know more about the author AND feel closer to him or her?
Insight : Can you identify at least 3-5 “so what” moments of insight in the essay? Are these moments kind of predictable, or are they truly illuminating?
Craft : Do the ideas in the essay connect in a way that is logical, but not too obvious (aka boring)? Can you tell that the essay represents a series of carefully considered choices and that the author spent a lot of time revising the essay over the course of several drafts?
Want a more thorough guide on how to write a personal statement? We’ve got you covered.
Let’s read some essays.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Example #1 - The Tally on My Uniform Example #2 - Quattro Lingue Example #3 - 12 Example #4 - Flying Example #5 - Arab Spring in Bahrain Example #6 - Poop, Animals and the Environment Example #7 - Entoptic Phenomena Example #8 - The Builder & Problem Solver Example #10 - The Little Porch and a Dog (With Spanish Translation) Example #10 - Life As an Undocumented Student Example #11 - Umbra Example #12 - Angry brown girl, feminist, singer, meme lover
Personal Statement Example #1 The Tally on My Uniform
Day 19: I am using my school uniform as a slate to tally the days. As the ink slowly seeps through the fabric of my shirt, I begin to understand that being a conscious Arab comes with a cost.
Day 7: I come across a live stream on social media, 1,200 Palestinian political prisoners are on their seventh day of a hunger strike against the Israeli occupation. It is the first I have heard of its occurrence. I allow myself to follow the news daily through social media while regional mainstream media and our local news channels refrain from reporting any news of the strike.
Day 13: I am engulfed by the cry for justice. I feel helplessly overwhelmed, not wanting to confront reality, but I force myself to anyway; actively searching, refreshing my phone to tune into live streams from protests, plugging in “Palestinian hunger strike” on the search engine to stay connected to the cause.
Day 18: No one else seems to know anything about what is going on. I am compelled to find a way to embody the struggle. In my first period class, I see a marker beside the whiteboard. I pick it up, not sure what I’m going to do, but then hear myself asking my classmates to each draw a vertical line on my shirt. It seems funny at first--they laugh, confused. But each time the marker touches the fabric it tells a story. It is a story of occupied countries, a story in which resisting apartheid becomes synonymous with criminality, a story we refuse to address because we have grown too apathetic to value life beyond our borders. As my classmates draw the tally, together we tell the story of the hunger strike and mourn the distance human beings have created between each other.
Day 20: My uniform has become a subject of question. Each pair of eyes that fix their gaze on the ink, I share the story of our Palestinian compatriots. The initial responses are the same: disbelief, followed by productive conversation on our moral responsibility to educate ourselves on the conflict.
Day 28: Each day the strike continues, I have asked my classmates to draw another line on the tally. While it still comes across as unsettling, it seems to no longer represent the reality of the hunger strike. My classmates are no longer interested in what it means. I am supposed to move on already. I am called in to the principal’s office. After being instructed to get a new shirt, I choose to challenge the order. As long as the hunger strike lasts, I will continue to voice the reality of the hundreds of prisoners, in hopes of recreating the sense of responsibility I originally sensed in my peers.
Day 41: A compromise deal is offered to the political prisoners and they suspend their hunger strike. I walk out of school with a clean uniform and feel whole again, but unnaturally so. I was left feeling an unspoken kind of weakness where I broke under the realisation that not all sorrows could resonate with people enough for me to expect them to lead movements.
I would need to be the one to lead, to recreate the energy that the tally once inspired. I decided to found a political streetwear brand, Silla, where fashion choices transcend superficial aesthetics by spreading a substantial message of equality and donating the profits to NGOs that advocate for social change. Through Silla, I am able to stay in touch with my generation, keeping them engaged with issues because of how they can now spend their money Silla has mobilized people to voice their opinions that align with equity and equality. Because of my adherence to justice, I was elected student government president and I use it as a platform to be vigilant in reminding my peers of their potential, inspiring them to take action and be outspoken about their beliefs. When the ink seeped through the fabric of my uniform it also stained my moral fibres, and will forever remind me that I am an agent of change.
Why This Essay Worked:
Uncommon topic and uncommon connections. Overall, this is just a stand out piece. The unique story of how the author had lines drawn on her shirt pulls the reader in. But while this story is not something you’d typically find in other people’s applications, don’t feel intimidated. Having an uncommon topic makes writing a strong essay a bit easier, but by itself is not enough for a great essay. What really elevates this piece is the connections and observations that the author makes about her classmates and the school’s collective response to distant but important political conflict. The student does a great job evoking the emotional response of her peers and beautifully articulates her own indignation with the apathy that emerges. When you write your essay, consider how you can use uncommon connections to take your reader to places they may not have expected to go.
Experimental structure. One of the many cool things about this essay is its structure, which demonstrates the quality of craft . The author uses a montage structure that emphasizes numbers and chronology, two ideas that are central to the content of the piece itself. By playing with the idea of time and distance, the applicant emphasizes some of the critical ideas in her essay and shows that she’s unafraid to think outside the box. Remember, admissions officers read tons of personal statements; an uncommon structure can go a long way in setting you apart from the crowd.
Answers the question “so what?” The thing that really brings this essay home is the last paragraph. Although the story of the uniform being marked by lines for each day of the hunger strike is fascinating, we’re not totally sure of its relevance to the life of the author until she gets to that last bit. In it, she tells us about her politically-aware fashion line and her appointment as school president. This answers the question of “so what” because it shows us that she took the lessons she learned during the strike and applied it to her life outlook/practices more broadly. After you’ve written your first draft, go back through it and make sure you’ve clearly shown what you’ve done to act upon your reflections or values .
Personal Statement Example #2 Quattro Lingue
Day 1: “Labbayka Allāhumma Labbayk. Labbayk Lā Sharīka Laka Labbayk,” we chant, sweat dripping onto the wispy sand in brutal Arabian heat, as millions of us prepare to march from the rocky desert hills of Mount Arafat to the cool, flat valleys of Muzdalifa. As we make our way into the Haram, my heart shakes. Tears rolling down my cheeks, we circumvent the Ka’ba one last time before embarking on Hajj, the compulsory pilgrimage of Islam. It became the spiritual, visceral, and linguistic journey of a lifetime.
“Ureed an Aśhtareę Hijab.”
“Al-harir aw al-Qathan?”
“La. Khizth sab’een.”
“Show me hijabs.”
“Silk or cotton?”
“How much do these cost?”
“No. Take 70.”
“Fine. Thanks Hajjah.”
In Makkah, I quickly learn shopkeepers rip off foreigners, so exchanges like this, where I only have to say a few Arabic words, make me appear local. It also connects me with real locals: the Saudi Arabian pharmacist who sells me cough syrup, the Egyptian grandmother seeking directions to the restroom, the Moroccan family who educates me on the Algerian conflict. As the sounds of Arabic swirl around me like the fluttering sands (Jamal, Naqah, Ibl, Ba’eer…), I’m reconnecting with an old friend: we’d first met when I decided to add a third language to English and Bengali.
Day 6: The tents of Mina. Temperature blazing. Humidity high. I sleep next to an old woman who just embarked on her twentieth Hajj. When I discover she’s Pakistani, I speak to her in Urdu. Her ninety-year old energy--grounded, spiritual, and non-materialistic--inspires me. So far, every day has been a new discovery of my courage, spirit, and faith, and I see myself going on this journey many more times in my life. My new friend is curious where I, a Bengali, learned Urdu. I explain that as a Muslim living in America’s divided political climate, I wanted to understand my religion better by reading an ancient account of the life of Prophet Muhammad, but Seerat-un-Nabi is only in Urdu, so I learned to read it. I was delighted to discover the resonances: Qi-yaa-mah in Arabic becomes Qi-ya-mat in Urdu, Dh-a-lim becomes Zaa-lim… Urdu, which I had previously only understood academically, was the key to developing a personal connection with a generation different from mine.
