How to Write a Personal Statement for Grad School

A female student sitting in the park and smiling while writing in a notebook

Finally, you’ve begun the search for that ideal graduate school program! That journey may have started while you were earning work experience, learning more about the industry you’re involved in, and about the educational paths that can help you reach promotions, better salaries, and more responsibility at your job. Then, the enjoyment begins with researching suitable schools and determining why their offered graduate school program is a good fit for your aspirations.

Then comes the dreaded personal statement. Perhaps the most challenging part of graduate school admissions is the writing requirement. Learning how to write a personal statement for grad school doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking — if you follow the steps below, you will be well on your way to writing an impactful personal statement and impressing the admissions committee members.

What exactly is a personal statement?

A personal statement is usually a required written document that contains the reasons for applying to any graduate program and is over 1000 words long. Oftentimes, the school will provide bullet points, making their expectations clear in regards to the content of your personal statement. These bullet points will probably remind you to draw the connection between the graduate school program you’re applying to and your short or long-term goals, why you’re choosing that specific concentration or track, the reasons for choosing the university, some background information, and more. The personal statement should sound convincing, display the level of research you’ve done into a program, and be able to strongly convey why you belong at the institution. Consider it a combination of descriptive and persuasive writing, one that will play a large part of helping you gain admission into a graduate school program, besides any required test scores (GMAT, GRE, LSAT, etc.) and GPA.

Step 1: Study Your Resume and Work Experience.

Most schools limit the length of your personal statement to around 1000 words. If that’s the case, then it’s possible that your resume and work experience says a lot more than the space you are provided. Go over your resume and connect your past experiences with the degree program you’re applying to. Can you draw any connections between working with others, learning more about management, and reaching goals, when it comes to your MBA application? Being able to elaborate on certain experiences will help solidify the reasons for pursuing a graduate program. With so little space, you want to make sure that every word counts. Study your resume and work experience, and make notes on what you can implement into your personal statement.

Step 2: Evaluate Your Goals and Research Degree Programs.

Before learning how to write a personal statement for grad school, you have to reach the point on why you want to attend a specific program. You will definitely need to include that in writing in some part of your personal statement – Why do you want to pursue a JD? MBA? EdM? MSW? There are numerous graduate school programs and degrees, and you need to connect your goals with a specific type of degree. This will then allow you to find a suitable school and program that aligns with your goals.

Step 3: Research the School.

An expected conclusion for any personal statement wraps up your writing and confirms your decision to apply to a specific school. Sometimes, the penultimate paragraph will also contain information about the program. For example, are you pursuing an EdM? This could mean having to decide from various concentrations – Curriculum Design, Educational Policy, Social Studies Education, and more. Which concentration applies to you, and why? The schools’ curriculum and program and whether it includes hands-on experience, a practicum, a research capstone, and more, could be a reason for applying to the program. Displaying that you did your research in any school you’re applying to is an important contribution to any personal statement. In short, be ready to write about the school, and connect their program and resources to your goals.

Important Reminders:

  • Avoid repetition. You should absolutely include your resume as part of your entire graduate school application. You have to be careful to avoid copying and pasting job descriptions when referring to any work experiences in your personal statement. All writing in your personal statement should be as unique as possible. Don’t simply repeat a list of achievements or descriptions that could be found on your resume. Share the details and elaborate.
  • Avoid buzzwords. Are you proud of your contributions to achieving work results and helping grow your division? Only sharing the surface – or the results – without going into detail doesn’t tell much about you. Avoid resorting to buzzwords, which reads like a list of accomplishments without actually telling the reader anything. It becomes more personal when you take your time and provide details.
  • Be interested. If you’re forcing yourself to write a personal statement, you might only be applying to a school because you heard they had a good program or found them on a top list. It’s not enough to remind a school that they have famous faculty or are top rated. This also isn’t a strong reason for wanting to attend a school, and should generally be avoided as part of your personal statement. The rest of the reasons – the concentrations, curriculum, resources, network, connections, and more – are the reasons why you could be interested in finding a good fit for your graduate studies.
  • Refer to the Guidelines. Most schools that provide an optional or required personal statement will provide bullet points. Make sure you address all their expectations.
  • Proofread. Re-read your writing out loud more than once. This will give you a good idea of how it sounds in the mind of an admissions reader. Then, go through the document multiple times to ensure it is free of grammatical errors and follows a logical structure.

By following these steps and tips, you will surely have a great final piece and a strong personal statement to contribute to the rest of your graduate school application. Happy writing!

Author

  • Chris Kado

    For over a decade, Chris has supported students across the globe in fulfilling their college aspirations. Chris started out as a college admissions consultant, where he helped community college students reduce their loan obligations by constructing comprehensive transfer strategies, maximizing the use of CLEP and AP credits, and scoring scholarships. ‍ During his graduate studies at Harvard, Chris held numerous roles in education, including working as a research assistant and advising students on the college admissions process. Chris holds extensive experience in essay development and preparation for the SAT and SAT Subject Tests. His guidance has enabled students to gain admission into diverse programs at institutions including UC Berkeley, Princeton, the University of Chicago, Michigan, Harvard, Fashion Institute of Technology, Embry-Riddle, Notre Dame, and Duke. ‍ Chris holds an Master's in History from Harvard University and is currently working towards a Master's in Education at UIUC. He also received a College Advising Program Certificate from Columbia University, completed the Independent Educational Consultant Certificate from University of California Irvine, and earned the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) from Cambridge. Nowadays, Chris continues to serve a full-time role as a College Counselor for WeAdmit, write insightful articles for Magoosh, and teach at Education First summer camps!

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