Day 8: “Fix your hair. You look silly,” my mom says in Bengali. When my parents want to speak privately, they speak our native tongue. Phrases like, “Can you grab some guava juice?” draw us closer together. My parents taught me to look out for myself from a young age, so Hajj is one of the only times we experienced something formative together. Our “secret” language made me see Bengali, which I’ve spoken all my life, as beautiful. It also made me aware of how important shared traditions are.
As I think back to those sweltering, eclectic days, the stories and spiritual connections linger. No matter what languages we spoke, we are all Muslims in a Muslim country, the first time I’d ever experienced that. I came out of my American bubble and discovered I was someone to be looked up to. Having studied Islam my whole life, I knew the ins and outs of Hajj. This, along with my love for language, made me, the youngest, the sage of our group. Whether at the Al-Baik store in our camp or the Jamarat where Satan is stoned, people asked me about standards for wearing hijab or to read the Quran out loud. I left the journey feeling fearless. Throughout my life, I’ll continue to seek opportunities where I’m respected, proud to be Muslim, and strong enough to stand up for others. The next time I go to Hajj, I want to speak two more languages: donc je peux parler à plus de gens and quiero escuchar más historias.
It’s visceral and evocative. Details about the specific resonance of Urdu words and the conversations this author shared with the people they met on their Hajj brings this essay to life. Nearly every line is full of vivid imagery and textured language . Those details make this piece fun to read and truly bring us into the world of the author. Whenever you’re writing, think about how you can engage all five senses to show, not simply tell, how you experienced something.
Uses images to convey a sense of time, place, and self. Notice how this author’s use of images and details give this personal statement a dream-like quality, hopping between spaces, people, languages, and thoughts. As a result, the author is able to talk about so many different aspects of their culture. The way the details are conveyed also speaks to the aesthetic sensibilities of the author, providing another window into who they are as a person. When you’re writing, think about how you can use imagistic language to show the reader what you care about.
Uses dialogue effectively. Dialogue isn’t always the best strategy, as it can take up a good chunk of your word count without explicitly saying anything about who you are. In this piece, however, the author does a great job of using their conversations with people they meet along their journey to convey their values and interests. Not only does the dialogue emphasize their fascination with language and cultural exchange, but it breaks up what would have been dense paragraphs into nice manageable chunks that are easier to read.
Learn how to write your personal statement here
Personal statement example #3 12.
12 is the number of my idol, Tom Brady. It’s the sum of all the letters in my name. It’s also how old I was when I started high school.
In short, I skipped two grades: first and sixth. Between kindergarten and eighth grade, I attended five schools, including two different styles of homeschooling (three years at a co-op and one in my kitchen). Before skipping, I was perennially bored.
But when I began homeschooling, everything changed. Free to move as fast as I wanted, I devoured tomes from Jefferson, Hamilton, and Madison to London, Kipling, and Twain. I wrote 10-page papers on subjects from Ancient Sparta and military history to the founding of the United States and the resounding impact of slavery. I discovered more than I ever had, kindling a lifelong joy for learning.
While high school offered welcome academic opportunities--studying two languages and taking early science APs chief among them--the social environment was a different beast. Many classmates considered me more a little brother than a true friend, and my age and laser focus on academics initially made me socially inept. I joined sports teams in spring and built better relationships, but my lack of size (5’1”) and strength relegated me to the end of the bench. Oftentimes, I secretly wished I was normal age.
That secret desire manifested itself in different ways. While I’ve loved football since I was a little kid, I soon became obsessed with personal success on the gridiron--the key, I figured, to social acceptance and the solution to my age problem. I had grown up obsessively tracking my New England Patriots. Now, instead of armchair quarterbacking, I poured hours into throwing mechanics and studying film after my homework each night. Itching to grow, I adopted Brady’s diet, cutting dairy, white flour, and processed sugar. But in the rush to change, my attitude towards academics shifted; I came to regard learning as more a job than a joy. No matter what talents I possessed, I viewed myself as a failure because I couldn’t play.
That view held sway until a conversation with my friend Alex, the fastest receiver on the team. As I told him I wished we could switch places so I could succeed on the gridiron, he stared incredulously. “Dude,” he exclaimed, “I wish I was you!” Hearing my friends voice their confidence in my abilities prompted me to reflect: I quickly realized I was discounting my academic talents to fit a social construct. Instead of pushing myself to be something I wasn’t, I needed to meld my talents and my passions. Instead of playing sports, I recognized, I should coach them.
My goal to coach professionally has already helped me embrace the academic side of the game--my side--rather than sidelining it. I have devoured scouting tomes, analyzed NFL game film, spoken with pros like Dante Scarnecchia, and even joined the American Football Coaches Association. Translating that coach’s mentality into practice, I began explaining the concepts behind different plays to my teammates, helping them see the subtleties of strategy (despite Coach Whitcher’s complaints that I was trying to steal his job). And I discovered that my intellectual understanding of the game is far more important in determining my success than my athletic tools: with the discipline, adaptability, and drive I had already developed, I’ve become a better player, student, and friend.
Physically and mentally, I’ve changed a lot since freshman year, growing 11 inches and gaining newfound confidence in myself and my abilities. Instead of fighting for social acceptance, I’m free to focus on the things I love. Academically, that change re-inspired me. Able to express my full personality without social pressure, I rededicated myself in the classroom and my community. I still secretly wish to be Tom Brady. But now, I’m happy to settle for Bill Belichick.
There’s a wonderful hook. The first line is great. It’s funny, intriguing, and doesn’t give too much away. In just the first bit we already know that the author is a football enthusiast, detail-oriented, and academically gifted. Not only does it tell us a lot about him, but it allows him to transition into the meat of his story about how his unconventional educational trajectory influenced the person he is today. Think about how you can use the first sentence or two of your personal statement to effectively introduce readers to your narrative voice and rope them into reading more.
It has a great “Aha!” moment. Great personal statements often convey growth. In this example, the author struggles to find a place for himself in high school after skipping two grades and being homeschooled for a significant portion of his life. It isn’t until his friend on the football team affirms his value that he starts to see all of the ways in which his unique skills benefit the people around him. If you think of your essay like a movie reel of your life, this moment is sort of like the climax. It’s when the mindset of the main character changes and allows him to embrace what he’s got. The anticipation and release of this “aha moment” keeps readers engaged in the piece and demonstrates your ability, as the applicant, to be self-reflective and adaptable to change.
It covers a broad time frame, but still fits in tons of nice details. This essay essentially talks about the author’s life from 5th grade to present day. He’s not focusing on one specific moment. This is absolutely something you can do as well if you want to demonstrate how you’ve grown over a longer period of time. However, notice that the author here doesn’t sacrifice depth for breadth. Even though he’s covering a pretty significant chunk of time, he still touches on great details about his favorite classes and authors, football role models, and conversations with friends. These are what make the essay great and specific to his life. If you’re going to talk about more than just one event or moment, don’t forget to highlight important details along the way.
Personal Statement Example #4 Flying
As a young child, I was obsessed with flying. I spent hours watching birds fly, noting how the angle of their wings affected the trajectory of their flight. I would then waste tons of fresh printer paper, much to the dismay of my parents, to test out various wing types by constructing paper airplanes.
One day, this obsession reached its fever pitch.
I decided to fly.
I built a plane out of a wooden clothes rack and blankets, with trash bags as precautionary parachutes. As you can imagine, the maiden flight didn’t go so well. After being in the air for a solid second, the world came crashing around me as I slammed onto the bed, sending shards of wood flying everywhere.
Yet, even as a five-year-old, my first thoughts weren’t about the bleeding scratches that covered my body. Why didn’t the wings function like a bird’s wings? Why did hitting something soft break my frame? Why hadn’t the parachutes deployed correctly? Above all, why didn’t I fly?
As I grew older, my intrinsic drive to discover why stimulated a desire to solve problems, allowing my singular passion of flying to evolve into a deep-seated love of engineering.
I began to challenge myself academically, taking the hardest STEM classes offered . Not only did this allow me to complete all possible science and math courses by the end of my junior year, but it also surrounded me with the smartest kids of the grades above me, allowing me access to the advanced research they were working on. As such, I developed an innate understanding of topics such as protein function in the brain and differential equation modeling early in high school, helping me develop a strong science and math foundation to supplement my passion for engineering.
I also elected to participate in my school’s engineering pathway . As a team leader, I was able to develop my leadership skills as I identified and utilized each member’s strength to produce the best product. I sought to make design collaborative, not limited to the ideas of one person. In major group projects, such as building a hovercraft, I served as both president and devil’s advocate, constantly questioning if each design decision was the best option, ultimately resulting in a more efficient model that performed significantly better than our initial prototype.
Most of all, I sought to solve problems that impact the real world . Inspired by the water crisis in India, I developed a water purification system that combines carbon nanotube filters with shock electrodialysis to both desalinate and purify water more efficiently and cost-effectively than conventional plants. The following year, I ventured into disease detection, designing a piezoresistive microcantilever that detected the concentration of beta-amyloid protein to medically diagnose a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, a use for cantilevers that hadn’t yet been discovered. The project received 1st Honors at the Georgia Science Fair.
Working on these two projects, I saw the raw power of engineering – an abstract idea gradually becoming reality . I was spending most of my days understanding the why behind things, while also discovering solutions to prevalent issues. In a world that increasingly prioritizes a singular solution, I am captivated by engineering’s ability to continuously offer better answers to each problem.
Thirteen years have passed since that maiden flight, and I have yet to crack physical human flight . My five-year-old self would have seen this as a colossal failure. But the intense curiosity that I found in myself that day is still with me. It has continued to push me, forcing me to challenge myself to tackle ever more complex problems, engrossed by the promise and applicability of engineering.
I may never achieve human flight . However, now I see what once seemed like a crash landing as a runway, the platform off of which my love of engineering first took flight.
The author isn’t afraid to ask questions. This writer is clearly a curious and intellectual person. The questions they ask in the first part of the essay (“Why didn’t the wings function like a bird’s wings? Why did hitting something soft break my frame? Why hadn’t the parachutes deployed correctly? Above all, why didn’t I fly?”) highlight that. In your essay, don’t shy away from asking tough questions. In the end, the author still hasn’t achieved human flight, but you can clearly see how his interest in the whys of life has propelled him to take on new engineering problems. Sometimes, you don’t need to answer the questions you pose for them to serve a purpose in your essay.
It returns back to where it started. There’s something satisfying about returning to your intro in your conclusion. In this case, the author comes back to his first flying experience and re-evaluates what the experience means to him now as well as how his thinking has evolved. Think of your essay as a circle (or maybe a blob depending on what you’re writing about). Your end should loop back to where you started after your narrative arc is mostly complete.
Uses specific jargon (but not too much). We might not know what a “piezoresistive microcantilever” is or how it relates to “beta-amyloid proteins,” but that’s not really the point of including it in this essay. By using these terms the author signals to us that he knows what he’s talking about and has a degree of expertise in engineering. On the flip side, you don’t want to use so much jargon that your reader has no idea what you’re saying. Including a little bit of field-specific language can go a long way, so you don’t want to overdo it. If you’re not sure what specific details or language to include, check out our 21 Details Exercise and see if that helps you brainstorm some ideas.
Personal Statement Example #5 Arab Spring in Bahrain
February 2011– My brothers and I were showing off our soccer dribbling skills in my grandfather’s yard when we heard gunshots and screaming in the distance. We paused and listened, confused by sounds we had only ever heard on the news or in movies. My mother rushed out of the house and ordered us inside. The Arab Spring had come to Bahrain.
I learned to be alert to the rancid smell of tear gas. Its stench would waft through the air before it invaded my eyes, urging me inside before they started to sting. Newspaper front pages constantly showed images of bloodied clashes, made worse by Molotov cocktails. Martial Law was implemented; roaming tanks became a common sight. On my way to school, I nervously passed burning tires and angry protesters shouting “Yaskut Hamad! “ [“Down with King Hamad!”]. Bahrain, known for its palm trees and pearls, was waking up from a slumber. The only home I had known was now a place where I learned to fear.
September 2013– Two and a half years after the uprisings, the events were still not a distant memory. I decided the answer to fear was understanding. I began to analyze the events and actions that led to the upheaval of the Arab Springs. In my country, religious and political tensions were brought to light as Shias, who felt underrepresented and neglected within the government, challenged the Sunnis, who were thought to be favored for positions of power. I wanted equality and social justice; I did not want the violence to escalate any further and for my country to descend into the nightmare that is Libya and Syria.
September 2014– Pursuing understanding helped allay my fears, but I also wanted to contribute to Bahrain in a positive way. I participated in student government as a student representative and later as President, became a member of Model United Nations (MUN), and was elected President of the Heritage Club, a charity-focused club supporting refugees and the poor.
As an MUN delegate, I saw global problems from perspectives other than my own and used my insight to push for compromise. I debated human rights violations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from an Israeli perspective, argued whether Syrian refugees should be allowed entry into neighboring European countries, and then created resolutions for each problem. In the Heritage Club, I raised funds and ran food drives so that my team could provide support for less fortunate Bahrainis. We regularly distributed boxed lunches to migrant workers, bags of rice to refugees and air conditioners to the poor.
April 2016 – The Crown Prince International Scholarship Program (CPISP) is an intensive leadership training program where participants are chosen on merit, not political ideologies. Both Shia and Sunni candidates are selected, helping to diversify the future leadership of my country. I was shortlisted to attend the training during that summer.
July 2016 – The CPISP reaffirmed for me the importance of cooperation. At first, building chairs out of balloons and skyscrapers out of sticks didn’t seem meaningful. But as I learned to apply different types of leadership styles to real-life situations and honed my communication skills to lead my team, I began to see what my country was missing: harmony based on trust. Bringing people together from different backgrounds and successfully completing goals—any goal—builds trust. And trust is the first step to lasting peace.
October 2016 – I have only begun to understand my people and my history, but I no longer live in fear. Instead, I have found purpose. I plan to study political science and economics to find answers for the issues that remain unresolved in my country. Bahrain can be known for something more than pearl diving, palm trees, and the Arab Spring; it can be known for the understanding of its people, including me.
Orients the reader in time. As you’ve seen in several other example essays already, date and time can be used very effectively to structure a piece. This author talks about an intensely political topic, which changed drastically over the course of a specific timeframe. Because of that, the use of timestamps elevates the piece and makes it easier for readers to follow the chronology of the story. If your essay topic is something that has changed significantly over time or has developed in a chronological way, this might be a great blueprint for you. Check out our Feelings and Needs Exercise to brainstorm for this kind of essay where you learn something along a narrative arc from Point A to Point B.
Gives us the right amount of context. When you’re talking about political or cultural issues or events, don’t assume that your reader has a base level of knowledge. Although you don’t want to spend too much time on the nitty gritty details of policy reform or history, you should offer your reader some sense of when something was taking place and why. The author of this piece does that very succinctly and accessibly in his “September 2013” entry.
Emphasizes the author’s role and contributions. With political topics, it’s easy to get carried away talking about the issue itself. However, remember that this is ultimately a personal statement, not a political statement. You want to make sure you talk about yourself in the essay. So, even though the author is discussing a huge event, he focuses on his participation in Model UN, CRISP, and Heritage Club. When possible, think about how big issues manifest in your day to day life as well as what you specifically are doing to take action.
READY TO START WRITING? How To Start a College Essay: 9 Surefire Techniques
Personal statement example #6 poop, animals and the environment.
I have been pooped on many times. I mean this in the most literal sense possible. I have been pooped on by pigeons and possums, house finches and hawks, egrets and eastern grays.
I don’t mind it, either. For that matter, I also don’t mind being pecked at, hissed at, scratched and bitten—and believe me, I have experienced them all.
I don’t mind having to skin dead mice, feeding the remaining red embryonic mass to baby owls. (Actually, that I do mind a little.)
I don’t mind all this because when I’m working with animals , I know that even though they probably hate me as I patch them up, their health and welfare is completely in my hands. Their chances of going back to the wild, going back to their homes, rely on my attention to their needs and behaviors.
My enduring interest in animals and habitat loss led me to intern at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley over the summer , and it was there that I was lucky enough to meet those opossum joeys that defecated on my shoes whenever I picked them up (forcing me to designate my favorite pair of shoes as animal hospital shoes, never to be worn elsewhere again). It was there that a juvenile squirrel decided my finger looked fit to suckle, and that many an angry pigeon tried to peck off my hands.
And yet, when the internship ended, I found myself hesitant to leave . That hesitation didn’t simply stem from my inherent love of animals. It was from the sense of responsibility that I developed while working with orphaned and injured wildlife. After all, most of the animals are there because of us—the baby opossums and squirrels are there because we hit their mothers with our cars, raptors and coyotes end up there due to secondary rodenticide poisoning and illegal traps. We are responsible for the damage, so I believe we are responsible for doing what we can to help. And of course, there is empathy—empathy for the animals who lost their mothers, their homes, their sight and smell, their ability to fly or swim. I couldn’t just abandon them.
I couldn’t just abandon them the same way I couldn’t let big oil companies completely devastate the Arctic, earth’s air conditioner . The same way I couldn’t ignore the oceans, where destructive fishing practices have been wiping out ocean life.
These are not jobs that can be avoided or left half-finished. For some, the Arctic is simply too far away, and the oceans will always teem with life, while for others these problems seem too great to ever conquer. And while I have had these same feelings many times over, I organized letter-writing campaigns, protested, and petitioned the oil companies to withdraw. I campaigned in local parks to educate people on sustaining the seas. I hold on to the hope that persistent efforts will prevent further damage.
I sometimes wonder if my preoccupation with social and environmental causes just makes me feel less guilty. Maybe I do it just to ease my own conscience, so I can tell people “At least I did something.” I hope that it’s not just that. I hope it’s because my mother always told me to treat others as I want to be treated, even if I sometimes took this to its logical extreme, moving roadkill to the bushes along the side of the road because “Ma, if I was hit by a car I would want someone to move me off the road, too.”
The upshot is that I simply cannot walk away from injustice, however uncomfortable it is to confront it . I choose to act, taking a stand and exposing the truth in the most effective manner that I think is possible. And while I’m sure I will be dumped on many times, both literally and metaphorically, I won’t do the same to others.
Another great hook. Much like the football essay, this one starts off with a bang. After hearing about all the pecking, hissing, pooping, and clawing that the author endured, chances are you want to read more. And notice how the initial pooping hook comes back in the last line of the essay.
The scope gets wider as the piece progresses. The author starts with specific details about an internship opportunity then gradually works her way to broader topics about social justice and environmental activism. Every part of the piece emphasizes her values, but they are more explicitly stated towards the end. This trajectory is nice because it allows the reader to ease themselves into the world of the author and then see how specific opportunities or interests connect to broader goals or ambitions. When you’re revising your essay, take a look at each paragraph and see if each one brings something new to the table or moves the narrative forward in some way.
It’s funny . This author does a great job of using humor as a tool to endear her to readers, but not as a crutch to lean on when she has nothing else to say. Not only is she cracking jokes about poop, but also deeply interrogating her own motivations for being interested in social and environmental activism. The balance of humor and genuine reflection is fun to read while also saying a lot about the author and her values/interests.
Personal Statement Example #7 Entoptic Phenomena
I subscribe to what the New York Times dubs “the most welcomed piece of daily e-mail in cyberspace.” Cat pictures? Kardashian updates? Nope: A Word A Day.
Out of the collection of diverse words I received, one word stuck out to me in particular.
Entoptic : relating to images that originate within the eye (as opposed to from light entering the eye). Examples of entoptic phenomena: floaters, thread-like fragments that appear to float in front of the eye but are caused by matter within the eye. (for a picture: https://wordsmith.org/words/entoptic.html)
As I read through this entry, I was suddenly transported back to the first grade, when I was playing Pokémon Go one day with my friends during recess. Our version was epic: we escaped into virtual reality with our imagination rather than our phone screens, morphing into different Pokémon to do battle.
My friend Ryan had just transformed into an invisible ghost-type Pokémon capable of evading my attacks. Flustered, I was attempting to evolve my abilities to learn to see the invisible. Between rubbing my eyes and squinting, I began to make out subtle specks in the air that drifted from place to place. Aha—the traces of the ghost Pokémon! I launched a thunderbolt straight through the air and declared a super-effective knockout.
...Of course, I never was able to explain what I was seeing to my bewildered friends that day in first grade. But after learning about entoptic phenomena, I realized that my entoptic adventure was not a hallucination but, in fact, one of my first intellectual milestones, when I was first able to connect meticulous observation of my environment to my imagination.
Nowadays, I don’t just see minuscule entoptic phenomena: I see ghosts, too. Two of their names are Larry and Kailan, and they are the top-ranked players in the Exynos League.
Exynos is the name of the elaborate basketball league I have created in my imagination over the last ten years of playing basketball on the neighborhood court in the evenings. As I play, I envision Larry and Kailan right there with me: reaching, stealing, and blocking. Undoubtedly, I might look a little silly when I throw the ball backwards as if Larry blocked my layup attempt—but imagining competitors defending me drives me to be precise in my execution of different moves and maneuvers. More than that, it is a constant motivator for all my endeavors: whether I’m researching for debate or studying for the next math contest, I am inventing and personifying new competitive ghosts that are hard at work every minute I’m off task.
But I perceive perhaps the most vivid images through music, as I tell a different story with each piece I play on the violin. When I play Bach’s lively Prelude in E Major, for example, I visualize a mouse dashing up and down hills and through mazes to escape from an evil cat (à la Tom and Jerry). But when I play Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, I describe a relationship plagued by unrequited love. I revel in the intellectual challenge of coming up with a story that is not only consistent with the composer’s annotations but also resonates with my own experiences.
Between re-living Tom and Jerry episodes and shooting fadeaway three-pointers against ghosts, then, perhaps entoptic phenomena don’t tell my whole story. So, here’s my attempt—in the form of a word of the day, of course:
Pokémon Boom : a legendary form of augmented reality so pure that it is commonly mistaken for hallucination. Denizens of this world are rumored to watch Netflix re-runs without WiFi and catch many a Pikachu via psychokinesis.
It makes tons of uncommon connections. Think about the range of topics covered in this piece: words, Pokémon, basketball, ghosts, debate, math, and music (to name just a few). Yet the author uses the idea of imagination and its relation to vision to weave these disparate topics into a coherent narrative. In fact, his ability to do so emphasizes his ability to think creatively in ways that the average person may not. To find these, consider brainstorming everything you want colleges to know about you and then think of interesting ways in which these might intersect.
It doesn’t try to be overly intellectual. This essay spends most of its time talking about things that we wouldn’t traditionally consider “academic” or “college-y.” In fact, at least a third of it is devoted solely to Pokémon. The author briefly touches on his interest in math and debate, but otherwise it’s used more as a short example than a key point. The takeaway is: you don’t have to talk about classes or academic interests to write a killer essay. You absolutely can if you want to, but feel free to let your imagination run wild. If something excites or intrigues you, try writing a draft about it and see where it takes you.
It’s specific to the author. The combination of examples and insights you see in this essay truly couldn’t have been written by anyone else. Imagine you’re the admissions officer reading this application. It would absolutely stand out from the other essays in the bunch. Sure, other people play basketball. Sure, other people might like Pokémon or enjoy music. But, the particular way in which the author articulates his interests and connects them makes it memorable.
Personal Statement Example #8 The Builder & Problem Solver
Since childhood, I have been an obsessive builder and problem solver . When I was 6, I spent two months digging a hole in my backyard, ruining the grass lawn, determined to make a giant koi pond after watching a show on HGTV. After watching Castaway when I was 7, I started a fire in my backyard--to my mother's horror--using bark and kindling like Tom Hanks did. I neglected chores and spent nights locked in my room drawing pictures and diagrams or learning rubik's cube algorithms while my mother yelled at me through the door to go to sleep. I've always been compulsive about the things I set my mind to. The satisfaction of solving problems and executing my visions is all-consuming.
But my obsessive personality has helped me solve other problems, too.
When I was 8, I taught myself how to pick locks . I always dreamed of how cool it must have been inside my brother’s locked bedroom. So I didn't eat at school for two weeks and saved up enough lunch money to buy a lockpicking set from Home Depot. After I wiggled the tension wrench into the keyhole and twisted it counterclockwise, I began manipulating the tumblers in the keyhole with the pick until I heard the satisfying click of the lock and entered the room. Devouring his stash of Lemonheads was awesome, but not as gratifying as finally getting inside his room.
As the projects I tackled got bigger, I had to be more resourceful . One day in history class after reading about early American inventions, I decided to learn how to use a Spinning Jenny. When my parents unsurprisingly refused to waste $500 on an 18th century spinning wheel, I got to work visiting DIY websites to construct my own by disassembling my bike and removing the inner tube from the wheel, gathering string and nails, and cutting scrap wood. For weeks, I brushed my two cats everyday until I had gathered enough fur. I washed and soaked it, carded it with paddle brushes to align the fibers, and then spun it into yarn, which I then used to crochet a clutch purse for my grandmother on mother's day. She still uses it to this day.
In high school, my obsessive nature found a new outlet in art . Being a perfectionist, I often tore up my work in frustration at the slightest hint of imperfection. As a result, I was slowly falling behind in my art class, so I had to seek out alternate solutions to actualize the ideas I had in my head. Oftentimes that meant using mixed media or experimenting with unconventional materials like newspaper or cardboard. Eventually I went on to win several awards, showcased my art in numerous galleries and magazines, and became President of National Art Honors Society. Taking four years of art hasn't just taught me to be creative, it’s taught me that there are multiple solutions to a problem.
After high school I began to work on more difficult projects and I channeled my creativity into a different form of art - programming . I’m currently working on an individual project at the Schepens Institute at Harvard University. I'm writing a program in Matlab that can measure visual acuity and determine what prescription glasses someone would need. I ultimately plan to turn this into a smartphone app to be released to the general public.
The fact is that computer coding is in many ways similar to the talents and hobbies I enjoyed as a child—they all require finding creative ways to solve problems . While my motivation to solve these problems might have been a childlike sense of satisfaction in creating new things, I have developed a new and profound sense of purpose and desire to put my problem solving skills to better our world.
It turns a perceived weakness into a critical strength. At the beginning of the essay, the author talks about all of the problems she caused because of her obsession (ironically) with problem-solving. However, as the piece progresses, we begin to see how her childlike curiosity and interest in making things became a clear asset. It becomes a way of emphasizing values like resourcefulness, empathy, and dedication. In several other essay examples, we’ve highlighted this idea of growth. This example is no exception. Highlighting the ways in which you’ve changed or reframed your thinking is a great thing to show off to college admissions officers. If you know you’ve experienced some significant change but you’re not sure how to describe it, use our Feelings and Needs Exercise to get started.
There’s a discussion of what’s next. Many colleges are interested not only in what you’ve done, but also how you’d like to pursue your interests in the future. The author here spends some time at the end talking about her plans for a prescription-measuring smartphone app and her general interest in learning more about computer coding. While the piece has a clear conclusion, these examples highlight the ongoing nature of her educational journey and her openness to further learning. It answers the question of “ so what? ”
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Personal statement example #9 the little porch and a dog.
It was the first Sunday of April. My siblings and I were sitting at the dinner table giggling and spelling out words in our alphabet soup. The phone rang and my mother answered. It was my father; he was calling from prison in Oregon.
My father had been stopped by immigration on his way to Yakima, Washington, where he’d gone in search of work. He wanted to fulfill a promise he’d made to my family of owning our own house with a nice little porch and a dog.
Fortunately, my father was bailed out of prison by a family friend in Yakima. Unfortunately, though, most of our life savings was spent on his bail. We moved into a rented house, and though we did have a porch, it wasn’t ours. My father went from being a costurero (sewing worker) to being a water-filter salesman, mosaic tile maker, lemon deliverer, and butcher.
Money became an issue at home, so I started helping out more. After school I’d rush home to clean up and make dinner. My parents refused to let me have a “real” job, so on Saturday afternoons I’d go to the park with my older brother to collect soda cans. Sundays and summertime were spent cleaning houses with my mother.
I worked twice as hard in school. I helped clean my church, joined the choir, and tutored my younger sister in math. As tensions eased at home, I returned to cheerleading, joined a school club called Step Up , and got involved in my school’s urban farm, where I learned the value of healthy eating. Slowly, life improved. Then I received some life-changing news.
My father’s case was still pending and, due to a form he’d signed when he was released in Yakima, it was not only him that was now in danger of being deported, it was my entire family. My father’s lawyer informed me that I’d have to testify in court and in fact our stay in the US was now dependent on my testimony.
The lawyer had an idea: I had outstanding grades and recommendation letters. If we could show the judge the importance of my family remaining here to support my education, perhaps we had a chance. So I testified.
My father won his case and was granted residency.
Living in a low-income immigrant household has taught me to appreciate all I’ve been given. Testifying in court helped me grow as a person, has made me more open-minded and aware of the problems facing my community. And my involvement in the urban farm has led me to consider a career as a nutritionist.
Though neither of my parents attended college, they understand that college is a key factor to a bright future and therefore have been very supportive. And though we don't yet have the house with the small porch and the dog, we're still holding out hope.
I believe college can help.
Drops us in a moment in time. The beginning of this essay is a bit disorienting because it places us in a scene within the author’s life as they experience it. We don’t know all of the information, so we’re a bit confused, but that confusion makes us want to read more. This is a great tactic when done well because it helps us identify with the author and piques our curiosity.
Shows the agency, independence, and resilience of the applicant. The author here goes through a lot over the course of the essay. They have to face very real fears about incarceration, deportation, and financial instability on a daily basis. Talking about the ways in which they approached these obstacles highlights their ability to think clearly under pressure and make the most of what they have. If you have faced significant hardships , worked through them, learned valuable lessons, and want to share these with colleges, the personal statement can be a good place to do that. If you’d prefer to write about something else in your personal statement, but you’d still like to mention your challenges somewhere in your application, you can instead briefly describe them in your Additional Information section. If you want to write about struggles that are particularly related to COVID-19, check out our guide for specific suggestions.
Era el primer domingo de abril. Mis hermanos y yo estábamos sentados en la mesa del comedor riendonos y deletreando palabras en nuestra sopa de letras. El teléfono sonó y mi madre respondió. Era mi padre. El estaba llamando desde la cárcel en Oregon.
Mi padre había sido detenido por inmigración en su camino a Yakima, Washington, donde había ido en busca de trabajo. Quería cumplir una promesa que le había hecho a mi familia de tener nuestra propia casa con un pequeño y agradable porche y un perro.
Afortunadamente, mi padre fue rescatado de la cárcel por un amigo de la familia en Yakima. Pero lamentablemente la mayor parte de nuestros ahorros se gastó en su fianza . Nos mudamos a una casa alquilada, y aunque teníamos un porche, no era nuestra. Mi padre pasó de ser un costurero (trabajador de coser) de ser un vendedor de filtros de agua, fabricante de baldosas de mosaicos, libertador de limones, y carnicero.
El dinero se convirtió en un problema en casa, así que comencé a ayudar más. Después de la escuela llegaba temprano a mi hogar para limpiar y preparar la cena. Mis padres se negaron a dejarme tener un trabajo "real.” Por lo tanto, los sábados por la tarde me iba al parque con mi hermano mayor para recoger latas de refrescos. En domingos y en el verano limpiaba casas con mi madre.
Trabajé dos veces más duro en la escuela. Ayudé a limpiar mi iglesia, me uní al coro, y dí clases particulares a mi hermana menor en las matemáticas. Mientras las tensiones disminuyeron en casa, volví al grupo de porristas, me uní a un club escolar llamado Step Up, y me involucré en la granja urbana de mi escuela, donde aprendí el valor de la alimentación saludable. Poco a poco, la vida mejoraba. Luego recibí una noticia que cambia la vida.
El caso de mi padre todavía estaba pendiente, y debido a una forma que había firmado cuando fue liberado en Yakima, no sólo era él que estaba ahora en peligro de ser deportado, era toda mi familia. El abogado de mi padre me informó que yo tendría que declarar ante los tribunales, y de hecho, nuestra estancia en los EE.UU. ahora dependia de mi testimonio.
El abogado tuvo una idea: yo tenía sobresalientes calificaciones y cartas de recomendaciones. Si pudiéramos demostrar a la juez la importancia de que mi familia se quedará aquí para apoyar a mi educación, tal vez tuviéramos una oportunidad. Así que di mi testimonio.
Mi padre ganó su caso y se le concedió la residencia.
Vivir en un hogar de inmigrantes de bajos ingresos me ha enseñado a apreciar todo lo que se me ha dado . Dar mi testimonio en el tribunal me ha ayudado a crecer como persona y me ha hecho más consciente de los problemas que se enfrentan en mi comunidad. Y mi implicación en la granja urbana me ha llevado a considerar una carrera como nutricionista .
Aunque ninguno de mis padres asistieron a la universidad, ellos entienden que la universidad es un factor clave para un futuro brillante, y por lo tanto, han sido un gran apoyo . Y aunque todavía no tenemos la casa con el pequeño porche y el perro, todavía estamos tendiendo la esperanza.
Creo que la universidad puede ayudar.
Personal Statement Example #10 Life As an Undocumented Student
At six years old, I stood locked away in the restroom. I held tightly to a tube of toothpaste because I’d been sent to brush my teeth to distract me from the commotion. Regardless, I knew what was happening: my dad was being put under arrest for domestic abuse. He’d hurt my mom physically and mentally, and my brother Jose and I had shared the mental strain. It’s what had to be done.
Living without a father meant money was tight, mom worked two jobs, and my brother and I took care of each other when she worked. For a brief period of time the quality of our lives slowly started to improve as our soon-to-be step-dad became an integral part of our family. He paid attention to the needs of my mom, my brother, and me. But our prosperity was short-lived as my step dad’s chronic alcoholism became more and more recurrent. When I was eight, my younger brother Fernando’s birth complicated things even further. As my step-dad slipped away, my mom continued working, and Fernando’s care was left to Jose and me. I cooked, Jose cleaned, I dressed Fernando, Jose put him to bed. We did what we had to do.
As undocumented immigrants and with little to no family around us, we had to rely on each other. Fearing that any disclosure of our status would risk deportation, we kept to ourselves when dealing with any financial and medical issues. I avoided going on certain school trips, and at times I was discouraged to even meet new people. I felt isolated and at times disillusioned; my grades started to slip.
Over time, however, I grew determined to improve the quality of life for my family and myself.
Without a father figure to teach me the things a father could, I became my own teacher. I learned how to fix a bike, how to swim, and even how to talk to girls. I became resourceful, fixing shoes with strips of duct tape, and I even found a job to help pay bills. I became as independent as I could to lessen the time and money mom had to spend raising me.
I also worked to apply myself constructively in other ways. I worked hard and took my grades from Bs and Cs to consecutive straight A’s. I shattered my school’s 1ooM breaststroke record, and learned how to play the clarinet, saxophone, and the oboe. Plus, I not only became the first student in my school to pass the AP Physics 1 exam, I’m currently pioneering my school’s first AP Physics 2 course ever.
These changes inspired me to help others. I became president of the California Scholarship Federation, providing students with information to prepare them for college, while creating opportunities for my peers to play a bigger part in our community. I began tutoring kids, teens, and adults on a variety of subjects ranging from basic English to home improvement and even Calculus. As the captain of the water polo and swim team I’ve led practices crafted to individually push my comrades to their limits, and I’ve counseled friends through circumstances similar to mine. I’ve done tons, and I can finally say I’m proud of that.
But I’m excited to say that there’s so much I have yet to do. I haven’t danced the tango, solved a Rubix Cube, explored how perpetual motion might fuel space exploration, or seen the World Trade Center. And I have yet to see the person that Fernando will become.
I’ll do as much as I can from now on. Not because I have to. Because I choose to.
Again, the author shows growth. We’ve said it a couple times, but it’s nice to highlight growth when possible. Although the author’s family circumstances and immigrant status meant he had to face significant hardships, he learned how to take care of themselves and use his obstacles as motivation to succeed. We see concrete signs of growth in the way he improved his grades and got more involved in school clubs like the California Scholarship Federation as well as athletic extracurriculars like swimming. Essentially, he shows how he made the best of his situation.
The author’s curiosity is palpable. One of the best things about this essay is the very end. The writer has already shown us how much he has had to overcome and how much he’s thrived in high school despite his circumstances. However, he doesn’t just stop. He tells us about all the other things he hopes to do and conveys a clear excitement at the possibility for learning in the future. There’s something lovely about seeing someone who is excited for what the future might hold. It endears him to readers and demonstrates his natural inclination to continue pushing forward, no matter what life might throw his way. Plus, it’s worth noting that he ends on the quality of autonomy , which was his #1 value when you completed the Values Exercise .
Personal Statement Example #11 Umbra
Umbra: the innermost, darkest part of a shadow
The fifth set of chimes rings out and I press my hands against the dusty doors. My nose itches, but scratching would smudge the little black whiskers painted onto my face. I peer through the tiny crack between the cupboard doors, trying to glimpse the audience. The sixth set of chimes, my cue, begins, and I pop onto stage, the brilliant lights flooding my vision. Clara and Drosselmeyer stand to my left, and in front of me lies an endless ocean of audience. I pause a moment, taking it in, then do my best mouse scurry towards the wings. I love performing and dancing to connect with an audience. I dance to inspire others, to share my joy and passion, and because I love the rush of excitement while I’m surrounded by the stage lights .
My hands, covered in grease, hurt terribly as I help another girl with the wire crimper. We force the handles together, and our Anderson connector is finally ready. People scurry around us—several students are riveting metal, assisted by my father (for me, robotics is a family activity), while another pair, including my younger brother, works on assembling the drive train. The next room is filled with shouted Java commands and autonomous code. I’m working on a system that will focus on the reflective tape on our target, allowing the camera to align our shooting mechanism. I love the comradery in robotics, the way teams support each other even amid intense competitions. I love seeing the real world application of knowledge, and take pride in competing in front of hundreds of people. Most of all, I love spending time with my family, connecting with them in our own unique way. Back in the electrical room, I plug in my connector, and the room is filled with bright green light .
I pull on a pair of Nitrile gloves before grabbing my forceps. I carefully extract my latest Western Blot from its gel box, placing it on the imaging system. I’m searching for the presence of PARP1 and PLK1 in dysplasia and tumor cells, especially in reference to DNA damage and apoptosis. I’ve already probed the blot with a fluorescent reagent for imaging. On the screen, I see my bands of protein expression, the bands of red light showing PARP1 and the bands of green showing PLK1. I haven’t been doing research for long, but I’ve already fallen in love with constantly having something new to learn.
Christmas carols play softly as I chase my little brother around the living room, trying to get him to wear a Santa hat. The smell of tamales wafts through the air as my mom and grandmother stand over the pot of mole sauce. The ornament boxes are opened on the floor, each one special to our family, representing our adventures, our love, our history. My dad is winding a mile-long string of lights around the tree, covering the room with a soft glow. My homemade gifts—hats, scarves, blankets I’ve knitted—lie messily wrapped beneath the tree. My family has made tamales on Christmas Eve for generations, and each year it’s a way for us to connect to both each other and our heritage.
Light will usually travel in a perfectly straight line, but if it comes in contact with something it can bounce off it or bend around it, which is why people make shadows. The very innermost part of that shadow, the umbra, is where no light has bent around you—it has completely changed direction, bounced off. People are constantly changing and shaping the light around them, and never notice. But in hindsight, I see it’s the lights that have shaped me.
It demonstrates craft. This author went through 10+ drafts of this essay, and her effort shows in her refined language and structure. She uses images to beautiful effect, drawing us into each experience in her montage, from the moments on stage to robotics to the lab to her family. She also demonstrates craft through the subtlety of her structural thread—we’ve bolded light above, to make it more obvious, but notice how she essentially saves what would traditionally be her introduction for her final paragraph (with some beautiful, refined phrasing therein), and uses “Umbra” and light to thread the paragraphs. This is very hard to pull off well, and is why she went through so many revisions, to walk a fine line between subtlety and clarity.
Show and tell. Rather than just “ Show, don’t tell ,” in a college essay, we think it’s useful to show your reader first, but then use some “telling” language to make sure they walk away with a clear understanding of what’s important to you. For example, this author shows her values through details/actions/experiences—more on values in a sec—then uses the ends of her body paragraphs to more directly tell us about those values and reflect on what they mean to her. And her final paragraph both shows and tells, using language that offers strong symbolism, while also ending with some poetic phrasing that tells us how this all comes together (in case we somehow missed it).
Values and insight/reflection. Because values are core to your essay and application, we’re going to end this post discussing them one more time. Notice how each paragraph demonstrates different values (art/performing, community, engagement, inspiration, joy/passion in the first paragraph alone) and reflects on how or why those values are important to her. We walk away with a strong sense of who this student is and what she would bring to our college campus.
Personal Statement Example #12 Angry brown girl, feminist, singer, meme-lover
My Twitter bio reads: angry brown girl, feminist, singer, meme-lover. You will notice live-tweets of my feminist Pride and Prejudice thoughts, analyses of Hamilton’s power for musical representation, and political memes. Just as my posts bring together seemingly disparate topics, I believe there is a vibrancy that exists at the multidimensional place where my interests intersect.
Growing up as a debater and musician, it was easy to see the two as distinct entities where I had to make unequivocal choices. At the start of my junior year, I decided not to participate in the musical in order to work for Emerge California, an organization that helps Democratic women run for office. There I learned about data science, gender distributions in public office, and how to work with the evil printer. I also halted my voice and piano lessons to focus on building my student-led non-profit, Agents of Change. As someone who has diverted my energy into community activism, I can attest to the power of grassroots movements. It has been so rewarding to measure the impact that my team has had on my community. But even so, I felt that I was losing touch with the music that was such a profound part of me.
I found a new way of being when I started combining my artsy and political sides. I took an intensive class on protest music, where I learned how political movements have been shaped by the music of their time. While in the class, we were asked to compose our own songs. I am not a songwriter, but I am an activist, and I embraced the opportunity to turn music into an outlet for my political beliefs. As a first-generation American, I am dedicated to raising awareness about refugee rights and immigration. My songs about the Syrian Refugee Crisis let me find a way to bring the two sides of me together and gave me a rush that neither music nor politics by themselves would have provided.
This introduction led me to apply to the Telluride Association Protest Poetics program, where I dove deeper into my own identity. I wrote songs about police brutality and the ways that as a non-black person of color I am implicated in instances of subliminal racism. Over the course of the program, as I became more familiar with the visual, literary, and performance art we analyzed, I slowly started to realize that, though I confront colorism, jokes about Indian culture, and intra-community violence in some form every day, my proximity to whiteness still gives me immense amounts of privilege. I have come to know that this means I have a responsibility to both be at the forefront of movements, and conscious of not stepping over the voices of other intersectional identities. I hope that the music I choose to perform and the way I live my life can amplify, not overwrite, any of the struggles that others deal with daily.
Last year, I had another opportunity to use music to pay homage to an issue I care deeply about. In my South Asian community, mental health is an issue that is often papered over. When a member of my school community committed suicide, I was asked to sing “Amazing Grace” for the school to both unify and honor the student. Though I thought that I had really understood the power of music, holding that space for my entire school had a profound resonance that I still don’t fully understand.
My voice is an instrument for change -- whether it be through me raising my hand to contribute to a discussion in a classroom, speaking out against gun violence at a rally, or singing at an event of solidarity. I know that someday my voice, in conjunction with many other unique voices and perspectives, will make a difference.
Get clear on the story you’re telling. Debate? Political organizing? Musical theater? Protest music? This writer probably had a lot more to say about all of those experiences. But we don’t get the whole backstory about her journey toward musical theater. Why? Because she’s clear on what this story is about (she may have even written a logline to get that clarity…). We don’t need a lot of context about her decision “not to participate in the musical” because this essay isn’t about her experiences with musical theater; it’s about her forging a new identity by combining seemingly disparate interests (e.g., music and political advocacy). Telling us every musical she’s ever been in won’t help us “get” what she’s saying in this essay (and she has the activities list to tell us that…). Instead, she shows us only the details relevant to her trying to balance a love of music with her newfound interests: she decides “not to participate in the musical,” and she “halts voice and piano lessons.”
Bridge the gap (between paragraphs). Stronger essays have paragraphs with clear relationships to one another. This writer uses various phrases to achieve that clarity. When she starts paragraph four with “this introduction,” you understand that she’s referring to her “songs about the Syrian Refugee Crisis” from the end of paragraph three. Similarly, she resolves the problem of her “losing touch” with music at the end of paragraph two by beginning paragraph three by stating she found a “new way of being…” She’s using those key moments of transition to tell her readers: hey, I’m going somewhere with all these ideas, you can trust me.
You don’t have to have all the answers . When the writer tells us that she sang “Amazing Grace” to honor someone in her community who died by suicide, she gets vulnerable—she says that she still doesn't “fully understand” the effects of that moment. In admitting that she’s still coming to terms with that experience, she comes off as a mature, reasoned person who thinks deeply about lived experience. No one reading your essay is going to expect you to have fully processed every difficult experience you’ve ever had in your life. That would be outrageous. What they will appreciate seeing, though, is that you’ve reflected deeply on lived experiences. Sometimes reflection yields answers. Sometimes it just yields more questions. Either is okay—just don’t feel like you need to have everything figured out to write about it (or that you need to pretend like you do).
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Grad school personal statement examples.
Get accepted to your top choice graduate school with your compelling personal statement.
You are a thoughtful, intelligent, and unique individual. You already know that – now you just need to convince top grad school adcoms that you’re a cut above the rest.
By reading the sample graduate school essays provided above, you should get a clear idea of how to translate your qualifications, passions, and individual experiences into words. You will see that the samples here employ a creative voice, use detailed examples, and draw the reader in with a clear writing style. Most importantly, these personal statements are compelling – each one does a fine job of convincing you that the author of the essay is a human being worth getting to know, or better yet, worth having in your next top grad school class. Grad school statement of purpose sample essays should be engaging and attention grabbing.
Here are the 5 things to include in a grad school personal statement:
- Engaging opening
- Consistent use of opening imagery
- A clear theme that ties the essay together
- Solid structure
- Good use of transitions
Grad school essay example #1: The environmental studies student
Two scenes stand out in my mind from my visit to Brazil’s Wetland: Forests burning before seed planting and trees as hedgerows. Before the planting season, I could see the leafless remnants of burnt trees still standing. READ MORE>>>
- Attention-grabbing opening: The author immediately grabs your attention by placing them in the midst of the scene and vividly conveying what the author saw.
- Vivid, visual opening: You can almost smell the burnt trees and see the ranches and farms thriving behind their protective forests.
- A clear theme that ties the essay together: The writer clearly states an interest in the clash between economic and environmental concerns throughout the essay. Discussion of coursework taken and how it influenced the author’s decision to pursue both master’s and PhD in Environmental Studies also flows through the essay.
- Solid structure: Thanks to the continued theme of the clash between economic and environmental concerns, this is a very easy essay to read. Mentions of different courses that piqued the writer’s interest also help to hold this essay together.
- Good use of transitions: Transitions help your reader move from one topic to the next as you connect the topic in the preceding paragraph to the topic in the next. They can consist of a few words or a phrase or simply the repetition of the topic by name as opposed to using a pronoun. The writer used the terminology connecting economics and the environment at the end of the first paragraph, and uses the same words at the beginning of the second one.
Grad school essay example #2: The engineering student
A simple bridge truss was the first structure I ever analyzed. The simple combination of beams that could hold cars, trains, and trucks over long spans of water fascinated me. Having the tools to analyze the loads on the truss further increased my interest in structures. READ MORE>>>
- Attention-grabbing opening: This writer immediately shared his fascination with bridge truss designs and makes the reader want to learn more about structural engineering.
- Consistent use of opening imagery: The writer begins his essay with the image of the first structure he ever analyzed – a simple bridge truss. This bridge truss becomes the basis for all of his future study of structural engineering and design. Toward the end of the essay, he states that design structure has fascinated him since he saw that first image of a bridge truss for his first engineering class.
- A clear theme that ties the essay together: The theme of structural design runs throughout the essay. It is mentioned right at the beginning of the essay, in following paragraphs and in the final paragraph as well. Toward the end of the essay, the writer discusses how a grad degree in engineering will help him reach both his short- and long-term goals.
- Solid structure: Since the theme of structural design and engineering are so strong throughout the essay, it is easy to follow along as the writer talks about different classes he has taken, an internship he did, and even an experience as a student volunteer.
- Good use of transitions: The author ends his first paragraph talking about the textbook for his first engineering class, and continues on this theme in the next paragraph. He then transitioned from classes he took to student volunteer research he participated in. When discussing what he plans to study in grad school, the same terminology is used again, joining the whole essay into one cohesive whole.
Grad school essay example #3: The public health student
What if people lived healthier lives, practiced preventive medicine, and took precautions against illness and disease? My days in the physical therapy department often made me think about the prevention of injuries as well as the injuries themselves. I was already doubting my future career choice as a physical therapist. READ MORE>>>
- Attention-grabbing opening: The author of this essay makes an early case for why he wants to leave the field of physical therapy and move to the public health arena. You can almost feel the writer’s frustration with physical therapy and their need to find a way to reach a broader population, provide primary care to them, while challenging and motivating the writer to improve.
- Consistent use of opening imagery: The idea of providing primary care to large populations and the benefits the population could get from this care are woven through the whole essay. Finding ways to improve the health of underprivileged populations is also found throughout the essay.
- A clear theme that ties the essay together: Provision of primary care to large communities is a theme that runs throughout the essay. The author’s work at a county health clinic cemented this idea and led to him choosing to pursue an education and career in public health.
- Solid structure: The theme of providing primary care to large underprivileged populations is a theme that ties this personal statement together.
- Good use of transitions: The words “public health” occur in every paragraph. The author ends the second paragraph talking about work in the field, and begins the next paragraph by mentioning field experience. This makes it easy to follow the flow of the essay.
Grad school essay example #4: The physician assistant student
I was nine years old and in the middle of Mrs. Russell’s third grade class when my stomach began to itch uncontrollably. I remember thinking to myself, “Did I get bitten by a bug?” Completely distracted by the incessant itching, I asked Mrs. Russell if I could go to the nurse’s office. When the nurse lifted my shirt, I saw the biggest “bug bites” I had ever seen covering the majority of my stomach. READ MORE>>>
Note: The character limit for the CASPA PS is 5,000 characters with spaces. You need to keep this limit in mind as you write your personal statement.
- Attention-grabbing opening and consistent use of opening imagery: The writer of this essay immediately grabs the reader’s attention by making them feel her fear and frustration of having an undiagnosed medical condition. You can also feel her relief when she is finally diagnosed – and treated – by a PA.
- Vivid, visual opening and consistent use of opening imagery: Your heart beats a little faster as you read how a 9-year-old girl’s medical condition couldn’t be diagnosed until a visit with a PA who helped her discover her passion. She continues to illustrate her love of all things medical throughout the essay.
- A clear theme that ties the essay together: Her essay has a clear theme – her interest in medicine and healthcare, and her connection with PAs. This theme is touched upon in every paragraph of her personal statement. Whether discussing her love of learning or the skills learned through sports, the ultimate goal of becoming a PA comes through.
- Solid structure: The author’s themes of love of learning and medicine, and the desire to become a PA to help others flow through this essay. They make it cohesive, readable, and interesting.
- Good use of transition: The writer shows how her interest in being a PA grows throughout her life through a series of events – her illness, attending a youth leadership forum where she first saw infected human organs, and finally her mother’s own illness and the care given by the same PA who diagnosed the author at the age of 9. The imagery of the “itchy little” girl from the first paragraph appears again in the last paragraph, pulling the entire personal statement together.
5 FATAL FLAWS TO AVOID
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AN OUTSTANDING GRADUATE SCHOOL STATEMENT OF PURPOSE IS CRITICAL IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS
You want to get accepted to a top school, but you need to show you're more qualified than other applicants. U.S. News reports the average graduate school acceptance rate is 20% for the top 10 engineering programs and 15% for the top 10 education programs, but our grad school clients enjoy an 85% ACCEPTANCE RATE. How can you best your competition? By writing an excellent statement of purpose.
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How to Write a Stand-Out Personal Statement for Your Graduate School Application
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.
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